The disease called diabetes mellitus comes from two words: diabetes (Greek for “to pass through”) and mellitus (Latin for “honey sweet”). It’s categorised by chronically elevated levels of sugar in the blood. This is either because the pancreas gland isn’t making enough insulin (the hormone that keeps your blood sugar in check) or because your body is resistant to insulin’s effects.
The insulin-deficiency disease is called type 1 diabetes.
The insulin-resistance disease is called type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes has been called “The Black Death of the twenty-first century” in terms of its exponential spread around the world and its devastating health impacts.
Your digestive system breaks down the carbohydrates you eat into a simple sugar called glucose, which is the primary fuel used to power all the cells in your body.
To get from your bloodstream to your cells, glucose requires insulin. Without insulin your cells can’t accept glucose, so it builds up in your blood. Over time the extra glucose can damage blood vessels and can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks and stroke.
It can also damage your nerves (neuropathy) and can cause numbness, tingling and pain. Poor circulation and lack of feeling in the limbs can eventually lead to amputations.
Type I diabetes, previously called juvenile-onset diabetes, represents about 5% of all reported cases. In most people with type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Without insulin blood sugar rises to unsafe levels. Type 1 diabetes is therefore treated with injections of insulin to make up for the lack of production.
Type 2 diabetes, previously known as adult-onset diabetes, accounts for 90-95 percent of diabetes cases. In type 2 diabetes the pancreas can make insulin but it doesn’t work as well. The accumulation of fat inside the cells of your muscles and liver interferes with the action of insulin. This fat inside the muscle cells can come from the fat you eat or the fat you wear, i.e your bodyfat.
The prevention, treatment and reversibility of type 2 diabetes therefore depends on diet and lifestyle.
Type 2 diabetes is almost always preventable, often treatable and sometimes reversible through diet and lifestyle changes. By switching to a healthy diet you can start improving your health within a matter of hours.
The fat you eat and the fat you wear: Carrying excess bodyfat is the number one risk factor for type 2 diabetes: up to 90% of those who develop the disease are overweight. Part of the connection is a phenomenon called the spillover effect.
The number of individual fat cells in the body doesn’t change much in adulthood, no matter how much weight you gain or lose.
They just swell up as the body gains weight. In obese people they can get so bloated that they actually spill fat back into the bloodstream, potentially causing the same clogging of insulin signalling that one would experience from eating a fatty meal.
Normally freely floating pat in the bloodstream is between 100-500 micromoles per litre. In obese people it can be as high as 600-800 micromoles per litre. People eating low carb high fat diets can also reach these elevated levels.
So no matter the source of the fat in your blood, as fat levels rise the ability to clear sugar from the blood drops due to insulin resistance – the cause of type 2 diabetes.
People who eat a plant based diet on the other hand, have just a small fraction of the rate of diabetes seen in those who regularly eat meat. Based on a study of 89000 Californians, flexitarians (people who eat meat 1-2 times a week) appear to cut their rate of diabetes by 28%. Those who cut out meat altogether and just ate fish appear to cut their rate in half (50%). Vegetarians cut their risk by 61%. Vegans drop their risk of diabetes by 78% compared with people who eat meat on a daily basis.
Saturated fat and diabetes: Not all fats affect our muscle cells in the same way.
Palmite, the kind of saturated fat found in meat, dairy & eggs causes insulin resistance.
Oleate, the monosaturated fat found in mostly nuts, olives & avocados may actually protect against the detrimental effects of saturated fat.
Researchers found that people eating plant based diets appear to be better at producing and using insulin.
Preventing diabetes by eating more legumes: An interesting study to reduce belly fat to prevent prediabetes turning into full blown diabetes. Over a week:
Group A cut 500 calories a day from their diets.
Group B had to eat one kilogram of lentils, chickpeas, split peas or haricot beans but not to change their diet in any other way.
The result was that Group B were just as effective at slimming their waistlines with the additional benefits in the form of improved cholesterol and insulin regulation.
Losing weight with a plant based diet: The advantage of a whole food plant based approach to weight loss is that there may be no need for portion control, skipping meals, or counting calories because most plant foods are naturally nutrient dense and low in calories.
Fruit & veg contain on average 80-90% water.
Examples of 100g servings:
Grilled chicken breast 70g / Steamed broccoli 285g
Cheddar cheese 25g / Tomatoes 555g
Baked white fish 105g / Strawberries 310g
The theory is that 100g of vegetables is more likely to fill you up.
Diabetics are more likely to suffer from strokes and heart failure but a plant-based approach to eating can lead to a significant drop in LDL cholesterol thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
Diabetes promoting pollutants: these are “obesogenic” pollutants released into the environment that may disrupt your metabolism and predispose you to obesity. Contaminated food is the main source of exposure to these chemicals. In a supermarket study tinned sardines and salmon fillets were the worst. Farmed salmon having 10 times more toxic chemicals that wild caught salmon.
This is quite an long chapter and in the book you can find more information on reversing diabetes and curing diabetic neuropathy.