Diabetes Epidemic: 1 In 3 Americans Could Have Diabetes By 2050

In a report released in October 2010, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projected an “alarming” Type 2 diabetes epidemic.  The disease will increase from its current level of about one in 10 adults in America to between one in five and one in three adults by 2050.1

“These are alarming numbers that show how critical it is to change the course of Type 2 diabetes,” CDC diabetes expert Dr. Ann Albright warned in a written statement.

The numbers of Americans getting diabetes were expected to go up because of the aging of the population. But the dramatic accelerations predicted for 2050, the CDC scientists pointed out, are due in large part to poor diet and lack of exercise, leading to excess weight, which is a major risk factor for Type 2 diabetes.

“Successful programs to improve lifestyle choices on healthy eating and physical activity must be made more widely available because the stakes are too high and the personal toll too devastating to fail,” stated Dr. Albright and colleagues.

Solution

A lifestyle-based solution whose success has been proven in multiple studies in peer-reviewed journals over the past three decades is the Pritikin Longevity Center program, where thousands of diabetics and pre-diabetics have learned real-world skills that not only control the disease but reverse it.

Pritikin Program For Diabetes Control — Summary of Scientifically Documented Results

Borderline Diabetes

Researchers at UCLA followed 652 Type 2 diabetic men and women who attended the Pritikin Longevity Center. Within three weeks, 76% of those not yet on oral medication were able to lower their blood glucose to normal ranges.2

Diabetics On Oral Drugs

With the Pritikin lifestyle, diabetics can even get off their medications. A meta-analysis in 2005 of 864 Type 2 diabetics found that 74% who arrived at Pritikin on oral medications no longer needed their drugs when they left the Center three weeks later. They reduced their blood glucose to normal ranges with lifestyle changes alone, no pills needed.3

Diabetics On Insulin

Of those diabetics taking insulin injections, 44% were successful in getting off insulin.4

Lowering Fasting Insulin

Research has also found that the Pritikin Program reduced fasting insulin by 30 to 40%.5

Reversing the Metabolic Syndrome

Published data have also found that the Pritikin Program can reverse the metabolic syndrome, a major pre-cursor to diabetes. In 50% of the men studied, the Pritikin Program reversed the clinical diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, and in just three weeks.6

These results were hailed as “provocative” in an invited editorial in the same issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology, authored by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine. “Just three weeks of treatment,” Drs. Frank W. Booth and Manu V. Chakravarthy wrote, “showed a phenomenal clinical response of about a 50% decrease in metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes.”7

What makes this study even more remarkable, the authors added, is that it presents a new alternative to pharmaceutical-focused America. The Pritikin Program appeared more effective — and faster-acting — than any drug currently on the market.

“To our knowledge, no current pharmaceutical product has made a claim in a peer-reviewed publication for an approximate halving the metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes in three weeks,” stated the authors.

They concluded that the results achieved at the Pritikin Longevity Center “provide a clear ‘proof of principle’ to the notion that tangible health benefits can indeed be obtained by engaging in one type of lifestyle intervention, even as short as three weeks… and provide a new fabric for designing more efficacious therapeutic strategies.”

Children

Pre-diabetic children have benefited profoundly from the Pritikin Program as well. In research following overweight children with the metabolic syndrome who attended the Pritikin Family Program, 100% no longer had the syndrome within two weeks of starting the program.8 They also lost significant weight and ameliorated several other heart disease risk factors.

The Power of Prevention

Lifestyle alone can prevent diabetes. In a landmark study, the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Prevention Program, scientists tracked 3,234 pre-diabetic men and women for three years. Half were following lifestyle changes. The other half took a drug — metformin (Glucophage®).

Compared with the drug-takers, those on the lifestyle-change plan were 60% less likely to progress to full-blown Type 2 diabetes.9 Their lifestyle changes, similar to the Pritikin Program, focused on eating low-calorie-dense, high-fiber foods, exercising five days weekly for at least 30 minutes, and a 7% weight loss.

Recently published 10-year data, a follow-up to the study above, found that the men and women on the lifestyle-change plan sustained their weight loss and cut their risk of developing diabetes by 34%. They were twice as successful as the group taking the diabetes medication in staving off full-blown diabetes.10

Summing Up…
For Optimal Control of Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Follow a healthy, low-calorie-dense diet, like the Pritikin Eating Plan, that includes plenty of fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, and other preferred carbohydrates (see below), as well as modest amounts of nonfat dairy products and/or soy, and modest amounts of lean animal protein choices, such as seafood and white poultry.
  • Preferred carbohydrates have not only a high water content but also a high fiber content. They provide stomach-filling satisfaction with few calories, and help prevent excessive rises in blood sugar. They include beans/lentils, hot whole-grain cereals such as cooked plain oats and barley, whole fruits with the skin on, and both low-starch and starchy vegetables, such as yams and potatoes, with the skin on. Enjoy fruit as a between-meal snack, but to avoid excessive blood sugar elevations, combine fruit with another high-fiber food, ideally raw or cooked vegetables.
  • Carbohydrates not recommended include refined, processed and/or concentrated high-calorie-dense foods such as fruit juices, dried fruit, sugar-added fruit jams and jellies, breads, dry cereals, crackers, pretzels, bagels, and popcorn. Be wary of “fat-free” snacks and sweets. Though they’re marketed as “healthy,” they are typically a combination of white refined flour and sugar.
  • Exercise regularly: 1) Aerobic exercise daily, a minimum of 30 minutes and optimally 60 to 90 minutes, alternating moderate-intensity days with vigorous-intensity days; 2) Full-body resistance routine two to three times weekly; and 3) Stretching exercises daily to greatly enhance your overall flexibility and ability to exercise more freely.
  • Schedule routine medical, podiatric, and eye evaluations. Dental exams are important, too.
  • Self-monitor your blood glucose daily, if not more frequently, at least until it is very well controlled, in order to assure that blood glucose and other risk factors are properly controlled. Self-monitoring will also help you detect and treat any complications in their early stages.
  • Keep in close touch with your physician to promptly adjust medications (and possibly reduce or eliminate them) as you master and enjoy the most powerful drug of all — a healthy lifestyle like Pritikin.

A Diabetic’s Story
A letter from Micki Oster, 65, to “every member of the Pritikin team”…

Pritikin — A Magical Place?

My three weeks at Pritikin changed my life. I’m sure you’ve heard this same story many times. The magic of Pritikin has changed many people’s lives. But the truth of the matter is, it’s not magic! A lot of people worked very hard 24/7 to implement an all-round program that has changed and improved my life beyond my wildest dreams.

Diet and exercise play a major part — of course, we all know that! But do we know why? Four lectures a day plus a daily cooking class helped us discover the reasons for good and bad health. We learned what to do to improve our health and prevent problems in the future.

Here is my story:

I arrived at Pritikin a diabetic, and with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I was also overweight (of course!). I was injecting 20 units of insulin in the morning and 60 units of insulin in the evening. For high blood pressure, I was taking 10mg of Norvasc every day.

Three weeks later, when I left Pritikin, I had lost about eight pounds, I no longer took the blood pressure medication, and (drum roll please!) I was taking no more insulin in the morning and 31 units of insulin in the evening. That’s a drop from a total of 80 units to 31 units. More importantly, I know that if I stick to the program at home, I can continue to decrease my insulin dependency.

When I visited my endocrinologist after I came home from Pritikin, he was astonished at the improvement. I would love to take credit for this miraculous improvement in my health, but in truth I must thank every member of the Pritikin team and their constant monitoring. The caring doctors and other medical staff. Scott, Charlie, Pedro, and all the exercise training team. All of the knowledgeable lecturers. Chef Anthony and his team of amazing chefs. And last but definitely not least, the fantastic dining room team.

Pritikin has made me realize more than ever before that my health is now in my hands. If I take advantage of everything I have learned during my three weeks, I can live a much healthier and happier life. There is no question the diet takes a bit of getting used to! However, Chef Anthony’s team creates tasty food using good ingredients and an interesting variation of dishes. The daily cooking class is a great help.

I thought staying healthy and benefiting from the incredible results I achieved at Pritikin was going to be a major challenge. But the reality is that it’s not difficult; it’s just an attitude of mind. I hated exercise (still not crazy about it!), but I am doing it every day — no more excuses!

I had a problem a few months ago (pre-Pritikin) renewing life insurance coverage at a realistic cost because of my various health conditions. Based on my latest blood test results from Pritikin, I am told this will change dramatically. There’s more good news. Since joining the “real world” two weeks ago, I’ve lost another three pounds. How’s that for magic!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Micki Oster


1. Pop Health Metrics

2. Diabetes Care, 1994; 17: 1469.

3. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2005; 98: 3.

4. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2005; 98: 3.

5. Circulation, 2002; 106: 2350.

6. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2006; 100: 1657.

7. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2006: 100: 1439.

8. Metabolism Clinical and Experimental, 2006; 55: 871.

9. New England Journal of Medicine, 2002; 346: 393.

10. The Lancet, Oct. 29, 2009; online edition.

Eugenia Killoran

Senior Editor & Writer

Eugenia Killoran has been the food and fitness journalist for the Pritikin Program since 1992. She has published more than 3,000 articles, lectures, and book chapters on a wide variety of healthy living and weight-loss topics.

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