For people who need to watch their blood sugar, a high-carbohydrate diet is actually good for you. What’s critical is the type of carbohydrate. Certainly, if you’re eating refined carbs like white bread and sugary desserts, blood sugar levels can shoot up.
The Right Carbohydrates
But if the bulk of your diet is fiber-rich, unprocessed carbohydrates like vegetables, whole fruit, whole grains, and beans, you may be able to normalize blood sugar levels and even reverse the diagnosis of pre-diabetes and diabetes, scientists are now discovering.
An investigation conducted by UCLA researchers followed diabetic men at the Pritikin Longevity Center for three weeks. It reported that the Pritikin Eating Plan, high in whole, fiber-filled carbohydrates, plus daily exercise, not only helped the men lose weight and improve cholesterol levels, it also decreased blood sugar levels by 20% and insulin levels by 30%.1
What’s more, by the end of their three-week program, the majority of the men had controlled their fasting blood glucose, or blood sugar, so well that “they were no longer classified as diabetic,” wrote lead investigators Drs. James Barnard and Christian Roberts of UCLA. Some of the men left Pritikin completely free of their diabetic medications, and others had their medication dosages reduced.
In addition to normalizing blood sugar and reducing classic heart disease risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure, the Pritikin Program of diet and exercise also substantially improved recently discovered risk factors, such as inflammation in the arteries.
Nitric Oxide, Healing Arteries
Prevention of heart disease, the #1 killer in America, is especially important for people with diabetes since heart attacks occur two to four times more frequently if you have this disease. Diabetes damages the endothelial (inner) lining of the arteries, choking off blood flow to the heart. The Pritikin Program, the UCLA scientists found, increases the production of endothelial-healing substances like nitric oxide.
In related research,2 scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health followed 99 type 2 diabetics for four months. Half followed a vegetarian diet similar to the Pritikin Eating Plan (low in fat and very high in straight-from-the-earth unrefined carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains).
The other half followed the standard dietary advice from the American Diabetes Association, which was higher in fat and refined carbs than the Pritikin-style diet.
Losing Twice As Much Weight
The diabetics in the Pritikin-style group lowered their blood sugar more and shed twice as much weight (14 pounds) compared to the ADA group (7 pounds). They also lowered their LDL “bad” cholesterol more and ended up with better kidney function than the ADA dieters.
The scientists, led by Dr. David Jenkins of the University of Toronto and Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, also reported that the very-low-fat, high-carb, high-fiber diet had no potentially harmful changes, such as higher triglycerides or lower HDL “good” cholesterol levels. The results of this diet, in short, were all good.
Other investigations have found that lifestyle-change programs like Pritikin do a superb job of alleviating the Metabolic Syndrome, a cluster of factors, including belly fat, that is now epidemic in the U.S. and puts one at major risk for diabetes and heart disease.
In published research on adults staying at the Pritikin Longevity Center for three weeks, the Metabolic Syndrome was not only controlled, it was reversed.3
The same held true for kids. Among children with the Metabolic Syndrome who came to Pritikin, fully 100% no longer had the clinical diagnosis of the syndrome within two weeks.4
Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Carbs
Scientists at Harvard University recently studied the risk of diabetes in a large population – 160,000 women and 40,000 men – who were tracked for nearly three decades.(5) Those who ate more healthy carbs like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains and fewer unhealthy carbs, such as sugary drinks, fruit juices, and refined grains, had a 34% lower risk of diabetes, regardless of their weight.
By contrast, those men and women who ate more unhealthy carbs had a 16% higher risk of diabetes.
Reversing Diabetes | Permanently?
Can you actually reverse diabetes for good?
Insulin resistance, which is the root cause of type 2 diabetes, can be reversed.
Insulin resistance means that the pancreas is producing insulin, but the body’s cells are resisting it. Their “doors” are “shut” to insulin and the glucose that insulin is trying to ferry into the cells. The cells are rejecting the glucose because they’re already stuffed with it. So glucose builds up in the blood.
The pancreas, determined to deposit that glucose into the cells, pumps out more and more insulin to “break” those cell doors down. That’s why people with pre-diabetes or diabetes often have high insulin levels.
Many people recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can reverse insulin resistance by following a healthy diet and exercise program like Pritikin and losing a significant amount of excess body weight. Not only will they reverse insulin resistance, many will also be able to eliminate or reduce their diabetes medications. With lifestyle changes alone, they’re able to maintain normal or close-to-normal blood glucose (sugar) levels.
Now, is this a “cure”?
“It certainly is if you continue to live a healthy, Pritikin lifestyle. If you do, chances are very good you will never suffer the direct consequences of diabetes, such as blindness, diabetic neuropathy (loss of feeling in the feet and hands), kidney failure, and even heart attacks and strokes,” says Danine Fruge, MD, Medical Director at the Pritikin Longevity Center.
But yes, if you return to SAD (the standard American diet) and a sedentary lifestyle, you can expect your blood sugar to rise. The weight will come back. Insulin resistance will return, and so will the need for diabetes medications.
“But thousands who have come to the Pritikin Longevity Center do in fact feel ‘cured.’ For years, they’ve been enjoying their life and their healthy food and fitness habits. Their blood glucose is normal. Their fasting insulin levels indicate no insulin resistance. They have no need for diabetic medications. They’re seeing their doctor only once or twice a year. They’re traveling. They’re vital. They’re happy. Life is good. This all sounds like a great ‘cure’ to me,” smiles Dr. Fruge.
Preventing and Reversing Diabetes | Vital For Our Nation
In the last 30 years, reports the Centers for Disease Control , the number of adults in the U.S. with diagnosed diabetes nearly quadrupled. If this trend continues, warns the CDC, as many as 1 out of every 3 adults in the U. S. could have diabetes by 2050.(6)
It’s a looming monster not only medically but economically. An analysis published in the journal Diabetes Care found that the economic burden of diagnosed diabetes and pre-diabetes exceeded $322 billion in 2012, consisting of $244 billion in excess medical costs and $78 billion in reduced productivity.(7)
“Combined, this amounts to an economic burden exceeding $1,000 for each American in 2012,” the authors concluded.
Healing Power of Healthy Living
We need a solution for the crushing burden of diabetes and other cardiovascular-related diseases. The thousands who have been to the Pritikin Longevity Center over the last 40 years know what that solution is. Healthy living like the Pritikin Program heals. Healthy living like the Pritikin Program can erase our diabetes epidemic.
- 1 Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 2006; 73: 249.
- 2 Diabetes Care, 2006; 29: 1777.
- 3 Journal of Applied Physiology, 2006; 100: 1657.
- 4 Metabolism Clinical and Experimental, 2006: 55: 871.
- 5 PLoS Medicine, 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002039
- 6 http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/library/diabetesreportcard2014.pdf
- 7 Diabetes Care, 2014; 37 (12): 3172.