Getting blood glucose levels right can prove to be difficult at times. Just when you think you’ve factored everything i, a high or low blood glucose level can arrive out of nowhere and really throw your confidence.
These things happen to everyone with diabetes.
- Factoring in food, activity and medication
- What can affect my blood sugar levels?
- What to know about blood sugar spikes
- Blood Sugar Testing and Control
- Understanding Blood Sugar and Control
- Factors affecting blood sugar
- How Does Fat Affect Insulin Resistance and Diabetes?
- Insulin Resistance of People on High-Fat Diets vs. High-Carb Diets
- What Is Insulin Resistance?
- The Cause of Insulin Resistance
- Protein & Fat May Also Effect Blood Glucose Levels
- What Food Sources Contain Protein?
- Why do Protein and Fat affect Blood Glucose levels?
- What Food Sources Contain Fat?
- What Effect Does Fat Have on Blood Glucose Levels?
- How Does Fat Make Blood Glucose Rise?
- All Fats Are Not Created Equal
- Why Plant-Based Diets Are So Important
- What About Eating Just a “Little Bit” of Meat?
Factoring in food, activity and medication
You’ll no doubt be aware that food, activity and the medication you take play a significant role in your blood sugar levels but there can be a number of other variables at work at the same time.
What can affect my blood sugar levels?
Get an idea of the things that can lead to surprising sugar levels using the list below.
Exercise or just increasing exertion can lead to altering blood glucose levels:
- Physical activity can affect insulin sensitivity for up to 48 hours – which can lead to lower blood sugars over this time
- Sugar levels can initially rise following a short burst of activity. If you usually are active most days, not doing activity could lead to higher blood sugars than usual
- If you exercise a muscle near where you last injected, it could cause your insulin to be absorbed more quickly
Food, drink and illness
Food, alcohol, tiredness and stress can all impact blood glucose levels.
Many people are surprised to know that protein can affect blood sugar levels, too.
- Proteins affect sugar levels as well as carbohydrates , but to less of an extent and more slowly than carbs
- Alcohol can affect sugar levels for up to several hours after stopping drinking
- Stress and illness can also significantly affect sugar levels
Where do you inject?
Where you inject can affect how quickly insulin is absorbed:
- Your insulin may get absorbed faster in different parts of your body
- Injecting into lumpy skin affects how insulin is absorbed
Medication and conditions
Taking different medications and certain health conditions can affect blood glucose levels:
- For women, your menstrual cycle can influence your sugar levels
- Pregnancy can affect blood glucose level range targets
- Other medications you take may also affect your sugar levels
- If you suffer from gastroparesis , delayed emptying of the stomach, this can also lead to less predictable sugar levels
- Missing out on a medication dose or injecting at irregular times can also lead to fluctuating sugar levels
As the mother of two children with type 1 diabetes, I’ve learned for certain that carbohydrates raise blood sugar and insulin brings it down. And I’ve also learned that there are about 800,000 things that affect blood sugar, and many times they are things that aren’t in our control. So, today we’re taking a look at some of the factors you might not realize can throw off your blood sugar levels. If you have things to add to the list, let us know in the comments!
Sometimes there’s really no way to avoid stress, and I know it, pardon my language, sucks to hear that it can affect your blood sugars. While stress may be unavoidable, learning to cope with and handle it may be able to help to decrease its effect.
When I first heard that the weather can cause blood sugar changes, I thought it was silly, so I understand what you’re thinking while reading this. But it’s true: hotter and colder temperatures put additional strain on the body.
Lower blood sugars can happen when the temperature rises or drops because your body will begin to use extra energy to stay warm or cool off. When on vacation at the beach this year, we had times when both of my kids’ blood sugars were higher than normal and a couple when they were lower.
Being Under the Weather
If you’re sick or have an infection, your body sends out hormones to fight off the illness. Those hormones can cause a rise in blood sugar levels. Having an illness that causes vomiting or causes you to eat less can lead to low blood sugar levels. For more on this, read: What to Do with Diabetes and the Flu.
Hormones. We can’t control them, but boy do I wish we could. Have you ever gone to bed within range and woke up much higher than normal? Or put your little one to bed in-range and noticed a rise overnight? This happens frequently to some people with diabetes. The dawn phenomenon, as we refer to it, is a surge of hormones around 4:00-5:00 a.m. It’s something that’s typically unavoidable, especially in children with Type 1. Not to mention children’s hormones during puberty are changing, which often means blood sugars are doing the same.
Caffeine affects everyone differently, and in excessive amounts, it can change the way insulin works. According to the Mayo Clinic, “the impact of caffeine on insulin action may be associated with higher or lower blood sugar levels.”
Getting a full night of sleep is good for everyone, but it’s incredibly important for those with diabetes. A lack of sleep can cause blood sugar levels to rise. Trying to make sure you and your kids get a good night of sleep is crucial to keeping your blood sugar levels within range. I understand fully how this can be a challenge because diabetes doesn’t sleep. Try to make sleep more of a priority by going to bed earlier. When you get a few extra hours of shut eye you will feel better mentally and physically.
Okay, well this one isn’t necessarily surprising but the way exercise affects your blood sugar levels can be one of the most frustrating things about diabetes. Yes, I understand that when my daughter is cheering and doing cartwheels like crazy there is a chance that her blood sugar levels could drop from the increased activity. Or when my son is out marching on the football field with the band, this could cause him to go lower. So, we take this into account and try to plan better. We decrease basal insulin during the activity, and sometimes increase carbs before the activity. What we have to keep in mind is that exercise can also affect blood sugar levels hours after the activity. This is where it gets really frustrating. We can have stellar levels during activites and the hours after, but sometimes at 2 a.m. when I’m checking blood sugars of the kids, we suddenly have a surprise 50. See here for more on exercise and diabetes.
Yes, yes, being happy can affect your blood sugar levels. When kids get excited for Christmas morning and seeing what Santa left under the tree, their blood sugar levels can rise. Why? Just like stress, getting too excited causes adrenaline to be released which can cause sugar levels to keep increasing.
This one took me a little while to figure out. My older son loves hot tea and since being diagnosed we’ve tried many types of artificial sweeteners to sweeten his tea because some of them can cause his blood sugar levels to increase. Most sources will tell you that artificial sweeteners don’t raise blood sugar levels, but if you talk to people with diabetes, you are likely to hear otherwise. It’s not the same for everyone, and it’s really been a game of trial and error when it comes to figuring out which ones cause blood sugar levels to go higher and which ones don’t. It’s always a good idea to do a blood sugar check when trying out a new sweetener. See here to learn more about baking with artificial sweeteners.
Drinking water is always a must for those with diabetes. It can help to lower blood sugar levels when they are high, and it’s important to keep those nasty ketones away. Being dehydrated can cause an increase in blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can also cause you to pee more often which can lead to increased dehydration.
Not if the fruit in question is whole fruit. Unlike honey, cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and other forms of sugar that are added to many processed foods, the sugar naturally found in fruit is consumed in the company of fiber, which helps your body absorb the sugar more slowly.
When you consume a food or beverage that contains carbohydrates, your digestive system breaks the carbs down into a type of sugar called glucose, which enters the bloodstream. When blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas produces the hormone insulin, a signal to your cells to absorb the glucose so it can be used immediately as energy or stored in the liver and muscles for later use. Repeatedly eating foods that cause surges in blood sugar makes the pancreas work harder. Over time, that can lead to insulin resistance and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Refined grain products like white bread, crackers, and cookies, which tend to be low in fiber, deliver large amounts of carbohydrates per serving and are digested very quickly, raising blood sugar and insulin levels. Sugars enter into the bloodstream especially rapidly when you consume carbohydrates in liquid form, such as in sugary sodas.
But it’s not as simple as adding fiber to starchy foods or soda — the quality and physical form of carbohydrates are critical, which means favoring whole foods over processed foods and added sugars. That includes favoring whole fruit over fruit juice: Fruit juices can contain fiber, but some of that fiber is broken down in the juicing process, reducing the metabolic benefit compared with intact fruit.
To minimize spikes in insulin, it’s best to eat fruit whole. That’s because with whole fruit the cell walls remain intact, said Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. This is how fiber can offer the greatest benefit, he explained, because the sugars are effectively sequestered within the fiber scaffolding of the cells, and it takes time for the digestive tract to break down those cells. Four apples may contain the same amount of sugar as 24 ounces of soda, but the slow rate of absorption minimizes the blood sugar surge.
“If we take a nutrient-centric approach, just looking at sugar grams on the label, none of this is evident,” Dr. Ludwig said. “So it really requires a whole foods view.”
What to know about blood sugar spikes
People with diabetes have to be especially careful about keeping their blood sugar levels under control and avoiding spikes in blood sugar.
Several factors contribute to these spikes. For example:
Share on PinterestBlood sugar spikes might occur due to diet, smoking, or a lack of physical activity.
Foods high in sugar or carbohydrates are more likely to raise blood sugar levels.
One way to track how a particular food will affect blood glucose is by looking at its glycemic index (GI) ranking.
The GI ranking indicates the extent to which carbohydrates in a given food will affect blood sugar levels.
Foods with a high GI, or a ranking greater than 70, include bagels, popcorn, and crackers, for example. Low-GI foods, with a score under 55, include barley, bulgur, corn, and sweet potatoes.
A person with diabetes should try to have mainly low-GI carbohydrates in their diet.
A lack of physical activity
Having a sedentary lifestyle can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. On the other hand, exercise that is too difficult can lead to physical stress, which is also a trigger for blood sugar spikes.
People with diabetes need to get regular light-to-moderate exercise, as opposed to pushing too hard.
Smoking cigarettes can make it difficult to keep blood sugar levels within a normal range.
A person who smokes should make it a priority to quit. Their doctor or local health service can provide resources.
When under a lot of stress, the body produces hormones, such as cortisol, that increase glucose and reduce the effectiveness of insulin.
As a result, more glucose stays in the bloodstream. Finding a way to keep stress levels down, such as yoga or meditation, is essential for people with diabetes.
A lack of sleep can be especially bad for people with diabetes because it can also raise blood sugar levels.
Prioritizing quality sleep and good sleep hygiene are healthful for a range of reasons. For people with diabetes, a regular sleep schedule becomes an important factor in glycemic control.
Medication side effects
Some medicines can cause blood sugar levels to rise. These can include, for example, corticosteroids, diuretics, some blood pressure medications, and some antidepressants.
A person with diabetes must let their healthcare provider know if they are also taking one of these types of medications.
In addition, taking the wrong dose of insulin or missing a dose can also cause blood sugar levels to spike.
Diabetes management requires specific timings for anyone taking insulin or non-insulin medication. A range of pumps and smart pumps are available to provide continuous, timed doses of insulin. They can also monitor and respond to blood sugar spikes.
Some are automated, working like an artificial pancreas. Others provide doses of background insulin to regulate levels during fasting and sleep but require manual input around meal times.
Blood Sugar Testing and Control
Understanding Blood Sugar and Control
Your blood sugar is an essential measure of your health. Too much sugar in the blood is the common factor between all types of diabetes. And even though sugar sometimes gets a bad rap, it’s not always bad.
Many foods break down into blood sugar, which is used for energy to fuel our brain, heart, and muscles. Blood sugar either comes from the food we eat or is made by the liver. It’s usually found in two places; in the blood stream as it is carried to all of our organs and cells, and inside the cells where it is changed into energy.
If you’re struggling to manage your blood sugar levels, you’re not alone. With the latest tools and strategies, you can take the right steps to manage your blood sugar, prevent serious complications, and feel your best while living with diabetes.
Factors affecting blood sugar
Before you had diabetes, no matter what you ate or how active you were, your blood sugar levels stayed within a normal range. But with diabetes, your blood sugar level can rise higher and some diabetes medications can make them go lower than normal. Many factors can change your blood sugar levels. Learning about these can help control your blood sugar levels.
You can use your blood sugar (blood glucose) levels to make decisions about food and activity. These decisions can help you delay or prevent diabetes complications such as heart attack, kidney disease, blindness, and amputation.
What can make my blood sugar rise?
- Too much food, like a meal or snack with more carbohydrates than usual
- Not being active
- Not enough insulin or oral diabetes medications
- Side effects from other medications, such as steroids, anti-psychotic medications
- Illness – your body releases hormones to fight the illness, and those hormones raise blood sugar levels
- Stress, which can produce hormones that raise blood sugar levels
- Short- or long-term pain, like pain from a sunburn – your body releases hormones that raise sugar levels
- Menstrual periods, which cause changes in hormone levels
What can make my blood sugar fall?
- Not enough food, like a meal or snack with fewer carbohydrates than usual, missing a meal or snack
- Alcohol, especially on an empty stomach
- Too much insulin or oral diabetes medications
- Side effects from other medications
- More physical activity or exercise than usual – physical activity makes your body more sensitive to insulin and can lower blood sugar.
How can I track my blood sugar?
There are two ways to keep track of your blood sugar levels:
- using a blood glucose meter to measure your blood sugar level at that moment
- getting an A1C at least twice a year to find out your average blood sugar for the past 2 to 3 months
How Does Fat Affect Insulin Resistance and Diabetes?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 29 million people in America have diabetes and 86 million have prediabetes. Insulin resistance is recognized as a predictor of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. But what causes insulin resistance?
In this NutritionFacts.org video, Dr. Michael Greger talks about how fat affects insulin resistance, and about how the most effective way to reduce insulin sensitivity is to reduce fat intake. We’ve also provided a summary of Dr. Greger’s main points below.
Insulin Resistance of People on High-Fat Diets vs. High-Carb Diets
In studies performed as early as the 1930s, scientists have noted a connection between diet and insulin intolerance. In one study, healthy young men were split into two groups. Half of the participants were put on a fat-rich diet, and the other half were put on a carb-rich diet. The high-fat group ate olive oil, butter, mayonnaise, and cream. The high-carb group ate pastries, sugar, candy, bread, baked potatoes, syrup, rice, and oatmeal.
Within two days, tests showed that the glucose intolerance had skyrocketed in the group eating the high-fat diet. This group had twice the blood sugar levels than the high-carb group. The test results showed that the higher the fat content of the diet, the higher the blood sugar levels would be.
What Is Insulin Resistance?
It turns out that as the amount of fat in the diet goes up, so does one’s blood sugar spikes. Athletes frequently carb-load before a race because they’re trying to build up fuel in their muscles. We break down starch into glucose in our digestive tract; it circulates as blood glucose (blood sugar); and it is then used by our muscle cells as fuel.
Blood sugar, though, is like a vampire. It needs an invitation to enter our cells. And that invitation is insulin. Insulin is the key that unlocks the door to let the glucose in the blood to enter the muscle cell. So insulin is the key that unlocks the door into our muscle cells.
What if there was no insulin? Blood sugar would be stuck out in the bloodstream banging on the door to our muscles and not able to get inside. With nowhere to go, blood sugar levels would rise and rise. In type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disorder usually diagnosed in childhood, the cells in the pancreas that make insulin get destroyed; without insulin, sugar in the blood can’t get out of the blood into the muscles, and blood sugar rises.
But there’s a second way we could end up with high blood sugar, and it’s much more common than type 1 diabetes. Most people with high blood sugar, prediabetes, and diabetes have enough insulin in their bodies, but it doesn’t work. The key is there but something’s gummed up the lock. This is called insulin resistance.
The Cause of Insulin Resistance
What’s gumming up the door locks on our muscle cells, preventing insulin from letting glucose in?
It’s fat. Intramyocellular lipids, or the fat inside our muscle cells.
Fat in the bloodstream can build up inside the muscle cell and create toxic fatty breakdown products and free radicals that can block the insulin signaling process. When that happens, no matter how much insulin we have in our blood, it won’t be able to open the glucose gates. That causes blood sugar levels to build up in the blood.
This mechanism by which fat induces insulin resistance wasn’t known until modern MRI techniques were developed to see what was happening inside people’s muscles as fat was infused into their bloodstreams. The scans showed researchers that higher fat levels in the blood caused insulin resistance by interfering with glucose transport into the muscles.
This can happen within three hours. One hit of fat can start causing insulin resistance, inhibiting glucose uptake after just 160 minutes. You can also do the opposite experiment. Lower the level of fat in people’s blood and the insulin resistance comes right down. By clearing the fat out of the blood, you also clear the sugar out of the blood.
On the high-fat, ketogenic diet, insulin doesn’t work as well. Our bodies are insulin resistant. But as the amount of fat in our diet gets lower and lower, insulin works better and better. This is a clear demonstration that the sugar tolerance of even healthy individuals can be impaired by administering a low-carb, high-fat diet. We can decrease insulin resistance by decreasing fat intake.
Dr. Greger’s Sources Cited:
H P Himsworth. The dietetic factor determining the glucose tolerance and senility to insulin of healthy men. Clinical Science 1934; 2, 67—94.
H P Himsworth, E M Marshall. The diet of diabetics prior to the onset of the disease. Clinical Science 1935; 2, 95-115.
M Roden, T B Price, G Perseghin, K F Petersen, D L Rothman, G W Cline, G I Shulman. Mechanism of free fatty acid-induced insulin resistance in humans. J Clin Invest. Jun 15, 1996; 97(12): 2859—2865.
S Lee, C Boesch, J L Kuk, S Arsianian. Effects of an overnight intravenous lipid infusion on intramyocellular lipid content and insulin sensitivity in African-American versus Caucasian adolescents. Metabolism. 2013 Mar;62(3):417—23.
M Roden, K Krssak, H Stingl, S Gruber, A Hofer, C Furnsinn, E Moser, W Waldhausl. Rapid impairment of skeletal muscle glucose transport/phosphorylation by free fatty acids in humans. Diabetes. 1999 Feb;48(2):358—64.
M Krssak, K Falk Petersen, A Dresner, L Dipetro, S M Vogel, D L Rothman, M Roden, G I Shulman. Intramyocellular lipid concentrations are correlated with insulin sensitivity in humans: a 1H NMR spectroscopy study. Diabetologia. 1999 Jan;42(1):113—6.
J Shirley Sweeney. Dietary Factors that Influence the Dextrose Tolerance Test a Preliminary Study. JAMA Int Med, Dec, 1927, Vol 40, No. 6.
E W Kraegen, G J Cooney. Free fatty acids and skeletal muscle insulin resistance. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2008 Jun;19(3):235—41.
A T Santomauro, G Boden, M E Silva, D M Rocha, FR F Santos, M J Ursich, P G Strassmann, B L Wajchenberg. Overnight lowering of free fatty acids with Acipimox improves insulin resistance and glucose tolerance in obese diabetic and nondiabetic subjects. Diabetes. 1999 Sep;48(9):1836—41.
Protein & Fat May Also Effect Blood Glucose Levels
Counting Carbs…. and Fat…. and Protein…WHAT?
We know that carbohydrates will raise blood glucose (BG). We use a particular IC ratio to cover this macro-nutrient. But, we also now know that protein and fat may also have an effect on blood glucose. While the effect is not rapid as it is for carbohydrates, the effect of fat and protein can be seen well after the meal for several hours.
What Food Sources Contain Protein?
- Animal meat of all kinds
- small amounts in vegetables
Why do Protein and Fat affect Blood Glucose levels?
In large amounts (>20g per meal or snack, or a portion bigger than the size of the palm of a woman’s hand), or at meals with low or no carbs, some people see a rise in BG starting about 2-3 hours after a high protein meal (that is often low in carb). This happens due to a process called gluconeogenesis – the breakdown of protein into glucose.
What Food Sources Contain Fat?
- Fat is found in almost all the food groups (excluding most vegetables and fruits)
- All meat contains natural fat (higher percent in fattier cuts),
- Processed snack foods (chips, etc)
- Candy and desserts (made with chocolate, butter, oils or nuts)
- Nuts, nut butters and seeds
- Added fats like oil, salad dressing, butter, half and half, cream cheese, sour cream
- All full fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream)
What Effect Does Fat Have on Blood Glucose Levels?
Fat will slow carb digestion at a meal.
How Does Fat Make Blood Glucose Rise?
Knowing is half the battle…
What can we do to avoid the post-meal rises associated with the intake of fat and protein?
How do we figure out how much additional insulin may be needed and when to account for fat and/or protein?
What is the best way to deliver the insulin to match the delayed effect of protein and much later and long term effect of fat?
We have a great team of clinicians here at IDS that are just waiting to answer your questions and help you pour through your records to assist with post meal glucose management.
Give us a call to set up a time to talk and we can point you in the right direction to count fat and protein and keep those post meal numbers where you want them!!
Contact our team or make an appointment.
This is the seventh article in our “Controversies” series and the third piece focusing on the subject of fats.
Today, we are going to explore the very important relationship between saturated fat intake and the onset of diabetes.
As we mentioned in The Ultimate Guide to Saturated Fats, “Once we control for weight, alcohol, smoking, exercise and family history, the incidence of diabetes is significantly associated with the proportion of saturated fat in our blood.”
Today we will take a deep dive to fully understand why there is such a strong link between diabetes and saturated fat consumption. We will also discuss how a plant-based diet may protect you from (or even reverse!) the disease.
Insulin resistance is a hallmark of both prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
So what is insulin resistance exactly (and why is it important)?
Let me explain.
Insulin is what permits glucose (sugar) in the blood to enter our (muscle) cells.
In essence, insulin ‘unlocks’ the door, allowing the glucose to come in. If there is no insulin at all (the case of type 1 diabetes), the blood sugar ‘hangs out’ in the bloodstream because it cannot get inside. That causes the blood sugar levels to rise.
But what happens if the insulin is there but is simply not working properly? In that case, the lock to the cell door is ‘blocked.’ This is what is called insulin resistance.
So what causes insulin resistance in the first place?
Insulin resistance is caused by fat.
Fat build-up inside (muscle) cells creates toxic fatty breakdown products and free radicals that ‘block’ the insulin-signaling process, close the ‘glucose gate,’ and make blood sugar levels rise.
And this cycle can happen really fast.
In fact, insulin resistance can occur in 180 short minutes (just 3 hours!) after the consumption of fat.
But there is more.
The process of insulin resistance, caused by the buildup of fat in our muscles, liver, and pancreas, can quickly worsen due to what is called the ‘twin vicious cycles.’
In the early stages of insulin resistance, the pancreas pumps out more and more insulin trying to overcome the (fat-induced) insulin resistance in the muscles. These higher insulin levels then lead to an accumulation of fat in the liver (fatty liver disease), which in turn also becomes resistant to insulin.
A ‘normal’ liver constantly produces blood sugar; it is our body’s way of keeping our brain alive between meals. After we eat a meal, the insulin released normally turns off the liver glucose production.
However, if our fatty liver becomes insulin resistant, it does not respond to these ‘normal’ signals and instead continues to pump out blood sugar on top of what we eat and floods our system with higher and higher levels of glucose.
In response, the pancreas pumps out more and more insulin to deal with high sugar levels, which furthers the accumulation of fat in the liver.
The first vicious cycle has begun; fatty muscle cells lead to a fatty liver, which just gets fattier as the entire system enters a downward spiral.
But once again, it does not end there.
Because in an attempt to ‘fix’ the imbalance, the fatty liver then tries to dump the excess fat back into the bloodstream, and that fat then builds up inside the pancreas cells—those very cells responsible for producing insulin.
Fatty muscles, therefore, lead to a fatty liver which then results in a fatty pancreas.
As this fat build-up starts to kill of pancreatic beta cells, insulin production inevitably stutters…and stops. (Remember that the only thing that prevents us from having diabetes in the first place is the pancreas working overtime to pump out extra insulin to overcome the insulin resistance!)
In the end, we are left with the worse of two worlds.
Insulin resistance on the one side.
A failing pancreas (and insulin production) on the other.
Unable to defeat the insulin resistance or to produce higher amounts of insulin, our body’s blood sugar levels go (and remain) up.
And we have type 2 diabetes.
All Fats Are Not Created Equal
Type 2 diabetes is a condition caused by excess fat in our organs or fat toxicity.
But very importantly, it is not just ‘any’ fat—but rather saturated fats (which are mostly found in animal-based diets) that cause diabetes.
In fact, while saturated fatty acids like palmitic acid (from meat, dairy, and eggs) cause insulin resistance, plant-based monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid (from nuts, olives, and avocados) might even do the opposite—i.e. they may improve insulin sensitivity.
Furthermore, saturated fats not only induce insulin resistance (as explained above) but they may also cause the death of pancreatic beta cells, impeding insulin secretion altogether.
This means that saturated fats have a very powerful, negative effect on insulin action both in the short- and the long-term.
Why Plant-Based Diets Are So Important
The idea that a plant-based lifestyle can benefit those with type 2 diabetes dates all the way back to the 1930s when it was shown that a diet based on vegetables, fruits, grains and beans was one of the most effective nutrient-based treatments for diabetes.
The Adventist-2 study, which included 89,000 people and extended across 50 years, clearly shows that those who eat meat one or more days a week have significantly higher rates of diabetes.
And the more often meat is eaten, the more frequent the disease. In contrast, those who eat strictly plant-based (even at the same weight) are 78 percent less likely to suffer from diabetes.
In the same vein, researchers at the Imperial College of London looked at the insulin resistance and muscle fat of vegans versus omnivores.
When they compared plant-eaters with omnivores of the same body weight, they discovered that the plant-eating subjects enjoyed better insulin sensitivity, blood sugar, and insulin levels as well as significantly better pancreatic beta-cell functioning.
In another study, participants were asked to eat a high-carbohydrate, high-fiber diet in quantities high enough that they did not lose weight. That was to assess the benefits of a plant-based diet vis-à-vis diabetes reversal independent of weight loss.
The results were startling; overall insulin requirements were cut by 60 percent, and 50 percent of the subjects (some of whom had been taking insulin for decades) were able to get off insulin altogether.
And these remarkable changes did not happen over months—but 16 short days!
This research showed that type 2 diabetes can be reversed simply by adopting a whole food, plant-based diet even when no weight loss occurs.
But are these dramatic differences explained by the elimination of animal foods/saturated fats? Or is there something ‘inherent’ in plants that helps reduce the risk of diabetes so dramatically?
The answer is a bit of both.
Obviously, the reduction of saturated fats—the main culprit when it comes to insulin resistance—goes a long way to decreasing your risk for diabetes. But a plant-based diet alone also has a lot going for it when it comes to battling diabetes including antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber.
What About Eating Just a “Little Bit” of Meat?
I am often asked if it is okay to eat a ‘little bit’ of meat?
The short answer to this is “No.”
A recent study examined this question, comparing Buddhist vegetarians to Buddhist non-vegetarians eating a traditional Asian diet. This meant that the women ate a single serving of meat a week while the men ate a serving every few days—approximately 8 percent of the average US meat intake for men, 3 percent for women.
The results? The men who ate vegetarian only versus those who ate the traditional Asian diet exhibited 50 percent less diabetes while the women exhibited 75 percent less! This study shows that even small quantities of meat can still make a BIG negative difference.
Another prospective study examined ~17,000 people who had been followed for 12 years. They found an 8 percent increase in the risk of diabetes for every 50 grams of daily meat consumption (note that one chicken breast, bone and skin removed, is 172 grams!).
If you want to decrease your risk of getting diabetes, you need to drastically reduce your saturated fat intake. And since saturated fats are mainly found in animal-based foods, those should not have a place on your table.
In summary, high-calorie diets rich in saturated fats cause type 2 diabetes. Based on the scientific evidence, you may greatly improve your chances of avoiding (or even reversing) the disease by transitioning to a low-fat, whole food, plant-based diet.