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Diabetes and a Vegetarian Diet

Diabetes is a chronic disease characterized by excess sugar in the bloodstream. It affects millions of people.

There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas can no longer produce insulin, resulting in the need for insulin injections.

People with type 2 diabetes still produce insulin but their cells resist the insulin which causes a condition called insulin resistance.

Sugar and carbohydrate consumption used to be thought of as the only dietary problems associated with diabetes.  Current studies show the real problem is fat. According to Dr. Neal Barnard, MD  insulin resistance occurs when sugar in the bloodstream tries to enter the cells and cannot due to the fat inside the cell. He compares this to a gummed-up lock.

Intramyocellular lipids are the fats inside the muscle cells. There are mitochondria in cells which convert fat into energy so the fat doesn’t accumulate. Fat accumulation means the mitochondria are not working. Type 2 diabetics have too few mitochondria. The numbers of mitochondria in a cell may depend on the food you choose to eat.

Researchers found consumption of high-fat foods led to the accumulation of fat inside muscle cells. The accumulation of fat in the cells seemed to turn off the genes which produce the fat burning mitochondria.

Another research study compared participants of similar age and body weight. Some participants followed a plant-based diet and some did not. The strict vegetarians had 31% less fat in their cells than the non-vegetarians.

“Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes,” recommends three steps to improve your health.

  1. Follow a strict vegetarian diet
  2. Consume a low- fat diet (no oil, no avocado, no nuts, no seeds)
  3. Choose foods with a low glycemic index (GI)

The glycemic index tells us the lower the GI of a food the less effect the food has on blood sugar. This diet plan can dramatically change the health of type 2 diabetics and lower the insulin requirements for type 1 diabetics.

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