Let’s first discuss what the goals of a diet should be when you have type 2 diabetes. After all, if this disease that now affects tens of millions of Americans is simply allowed to progress, it means a future of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, peripheral neuropathy, amputations, failing eyesight, gastroparesis, and an average of eight years taken from your lifespan.
So let’s agree that a diet for type 2 diabetes should:
- Reverse insulin resistance—i.e., the process that leads to developing diabetes in the first place.
- Reduce blood sugar and HbA1c (the long-term gauge of blood sugar)—that reflects a reduction in insulin resistance and less reliance on drugs and insulin
- Reduce the potential for diabetic complications—stalling or avoiding heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, etc.
- Reduce weight—People with type 2 diabetes are virtually all overweight or obese or have an excess of visceral fat that drives insulin resistance and inflammation.
Does the American Diabetes Association (ADA) diet that reduces fat/saturated fat, encourages grains, and does not limit sugar accomplish this? Absolutely not. In fact, the opposite typically occurs. This is because the ADA diet is crafted to increase blood sugars to allow prescription medications and insulin to be administered without causing hypoglycemia, low blood sugar. But the ADA diet does not reverse insulin resistance, does not reduce blood sugar or HbA1c, does not slow the development of diabetic complications, nor does it lead to weight loss. It does, however, allow you to take your diabetes medications and lead to progressively increasing reliance on medication to reduce blood sugar.
Does a low-fat diet do any better? Low-fat diets mean higher carbohydrate intake, typically from grain-based foods. As with the ADA diet, insulin resistance is not reduced, blood sugar/HbA1c are not reduced, diabetic complications are not slowed. There can be modest initial weight loss, but typically insufficient to make a big difference in diabetic measures.
Low-carb diets in their various forms—paleo, ketogenic, Atkins’, Wheat Belly/Undoctored—do indeed reverse insulin resistance, reduce blood sugar/HbA1c, reduce potential for diabetic complications, and allow substantial weight loss. It is not uncommon for type 2 diabetes to be completely reversed such that no medications or insulin are required with restoration of all diabetes measures back to normal.
But the best solution of all is to start with diet, then address the common deficiencies and health disruptions that plague people with diabetes and thereby stack the odds in favor of full restoration of health that includes weight loss back to normal, full reversal of insulin resistance, relief from joint pain and skin rashes, more energy, better mood, restored libido, increased muscle mass and strength, greater bone density, freedom from heart disease, reduced potential for dementia. To achieve these more ambitious goals, we begin with diet, then correct nutritional deficiencies of nutrients that serve intrinsic human need such as iodine, magnesium, and vitamin D. We also address the substantial dysbiosis (disrupted bowel flora) that all diabetics share, including addressing small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and small intestinal fungal overgrowth (SIFO).
This is what we do in the Wheat Belly and Undoctored programs.