Diabetes is one of the most common chronic health conditions, and one of the most preventable ones. A healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and safely losing body weight can help to prevent and possibly even help reverse type 2 diabetes.
And yet, 30.3 million American people have diabetes and the current food guidelines are not helping to lower the numbers.
Could it be because we placing too much trust in the official guidelines as the only way to heal from diabetes and manage its symptoms?
Dr. Sarah Hallberg, the Medical Director of the Medically Supervised Weight Loss Program at Indiana University Health Arnett, argues that to reverse type 2 diabetes, we should forget the official guidelines and take a different approach to help defeat insulin resistance. And research, including her own clinical experience, shows that her method may have incredible potential to help do just that.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance or not being able to make enough insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar. And more than 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. suffer from this condition. Research also shows that 1 in 3 adults have prediabetes, and many do not even know it.
Diabetes affects a massive amount of people worldwide and kills 1.5 million every year. And it does not have to be this way, because it is preventable and it is reversible, Dr. Hallberg says.
Type 2 diabetes is triggered by carbohydrate intake in most cases, she notes:
“Diabetes is a state of carbohydrate toxicity. Insulin resistance is a state of carbohydrate intolerance. Carbohydrate intake is the single biggest factor in blood sugar levels and therefore the need for medication,” Hallberg explains in her TEDx Talk.
And carbohydrates is exactly what the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends eating. The ADA tells patients to consume 40 to 65 grams of carbohydrates at every meal and in snacks.
“We are essentially recommending that they eat exactly what’s causing their problem,” she says.
By consuming excess carbs or too much at the wrong time, a patient increases their blood sugar, and stores body fat due to a need for more insulin. This is not only dangerous for diabetics, it also makes it hard to lose weight.
Dr. Hallberg says that the ADA admits that there is not enough evidence for them to suggest that their recommended carbs amount is correct for people who are suffering from the disease; neither do they focus on reversing diabetes.
“This needs to be changed because type 2 can be reversed, in many if not most situations, especially if we start early,” Dr. Hallberg urges.
What she recommends instead of the ADA recommendations is a low-carb and high-fat diet. She notes that the human body requires fats, just as it requires proteins to function properly, but carbohydrates have no minimum daily requirement. While she does not recommend a zero-carb diet, a carefully managed, extremely low-carb works wonders.
And she has seen amazing results in her own practice to confirm this. Some patients see results in just a few days.
“When our patients decrease their carbs, their glucose goes down and they don’t need as much insulin. Their insulin levels drop fast. Low-carb intervention works so fast that we can literally pull people off hundreds of units of insulin in days to weeks,” Dr. Hallberg says.
When Dr. Hallberg’s clinic conducted a study using two groups of patients – one following the ADA guidelines, and the other a high-fat, low-carb diet – the second group had much better results and decreased their insulin levels by an average of 500 units a day (the ADA guidelines group only decreased insulin by 350 units a day).
Watch Dr. Hallberg’s full TEDx Talk in which she talks about how a person can reverse their diabetes:
Low-Carb, High-Fat: The Ketogenic Diet Guidelines and Benefits
The diet Dr. Hallberg talks about is often called a ketogenic diet, which consists of consuming very low-carb and high-fat foods. By replacing carbohydrates with fats (health fats), the body goes into a natural metabolic states called ketosis.
This state makes the body burn fats instead of carbs to receive energy and by doing so promotes fast weight loss, as well as other health benefits: reduction in seizures, bringing down insulin levels, even potentially helping to shrink brain tumors.
While some researchers question the effects of being on a ketogenic diet in the long term due to a lack of concrete studies of such a duration, there’s no doubt that it can be extremely beneficial for many people and numerous health reasons, especially type 2 diabetes sufferers.
Here are the major conditions the ketogenic diet can help tackle:
Type 2 diabetes: First of all, and most importantly this diet has been able to stop diabetes patients from needing their medication, because it brings down insulin sensitivity by up to 75%. One study has shown that in just two weeks, it can bring down cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. While it did not look into using this diet long term, another study confirmed that a ketogenic diet is a great lifestyle choice for improving and possibly even reversing type 2 diabetes.
Seizures: The ketogenic diet has been used for epileptic patients who did not respond to other treatments since the 1920s. The results were dramatic reductions in seizures, especially in children, which has also been confirmed by multiple studies (here and here). Some children made a complete recovery.
Weight loss: Weight loss programs have been pushing low-fat diets for years, but as studies confirm, the high-fat ketogenic diet is much more successful. One study found that people lose over twice more fat on a ketogenic diet than on low-fat and calorie-restricted diets. As a bonus, following a ketogenic diet does not require calorie counting, and it promotes feeling of being naturally less hungry.
Some of the other conditions on which this diet may have a therapeutic effect include:
If the ketogenic diet is for you, there are simple guidelines to follow; start by consume a diet consisting of 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbs.
Carbs in the smallest food group on the ketogenic diet pyramid of foods. To bring the body into the state of ketosis, people usually consume as little as 20 grams of carbs per day, and on average 50 grams of carbs per day. Often, they have to completely eliminate candy, soft drinks, grains, and even fruit, potatoes, and legumes.
The worst foods, according to this diet, are candy, chocolate bars, soda and juice, donuts, breads, pasta, rice, potatoes, beer, and fruit (one popular ketogenic advocate, Dave Asprey of the Bulletproof Diet, does recommend eating organic white rice at night a couple times a week to replenish glucose levels among other things).
To replace carbs, the ketogenic diet is often full of natural fats (grass fed butter, olive oil and coconut oil), fish and seafood, meat, eggs, cheese, and vegetables that grow above ground (so no potatoes!) Nightshades are usually avoided whenever possible. When it comes to beverages, water, coffee and tea are absolutely safe, and red wine is okay to drink sometimes.
There are also possible variations of the ketogenic diet to fit your needs.
A vegetarian keto diet can consist of many vegetables, black beans, eggs and cheese, nuts, some fruit, and mushrooms (and maybe some soy products if non-GMO).
A vegan keto diet will rely on vegetables, nuts, mushrooms and beans, with heavy use of avocados, coconut oil and other coconut products, olive oil, sesame oil, and nut butters.
A raw food keto diet is less popular because of the limited choices, but not impossible. Above ground vegetables are low-carb such as spinach, avocados, olives, eggplants, zucchinis, and many others. Raspberries and blackberries falls under the low-carb category, while strawberries and blueberries do not. Pecans, macadamia, and brazil nuts are low-carb; as well as olive oil, and coconut oil.
To find foods that are low-carb, high-fat and are right for you, you can find a full list of “good and bad” foods by food group (vegetables, fruits, nuts, snacks, alcohol, fats, and drinks) on DietDoctor.com.
The Ketogenic Diet Recipes
The ketogenic diet has many recipes to choose from and its popularity has now made it easy to find ideas and create your own meal plans.
Some recipes are very cheese heavy such as the Low Carb Pesto Pizza with Cheese Crust posted by Dr. Hallberg. Other are almost identical to its original (non-keto) recipes, such as Chicken Pad Thai. There are vegan options like Vegan Alfredo, and gluten-free Keto Bread.
Here are just some of the unique examples to try; experiment to find which version of the diet may work for you and be sure to consult a doctor first if you have any health issues:
Celery and hummus
Quick and easy recipes are also available in a book “Reverse Your Diabetes Diet: Take Control of Type 2 Diabetes with 60 Quick-and-Easy Recipes” (with a foreword from Dr. Hallberg).