Doctor’s Tip: Reversal of type 2 diabetes — success stories
Two earlier columns were about type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes (a mild form of diabetes) — what causes them and how they can be prevented and reversed through lifestyle changes. Today’s column highlights some examples of real patients.
I’ll start out with my own story: I have a paternal family history of cardiovascular disease, and I’m sure some pre-diabetes based on extra weight around the middle (in those days nobody knew about pre-diabetes). In spite of lifelong regular exercise and a relatively healthy diet, a coronary calcium score at age 60 indicated coronary artery disease. Nobody thought I needed to lose weight, but I had a low HDL level and mildly elevated triglycerides, plus a small “belly” — all of which indicated insulin resistance (pre-diabetes). My heart attack prevention mentor, Brad Bale, M.D., co-author of the book “Beat the Heart Attack Gene,” had prescribed a pill for pre-diabetes, a pill for hypertension, the highest dose of the strongest statin drug (Crestor 40 mg.), plus 2,000 mg of niacin, which also lowers cholesterol. Then, about 10 years ago, my wife and I read “The China Study” and found it so compelling that we immediately went on a total plant-based, whole food diet with no salt, sugar or added oil. In a month I lost 12 pounds, and ever since then have weighed what I did when I graduated from Aspen High School in 1959. I no longer needed the medications for pre-diabetes and hypertension because I no longer had those conditions. I was also able to stop the niacin and to cut way back on my statin drug. Furthermore, I felt better (a plant-based diet is anti-inflammatory), and my athletic performance improved.
Now a couple of recent patients:
• S. is a woman in her 60s I first saw on May 23rd for a free consultation. She had a family history of diabetes and was carrying extra weight around her middle signifying insulin resistance with pre-diabetes or actual diabetes. She had lab a year before and was told it was normal. She was concerned about recent lab that showed a fasting blood sugar of 333, which is extremely high and can be associated with life-threatening ketoacidosis. Two of her liver tests were abnormal, suggesting fatty liver. A stat blood panel at a local lab showed no acidosis, but her fasting glucose was 410. Her A1C — a blood test reflecting the average blood sugar for the previous three months — was over 12, with normal < 5.7. She agreed to start metformin, an oral drug for mild diabetes, 500 mg once a day, increasing by 500 mg a week to a maximum of 1,000 mg twice a day (slow dosage increase is necessary to avoid side effects). For immediate blood sugar lowering, she was given NPH insulin 20 units twice a day. Most importantly, she agreed to start walking an hour a day and to start a plant-based, whole food diet. She has been 100 percent compliant with the lifestyle changes, and has been able to gradually taper her insulin. A few days ago her fasting glucose was completely normal at 87, and her insulin was stopped altogether. We will repeat her liver tests soon, and I suspect they will be normal. If she sticks with the lifestyle changes, her diabetes should resolve and she will be able to stop her metformin.
• M. is a man in his late 40s with a family history of diabetes who presented complaining of burning in his feet and legs for a year. He had a family history of type 2 diabetes but had never been diagnosed with it himself. He was carrying extra weight around his middle compatible with insulin resistance/pre-diabetes — or diabetes. His blood pressure was elevated at 130/90 (normal < 120/80). I suspected peripheral neuropathy, a common complication of both pre-diabetes and diabetes. His one- and two-hour glucose tolerance test confirmed pre-diabetes bordering on diabetes. His wife accompanied him at the follow-up visit, and they both agreed to a 100 percent plant-based, whole food diet, with no salt, sugar or added oil — and he was given no meds. He returned two weeks later, having been 100 percent compliant with the diet. He had lost 4 pounds; the burning in his feet had completely resolved (there have been numerous reports of both diabetic neuropathy and diabetic eye disease resolving with plant-based nutrition); and his blood pressure was normal at 105/75. His initial blood work showed fatty liver, but that resolved as well after another month.
If you have or think you might have pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, or if you have risk factors for developing these conditions, call 379-5718 for a free, one-hour consultation. Although sometimes medications are necessary, food can be more powerful than pills, is free of side effects, and is certainly cheaper.
Greg Feinsinger, M.D. is a retired family physician who has a nonprofit: Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition.
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