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A Solution For Diabetes: A Vegan Diet

More Doctors and nutritional scientists are saying that a diet high meat is disastrous to our health, while a plant-based (vegan) diet prevents disease and is restorative to it.

I've been researching the most common and devastating diseases Americans are dealing with, with the aim of finding a common thread running throughout both cause and reversal. As it is now, one out of every two of us will get cancer or heart disease, and one out of every three children born after the year 2000 will be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. These are devastating diseases, certainly to those who are burdened by them, but also to a health care system that is struggling to keep up.

The extraordinary doctors and nutritional scientists I've spoken with seem to be saying - and saying fervently - the same thing: a diet high in animal protein is disastrous to our health, while a plant-based (vegan) diet prevents disease and is restorative to our health. And they say this with peer-reviewed (the gold standard of studies) science to back them up. Even the very conservative ADA (American Dietetic Association) says: "Vegetarian diets are often associated with a number of health advantages, including lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure levels, and lower risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) and lower overall cancer rates."

Diabetes does not just mean you take a pill or injection every day. It means you can lose a decade of life. And you while you inch toward that uncomfortable end, you deal with an increased risk of heart attack, blindness, amputation, and loss of kidney function. It's a very serious disease. The good news is that diabetes can be halted and reversed in a very short time through some diet modifications.

To understand diabetes better, and to learn how to reverse it, I've talked with Dr. Neal Barnard, president of The Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine. He is an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine, and the author of numerous scientific articles in leading peer-reviewed journals, and a frequent lecturer at the American Diabetes Association's scientific sessions. His diabetes research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Government's research branch. He is also the author of Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes.

KF: Why is type 2 diabetes suddenly so prevalent?

NB: Diets are changing, not just in the U.S., but worldwide. Diabetes seems to follow the spread of meaty, high-fat, high-calorie diets. In Japan, for example, the traditional rice-based diet kept the population generally healthy and thin for many centuries. Up until 1980, only 1-5% of Japanese adults over age 40 had diabetes. Starting around that time, however, the rapid westernization of the diet meant that meat, milk, cheese, and sodas became fashionable. Waistlines expanded, and, by 1990, diabetes prevalence in Japan had climbed to 11-12%.

The same sort of trend has occurred in the U.S. Over the last century, per capita meat consumption increased from about 150 pounds per year (which was already very high, compared with other countries) in the early 1900s to over 200 pounds today. In other words, the average American now eats 50 pounds more meat every year, compared with a century ago. In the same interval, cheese intake soared from less than 4 pounds per person per year to about 32 pounds today. Sugar intake has gone up, too, by about 30 pounds per person per year. Where are we putting all that extra meat, cheese, and sugar? It contributes to body fat, of course, and diabetes follows. Today, about 13% of the U.S. adult population has type 2 diabetes, although many of them are not yet aware they have it.

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