Plant Based Diets Recognized by Diabetes Associations

Plant Based Diets Recognized by Diabetes Associations

July 31, 2019 73 By William Morgan


“Plant-Based Diets Recognized
by Diabetes Associations” Dr. Kim Williams,
immediate past president of the American College of Cardiology, started out an editorial
on plant-based diets with the classic Schopenhauer quote that “All truth passes
through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as…”
like duh, of course. In 2013, plant-based diets for
diabetes were in the ridiculed stage in the official endocrinology
practice guidelines, placed in the “fad diets” section. They acknowledge strictly plant-based
diets have been shown to reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes and improve
management of diabetes better than the American Diabetes
Association recommendations, but then inexplicably go on
to say that the evidence “does not support the use of
one type of diet over another,” with respect to diabetes or in general. The best approach for
a healthy lifestyle is simply the “amelioration of unhealthy choices,” whatever the heck that means. But by 2015, the clinical
practice guidelines from the same professional
associations explicitly endorsed as their general recommendation
for diabetic patients: a plant-based diet. Times they are a-changin’. The American Diabetes Association
itself is also now on board, listing it as one of the
dietary patterns acceptable for the management of the condition, but the Canadian Diabetes Association
has really taken the lead. “Type 2 diabetes…is considered
one of the fastest growing diseases in Canada, representing
a serious public health concern;” so, they’re not messin’ around,
recommending plant-based diets for disease management
because of their potential to improve body weight
and blood sugar control, as well as heart disease risk,
in addition to reducing the need for diabetes medications. They use the Kaiser
Permanente definition: a regimen that encourages
whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy…, and eggs, as well as all
refined and processed junk. They recommend diabetes
education centers in Canada improve patients’ perceptions of
plant-based diets by developing educational materials and providing
individualized counseling sessions to address what barriers people
have to eating plant-based. The biggest barrier
identified was ignorance. Nearly 9 out of 10 patients interviewed
had never even heard of using a plant-based
diet to treat diabetes. Why is that? Maybe patient awareness
of the benefits are being “influenced by the perception of the
diabetes educators and clinicians.” See, most of the staff were aware, yet only about 1 in 3 were
currently recommending it. Why not? One of the common reasons given was that they didn’t think
their patients would do it, so they didn’t even bring it up. But “this notion is contrary to
the patient survey results” they cite in which most patients said they would be willing
to at least give it a try. The researchers cite the PCRM
Geico studies I did videos about, in which strictly plant-based
diets were well accepted with an over 95% adherence rate,
presumably because they just felt so much better—increased energy, better
digestion, better sleep, and satisfaction. A number of staff members also
expressed their second reason for not recommending this diet: not being clear about the
supportive scientific evidence. But it’s been shown to be more effective than an American Diabetes
Association-recommended diet at reducing the use
of diabetes medication, long-term blood sugar
control, and cholesterol. It’s therefore possible
that the diabetes educators were simply behind the times,
as there’s a lag-time in dissemination of new scientific findings
from the literature, to the clinician, and
finally to the patient. That’s one of the reasons
I started NutritionFacts.org— to speed up the process! As Dr. Williams put it, the
evidence for the benefits of plant-based nutrition
continues to mount. This now includes lower rates of
stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart attacks, and cardiac death,
as well as many non-cardiac issues that affect our patients in cardiology, ranging from cancer to a
variety of inflammatory conditions. The science we got. The bigger challenge is overcoming
the “inertia, culture, habit, and widespread marketing
of unhealthy foods.” He concludes: “Reading the
existing [scientific] literature and evaluating the impact
of plant-based nutrition, it clearly represents the single most
important yet underutilized opportunity to reverse the pending
obesity and diabetes-induced epidemic of disease and [death].”