A 2016 BBC programme revealed more than 1 in 3 UK adults were at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes – obesity’s fellow metabolic syndrome traveller. In South Africa, with 69% of our women and 40% of men either overweight or obese, we may well be at a similar or even greater level of risk.1
About 80% of people who are overweight or obese will have pre-diabetes or be at serious risk for full-blown Type 2 diabetes.2 Now if 80% of people who are overweight or obese are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, then it must follow that this serious chronic disease may well be preventable as we know that being overweight is preventable. We also know that people can and do lose weight, i.e. reverse weight gain. But can Type 2 diabetes be reversed?
When I was a young student, (many years ago), we were told that Type 2 diabetes, or ‘mature onset’ diabetes as it was then called, was an incurable chronic disease. In other words ‘get it and you’ve got it for life’. We were also told that Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease – meaning that it gets worse over time and that people with the condition will end up having to inject themselves with insulin.3 The picture is very different today and in this post, we are going to take a closer look at this very serious but potentially reversible chronic disease that is growing in prevalence around the world. And so if you have Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, or if you know of someone with either of these conditions, then please continue reading.
Can Type 2 diabetes be reversed? In a word – YES.4 A growing number of people have done so, including a man by the name of Reyn who recounts his journey ‘back from the grave’ in https://intensivedietarymanagement.com/patient-profile-sandra/.5 So how have Reyn, and many others, managed to reverse their diabetes? Some new wonder drug perhaps? No – what is interesting is that these people tend to either come off medication altogether or if not all together then able to significantly reduce their use of medication.6 In a nutshell they succeed by simply modifying their lifestyles, especially their diets.5-6 This has largely meant getting rid of sugar and other refined or processed carbohydrates from their diets.2,5-6
People with Type 2 diabetes who either inject insulin or use other medicines that stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin, find it very difficult, if not impossible, to reverse their diabetes simply because Type 2 diabetes (unlike Type 1 diabetes) is primarily a condition of insulin resistance,2 which is marked by having high levels of insulin in the blood (hyperinsulinaemia). Injecting insulin, for people with Type 2 diabetes, may thus compound the underlying insulin resistance and worsen the very condition the insulin is supposed to treat –truly a vicious circle. 7
Now it’s important to accept that the accompanying high blood sugar, which most use to define and diagnose the condition, is not the cause of Type 2 diabetes. It is a symptom or marker of the disease.8 And so if insulin resistance, which is associated with high blood levels insulin, is the primary cause of Type 2 diabetes then one has to question the logic of injecting insulin or taking medicines that stimulate the production of natural insulin when pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin naturally can be restored to normal function, especially if the person has had Type 2 diabetes for less than 10 years.9
Reversing Type 2 diabetes by changing one’s diet is possible as many people have demonstrated. And the diet that does the trick is one based primarily on very low carbohydrate, moderate protein and adequate amounts of healthy fats.2,4,6 That’s right – if you have diabetes then fat is your friend, not your foe, provided you keep your carb intake nice and low. Now, what is very low? Dr Richard Feinman a medical researcher and nutritional expert says it’s 20g – 50g of carbohydrate per day.10 Dr Richard Bernstein, a world-renowned expert on diabetes, recommends no more than 30g per day of carbohydrate in divided ‘doses’ of 6g for breakfast, 12g for lunch and 12g for dinner.2 Dr Jason Fung, a specialist physician with a special interest in diabetes, advocates regular periods of fasting combined with a low carbohydrate diet.5
Sadly many people have been told that a low carb-healthy fat or LCHF diet is unhealthy. But that’s not what the science shows.11 It appears that the reverse is true, and especially if one has insulin resistance, pre-diabetes or full-blown Type 2 diabetes.6 Now you may also have been told that your brain needs glucose (a carbohydrate) for energy and that’s true.12 But there are two things to bear in mind: firstly, your liver can make all the glucose your brain needs without you having to eat any carbohydrates.13 Secondly, your brain can use fat-derived nutrients called ketone bodies for energy.14
Research shows that 80% of people without prediabetes or diabetes achieved high blood sugar levels after consuming a high carb (cornflakes) breakfast.15 This finding indicates that high carbohydrate diets should not be recommended for people with Type 2 diabetes because these diets increase insulin resistance and blood sugar levels.2 This means that over time, more and more medication will be needed to control high blood sugar levels, and reversing Type 2 diabetes likely to remain just a dream!
If you have Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes (often marked by abdominal fat) and you would like some help in trying to reverse your condition, then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time, stay healthy and safe.
Dr Peter Hill
- Bernstein R. Dr Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution: the complete guide to achieving normal blood sugars.2007. Little Brown and Company, New York. New York.
- Fonseca VA. Defining and characterizing the progression of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2009;32 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S151-S156. doi:10.2337/dc09-S301
- Zhong F, Jiang Y. Endogenous Pancreatic β Cell Regeneration: A Potential Strategy for the Recovery of β Cell Deficiency in Diabetes. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2019 Feb 20;10:101. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2019.00101. PMID: 30842756; PMCID: PMC6391341.
- Feinman RD, et al. Dietary carbohydrate restriction as the first approach in diabetes management: critical review and evidence base. Nutrition. 2015 Jan;31(1):1-13. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2014.06.011.
- Teicholz N. The Big Fat Surprise.2014.Scribe Publications. Victoria
- Rao J, Oz G, Seaquist ER. Regulation of cerebral glucose metabolism. Minerva Endocrinol. 2006 Jun;31(2):149-58. PMID: 16682938.
- Jensen NJ, Wodschow HZ, Nilsson M, Rungby J. Effects of Ketone Bodies on Brain Metabolism and Function in Neurodegenerative Diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Nov 20;21(22):8767. doi: 10.3390/ijms21228767. PMID: 33233502; PMCID: PMC7699472.