It’s called Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy and it really hurts. Ouch!
Many type 2 diabetic patients experience persistent pain in their legs and feet. Later the pain can come from the arms and hands. The pain can come out of nowhere or come from a bump or bruise. It’s often described as burning, pins and needles, shooting, aching, jabbing, sharp, cramping, tingling, or cold.
It’s very hard to treat. No single drug exists to prevent or reverse neuropathic changes or to provide total pain relief. Partial pain relief is often the best that can be hoped for. Sometimes, the pain is so severe that opiates are needed, but they carry the risk of addiction.
Now for the good news. It turns out that a vegan diet, also known as a plant-based diet, can really help.
Based on preliminary U.S. data, persons with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and chronic kidney disease, have a higher risk for severe COVID-19 disease than persons without these conditions. For instance, in New York 86% of all deaths so far have been among people who had underlying illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease, new state data shows.
Nuts are powerful for our health. The evidence is in and there’s a lot of it. Nuts, such as cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds, can reduce the risk of death from diabetes by 40 percent, cut heart disease by 30 percent, and reduce the risk of cancer by 15 percent. They also lower the risk of high blood pressure and gall stones, and can even lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Even more good news – it only takes a handful or two of nuts two or three times a week to gain these benefits. Read more
Plant foods are powerful medicine for diabetes (Type II or Adult Onset). Medical researchers have discovered that a plant-based diet is very effective for both preventing and helping to reverse diabetes and pre-diabetes. In some cases it’s even more powerful than medication.
You can reduce your risk of getting diabetes by just taking the following medicines: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts. The more you take, the more protection you can get. For instance, researchers found that those following semi-vegetarian diets, pesco vegetarian, lacto ovo-vegetarian, and vegan diets, reduced their risk of diabetes by 28%, 51%, 61% and 72% respectively. The pattern here is clear: the more plant foods you eat, the more protection you get.
What about if you already have diabetes? Even here plant foods are powerful medicine. In one study, conducted at George Washington University, 46% of diabetics were able to stop or significantly reduce their medications in only 6 months. Even more impressive is how the powerful plant-based diet reduced blood sugar by about 25% more than the usual treatment – the drug metformin combined with the standard American Diabetes Association diet.
If you’d like to learn more, we’re here to help. Amanda Strombom, a certified Food for Life instructor, is teaching a special “Defeating Diabetes” series of classes.
On four Tuesday evenings, starting May 31st, you can learn more about how a plant-based diet can help treat and prevent diabetes, and discover delicious new foods and recipes. Each class will focus on a different aspect of plant-based foods, with an informative short video and a delicious cooking demonstration where you can enjoy tasting all the different recipes. Get all your questions answered.
All are welcome. A small fee of $12.50 per class, or $40 for the series, helps us cover the costs, but scholarships are available.
Plant foods are powerful medicine for diabetes (Type II or Adult Onset). Medical researchers have discovered that a plant based diet is very effective for both preventing and helping to reverse diabetes and pre-diabetes. In some cases it’s even more powerful than drugs.
It’s a good thing too. America needs strong medicine when it comes to pre-diabetes and diabetes. With 11 percent of people over the age of 20 having diabetes, plus 23 percent with pre-diabetes, over a third of the country either has diabetes or is on their way to getting it. As if diabetes itself wasn’t bad enough, the complications can be even worse. Diabetes raises the risk of other health problems, ranging from heart disease to kidney damage, to blindness.
But now for the good news. You can reduce your risk of getting diabetes by just taking the following medicines: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts. The more you take, the more protection you can get. For instance, researchers found that those following semi-vegetarian diets, pesco vegetarian, lacto ovo-vegetarian, and vegan diets, reduced their risk of diabetes by 28%, 51%, 61% and 72% respectively. The pattern here is clear: the more plant foods you eat, the more protection you get. Vegetarians also had the best scores for the seven major risk factors for pre-diabetes.
What about if you already have diabetes? Even here plant foods are powerful medicine. In one study, conducted at George Washington University, 46% of diabetics were able to stop or significantly reduce their medications in only 6 months. Even more impressive is how the powerful plant-based diet reduced blood sugar by about 25% more than the usual treatment – the drug metformin combined with the standard American Diabetes Association diet. Washington state physician Gregory Scribner MD, an internist specializing in diabetes, tells his patients, “A switch to a healthy vegetarian diet can reverse many of the complications of diabetes, even in advanced cases, and can often prevent the disease from occurring in the first place.”
It turns out that plant-based diets can even help with some of the most difficult to treat complications, such as the painful peripheral neuropathy that diabetics can get which causes pain in the extremities. For instance, in one study, 81% of those following a low fat, high fiber, vegan diet had very significant improvements in only one month. These research studies seem to translate well into the community. For instance one man, who attended one of our free Vegetarian Solution classes a couple of years ago, decided to give a vegetarian diet a try to help his diabetes symptoms. Within a couple of months he was delighted to find his neuropathy pain had abated. He came back to our next class to learn more and to tell us about how it had helped him.
The message is clear – vegetarian, and especially vegan, diets are powerful medicines when it comes to diabetes. If you’d like to learn more, we’re here to help. We have classes coming up in January 2015, including a free Vegetarian Solution class, and a full Food for Life Diabetes series of classes, where you can learn more about how a vegetarian diet can help and enjoy delicious cooking demonstrations. Additionally, our recommended health books page can give you some suggested reading.
The FDA has just taken a small step for our health by proposing to ban added trans fats in the American food supply, citing its role in increasing cholesterol levels, which leads to the clogged arteries that cause heart disease and most strokes. Trans fats, also termed partially hydrogenated fats and oils, have been used to extend the shelf life of various food products, among other uses.
In fact consumption was already way down. While average consumption of added trans fats was almost 5 grams a day in 2003, it had already dropped down to less than 1 gram in 2012. Estimates are that as many as 20,000 lives may be saved by this move – a good thing.
So what’s the problem? The problem is that many manufacturers are replacing trans fats with artery-clogging, saturated animal fats which are not much better. Saturated animal fats are powerful when it comes to raising cholesterol levels. They also lead to decreasing insulin sensitivity which fuels Type II diabetes. When we consider that heart disease is still the leading cause of death, that stroke is 3rd leading cause, and that diabetes rates are soaring, this latest move by the FDA is really only a baby step in the right direction.
Also, the FDA ban does nothing to address the trans fats naturally occurring in both meat and dairy. Recent studies show these trans fats to be even worse than the artificial trans fats currently added to so many different products. What’s really needed to make a big difference in the health of our nation is a ban or limit on animal fats, which are all high in saturated fat.
Percentage of Saturated Fat in Various Foods
Saturated Fat as % of Total Fat
Saturated Fat as % of Total Fat
Beef fat (tallow)
Pork fat (lard)
Animal fats, both saturated and unsaturated, are not only the prime culprits behind heart disease, stroke and diabetes, but they contain highly concentrated levels of pesticides and industrial toxins such as PCB’s and dioxin, which promote several different kinds of cancer. All these diseases kill way more people than just the 20,000 people saved by the latest ban.
It’s time for the FDA to finally step up to the plate and actually ban or limit animal fats, or at least put a warning label on the package. One of the reasons they hesitate to do so, presumably, is because so many people eat them. Yet when cigarette smoking levels were very high, the Surgeon General had the courage to state that smoking causes cancer and to put warning labels on the package. Indeed, the front cover of the current issue of Good Medicine magazine, published by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington DC, states that “Meat is the New Tobacco”.
It’s a diabetes disaster! Rapidly escalating levels of meat, poultry, fish and egg consumption have combined to give China the highest rates of diabetes in the world. Yes, their rate of this so called “western disease” is now even higher than ours.
The statistics are both startling and sobering. 12% of Chinese now have diabetes and 50% of Chinese now have pre-diabetes, technically known as metabolic syndrome, which means 114 million Chinese adults are diabetic and another 493 million are pre-diabetic, according to the latest study. ”Diabetes in China has become a catastrophe” said Paul Zimmet, president of the International Diabetes Federation.”
China’s levels of meat consumption doubled between 1990 and 2002. Today the average Chinese eats an astounding 215 pounds of meat, poultry, fish and eggs every year. Back in 1961, the Chinese consumed just a few pounds of animal products each year. Even as recently as 1980, they still following a mostly traditional, nearly vegetarian, diet, and the diabetes rate in China was only 1 percent. But consuming animal products, especially those high in saturated fats, can dramatically increase the risk of diabetes.
There’s a financial cost to all of this as well. The booming level of meat consumption in China has brought with it a medical problem which could bankrupt their health system. Covering all the new and emerging cases of diabetes will consume more than half of its annual healthcare budget.
And then there’s all the complications diabetes sufferers face. The researchers recently warned, in a Journal of the American Medical Association report, that China will also have to face “a major epidemic of diabetes-related complications” including cardiovascular disease, stroke, and chronic kidney disease, in the near future, without an effective national intervention.
Just as China has turned to western, meat-centered diets, it has also turned to western ways of handling the problem. China’s rising prevalence of diabetes has helped fuel a 20% per year growth in drug sales, stoking the need for medications from drug companies. China’s government is trying to fight the scourge by expanding basic medical coverage, buying medicines in bulk to lower costs, and conducting a corruption inquiry into international drug makers, including GlaxoSmithKline.
Yet the real solution to this epidemic, like so many others, is a vegetarian solution. Not only is a vegetarian diet powerful in preventing diabetes, but several studies now show it is also powerful in reversing it. Let’s hope the Chinese government realize this quickly, before the situation gets any worse.
First Congress voted, and now the Supreme Court has spoken, so, as of this writing, a massive overhaul of the health system seems likely. The questions on many people’s minds at this point are: How are we going to pay for it all? and will there be enough medical staff and facilities to go around? The entire debate about health care is driven by the fact that Americans need so much care. Collectively we are sicker than we have ever been. When you think about it, what we really need the most to make things work is a healthier country. This is where helping the country to move towards a vegetarian diet can make a big difference, perhaps the crucial difference between success and failure.
The three leading causes of death in America are heart disease, cancer and stroke – mostly diet-related diseases which can be largely prevented, and often even reversed, by following a healthy vegetarian diet. Adding to the stress on the healthcare system are leading diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure – two of the most common diseases in America– and both of these can also be largely prevented and reversed through a healthy vegetarian diet. Diabetes and pre-diabetes are thought to affect as many as 80 million Americans, and high blood pressure another 75 million people.
As patients line up at pharmacy counters, doctors offices, and hospital registration desks, the cash registers ring up the costs of these diseases—well into the hundreds of billions every year. The money savings potential in moving the country towards a vegetarian diet is profound. For instance, a Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company showed that for every $1 spent in helping heart patients to switch over to a vegetarian diet, $5.55 was saved in treatment. One study found that over 90% of diabetics were able to discontinue or reduce their medication in only six months after adopting a healthy vegetarian diet. Plant-food rich vegetarian diets have been shown to drastically reduce the incidence of diseases such as stroke and hypertension, and even several forms of cancer such as colon and prostate cancer. But even less dramatic but still costly medical expenses would be saved. For instance, every year the meat-centered low-fiber standard diet, and the all-too-common constipation it causes, results in Americans to spend nearly 800 million dollars on laxatives every year. Yet the fiber-rich plant-powered diet would largely save us both the discomfort and the expense.
With all this in mind, you’d think that the government would do everything it could to financially support farmers who grow healthier food, but such is not the case. Sadly, every administration, both Democrat and Republican in recent decades, has been caught up in a system that not only tolerates ill health, but encourages it. For instance, only 3% of farm subsidies go towards healthy plant foods while the other 97% goes to animal products and highly refined and junk food. With this kind of policy, the government promotes an environment that encourages the very diseases for which it now needs to insure against. How much simpler it would be to promote a healthier diet, and save us all the money of so much “disease care,” and in so doing, provide the American people with what we really need, true health care.
While still controversial for some, most Americans feel we need some kind of insurance reform. But even more, we need better health. And that should be front and center in any emerging plan. While financial fixes have their place, and while new technologies can make a significant contribution, the country has largely blinded itself to the simple yet powerful potential of the vegetarian diet. Far from a bitter pill to swallow, a delicious vegetarian diet may just be the miracle drug of the 21st century.
Here’s yet another reason to try a vegetarian diet first, in the ongoing battle against artery-clogging cholesterol. Cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers with the Women’s Health Initiative determined this, after following a group of postmenopausal women for many years. Women taking a statin drug in the beginning of the study had a 48 percent greater risk of developing diabetes, compared with nonusers. This study adds to several others showing a link between statin drugs and increased risk of diabetes.