Reversing Diabetes is a much debated topic these days. Some say it’s entirely possible and others say it’s not. Let’s explore these methods further. Before we get into it though here’s a quick rundown on how diabetes has progressed in the recent years.
The National Diabetes Statistics Report of 2017 says more than thirty million people in the United States are suffering from diabetes. This figure represents nearly ten percent of the total population of the nation. The percentage could go higher if the entire world population is considered. According to Dr Rangan Chatterjee, one in three adults in the UK has prediabetes – the condition that precedes diabetes. People with prediabetes have a blood sugar level that is clearly higher than the normal range but less than the diabetes defined threshold. For more information on prediabetes and early detection check out our recent article.
According to local researchers, Asians are more prone to Type 2 diabetes because their bodies don’t produce enough insulin compared to Western counterparts. This leads to the build-up of sugar in the bloodstream.
Statistics shows that Singapore is second to the United States in the highest diabetes incidence among developed countries. About four hundred thousand Singaporeans are diabetic and the number is expected to one million by 2050 if nothing is done.
As Ministry of Health (MOH) declared war on diabetes in 2016, all hope is not lost for those who have been diagnosed of type 2 diabetes as well as those who are prone to the disease. This is because type 2 diabetes can be reversed. Diabetes reversal is a term that describes significant improvement in insulin production in the body or effective response of the body to insulin.
Understanding the different types of diabetes
There are two types of diabetes; type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes also called ‘juvenile diabetes’ because happens to person below the age of twenty. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the pancreas’ insulin-producing beta cells leading to lowered production or no production at all. This is why it is often called autoimmune disease. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, autoimmune response can be prompted by heavy metals, viruses, vaccines, genetically modified organisms, and certain foods like soy and cow’s milk.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common and it is characterized by raised blood sugar level. The cause is linked to a condition known as Insulin Resistance. The presence of insulin causes the body cells to take up sugar from the bloodstream. In insulin resistance, the cells refused to take in up the sugars from the bloodstream even when there is sufficient amount of insulin to drive the process. It occurs mostly among people over the age of 40.
According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Education and Health Promotion, type 2 diabetes is dangerous because it can lead to other health conditions like foot ulcer which may lead to the amputation of the leg, irreversible loss of sight, nerve damage, and kidney diseases if not properly managed.
The steps that can be used to reverse diabetes
“Type 2 diabetes is a completely preventable and reversible condition,” says Dr Axe, “and with diet and lifestyle changes, you can greatly reduce your chances of getting the disease or reverse the condition if you’ve already been diagnosed.
The first step towards reversing diabetes is to prevent the spikes in insulin production. Research shows that this can be done through either or combination of low-carbohydrate diets, very low calorie diets, exercise, and bariatric surgery.
A 2014 publication by researchers in the Second University of Naples showed that the consumption foods that are low in carbohydrate among participants with type 2 diabetes was able to achieve 15 percent decrease after a year and 5 percent decrease after six years. Some medical experts also recommend consumption of foods that are low in fat but low-carbohydrate diet produced a better result in comparison with low-fat diet.
In furtherance of the War on Diabetes in Singapore, the Diabetes Prevention and Care Taskforce is working closely with producers of sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) to lower the sugar content of their products sold in Singapore to a maximum of 12 percent by 2020.
The attention is on SSBs because they digest quickly in the small intestine and flood the body with sugar. This puts a strain on the pancreas insulin producing beta-cells to produce more insulin. Reducing the consumption of SSBs is crucial to lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Very low-calorie diets
There has been reported cases of very low-calorie diets (VLCD) helping patients with type 2 diabetes to come off medication. Researchers at Newcastle University in 2011 published a finding that showed that seven of eleven participants with type 2 diabetes were able to achieve remission after taking 800 kcal per day diet for eight weeks. The constituent of the diet was 600 kcal from meal shakes and 200 kcal from non-starchy vegetables. Don’t forget to check out our article on sugar alternatives while you’re at it.
Besides cutting down sugar intake, the Healthier Dining Program (HDP) recently launched in Singapore has focussed on overall dietary improvement and healthier lifestyle. The Health Promotion Board (HPB) has been working with restaurants and pre-packaged food manufacturers to provide healthy options.
A commitment to an exercise regimen has led to the successful reversal of type 2 diabetes among patients. In combination with a healthy diet, exercise can prevent insulin resistance by utilizing the sugars in the bloodstream to produce energy. A study published in 2015 showed that 67 percent of the participants who were newly diagnosed of type 2 diabetes were able to achieve partial remission after a six-month exercise and diet program.
There have been significant instances of type 2 diabetes remission using bariatric surgery. For example, a study was published in 2010 which showed that 72 percent of participants achieved remission from type 2 diabetes after three years of gastric bypass surgery. There was another study in 2013 that showed that 24 percent of type 2 diabetes participants achieved remission after six years of gastric bypass surgery.
There is no data at the moment supporting the reversal of type 1 diabetes. Reversing it would mean preventing the body’s immune system from attacking the insulin-producing cells. However, there is an on-going research on type 1 diabetes vaccine which could one day be used to ameliorate the situation.