It has been said that there are no coincidences. The fact that I just found out a friend has diabetes, and the fact that I ran across a diabetes article today, may seem like coincidences. But I learned some interesting facts as a result.
Fact #1: Diabetes can be eliminated with a vegan diet
I already knew about Dr. Terry Shintani’s results getting people off diabetes and cholesterol-lowering medication with a vegan diet. See this post for a video of Dr. Shintani’s lecture on these results.
Today I read this article:The Diabetes Cure: Forget counting carbs. Here’s the new way to reverse this disease.
It offers more proof that a vegan diet can reverse type 2 diabetes.
Fact #2: Eliminating starches from your diet isn’t the answer
The ADA, American Diabetes Association writes: “Foods that contain carbohydrate raise blood glucose. By keeping track of how many carbohydrates you eat and setting a limit for your maximum amount to eat, you can help to keep your blood glucose levels in your target range.”
Not all starches are created equal.
Some create quick spikes in blood sugar. This, according to current theory, means an extra load on the pancreas, which produces insulin, leading to reduced performance/failure. It also causes the body to become less efficient with the way it handles blood sugar.
But further studies have shown that not just starches per se, or sugars per se, are important. What is important is the rate at which these foods cause blood level changes.
Enter the glycemic index
Some foods, mostly those with lots of fiber, including most whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, do not cause a rapid spike. Those are lower on the glycemic index.
Other foods, mostly processed flour, sugar, and the foods made with them: white bread, crackers, pasta, pastries, do cause a spike and should be avoided.
Clearly we don’t know all the answers. Apples, Pears and bananas are low on the glycemic index. Watermelon, however, is also a fruit, but it’s high.
Barley, a whole grain, is low on the index. Millet, another whole grain, is high.
So the assumption that eliminating starches from your diet will cure diabetes is just plain wrong.
Fact #3: Asians and Polynesians have the lowest incidence of diabetes in the world
According to the 2010 statistics from the IDF (International Diabetes Federation), the US, Canada and Carribean region has an 11.7% prevalence of diabetes.
Most of Asia (including Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, China) and the Pacific (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, etc.) have only a 5% incidence, the second lowest in the world (Africa has the lowest.)
We’re talking rice and potatoes
What’s the backbone of the diet in Asia? Rice. And in a lot of places, white rice, as a matter of fact.
What about in Polynesia? Sweet potatoes and taro. More starch.
Why the discrepancy?
Plainly speaking, nobody knows! What we do know is that people who eat their culturally traditional diets have very low incidence of diabetes. Yet when they move to the U.S., their diet changes, and their incidence of diabetes skyrockets.
Traditional diets always rely on fresh, locally and seasonally available produce and proteins. That means an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains.
It means little to no manufactured, processed foods like soft drinks, cereals for breakfasts, and any of the canned, packaged chemical stews for sale that people consume regularly.
So is it because of the high-fructose corn syrup?
Who knows? Science doesn’t have the answers. The food manufacturers want us to believe everything’s safe to eat. Of course they do; otherwise they couldn’t sell as much and make as much money.
Judging from the facts about who has diabetes and who doesn’t, is it a coincidence that vegans have a low incidence of diabetes? Definitely not. Science can’t explain it, and probably never will. But the facts speak for themselves.