The press is all over a recent study done at the Harvard school of public health that was published in the British Medical Journal last week. The study showed that those that ate fruit had a lower risk of diabetes. Specifically they singled out blueberries for a 25% reduction in risk. Grapes offered 11%, apples 5%, prunes 11%, pears 7%. This was not a randomized trial so there are a lot of uncontrolled variables but that being said they did look at 187,382 patients so that sample size does give this study a lot of weight. It also brings further support to a recommendation I have been giving to my diabetic or pre-diabetic patients for years, become a vegan and forget about the ADA (American Diabetes Association) diet.
A study done in 2006 published in Diabetes Care compared patients on a Vegan diet to patients on the ADA diet. The Vegan diet patients did better by every measure. They had better glucose control, they were able to stop more diabetic medications, their Hgb A1C improved more, they lost more weight, their cholesterol was better, and the their urine protein levels improved more. And keep in mind the vegan patients are only paying attention to avoiding meat and animal products. They are not paying attention to the sugar in their diet. The ADA diet concentrates mostly on restricting carbohydrates and sugars. Seems logical, the sugar in your blood is too high, so eat less. However, when we let diabetic vegans eat sweets and carbs unrestricted their diabetes does better than if they were on the ADA diet.
And here we are again, with the new British Medical Journal study out of Harvard we find this contradiction. Fruits that contain plenty of sugar can actually prevent diabetes. So what is going on here?
Well yet again we are likely thinking of diabetes too simply. Yes the blood sugar is too high but much of that may likely be inflammation related and not solely due to dietary intake of sugar. Meat, especially red meat is very inflammatory, and this may play a large role in increasing the glucose level and decreasing insulin sensitivity in diabetics. Whereas blueberries and many other fruits due to their antioxidants and countless other phytochemicals that we likely have yet to discover are generally very anti-inflammatory. It is well known by physicians that when a diabetic or even a non-diabetic has surgery or gets an infection such as pneumonia the blood glucose will go up. There is a myriad of complex mechanisms that cause this but they all tie back to inflammation.
So clearly our understanding of diabetes is still limited and we have much to learn, but one thing seems to be very clear from the data we have. If you are a diabetic, you better also be a vegan.