Studies Reveal Plant-Based Diets Can Help Reverse Type 2 Diabetes

By Robin Gentry McGee

November is American Diabetes Month. Its a horrible disease that's affecting millions of Americans and is a serious health issue for people receiving enteral nutrition. When we set out to create our feeding tube formula, we were thinking about the benefits a plant-based diet could have both in modulating the disease process and in managing (and even reversing) type 2 diabetes. For those of you out there living with diabetes, I'm happy to report that there is hope.

Studies continue to show that plant-based diets can aid in reversing the symptoms of Americas most devastating diseases: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. A diet based on vegetables, legumes, fruits and whole grains, which is also low in fat and sugar, can lower blood sugar levels and often reduce or even eliminate the need for medication. Since individuals with diabetes are at high risk for heart disease, avoiding fat and cholesterol is important, and a vegetarian diet is the best way to do that.

These insights into the power of plant-based diets comes from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position paper on vegetarian and vegan diets, which tells us that "vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.

In our plant-based Liquid Hope feeding tube formula, we start with green, non-starchy vegetables like kale that have been shown to have practically zero effect on blood glucose. We add low-glycemic-index foods like garbanzos, almond butter and broccoli to pack on the carbs and proteins while limiting the intake of unnatural or fruit-based sugars.

Of course what you put in your enteral formula is nearly as important as what you leave out. Diabetics (or people at risk of diabetes) will be happy to see that we leave out high-glycemic index foods like pumpkin and squash. And weve very intentionally avoided fruit and high-fructose corn syrup as a source of calories. Learn more about our philosophy on fruit. Dont worry, we still get nutritionally sound sugar levels in our formula (9 grams of sugar and 9 grams of fiber to help metabolize it), but we get it from low-fat whole-foods ingredients custom-blended to produce low-glycemic effects.

What we're seeing in report after report is that better glycemic control is good for enteral-fed people. The impact of better glycemic control on long-term clinical outcome is well recognized in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, where hyperglycemia may result in life-threatening complications and numerous comorbidities, according to a systemic review and meta-analysis of Enteral Nutritional Support and Use of Diabetes-Specific Formulas for Patients with Diabetes. In addition, many conditions, including accidental injury, stroke, and critical illness, show a worse outcome in the presence of hyperglycemia.

The report goes on to confirm that standard enteral nutritional formulas are high in carbohydrates, low in fat and low in fiber and may compromise glycemic control in patients with diabetes, due to a rapid gastric emptying rate and rapid nutrient assimilation.

According to an article by Theresa A. Fessler, MS, RD, CNSD in Todays Dietitian on Optimizing Enteral Feeding for Patients with Diabetes, Hyperglycemia over the long term leads to microvascular, macrovascular, and neurologic complications. Retinopathy, nephropathy, neuropathy, peripheral vascular disease, and atherosclerosis can develop. The most common consequences of DM neuropathy are foot ulcers and amputations. In critical care, hyperglycemia can increase catabolism and impair immune function and wound healing. Strict glucose control can decrease the incidence of infectious complications.

Diabetes Fast Facts

  • Nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes.
  • Another 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $245 billion.

Diabetes Resources

Robin Gentry McGee is the Founder and CEO of Functional Formularies, makers of Liquid Hope, the worlds first shelf-stable organic whole foods feeding tube formula.