Diabetes Research

A whole food vegan diet is a proven solution to prevent and reverse Type II Diabetes and effectively manage Type I Diabetes. There are foods that help with diabetes and those that worsen it, some of which are not on most people’s radar. Certain animal products have particularly detrimental effects on the pancreas such as dairy which will be covered in more detail below. But to establish the general relationshin, in terms of Type 1 Diabetes, this study for example concluded:  

“Early cow’s milk exposure may be an important determinant of subsequent type I diabetes and may increase the risk ∼1.5 times.” 

Other animal-based foods also appear to have a negative relationship. According to this study that followed 17,000 people, for each extra 50g or few bites of meat that you consume, you have an 8% increased chance of getting diabetes. In addition, based off their data, this study concluded that “…high levels of egg consumption (daily) are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in men and women.” It is possible that a variety of animal products work together to trigger diabetes.

Saturated Fat

Saturated fat, the vast majority of which comes from animal products, appears to be harmful specifically. It may harm the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas directly due to their lipotoxicity. As this study mentions, “Environmental factors such as diets rich in saturated fats contribute to dysfunction and death of pancreatic b-cells in diabetes.” Looking to the epidemiological evidence, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition following 650 men found that: 

If saturated fatty acids as a percentage of total energy were to decrease from 14% to 8%, there would be an 18% decrease in fasting insulin and a 25% decrease in postprandial insulin.”

Increased saturated fat means increased free fatty acids (FFA) and as this study mentions, “A chronic increase in plasma FFA levels is harmful as shown by the important effects of these dietary components in pancreatic beta cell lipotoxicity. Fatty acid derivatives can interfere with the function of these cells and ultimately lead to their death.”

Type 1 Diabetes-Dairy Connection

Dairy has a unique relationship with Type I Diabetes in particular. The afforementioned association between Type 1 Diabetes and childhood milk consumption (1.5x risk) may be because of autoimmune cross-reaction between dairy proteins and the insulin producing cells on the pancreas.

The milk protein casein breaks down into amino acids that look strikingly like the insuling producing beta cells on our pancreas. When these milk proteins make it into our blood stream through a compromised gut wall as this study highlights, our immune system makes antibodies to fight them because they are forgein proteins. Because of the similarity of these milk proteins to our pancreas cells, our immune system can attack our own pancreas and destroy those insulin producing cells.  

Another trigger in milk for Type Diabetes may be the actual mammalian insulin that is present in milk products. This study measured significantly higher antibodies to cow insulin in the blood of children with Type 1 Diabetes than those without the disease. In ts case, it may be our body attacking our own insulin while attempting to defend against bovine insulin.

Vegan Diet

A vegan diet doesn’t contain any of these animal products that have been implicated in the development of Diabetes. In one 22 week trial where people were put on a whole food vegan diet, on average 43% of type 2 diabetics were able to lower their medication. In addition, they achieved a 30% lowering in blood sugar and as a bonus saw a drop in their total and LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels, triglycerides, and even lost 13 lbs and a couple inches off their waist.

Example of food capable of reversing diabetes. By Cultivator Kitchen.

Refined Fats

As you may have guessed, refined foods are detrimental for diabetes. But not only do refined carbohydrates spike blood sugar, refined fats such as oil inhibit your body’s ability to respond to sugars appropriately. Some of these fats becomes intramyocellular lipids (fats in your muscle cell) which plug up the mechanism in which insulin lets sugar into you muscle cell. This is called insulin resistance, of which intramyocellular lipids are a marker of. But after going on a vegan diet, this study demonstrated that patients had 31% lower intramyocellular lipid levels.