Twenty-four million people in the United States have diabetes. Another 57 million people have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Many suffer nerve damage, amputation, blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, and stroke. And since 1987, the death rate due to diabetes has increased by 45 percent. Today, 70,000 people die from diabetes each year.
One recent study found that people with diabetes have up to twice the risk of developing liver, pancreatic, and endometrial cancers, compared to the risk for people who do not have diabetes. Cancers of the colon, rectum, bladder, and breast are also more common among people with diabetes. Another study published this year found that diabetes risk increases with higher intake of total protein and animal protein.
But over the past several months, I’ve toured the nation in support of my 60-minute PBS program, titled Tackling Diabetes with Dr. Neal Barnard, and explained a simple three-part system for taking control of diabetes through a diet that is vegan, low in fat, and composed of foods with a low glycemic index.
Studies have proven that a low-fat vegan diet is as effective as oral medications at lowering blood sugar in people who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. And a vegan diet has only positive side effects—lower cholesterol, weight loss, and a lower risk of heart disease.
The dramatic results of a vegan diet can be seen in Hillary and Bruce’s story. This couple participated in a 22-week clinical study of a vegan diet. Study participants lost about 11 pounds on average, placing them at lower risk chronic diseases like diabetes. Hillary and Bruce talk about how healthier habits transformed their lives in this new video.
Starting Sept. 6, anyone who wants to see benefits like these can visit www.21DayKickstart.org. You’ll get an interactive support network—including a Facebook fan page and a discussion board featuring registered dietitians—to help you make sustainable dietary changes to prevent and reverse diabetes. I hope you’ll join us—it’s a lot of fun and it can make a huge difference in your health.
Neal Barnard, M.D., is a nutrition researcher and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.