Reversing Diabetes with Food

We’ve known that type 2 diabetes could be reversed by an extreme reduction in food intake for nearly a century and a half, since the 1870 siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War. This has been demonstrated experimentally. Indeed, by starving people enough, you can reverse diabetes. Diabetes specialists “have long known that the tiny proportion of iron-willed people [with diabetes] who can substantially decrease their weight and maintain this, can exhibit a return to normal metabolism.”

“A label is required to allow doctors to recognize and appropriately manage this subgroup who were willing to do anything to get rid of their diabetes. These are the Health Motivated. At the time of diagnosis, the Health-Motivated individuals will benefit from being advised that they are likely to be able to reverse their diabetes completely” by losing up to one-fifth of their body weight. And then—and only then—if they “show that they are not sufficiently strongly motivated should the routine guidelines for managing Type 2 diabetes be rolled out,” which include lots of drugs.

Unfortunately, the control of blood sugar with medication has proven to be unsustainable and may actually exacerbate obesity, making us put on more weight and, thus, creating a vicious cycle.

There has got to be a better way.

Instead of starving oneself by eating less food, what if we just ate better food? What if we ate a diet that emphasizes all-you-can-eat greens, lots of vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and some whole grains, and is at least 90 percent plant-based? This would be a diet including at least one big salad every day (like a pound of raw greens), veggie-bean soup, a handful of nuts and seeds, fruit at every meal, a pound of cooked greens, and some whole grains, but no refined grains, junk food, or oil, and a restriction on animal products. Thirteen diabetic men and women followed this diet for an average of seven months.

How did they do?

Hemoglobin A1C is considered the best measure of blood sugar control. Below six is normal—that is, non-diabetic. The official American Diabetes Association target, however, is to get diabetics at least down to seven. Anything above seven is uncontrolled diabetes. In my video below, you can see a stunning chart that plots how the study participants’ hemoglobin A1C levels responded over time after they start plowing in the plants. All subjects had had diabetes for at least seven years, and they started off with hemoglobin A1C levels ranging from as low as 6 to as high as 12. After they began following the plant-heavy diet,  their levels consistently dropped, month after month. After about seven months, their average A1C dropped from a diabetic 8.2 down to a non-diabetic 5.8. The majority dropped down to normal, and this is after dropping most of their medications.

Now, this was a pilot study with only a handful of people, no control group, and including only people who could actually stick to the diet—essentially, a retrospective case series, considered one of the weakest forms of published evidence. However, the magnitude of the effect they found indicates that a high nutrient-density diet can be very effective for some people.

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations—2015: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet, and my latest, 2016: How Not to Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers.

Lifestyle Medicine Is the Standard of Care for Prediabetes
How to Prevent Prediabetes from Turning into Diabetes
Preventing Prediabetes By Eating More 


Stephanie s
Stephanie s4 days ago

Shared. Thank you

LF F6 days ago

Lose the extra pounds and regular exercise, your holistic health will improve.

Carole R
Carole R7 days ago

That would be wonderful.

Philippa P
Philippa Powers7 days ago


Sheila M
Sheila M7 days ago

Hippocrates said, and I paraphrase, "there are two ways to bad health, diet and hygiene. There are two ways to cure bad health, diet and hygiene."

Janis K
Janis K7 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O8 days ago

This is quite a reasonable truth, as I have known people who had been diagnosed and needing to start on injections to turn themselves around. By going on a mostly plant based diet but allowing very small amounts of meat to be consumed as a treat once or twice per week. Yes they dropped their sugar levels to the point that they didn't need any medications very quickly, and as time went by they lost weight as well. By feeling better and lighter they even joined walking or jogging groups to become fitter. I noted that they have kept to their diet regime though.

Glennis W
Glennis W8 days ago

Very informative . Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis W8 days ago

Great information and advice . Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis W8 days ago

Very interesting article . Thank you for caring and sharing