Healthy Librarian's Notes

Notes about Dr. Neil Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes

Below are the highlights from the Healthy Librarian’s notes about this talk (To subscribe to her email posts go to her web site):

I didn’t watch this with the intent of posting about it (beyond Facebook)–so I took quick notes.  But I learned so much from the video, I couldn’t resist posting my notes here.

Here’s what captured my attention.  Please watch the video for yourself, though–don’t just rely on my notes-you’ll miss a lot!

1.   Sure, diabetes means you have too much glucose.  But, glucose is good thing.  It’s not the bad guy.  It powers our muscles.  It powers our brain.  We need glucose.

2.  The problem with glucose & diabetes, is that it’s not going where it’s supposed to go–into the cells that need the glucose–it’s circulating around in the blood.  And when there’s too much glucose circulating in the blood, it can damage our blood vessels–especially the tiny ones–like behind our eyes, in our kidneys, and in our feet–as well as our heart.  Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney, and heart disease.

3.  Carbohydrates are not the cause, and have never been the cause of diabetes.  If that were the case, then cultures that eat a diet made up of mostly high-fiber whole food carbohydrates would have high rates of diabetes.  That’s not the case.  And when people from these cultures move to a Western country & start eating as we do–their rates of diabetes rise.

4.  Sample meals on a vegan diet–all high carbohydrate & high fiber–and they lower blood sugar.  Breakfast:  a big bowl of oatmeal.  Lunch:  A big bowl of vegetable, split pea or lentil soup.  Dinner: Whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce.  FInd more meal plans here.

5.  Dr. Barnard has conducted many studies–including NIH funded studies–that compare how diabetics fare on a vegan diet, as compared to the American Diabetes Association diet.   Check out Dr. Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes without Drugs.

6.  Why do people lose weight on a vegan no-added oil diet–yet still feel full & satisfied?  Simple mathematics.  Every gram of fat has 9 calories.  Every gram of carbohydrates has 4 calories.  If you take fat out of the diet, you lose weight.  Note:  We’re talking about whole grain, high fiber, unprocessed carbohydrates–not white flour or Entemann’s Fat-Free Cookies.

7.  The Fiber Connection to weight loss–the Fullness Factor:  The average American eats about 12 grams of fiber a day and consumes about 2000 calories a day.   As soon as you increase your fiber intake with fruits, vegetables, beans, & whole grains–the average person is able to feel full on 200 calories less–1800 calories.  Blame that on the fiber.

8.  A vegan high-fiber diet has a higher “thermogenic effect” on our metabolism, than the typical Western diet.  Huh?  Let me try to explain. (But Neal does a better job.)  Prior to starting a vegan diet, Barnard measures the oxygen intake of his patients.  Turns out, if you’re taking in a lot of oxygen, you have a fast metabolism, & burn calories faster.  The less oxygen you take in–the slower your metabolism, & the slower the calorie burn.  His patients who are eating the typical Western diet are taking in less oxygen–and have slower metabolisms.  Yes, what you eat affects the speed of your metabolism.  Barnard measures his patients after they eat 2 cans of Boost (that awful “faux” meal in a can)–both pre-vegan diet–and post-vegan diet.  After the switch to a vegan diet–his patients had on average, a 20% increase in their “after meal” calorie burn.  They had kicked their metabolisms up a notch!  Another weight-loss booster.

Why the increase in calorie burn on a vegan diet?  The “thermic effect” of food increases on a vegan diet as compared to a Western diet, because the nutrition in the vegan meals is able to enter our cells more efficiently–providing a better calorie burn after every meal.  This effect lasts for about 3 hours after each meal.

9.  Dr. Barnard’s NIH-funded study compared the American Dietetic Association’s Diet to the vegan diet for type-2 diabetes.   99 participants.   Barnard shares the example of Vance–a 31 year-old diabetic with a long family history of diabetes & diabetic complications.  At the start of the study his A1c level was 9 1/2–on the high side..  The average diabetic’s A1c level is 8.  After going on a vegan diet, Vance’s A1c level dropped to 5.3.   Within a year he had lost 60 pounds, and his doctor said there was no longer any reason for him to stay on diabetes medications.

10.  How Food Can Fight Pain.  Barnard shares an example of a diabetic study participant who also had rheumatoid arthritis.  After changing to a vegan diet she discovered that she was able to easily open up cans–an impossible task beforehand.  According to Barnard, about 1/2 of arthritis sufferers have an identifiable food connection to their disease.  It’s not 100% for everyone–but, for about half of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, eliminating dairy & animal protein relieves their pain.

11. “Can I have a little salmon every once in awhile?”  Short answer from Barnard?  No!  Sure it has some good fat–the omega-3s–but it also has some bad fat.  All fish is a mixture of good fat and bad fat–and the waistline can store good fat just as well as it can store bad fat. Chinook salmon is 50% fat!   I checked–and believe it or not–Barnard’s right!

12.  What about white meat?  Chicken?  Turkey?  The leanest beef is 29% fat.  Chicken is 23% fat.  Beans are 4% fat.  You run the numbers.  According to Barnard, you can’t reverse diabetes by going from beef to chicken.  Gee, how many people do we all know who think that switching from beef to chicken is the healthy choice?  I know I did.

13.  If you go on a vegan diet, play it safe & take vitamin B-12 (25-100 micrograms of B12 per day or 1,000 mg per week) Vegans need adequate B-12–and there aren’t reliable sources of it in the plant world.  Taking a B-12 is a very easy fix.  You’ll already be getting far more of the vitamins & minerals you need by switching to a vegan diet.  B-12 is the exception.  Eat flax meal or chia daily for omega-3. Have your vitamin D levels checked.

14.  Don’t change your diet immediately.  Take a couple of weeks to look over Barnard’s meal plan, and explore healthy (no-added oil) plant-based cookbooks before you get started.   Planning ahead will make a big difference to your success.  You’ll be armed with a game plan! Here’s the link to his 21-Day Weight-Loss Kick-Start book for some inspiration.  Try out some recipes.  Get some good recipes under your belt.  6-8 is all you really need to get started.

What if you don’t cook?  What if you have the “Room-Service” Gene.  Barnard has plenty of great suggestions about what to order at Italian, Mexican, fast-food, Japanese, & Indian restaurants.   Here’s a link to his Kick-Start site, with recipes & meal plans.

15.  If you are diabetic & you change your diet–just be aware that you may become hypoglycemic, if you’re taking diabetes medication.  This is natural–you’re blood sugar is decreasing (a good thing)–and if you’re taking medication for diabetes, this can happen.  He has suggestions to deal with this natural occurence–and of course actively work with your doctor.  Listen to the entire video, so you don’t miss Barnard’s recommendations.

16.  Take the Three-Week Challenge.   Do it for every meal.  Do it everyday.  Even if you’re invited to a free meal at Outback Steak House—order a plain baked potato & go to the salad bar.  There are options. The only way you’ll be able to see how well this diet works–and be able to feel what it’s like to be on a healthy diet–is to give it 100% for three weeks.  No exceptions, or rule-changing.

17.  You need three weeks in order for your “tastes” to change.  Barnard gives the example of switching from whole milk to skim milk.  It’s hard to do at first–skim milk tastes so watery.  But, once you’re used to it–you can’t go back.  That’s how it is when you switch to a vegan diet–and start enjoying plant-based meals.  It’s hard to go back to cheeseburgers & steak.  I wouldn’t have believed it either, if I hadn’t tried it myself.

18.  And, if you find you don’t like a vegan diet, you can always go back to the foods that got you sick in the first place.  And stay on medications, and test your blood levels for the rest of your life.

19.  If plant-based foods aren’t for you–consider the transition foods.  The faux meats.  There are plenty of relatively low-fat options–and the flavors just keep getting better and better.  Neal’s own father, a former cattle rancher in Fargo, North Dakota, doesn’t quite realize he’s a vegan–because Neal’s mom keeps preparing faux meats–for her meat-loving husband.

20.  Barnard’s tips:  Try different recipes.  Do it for 3 weeks.  Eat faux if you absolutely must.  Think of it as methadone.

21.  Annual cost of medications for diabetics is $2000-$5000/a year–for diabetes medications & statins.  Now multiply that by the 21 million diabetics in the U.S.  And that’s just the cost of medications–and doesn’t include hospitalizations & complications.  Isn’t it high time to lower our health care costs?

22.  Worry about our kids.  Childhood obesity & diabetes are on the rise.  As beef & dairy prices fall, our government helps the farmers by buying it up & feeding the surplus to our kids through the school lunch programs.   Feeding our kids cheeseburgers & pepperoni pizza, in the end is not the wisest economic decision.

I apologize for these incomplete notes–and for any statements I may have inadvertently written down incorrectly.

I encourage you to watch the video yourself.

It’s a 37 minute time investment you will not regret.  And besides–Barnard is just plain interesting, as well as funny.  It’s better than anything you’ll find on TV tonight!

To subscribe to her email posts go to her web site.