Diabetes can be prevented and reversed with carbohydrate restricted diet, says UAB expert

According to a new comprehensive financial analysis reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association and The Washington Post diabetes leads a list of just 20 diseases and conditions that account for more than half of all spending on healthcare in the United States.

U.S. spending on diabetes diagnosis and treatment totaled $101 billion in 2013, and has grown 36 times faster than spending on heart disease, the country's No. 1 cause of death, researchers reported.

University of Alabama at Birmingham Professor of Nutrition Barbara Gower, Ph.D., conducts research on diet composition and disease risk and says that diabetes can both be prevented and reversed with a carbohydrate restricted diet.

Type 2 diabetes can be managed with diet alone in many cases.  However, this message is not getting to the patients; they are told to take drugs.  A clinic at UAB treats diabetics with a diet that dramatically reduces carbohydrates. In most cases, patients can eliminate all medication.

"They are thrilled to stop injecting insulin, and they question why "no one ever told them" they could control their diabetes diet alone," Gower said. "The conventional advise to diabetics is to eat carbs, and then inject insulin - or take other drugs.

Why do this?

"The medication is needed because diabetes is a disease of carbohydrate intolerance; if the patient does not eat carbs, they do not have to use medication," she said.

"I use the 'cigarette' analogy. We know it is bad to smoke, so we tell patents not to smoke. Why don't we do the same thing with sugar and processed starches?  The excuse I hear is that 'people won't stop eating sugar and starches.'  However, by the same analogy, we could have thrown up our hands and said, 'people can't give up smoking.'"

"We need to treat diabetes like lung cancer and COPD; all of these diseases are preventable with lifestyle," Gower said. "Further, even with established, long-term, type 2 diabetes, it can be managed with diet. It is not impossible to eat a low-carb diet that is healthful and satisfying. We do it all the time, and we teach our patients to do it. They love it.

"Carbohydrates are not essential nutrients for the human body, and with proper instruction, patients can adjust their diets to minimize them."

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham


  1. Randel Dobson Randel Dobson United States says:

    Is this article a joke? Every Type 2 diabetic I know has been told to limit their carb intake. Not sure where this report got its information, but anyone dealing with type 2 knows to limit carbs. Now, of course, many patients don't, therefore they have to take medication, but its not for misinformation...just life choices.

    • Laurie Reinhart Estrada Laurie Reinhart Estrada United States says:

      Are they told to limit to 20 gms a day or less?   And does the current Diabetic Education support that instruction by providing meal plan examples, LCHF resources?

    • Douglas Lehman Douglas Lehman United States says:

      I think Randel, that the point of the article is that by advising Type 2 diabetic folks to continue with the level of carbohydrate intake that you reference in your limited carb intake comment, that would be akin to advising a 2 pack per day smoker to consider moving to 1 pack or so. Wouldn't that be the case?

    • Erskien Lenier Erskien Lenier United States says:

      Every cell in the human body runs on sugar - glucose. The brain runs exclusively on glucose. This article is the stupidest claim of science yet. Fruits are the innate foods of humans who are a part of the primate tribe. Calorie - carb restriction will create far more diabetics.... I've helped tons of people lose the symptoms of diabetes by adopting a fruit centered high carb low fat low protein diet.

  2. David W David W United States says:

    Anyone who's looked into this matter, even in a very cursory way, knows this already.  We've known this since Banting in the mid-1800's.

    • Douglas Lehman Douglas Lehman United States says:

      Isn't it interesting though, how organizations that treat people with diabetes tend not not mention this in their literature? I have been through a fascinating, lengthy email exchange with the Diabetes Teaching Center of the University of California in San Francisco wherein, despite my valiant efforts, the staff responding to my inquiries successfully eludes responding to one simple question: What is the scientific research that supports the assertion that overweight diabetic folks should continue to consume such a high level of carbohydrates (sugars & starches) as defined by the "plate method" (25% of the meal should come from hi-carb food).

  3. Roger Bird Roger Bird United States says:

    "Diabetes can be prevented and reversed with carbohydrate restricted diet, says UAB expert".  It's true.  I did it, with the help of intermittent fasting.

    • Cathy Kirk McRae Cathy Kirk McRae Canada says:

      Roger, were you on medication when you did they intermittent fasting (I'm on Metformin) and if so, what did you do about having to eat with your meds?

      • Don Hunter Don Hunter United States says:

        It's a lifestyle change!It's not a total cure for everybody with t2D. But a person can prevent or reverse their condition. Roger is right about intermittent fasting and diet. If your able to move and breathe you can get it done in a shorter amount of time. But if you tell yourself it can't be done then...oh well!
        Cathy a person doing the fasting and diet will cut back on their meds as needed!! Best thing would be to let your doctor know what your doing and work with him as you go!!
        My wife has had t2d for about 12 years. She also has had M.S. for 28 years and has very little mobility to exercise. She no longer injects that junk they advertise on TV.

  4. Pete Castro Pete Castro United States says:

    Please preface by saying what type of diabetes you are referring to.  Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are different and it is imperative we distinguish between the two types.  As a type 1 diabetic, I fight a battle I cannot win.  Diet or not, my pancreas does not work.  Educate people by using the correct terms.

  5. Roger Bird Roger Bird United States says:

    Zero refined carbs, low natural carbs and high fat, the Standard American Paleo Diet, worked for me.  Add in intermittent fasting, and the weight just dropped off and the vitality within was awakened.

  6. Judith Gardner Stephens Judith Gardner Stephens United States says:

    Absolutely true -- Carbohydrates are NOT a necessary nutrient for humans.  So there's NO reason not to restrict them OR to ignore them completely -- Go Keto and get diabetes under much better control as we did before insulin.

  7. Liz Hahn-Shirk Liz Hahn-Shirk United States says:

    I see type 2 diabetics say it every day...................."" eat whatever you want BUT in moderation"".  

    LCHF should be a mandatory instruction coming from docs to type 2 diabetics ( and Nutritionists are another group handing out faulty info and are extremely resistant to ''new'' education.

    It's TIME for this info ................. to be mandatory

  8. Ruthie Kampa-Gabbert Ruthie Kampa-Gabbert United States says:

    EVERY and l repeat, EVERY food eventually breaks down into a carbohydrate! Paying close attention to the Glycemic index, knowing how quickly foods break down into carbs can be an essential tool in treating Type II.

    • Douglas Lehman Douglas Lehman United States says:

      Hello Ruthie,
      Could you support your assertion with a link to related research? Most of the people discussing this topic are aware that many ingested foods go through the body's digestive cycle without being broken down into carbohydrates, so it would be good to back up your assertion with some evidence. Thanks!

  9. Laura Greco Laura Greco United States says:

    I have no opinion on the diabetes portion of this article.  However,  I take tremendous issue with the statement:  "We need to treat diabetes like lung cancer and COPD; all of these diseases are preventable with lifestyle," Gower said. Lung cancer is NOT preventable with lifestyle.  I, like tens of thousands of people every year, got lung cancer without any risk factors.  At 40.  "Nonsmoker's lung cancer" kills more people each year than liver cancer, lymphoma, or leukemia, just to name a few.  Get educated Dr. Gower.

  10. Tracy Granger Tracy Granger United States says:

    this is a joke. i wa actually told by an aprn in my endocronoligsts office to eat MORE carbs. i, in fact am on a low carb diet and when i do not take insulin my blood sugars are through the roof on a low carb diet. with my insulin, and my low carb diet combuned my nimbers are controlled. without my medication i would be in the hospital for sure.

  11. frank burns frank burns United States says:

    I had type 2 diabetes diagnosed Dec. 2015. Was put on metformin. I read every food label to cut most carbs. Walked everyday at the park. By Feb. 2016 (2 mo. Later), my doctor phoned me the day after a blood test, and said to stop taking the medication because my blood sugar was too low. No problem since. I still eliminate carbs and walk everyday.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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