Lifestyle Medicine Center offers diabetes reversal program

By Dr. Padmaja Patel is medical director of the Lifestyle Medicine Center.

By Dr. Padmaja Patel is medical director of the Lifestyle Medicine Center.

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In my 20 years of clinical practice, I have never been so excited to talk about a new approach in treating chronic and progressive diseases. We were taught in our medical training that type 2 diabetes is a life sentence and that for the most part, it cannot be cured; it can only be managed with medications.

Despite major advances in technology and a variety of pharmaceutical options in managing diabetes, the disease remains a major public health epidemic. At present, we have more than 50 different combinations of oral medications and more than 15 different types of insulin options available. Despite that, prevalence of diabetes has been rising. Now, that should make us wonder if we are missing something.

Each year during National Diabetes Month, communities across the country bring attention to the disease. Last year’s focus was on the link between diabetes and heart disease, informing communities on the message that adults with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke as people without diabetes. Unfortunately, fear is not a good motivator to change behavior, and this message is not likely to have much impact.

The ultimate goal of diabetes management has been to prevent long-term complications. I know from my own experience of referring patients to a dietitian for nutritional counseling based on ADA guidelines, it has failed to show a sustainable impact in diabetes management. The reality is that the focus on counting carbs has not been an effective strategy. Invariably, additional medications are required every one or two years to better manage rising blood sugars. Unfortunately, approximately 50 percent of patients will need insulin therapy within 10 years of diagnosis with our current therapeutic approach for diabetes management.

Instead of focusing on preventing complications in diabetes management, what if we addressed the root cause of type 2 diabetes to reverse the disease?

Yes, I am talking about the reversal of diabetes -- an evidence-based scientific approach where through lifestyle changes you can achieve a complete remission or rely less on prescription medications.

More Information

For more information on the Lifestyle Medicine Center's diabetes reversal program, call 432-221.LIFE. (5433).

A significant number of studies indicate that diabetes is reversible through bariatric surgeries, low-calorie diets or low-carb diets. But these approaches are associated with surgical complications and significant treatment costs, and for the most part, are hard to maintain on a long-term basis.

The root cause of type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance, which means insulin that you already have in your body is no longer working. The Western diet high in fat and calories causes fat deposition inside muscle and liver cells, which in turn blocks the effects of insulin, causing insulin resistance.

In the book “Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes,” Barnard offers a scientifically proven approach to preventing, controlling and reversing diabetes by a powerful nutritional plan. In this plan, there is no need to cut calories, limit carbohydrates or stick to small portions. You can eat until you are full.

In a National Institute of Health-funded study, Barnard demonstrated that compared to the standard American diabetic diet, a low-fat vegan diet was three times more effective in controlling blood sugars.

In the New York Times bestseller, “How Not to Die,” Dr. Michael Greger quotes a study showing that not all fats affect our muscle cells in the same way. For example, palmitate, the kind of saturated fat found in meat, dairy and eggs causes insulin resistance. On the other hand, oleate, the monosaturated fat found mostly in nuts, olives and avocados, may actually protect against the detrimental effects of saturated fat.

About 100 years ago, a single serving of chicken may have contained only 16 fat calories. Nowadays, one serving of chicken may have more than 200 calories of fat, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that animal fat in our diet is contributing to insulin resistance. Plant- based diets work by improving insulin sensitivity, whereas the standard diabetic diet does not change insulin sensitivity, but rather compensates for the problem by limiting sugars. A plant-based diet promotes healthy weight loss, lowers cholesterol, and thereby reduces the risk of the No. 1 killer of diabetics, heart disease. It also helps in reversing some of the common chronic complications of diabetes such as neuropathy and retinopathy.

Greger cites a study that was done 35 years ago in which type 2 diabetics were placed on a plant-based diet for an average of 16 days when they saw their insulin requirements cut by 60 percent, and half of the diabetics were able to come off of insulin altogether just by eating a healthy diet. That’s the power of plants.

In the last three years, I have seen some amazing transformations in diabetes management by focusing on lifestyle factors and behaviors. To my surprise, these results have been better than the standard diabetes treatment that I have been offering over all these years. Also, once you remove the burden of counting carbs and calories from your daily routine, it becomes a joyous journey of feeling empowered by education, support and a sense of well-being.

My patient outcomes have fueled my passion to make this program available to everyone in our area who has type 2 diabetes. Their remarkable results have forced me to look at this old disease in a new light.

For this reason, we are offering this unique program at the Lifestyle Medicine Center in a group visit set-up. It will be an intensive therapeutic lifestyle intervention program delivered by a health care team consisting of a physician, registered dietician, health coach and stress-management expert. The chances of success with this new lifestyle increase with support; therefore, you have the option to enroll a spouse/caregiver into the program with you for a nominal price.

Our first cohort is scheduled to begin on Feb. 6. The best part is, that you do not have to change your primary care provider or your endocrinologist to participate in this program, and these medical services will be billed to your insurance.

Dr. Padmaja Patel is medical director of the Lifestyle Medicine Center.