New Diabetes Treatment – starve or thrive?

| Post published on December 5, 2018
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NHS England has announced a new treatment for type 2 diabetes in the form of a very low-calorie diet (VLCD). Thousands of patients will be prescribed the 800-calories-a-day regimen as part of NHS England’s pilot of the programme, which will consist of making soups and shakes from sachets. Previous trials of the diet have shown that extreme calorie restriction can send type 2 diabetes into remission, as found with other calorie-restriction techniques such as gastric bypass and fasting.

These quick fix diets may sound great on paper but they may not be sustainable in the long-term. Why does the NHS favour an approach that makes patients live in near starvation over providing a wholefood plant-based diet which is proven1 to produce the best results in reversing type 2 diabetes?

Viva! Health Senior Researcher and Campaigner Veronika Powell discusses the alternatives to fasting and low-calorie sachets:

Living on 800 calories a day is very difficult to sustain and many people will be unable to adhere to the regimen for more than a few days, which makes this a very expensive and ineffective experiment. When compared to a wholefood plant-based diet, which has been proven time and time again to achieve amazing results without limiting calorie intake, these low-calorie sachets seem extreme.
A wholefood plant-based diet which favours inexpensive yet healthy foods and is low in fat has been shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of kidney damage and alleviate mobility problems. Wholesome vegan diets can actually reverse type 2 diabetes and there is a number of clinical and population studies to show this1. Health professionals across the world are increasingly recommending the plant-based approach so it’s high time that NHS England change their approach too.
People living with type 2 diabetes need support and education about eating well – a vital part of not only improving physical health and wellbeing but maintaining it in the long-term. An 800-calorie liquid diet may be an attractive quick fix but it is hardly able to sustain healthy dietary change. Healthy vegan diets offer all this and more – it’s an all-inclusive deal

The latest scientific review2 on the effectiveness of plant-based diets in managing type 2 diabetes concluded that: “Plant-based diets can significantly improve psychological health, quality of life, HbA1c levels and weight and therefore the management of diabetes.”

Viva! Health offers a range of practical advice and resources on preventing and treating type 2 diabetes through a wholefoods diet based on fruit, vegetables, pulses, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, with no calorie restriction. The resources are freely accessible here: 



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Barnard N.D., Cohen J., Jenkins D.J., et al., 2006. A low-fat, vegan diet improves glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in a randomized clinical trial in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 29 (8) 1777-83

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Barnard, N.D., Cohen, J., Jenkins, D.J.A., et al., 2009a. A low-fat vegan diet and conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 89 (5) 1588S-96S

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McGeoghegan, Muirhead & Almoosawi, 2016. Association between an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant dietary pattern and diabetes in British adults: results from the national diet and nutrition survey rolling programme years 1–4. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 67 (5) 553-561.

Satija A et al., 2016. Plant-Based Dietary Patterns and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women: Results from Three Prospective Cohort Studies. PLoS Medicine. 13(6):e1002039.

Chen Z et al., 2018. Plant versus animal based diets and insulin resistance, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes: the Rotterdam Study. European Journal of Epidemiology. doi: 10.1007/s10654-018-0414-8. [Epub ahead of print]


Toumpanakis A, Turnbull T, Alba-Barba I, 2018. Effectiveness of plant-based diets in promoting well-being in the management of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review. BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care. 6:e000534.

About the author
Veronika Charvátová
Veronika Charvátová MSc is a biologist and Viva! Health researcher. Veronika has spent years uncovering the links between nutrition and good health and is an expert on plant-based diets.

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