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My father was a well-trained general internist who practiced in Orange County, California. In the late 1960s, he was asked to give the annual lecture to the medical staff of his hospital. He chose to speak about diabetes.

This was pre-internet, but his remarks basically went "viral." His talk made the Los Angeles Times, and then the television networks and talk shows were calling his office, even our home, trying to get interviews with him to further discuss diabetes care. Humble man that he was, he declined it all.

What was his amazing message about type 2 diabetes? With proper diet, exercise and weight management, it can be controlled. In other words, lifestyle matters! In fact, it more than matters; it is the cornerstone of diabetes care.

For the last few years, Samaritan-affiliated hospitals in Lebanon and Lincoln City have been offering CHIP (Complete Health Improvement Program), a lifestyle course that emphasizes a plant-based diet, exercise, weight management and stress control. According to chiphealth.com, studies have shown these lifestyle changes can help lower cholesterol and fasting blood glucose by about 20 percent, drop BMI by 3 percent and sometimes reduce blood pressure enough that people on medications can reduce or stop them. Results have been seen in 30 days on the plant-based diet (these studies were done on all comers, not just people with type 2 diabetes).

I was interested to come across a recent article in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology: “A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes” [JGeriatrCardiol.2017 May: 14(5):342-354]. This paper underlines how pervasive and devastating type 2 diabetes is in the United States and its enormous economic burden. It also clearly demonstrated how effective a plant-based diet is in treating or even preventing type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, it discusses why the plant-based diet works. With more than 150 footnotes, it unequivocally supports its summary statement: “…the evidence does suggest that the type and source of carbohydrate (unrefined versus refined), fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated versus saturated and trans), and protein (plant versus animal) play a major role in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes.”

Dr. Neal Barnard, creator of “Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, the Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes Without Drugs,” also uses a plant-based nutritional approach as the basis of his type 2 diabetes treatment.

The last 50 years have brought an explosion of new options for treatment of type 2 diabetes, but none of these has altered the cornerstone of effective treatment: Lifestyle modifications such as eating a proper diet, increasing exercise, and achieving a healthy weight.

None of these exist in the form of a medication, which makes this even more "food for thought." Bon Appetit!

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Dr. Richard Evans is a longtime family practice physician with Samaritan Main Street Family Medicine in Lebanon.

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