So readers will recall I stumbled across a video channel called “Mastering Diabetes.” The owners of this channel claim that a plant based, low-fat diet is the right way to live.
This video, High Carb Foods Proven to Reverse Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes, jumps right out of the blocks with this claim “the preponderance of evidence published in the world’s most respected, peer-reviewed medical journals clearly shows that a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet is the most effective way to prevent and reverse chronic disease.”
Pretty radical stuff right? It flies in the face of everything I’ve learned over the last decade from personal experience and my own reading. What’s interesting is that this gentleman does not really discuss the evidence very much. He shows a study a little before the six minute mark.
So the first warning flag is his appeal to authority: peer review. For those who have no experience with academia, peer review is very far from the gold standard when it comes to the quality of evidence. Those who decide what gets published are the gate-keepers of allowable opinion. The editors bring their own biases and prejudices with them. The sciences are less corrupted than the humanities, but to say “well it’s peer-reviewed, so it must be true” is naiive or disingenuous.
The second big flag is the study itself. It uses, big surprise, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study. I’ve explained elsewhere why these questionnaires are very poor pieces of evidence. First, people lie on questionnaires: many will write down what they think the scientists want to hear. Second, people forget about many things from their past. Historians have written tons of things on the pitfalls of using oral evidence from people: they often misremember.
So what about the study itself? The biggest flaw is the fact that we have no idea what kind of low-carb diet these people are eating in this survey. This study was published in 2010 and the female data go back 26 years and the male data 20. So the meat/fat eaters were on paleo/keto in 1986 and 1990 respectively? Who knows? The study doesn’t say. Given that keto/paleo has only taken off in the last ten or fifteen years, I think it’s safe to say no they were not following these diets.
The study also talks about a high-protein diet. That gives the game away too. Keto/paleos do not advocate high protein, they advocate high fat. But they advocate good fat.
Another problem with this study is that it makes no attempt to qualify what kind of protein and fat is being eaten. Is there a difference between a grass fed sirloin steak with asparagus spears slathered in organic, butter from grass-fed cows and a bucket from the Colonel with coleslaw containing rapeseed oil and other nasties? Both are mainly protein and fat. This study makes no attempt to differentiate.
The second study “A Plant-Based Dietary Intervention Improves Beta-Cell Function and Insulin Resistance in Overweight Adults: A 16-Week Randomized Clinical Trial,” has its troubles too. First, it seems that the main thrust of the study shows that when you eat more carbohydrates you excrete more insulin: shock horror! One might say, well diabetics have problems with the amount of insulin they produce, what did the study say about this? Well, the first sentence of the abstract states “the aim of this study was to test the effect of a plant-based dietary intervention on beta-cell function in overweight adults with no history of diabetes.” Furthermore, regarding the controlled group who didn’t change their diet, what did they eat? Paleo/keto? No idea, the study makes no mention.
I’m guessing if I was an overweight person with a poor diet full of shitty fats, processed foods, sugar and the like who cut out all that crap and went over to a plant based, whole food, vegan diet, I would have improved health. But that’s not what this gentleman is using this study to compare. He’s using this study to attack paleo/keto. For this study to have any value, it would have to include another group who followed a healthy paleo-keto diet.
If this is the best that the plant-based, vegans have for diabetics, then I’m not going to take them seriously. They only use two studies, one of which is seriously flawed and the other doesn’t actually make their case. As I said a few months ago, I’m still going to try a plant based diet for a week or so to see what happens. I’ll give that a whirl in the spring.