In this very interesting study from JAMA, the estimated loss of life for people aged 20 with Type 1 Diabetes compared to people without Type 1 Diabetes was estimated roughly at 12 years (11 for men, 13 for women)! The major cause of premature death in these patients was, as expected, due to ischaemic heart disease.
These results further underpin the need for a fully comprehensive and multifactorial management of Type 1 Diabetes, where no risk factor is left uncontrolled from as early as possible. And since these patients are diagnosed at an early age, it is crucial to understand that the goal to aim for, for maximum benefit in terms of both mortality and morbidity, is the primary prevention of complications. There is no time to be complacent, since such an attitude would fail a substantial percentage of our patients and their families.
Obviously, this cannot be done efficiently if we do not aggressively encourage, through education and other facilitating means, the adoption of health promoting lifestyle changes: diet and exercise being the cornerstones of that effort.
But all the above would be just lip-service, unless we move one step forward and explain to our patients and their families that the best diet studied so far, both in terms of diabetes control and in terms of heart disease prevention (and even reversal) is, by far, a whole-food plant-based diet. Indeed, one of the many benefits of such a diet, is that one can control hyperglycaemia more efficiently and with less medicines, therefore limiting potential side effects and complications and reducing at the same time the cost of treatment, which for a chronic disease diagnosed in early life is huge both personally and collectively. And, of course, one should not forget that such a diet would also help indirectly by its countless benefits in many other fronts such as its anticancer properties, especially taking into account that in the above mentioned study, cancer was the second leading cause of premature death in Type 1 diabetics.
It is indeed prime time to leave the era of dealing with diabetes with the myopic and detrimental view of a high-protein low-carbohydrate diet, and start anew with what science shows to be our best option: a whole-food plant-based diet! Prima facie it might seem difficult, odd, or even unpleasant, but these have never been acceptable reasons to lie to ourselves and to our patients.
© Kostis Tsarpalis, 2015