Two Pandemics Collide: COVID-19 & Diabetes
by David Dunaief
Apr 15, 2020 | 4501 views | 0 0 comments | 438 438 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dr. David Dunaief is located in Downtown Brooklyn and focuses on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management.
Dr. David Dunaief is located in Downtown Brooklyn and focuses on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management.
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We need help, and we need it fast. Not just for COVID-19, but also for diabetes – the combination of the two is much worse than either disease alone. According to the CDC, about one-third of ICU patients infected with COVID-19 have diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes can have devastating effects that can potentially result in patients dying prematurely from cardiovascular complications. COVID-19 symptoms can range from asymptomatic to severe or result in death.

Now combine diabetes with COVID-19 and you are at much higher risk of severe viral symptoms that require hospitalization and ICU admission.

Keeping Patients Out of the Hospital

We know containment is critical to control COVID-19, but it’s equally important to control chronic diseases that exacerbate the virus’s severity. Type 2 diabetes is one of the largest contributors.

We can treat and reverse diabetes with lifestyle changes, especially diet. This is such an issue that the Mexican Deputy Minister of Health recently noted that poor diet over the last four decades has resulted in more diabetes making people much more susceptible to COVID-19 and severe complications.

With COVID-19, those whose glucose is not under control are at highest risk of severe disease that results in a progression from hospitalization to ICU and the need for a ventilator to increased mortality risk.

High sugars may have negative impacts on the white blood cells, which makes patients more susceptible to infection from viruses.

It is tempting while at home to reach for comfort foods. Don’t do it. Instead, take the opposite approach and improve your diet. A whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet has been shown time and again to prevent, treat and reverse diabetes, potentially resulting in patients getting off their drugs and achieving levels that are considered normoglycemic, or non-diabetic.

While drugs help treat glucose, or sugar levels, diet is still the best tool we have for reversing diabetes overall.

Reversing Type 2 Diabetes: Plant-based dietary approach

Studies with a WFPB diet, have shown significant reduction in sugars and potential reversal of diabetes.

In a small retrospective study, results showed a reduction of HbA1C (a three-month sugar reading) from 8.2 to 5.8 over a mean of seven months. In addition, patients were able to stop all their diabetes medications and reduce their total medications from four to one. The side effect was better health with a significant reduction in high blood pressure to normal levels, as well.

This small study suggests that this type of diet is powerful to reduce and reverse type 2 diabetes. The foods used included a non-starchy vegetable-rich approach, with an emphasis on dark green leafy vegetables, whole fruits, beans, and limiting grains and starchy vegetables.

In a larger study of 200 participants, results showed that a high fiber diet in patients with type 2 diabetes and hypertension significantly reduced HbA1C, fasting glucose, systolic (top number) blood pressure, branchial-ankle pulse wave velocity, serum cholesterol and waist-to-hip ratio, ultimately reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The participants were considered “high fiber” if they increased their consumption 20-25 percent above recommended daily allowances with food, not supplements.

A third study, which was a randomized controlled trial comparing the 2003 American Diabetes Association (ADA) diet to a low-fat vegan diet, showed that a low-fat vegan diet significantly reduced the HbA1C compared to the 2003 ADA diet.

In conclusion, the best way to reduce your risk of severe COVID-19 is to control and reverse chronic disease, including Type 2 diabetes. A nutrient-dense WFPB diet has been shown to potentially reverse type 2 diabetes.

While you are mostly housebound, empower yourself by taking action to reduce your risk of getting COVID-19 and especially the severe disease. We have the tools: it starts with what you put on your plate.
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