Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the mechanism that turns sugar into energy no longer functions properly. The outcome is that the body can’t control the amount of sugar in the blood. In virtually every developing country in the world, diseases associated with affluence are becoming the new health problem. As processed and fat-rich animal foods are increasingly seen as desirable foods so the diseases develop. And they follow a pattern according to the WHO. One of the first to show itself is diabetes, followed several decades later by heart disease and gallstones, then cancer and finally chronic disorders of the gastrointestinal tract.
A major risk factor is obesity and about 80 per cent of non-insulin dependent diabetics are obese. People who are moderately overweight are twice as likely to develop the disease as people of normal weight (WHO).
In a little over a generation, diabetes mellitus has increased six-fold and there are factors at work other than obesity – including heredity. However, heredity wouldn’t account for the fact that almost all Sumo wrestlers are diabetics – but their weight and extraordinarily high-fat diet might.
Diabetics can benefit from a high-fibre, vegetarian diet and people who are already eating this kind diet have a 45 per cent reduced chance of developing the disease. Heavy meat eaters on the other hand – those who eat meat six or more times a week – are nearly four times as likely to develop diabetes (54). The ADA states that diabetes is much less likely to be a cause of death in vegetarians than it is in meat eaters and puts it down to vegetarians’ higher intake of complex carbohydrates (starchy foods) and the fact that they tend to be lighter. Again, the science is consistent, that diabetes is up to 90 per cent higher in meat eating men and 40 per cent higher in women. Even allowing for the fact that vegetarians tend to be lighter than meat eaters, they still face less risk (55, 56, 57).
Diabetes usually begins in middle age and strongly increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease, kidney failure, eye and neurological (nerve) damage (WHO). More good news for vegetarians is that a plant-based diet often eliminates or reduces a diabetic’s need to take medication and reduces the chance of developing both nerve and eye (retina) damage (58, 59, 60, 61, 62).
It is estimated that two million people in the UK suffer from the adult-onset type of diabetes. The WHO estimates that by 2025 there will be a staggering 300 million sufferers worldwide – another clear reason for people to adopt a vegetarian diet.