Diabetes is not a new disease. The origins of the disease date back to 1550 BC and are commonly associated with the famous Greek physician Aretaus, who described the condition as “the melting of the flesh and limbs into urine”.
It was not until 400 BC that identification was made between Type I and Type II diabetes. There are medical reports from two Indian doctors, Sushruta and Charuka, that described the two conditions as “…the patient suffering from the former is thin, pale, eats less and drinks too much…. The patient with the latter is usually obese, eats a lot, is stout, is of sedentary habits and sleeps too much”. Although these descriptions may seem simplistic, they accurately reflect what we now know today as diabetes.
Unsurprisingly, there have been a huge range of diets prescribed to diabetes sufferers over the years. Some of the more interesting and entertaining ones included:
- Mouth watering sun-dried membranes from young roosters’ abdomen or drinks made of a mixture of mountain copper, dry acorn, flower of the wild pomegranate, oak gall, honey of roses and cold water prescribed between 128 and 200 AD
- Thomas Willis’ delectable Milk and barley-water boiled with bread
- And an exquisite 1500-calorie diet, low in carbohydrates and high in fat and protein, based on rancid meat and blood pudding prescribed by John Rollo in 1799.
The early 20th centaury introduced low energy-low carbohydrate diets, comprising of 70% fat, 10% carbohydrate and 20% protein. Over the course of the 20th centaury the nature of the ‘diabetes diet’ comlpetly reversed. From low carb, high fat in the early days, to low fat, high carb by the late 1980s.
Although modern science suggests an individualised nutritional approach to management of diabetes, yet we still seek to uncover the illusive ‘diabetes diet’.
A recent review by Khazrai et al looked at the effect of diet on type II diabetes metillus. The study considered 4 different diets: the Mediteranean diet, a low-carbohydrate/high-protein diet, a vegan diet and a vegetarian diet.
Do any of these diets sound familiar? A quick Google search on any of the four diets produces millions of books, articles and self-professed nutrition gurus claiming that their diet can “help you loose the weight fast”, “feel less bloated” or even claim that they can “cure diabetes”.
In Khazrai’s review it was found that all the dietary interventions produced some improvement in metabolic condition, but it was noted that the degree to which symptoms improved varied drastically between patients. Khazrai’s emphasised the importance of individualised dietary treatment for patients suffering from diabetes. Although one person may claim that going vegan helped the management their diabetes, that does not mean it is for everyone.
So is there really a diet out there that can cure diabetes for all 1.1 million diagnosed Australians*? The simple answer is no. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that is not preventable or curable. Type 2 diabetes can generally be prevented and managed with dietary and lifestyle changes, however a cure is still yet to be found.
If you are suffering from diabetes and want to make some changes to your diet, please speak to an Accredited Practicing Dietitian. If you would like some more information about diabetes Diabetes Australia provides a reliable source of information.
*1.1 million people refers to 120,000 people with type 1 diabetes, and 956,000 people with type 2 diabetes. Please remember that the two types of diabetes which great