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Monday, 25 June, 2001, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
Diet boost for diabetics
Diabetics in the study reduced the amount of meat they ate
Diabetics in the study reduced the amount of meat they ate
Eating less meat and sugar may help some diabetics, a US research team has said.

Replacing animal protein with vegetable protein also helps, according to the team from the University of South Florida.

Patients were able to reduce the amount of insulin they took, or even stop using it altogether, after six months on the diet.

The findings apply to Type II diabetics, who cannot make enough insulin in the pancreas or may be unable to make proper use of it.

We wouldn't tell people to stop eating meat

Emma Bartlett,
Diabetes UK
Type II diabetes can be triggered by obesity, and part of the treatment process is to encourage patients to eat more healthily.

Adult onset, or type II diabetes, tends to be diagnosed in middle age or later, and develops as the body's method of controlling the levels of blood in the sugar begins to deteriorate.

Type I diabetes, which happens primarily to much younger patients, involves a far more sudden and catastrophic breakdown of this system.

Meat consumption

Dr Greg Arsenis and his team studied 51 patients, who had not benefited from large doses of insulin, or hypoglycaemic drugs, which lower blood sugar by increasing the production of insulin in the pancreas.

They were asked to reduce the number of times they ate meat from two to three times a day to once every other day for six months, and told to replace it with equal amounts of vegetable protein.

The people involved in the trial also eliminated sugars from their diet.

Of 31 patients who stuck to the diet, three cut their insulin dose by 50%, two patients discontinued insulin, and 10 more were able to come off other medications.

On average, their blood sugar level fell by a third, from an average of 10 to seven.

Cholesterol dropped

Diabetes UK says normal levels are between four and seven.

Total cholesterol levels dropped by 32%, a type of blood fats by 60%, and low-density lipoprotein "bad" cholesterol by 35%.

People also saw their levels of "good" cholesterol - high-density lipoprotein - rise by around 10%.

Others who took part in the research followed a low-calorie diet or switched from red meat to fish and poultry, but they saw no changes to their metabolic rate.

Dr Arsenis said it was known that meat contained amino acids and stimulated the pancreas to secrete more insulin.

That increases levels of adrenaline which, he said, was thought to induce a resistance to insulin in a person.

Approval by patients

The study was presented at the annual Endocrine Society annual meeting, at which the researchers said the patients liked the new eating regime.

"Patients liked the new diet and the fact that they did not have to fast, adhere to low-calorie diets or take appetite suppressants," they wrote.

But Emma Bartlett, a dietician for Diabetes UK, told BBC News Online diabetics were enouraged to eat more heathily, and because people tended to eat more protein than they need, people were encouraged to reduce the amount of animal protein they ate.

But she said: "We wouldn't tell people to stop eating meat. People who are diabetic do not have to become vegetarian."

Eating more healthily brings people's weight down, therefore reducing the amount of treatment patients need, she added.

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