Called ALA for short, this vitamin-like substance neutralizes many types of free radicals. A build-up of free radicals, caused in part by high blood sugar, can lead to nerve damage and other problems. ALA may also help muscle cells take up blood sugar. In a German study, a team of scientists had 40 adults take either an ALA supplement or a placebo. At the end of the four-week study, the ALA group had improved their insulin sensitivity 27 percent. The placebo group showed no improvement. Other studies have shown a decrease in nerve pain, numbness, and burning.
Currently, people with diabetes who receive a transplanted pancreas (typically not possible unless you are also having a kidney transplant) or who receive islet-cell transplants as part of a research study in the US must take these drugs so that their own body won’t attack the new cells. The drugs work, but raise risk for bacterial and viral infections as well as for mouth sores, nausea, diarrhea, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, fatigue and even some cancers.
Implementing integrative and functional medical nutrition therapy, I helped the patient understand that she could reverse the trajectory she was on by making lifestyle changes—and that’s what she did. We engaged in shared decision making in our ongoing nutrition consultations. Over the course of one year, her physiology and health status changed for the better. Her A1c dropped from 7.2% to 5.6%, and she no longer required medications. She continues to adhere to her new lifestyle program and is confident she’ll remain free of a diabetes diagnosis.
The study included 298 patients, aged 20 to 65, who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within the previous six years. Half of the patients were put on a low-calorie diet and lost an average of 10 to 15 kg (22 to 33 pounds). The other half of patients, who served as a control group, received the best diabetes management available — but that did not include a weight loss program.
This seems hard to do, but really it’s not if you know one secret: Replace snacking with something far more satisfying — fat. That’s right, the government is wrong to recommend a low fat diet. Fat is what makes you feel full until your next meal. Take away the fat, take away the full. Don’t go to an extreme, but do lean strongly toward a high-fat low-carb diet.