Type 2 diabetes: a growing problem
In the Netherlands an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 people suffer from type 2 diabetes. In addition, about 250,000 people have type 2 diabetes without knowing it, while a further 750,000 people run an increased risk of developing this disease. The total number of patients in the Netherlands is expected to grow to 1.2 million by 2030. Patients with type 2 diabetes suffer from fatigue, increased thirst and frequent infections, in addition to irregular blood sugar levels, high blood pressure and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Current practice is that patients receive medication and diet advice from their GPs and dieticians. However, research shows that the standard diet recommendations for diabetes patients only have short-term effects (Langeveld, Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde, 2013).
Pilot project: Reversing the disease process with an altered diet
Researchers at the Louis Bolk Institute have started the pilot project Reversing diabetes type 2 (2015-2017) to investigate the effect of an altered diet on the disease process. This project is conducted in collaboration with Stichting Voeding Leeft, an independent network organization of professionals working in health care and nutrition. Participants in our study are encouraged to increase their intake of fresh, unprocessed foods and to reduce their consumption of foods that stimulate insulin production, such as dairy products. Furthermore, the focus of the 'altered diet' is on increasing the intake of slow carbohydrates (such as nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits) and restricting the intake of fast carbohydrates (such as refined grains and sugars). The premise of this study is that type 2 diabetes may be 'reversed' through an altered diet and healthier lifestyle (Taylor, Diabetes Care, 2013).
In this study we follow 400 patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes; 200 of them participate in the control group (regular diet) and 200 in the treatment group (altered diet). All participants are monitored in terms of their medical condition (using standard methods of the Dutch organisation of general practitioners), including blood pressure, morning blood glucose and HbA1c levels (the amount of glucose bound to haemoglobin). Actual food intake and perceived quality of life are monitored through questionnaires. In this project, diabetes patients are stimulated to change their lifestyle and take charge of their own well-being, which fits right in line with our new concept of health. The project is funded by De Friesland foundation. We expect to publish our findings in 2017, in a scientific journal article as well as a publication aimed at a broader audience.