The Role of a Plant-Based Diet In Healing Type 2 Diabetes

“When we look to nature we always find answers and healingtestimony that food from Mother Earth is the remedy for many chronic ailments. Choose life first and the rest will follow.“ - Tshepo Mosese, Actor, Singer & South Africa's Diabetes Ambassador.

Type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease affecting millions worldwide, has been increasingly linked to dietary choices. Research, including Africa’s first academic study initiated by Ubuntu Wellness, underscores the potential of whole plant-based diets in healing this condition. 

Understanding Diabetes and its Impact 

Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or cannot utilise it effectively, leading to elevated blood sugar. This condition can cause damage to vital organs and is a leading cause of death globally. Type 2 diabetes, characterised by insulin resistance, is the most common form and is heavily influenced by lifestyle factors such as diet and physical activity. 

In the 1960s, Dr Denis Burkitt, who worked as a missionary surgeon in Uganda, observed and reported that there were simply no diabetes, hypertension, obesity or other lifestyle diseases prevalent in the population. Known as ‘The Fibre Man’, he put this down to the healing powers of  food – particularly fibrous plants and the lack of meat in the daily diet.  

The Role of Plant-Based Diets in Diabetes Management 

Plant-based diets rich in fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, have been recognised for their benefits in managing diabetes. Dr Laurie Marbas, Senior Editor of the International Journal of Disease Reversal and Prevention, highlights the effectiveness of such diets in improving health outcomes for diabetes patients in an article on ‘The Science of Diabetes’ in Ubuntu Wellness’ new recipe book, Healing Diabetes and Other Lifestyle Diseases - Cooking Africa’s Plant-based Whole Foods. This food as medicine approach addresses the root cause of type 2 diabetes - fat accumulation in the muscle cells leading to insulin resistance. By reducing saturated fats found in animal products and increasing nutrient-dense plant foods, the body's insulin function can be improved, and the progression of diabetes can be halted or even reversed. 

The Ubuntu Wellness Approach 

Ubuntu Wellness in Cape Town has been at the forefront of implementing plant-based nutritional strategies to combat diabetes. Their programme, which combines nutritional guidance, medical monitoring, and lifestyle coaching, has shown promising results, with over 100 participants, of which over 20% are in remission or reversal. Stories like that of Pearl Mpange, who healed her type 2 diabetes in April 2021, exemplify the programme's success. The research led by Prof Robinson and Dr Wyma from North-West University and PAN (Physicians Association for Nutrition) was shared at a conference in the Food Healers Pavilion at COP 27 in Egypt in October 2022, and study details are due to be published in the SA Journal for Clinical Nutrition, providing further scientific backing to these outcomes. 

Cultural Adaptation and Accessibility 

A key aspect of such dietary programmes is their adaptability to individual and cultural needs. Inspired by Dr Burkitt and the reality that people in Africa lived predominantly plant-based lives during pre-colonial times, Ubuntu Wellness offers 80 recipes from around Africa in their book, making the transition to plant-based diets more accessible and familiar, with a strong focus on affordable access to food and ingredients. For added convenience, a fresh and frozen food support range is also in preparation. 

The shift towards a plant-based diet, as advocated by Ubuntu Wellness and supported by scientific research, offers a viable path to managing and potentially reversing type 2 diabetes. 

About the Author 

Ian Macfarlane and his wife Dawn run Ubuntu Wellness Centre, a wellness social impact organisation at the Cape Town Medi-Spa. The healing centre aims to empower individuals to embrace a holistic health transformation while adopting a plant-based and healthy vegan lifestyle, supported by a multidisciplinary team offering daily consultations and support, aiming to promote plant-based healing while also influencing broader public health strategies. Visit www.ubuntuwellness.com 

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