There has been a good amount of attention and time spent on discussing the “reversal” of diabetes, but there’s not been a lot of good facts to explain what this means. First, type 1 diabetes (an autoimmune disease) cannot be reversed, cured or avoided – period. It can be managed with insulin and made easier with good lifestyle choices like staying active and eating a healthy diet.
Alternative medicine for diabetes is big business, because the public health burden of diabetes is massive, and growing. In 1985, the worldwide prevalence was 30 million people. In 2000, it was 150 million. By 2030, it could be 250 million. Why are more people being diagnosed with diabetes? Obesity, sedentary lifestyles, and an aging population. At its core, diabetes is a disease of sugar (glucose) management. Insulin, secreted by the pancreas, allows cells to use glucose. When the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin, it’s called Type 1 diabetes. This is an autoimmune disease that strikes early in life, and was a death sentence until insulin was discovered. When the pancreas can produce insulin, but the amount is insufficient, or when there’s a problem with the uptake of insulin into cells, it’s termed type 2 diabetes. 90% of all diabetes is type 2. Typically a disease of older adults, type 2 diabetes can potentially be treated without drugs of any kind, but success rates are low and medication is eventually advisable. There’s also gestational diabetes, a disease of pregnancy, and prediabetes, where blood sugars are elevated, and diabetes is an expected future diagnosis.
If a drug treatment’s efficacy is questionable, the adverse event and safety profile is even more important. As a popular food additive, cinnamon seems safe when consumed at doses of a few grams per day. (1 teaspoon of the powder is about 4.75 grams). While the trials have been small and short in duration, no significant adverse events have been reported. It is Generally Recognised as Safe (GRAS), as a seasoning and flavoring. However, reversible liver damage has been reported with therapeutic use, due to coumarin, a chemical also present in Cassia cinnamon. Those with liver impairment or dysfunction may be at greater risk of harm. There are no published long-term studies with cinnamon that inform us whether chronic consumption of high doses is safe.
John’s naturopath, Susan DeLaney, ND, RN, from The Wellness Alliance in Carrboro, North Carolina, considers diabetes to be reversed when an individual is no longer dependent on medication to maintain blood glucose levels within a fairly normal range. Kathie Madonna Swift, MS, RD, LDN, owner of Swift Nutrition and author of The Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health, describes reversal of diabetes as “restoring function and bringing the body back into glycemic balance.”
“Patients should empower themselves by checking their blood sugars daily, knowing what their target blood sugar levels should be, and having regular appointments with their doctor,” Arguello added. “If patients are having blood sugars above their target blood sugar levels then this may be a warning sign that they need to talk with their physician on how to take a different approach in managing their diabetes.”
Note that these medications used to treat type 2 diabetes are typically not used in pregnant or breastfeeding women. At present the only recommended way of controlling diabetes in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding is by diet, exercise, and insulin therapy. You should speak with your health-care professional if you are taking these medications, are considering becoming pregnant, or if you have become pregnant while taking these medications.