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Doctors For Nutrition’s call for change

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care, and Sport undertakes an inquiry into diabetes in Australia, with a view to improving policies and supporting all Australians.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care, and Sport (the Committee) has embarked on a critical journey—an inquiry into diabetes in Australia.

Urgent action is needed.

1 in 20 Australians are living with diabetes. This number has increased almost 2.8-fold between 2000 and 2021. This figure is likely to be higher as it is estimated 500,000 people are living with silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.

This inquiry aims to draw conclusions and recommendations based on submissions and evidence, with a focus on:

  • Understanding the root causes of diabetes
  • Exploring new evidence-based advances in prevention and management
  • Evaluating the broader impacts of diabetes on Australia’s health system and economy
  • Examining interrelated health issues between diabetes and obesity in Australia
  • Assessing the effectiveness of current Australian Government policies and programs

With a vision for a world free of preventable diseases, DFN commends the Committee’s efforts to improve policies and support systems, ultimately benefiting all Australians.

The crucial role of diet in diabetes prevention

The underlying mechanism of type 2 diabetes, comprising 85% of reported cases, is insulin resistance. Contrary to popular belief, it is not carbohydrates or sugar that cause insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is caused by a build-up of fat inside muscle and liver cells. Fat stored in these cells reduces their sensitivity to insulin, resulting in increased blood glucose levels.

Type 2 diabetes remains largely preventable by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. DFN champions a whole food plant-based (WFPB) eating pattern as the key intervention.

Research has consistently demonstrated the numerous benefits of a WFPB eating pattern for the prevention and reversal of diabetes, including weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity, blood sugar regulation, reduced inflammation, and a lower risk of comorbidities.

T2D submission

Prevention before cure

DFN advocates for the prevention of disease. Our healthcare system is designed to treat illness and is poorly equipped to assist the general population in preventing chronic illness; especially in the case of type 2 diabetes.

Researchers have found that people who followed a vegan diet had a 78% lower risk of developing diabetes, compared to non-vegetarians. We also know that a plant-based diet can improve long-term glucose control and reduce the need for medication.

People who followed a vegan diet had a 78% lower risk of developing diabetes, compared to non-vegetarians.

The cost of diabetes

Considerations of cost must extend beyond the serious financial implications, there is also the profound physical, mental, and emotional toll on those affected, along with their families and broader networks.

The economic cost of diabetes in Australia was $14.6 billion in 2017.

WFPB nutrition not only effectively manages the disease but also offers significant additional advantages, notably its environmental sustainability. In a time when three-quarters of the nation express concerns about climate change, this presents a substantial and encouraging aspect.

Obesity as a risk factor

The interrelatedness between diabetes and obesity is indisputable. Up to 60% of type 2 diabetes diagnoses can be attributed to excess weight or obesity. Plant-based diets result in greater weight loss compared to a non-vegetarian diet.

Calling for effective prevention strategies

DFN suggests that the Australian Dietary Guidelines review, regulation to discourage poor food choices and education must be at the forefront of change.

Our participation in the ‘Inquiry into Diabetes in Australia’ isn’t simply a response—it’s a passionate plea for change. Our submission underlines the potential of nutrition in preventing and managing diabetes, urging a shift toward evidence-based, preventative healthcare policies.

We firmly believe that concerted efforts can transform the landscape of diabetes management for a healthier, more informed future.

Read the full submission (including references).

You can also view Dr. Neal Barnard (MD, FACC, Adjunct Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.) presenting research on nutrition and T2DM during a 2022 Food Vitals webinar.

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