Tackling diabetes with a bold new dietary approach: Neal Barnard at TEDxFremont

today I'd like to talk about turning around an epidemic a 100 million Americans right now do have either diabetes or prediabetes and that puts them at risk for amputations for heart disease for blindness and we're exporting this epidemic overseas now the word epidemic comes from old Greek epi means on damos means people so an epidemic is something that we study with sterile statistics and maps and graphs but the truth is it's something that impinges directly on people on living breathing human beings but my story actually starts in the basement of a Minneapolis hospital the year before I went to medical school I was the morgue attendant or as I like to say the autopsy assistant what that meant was whenever anybody died I would bring the body out of the cooler and put the body on an examination table and the pathologist would come into the room and one day a person died in the hospital of a massive heart attack probably from eating hospital food but that's another story so to examine the heart you have to remove a section of ribs and this is not done with great delicacy you take what looks like a garden clipper and you go crunch crunch crunch through the ribs on this side and crunch crunch crunch through the ribs on this side and the pathologist pulled this big high wedge of ribs off the chest set it on the table and he knew that I was going to be going to medical school so he wanted to make sure that I saw everything it would say kneel look at this these are the coronary arteries we call them coronary coronary because they crowned the heart and he sliced one open he said look inside and so with my gloved finger I poked around and it wasn't a wide open artery it had what was sort of like chewing gum inside except that it was hard like a rock and he said that's your bacon and eggs nail that's atherosclerosis and we looked at the carotid arteries going to the brain the arteries going to the legs the arteries going to the kidneys they all had this hardening of the arteries this atherosclerosis he said we see the beginnings of this in two-thirds of people by age 23 which happened to be the exact age that I was at the time so anyway he writes up his findings massive atherosclerosis acute myocardial infarction and he leaves the room so I picked up the ribs and put them back in the chest tried to make them fit right with the other ribs and I sewed up the skin and cleaned up and then I went out and went up to the cafeteria where it turned out they were serving ribs for lunch now let me tell you something I knew about ribs I grew up in Fargo North Dakota I come from a long line of cattle ranchers and I remember the smell of the cows out in the field I remember the smell of the cows in my grandpa's barn and I remember driving a load of cattle with my uncle to East st. Louis to the National Stock Yards and I remember the National stockyards hotel two dollars a night and the smell of that room and I have to say every day in my life it was roast beef baked potatoes in corn except for special occasions when it was roast beef baked potatoes and peas and that's sort of the way we ate but my father did not like the cattle business so he left left the family farm and he went to medical school and he spent his life at the Fargo clinic treating diabetes he became the diabetes expert for the whole region and I have to say my father really was was frustrated because patients were given diets that they did not like what we would say is or what they would say is diabetes is a condition where there's too much sugar in your blood so don't eat anything that turns to sugar so don't eat bread don't eat fruit don't eat pasta don't eat rice don't eat sweet potatoes don't eat regular potatoes don't eat beans don't eat carrots all these things had to be limited and while you're at it cut calories and that's what people were supposed to adhere to that gets old by Wednesday patients were also given medicines and they were given needles and instruction on how to stick their fingers and how to inject insulin and despite all of this diabetes never got better it always progressed and it then became something that we were exporting overseas and when I got out of medical school we had more medicines and I think we had sharper needles but to the truth it was the same sort of result we had unhappy patients and we never ever cured this disease it never turned around it was always considered a progressive disease but there were two scientific discoveries that really turned all of this around and the first one was taking the widest possible lens if you look around the world at those countries that have the least diabetes like Japan for example they weren't following anything like the diet that we were giving to diabetic patients we weren't saying gee I'm not gonna eat rice I'm what he noodles they eat this kind of food all the time its front and center on their plate and the second discovery came from looking inside the cell especially the muscle cell and the reason we look at muscle cells in particular is that's where glucose is going that's where blood sugar is going that's the fuel that powers your movement you know about a person who's running a marathon what are they doing in the weeks leading up for it they're carbo loading so they're eating pasta and they're eating bread to try to get that glucose into the cell for energy and that is the problem in diabetes because glucose glucose is there outside the cell trying to get inside in order to get in it needs a key and that key is insulin now what if I get home and I'm getting up to my front door and I take my key out of my pocket I put it in the front door wait a minute it's not working and there's nothing wrong with my key but I look in the lock and while I was gone somebody put chewing gum in my lock so what am I going to do crawl in and out the window no I'm gonna clean out the lock well when a person has diabetes their insulin key is not working why would that be why could insulin not signal this what's supposed to happen is the glucose is supposed to enter into the cell and glucose is the key that makes that happen but the reason it doesn't happen it's not that there's chewing gum inside the cell what there is is fat fat little globules of fat now I have to say doctors hate words like fat it's got one syllable so we want to call it intra Mayo cellular lipid intra means inside Myo means muscle cellular means cellular little bit lipid means fat interim io cellular lipid is fat inside your muscle cells and that is what interferes with insulins ability to work like a key to signal glucose coming in now in 2003 the National Institutes of Health gave my research team a grant and said let's test something completely different instead of limiting breads and all of these kinds of things what if if fat is the issue what if we have a diet that has effectively no fat in it well where does fat come from it comes from two sources animal products animal fat and vegetable oils so we brought in 99 people and we asked them to do two things to really eat a bounty of who not worrying about quantity we're not counting calories here we are not counting carb grams or anything like that what we're doing instead is we're setting the animal product decide keeping the vegetable oils low very simple now one of our participants was a man named Vance and Vance's father was dead by age 30 Vance was 31 when he was diagnosed with diabetes he was in his late 30s when he came to see us and he said this is not hard unlike every other diet he had been on we didn't care how many carbs he ate or how many calories or how many portions if he was having chili not a meat chili it would be a bean chili chunky vegetable chili if he was having spaghetti instead of a meat topping it would be topped with artichoke hearts and wild mushrooms and chunky tomato sauce um that kind of thing very very easy over a course of about a year he lost 60 pounds his blood sugar came down and down and down and one day his doctor sat him down and said bands I know you've had family members die of this disease but as I look at your blood tests you don't have it anymore and can you imagine what that feels like to have family members who felt there was absolutely a one way street and have the disease just turn around and when I asked Vance's permission to tell you about his story he said make sure you tell everybody that my erectile disfunction went away to write that down okay so we published our findings in peer-reviewed journals the American Diabetes Association now cites it and accepts that accepts this as an effective approach and people around the world started using this and I heard from a man in England who wanted to let me know about his experience he hadn't had diabetes tried all kinds of diets without a lot of success and then he heard about our approach tried it for several weeks went to the doctor the doctor drew a number of blood tests and he got home the phone rang it's the doctor's office could you come back right now so he good heavens what's in my blood test and he raises it into his car and he's driving to the doctor's office thinking what disease did they discover on my blood test what did they find and he runs into the doctor's office they say we need to sit down explain exactly what you've been doing all traces of his diabetes were gone the doctor said your blood tests are better than mine and I don't have diabetes how is this possible the doctor explained to him that we can never say that a person has been cured of diabetes because we all know that's not possible but technically it's not there and the doctor was skeptical he said come back in two months I want to test you again never came back now wait a minute diabetes is genetic right it runs in families and there in fact are genes for diabetes but this is an important thing to remember genes are in two categories certain genes are dictators I'm talking about the genes that say blue eyes or brown hair they are dictators they give orders you can't argue but the genes for diabetes are committees they're making suggestions and you could say well wait a minute I don't really think I want to have diabetes and in fact most disease genes whether it's for heart disease or diabetes or hypertension certain forms of cancer even Alzheimer's disease they're not dictators they're committees and they are their activity depends on what we put into our bodies so what I'm saying is that we're putting into our bodies foods that we're really not designed for which raises the question what foods are we really designed for well there are different ways of looking at this and one is called the dental test do you know the dental test what you do is you wait for your cat to yawn and you look in your cat's mouth and what you notice is in his mouth are these very very long protruding canine teeth and on each side of his mouth it's just like a pitchfork it's really good for capturing prey killing small animals and ripping the hide off the flesh and eating me so now look at your own mouth what you discover is that your canine teeth are no longer than your incisors and that change occurred at least three and a half million years ago so our molars are really good for crunching on an apple they're not so hot for handling roadkill now there's the bunny test you know the bunny test you take a bunny and you put the bunny in front of your cat and what you discover no matter how young your cat is the cat has this irrepressible desire to capture attack kill and swallow that bunny now you put the very same bunny in front of a toddler or a baby and what you discover is that toddlers say bunny bunny they want to play and the little baby is just absolutely delighted the idea of killing of an idiom would never occur to them in a million years we're learning something here do you know the box test you take a box that was used to carry electronic equipment and you you look around in the bottom and what you find is silica gel and silica gel is there to take moisture out of the box and apparently the manufacturers of silica gel have realized that human beings are so indiscriminate in our eating habits that they have to put these words on there do not eat so here's how I put this together human beings are naturally herbivores but we're really easily thrown off track so now the fact of the matter is before thee before the Stone Age people would have been just terrible hunters real you know this is true because we're not very quick now a lion a lion is quick a lion can capture easily in the forest a lion can easily catch a gazelle a hawk or an owl can easily catch a mouse humans we sort of catch cold that's like it we don't really detect prey very well we don't have sensitive noses if you look at a dog a dog has a very highly developed sense of smell they could detect prey at long distances which is why they are used in airports to detect bombs and and drugs and that kind of thing and their sense of hearing far outstrips ours they are outfitted to be able to detect prey now human beings we have cute noses and we have cute ears but we really are pathetic as as hunters and if you're going to succeed as a carnivore you need good sharp claws good sharp teeth you need to be very very quick and you need to have sensitive hearing sensitive smell sensitive vision which actually raises the question what is the most sensitive part of the human body what do you think well I actually learned the answer as I was coming here I was at the airport and the TSA agent pulled me aside and he said I got to do a pat-down but when I get to a sensitive part of your body I'll use the back of my hand and I realized that apparently the most sensitive part of the human body must be our back side I guess so anyway what I take from this is that meat-eating began somehow how did it begin I put that question to Richard Leakey and Richard Leakey the famous paleoanthropologist and what he said was you know human beings as as herbivores you don't have to be quick you don't have to be particularly sharp or sensitive because you don't really have to sneak up on a strawberry it's just sitting there it's not doing anything but to become carnivores really took some work and it probably started as scavenging in other words a lion doesn't eat everything when they walk away from the little pile of Bones they've left there's a little meat there and humans could relatively easily sneak in and cut some of that off and take it back now that requires having some tools to do that with so once the Stone Age arrived then we had the possibility of actually doing that and once we had arrowheads and axes and that sort of thing then we're really onto something meat-eating really became a big thing but we have pre Stone Age bodies to this day when a person puts into their body plant foods their arteries open up again their diabetes starts to get better their weight starts to come off their their body starts to recover now Americans unfortunately are really not on the diabetes reversal diet Americans today eat more than a million animals per hour and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that one in three kids born in the year 2000 and in the earth sense is going to get diabetes at some point in their life and you see the truth of it turn on the television half the commercials are for burgers chicken wings snack foods the other half of the commercials are for medicines to undo the effects of all the foods that we're eating so that's where we are and what if it happened that instead of a hundred million Americans having diabetes or prediabetes what if all hundred million have diabetes itself or more people than that and all of them need medicines and testing and hospital care and so forth financially it's a disaster but personally the personal cost is just in calculable now I think we're starting to turn the corner my family has promoted me for generation after generation after generation however in 2004 we reached a peak at 200 1.5 pounds of meat that's what the average person consumed in that year and in the subsequent years it's dropped and dropped and dropped we're now under 190 and hopefully that downward trend will continue but to this day doctors dieticians nurses they will say diabetes is a one-way street it never goes away but that was before we looked around the world and so you know there are dietary patterns that are more healthful and that was before we realized that looking inside the cell we can understand how this occurs and we can understand how to reverse this process and it was before we realized that patients will make bigger changes than we gave them credit for so families like mine that have been selling meat for generations instead maybe we can sell carrots asparagus and sweet potatoes and beans and hopefully the autopsy room will be more neglected than ever because people are going to live longer and they're going to live better and maybe the hospital cafeteria instead of serving ribs could serve a bounty of healthful foods and instead of studying epidemics maybe we can celebrate a resurgence of health thank you very much [Applause]


  1. My buddy proposed this “Gαjοjο Fivu” (Google it) for my weight and diabetic issues. This guide the best fitness and diet regime to follow. After 1 day on the diet regime my own blood sugar levels was decrease about Thirty-five points, and by day 4 it was down about 60 points. It`s been efficient for me. I am happy that my blood sugar is a lot better now…

  2. Mr Barnard is the most scaly looking man, I don't trust him one bit.

  3. i reckon youre wrong

  4. Observations: Eskimos eat meat, Eat Right for Your Blood Type promotes eating of red meat for type O, Fish Oil & Gelatin are good for the body. Question: What's the relevance to low incidence of diabetes? Personally, I'm dumping processed meats and foods. A few weeks ago, I picked bits of blue soft plastic out of the processed meat that I had been eating for several days. Was disgusted and will pursue/follow up with corporation that is responsible.

  5. there is only one solution for diabetes. No sugar, no carbs. Everything else you hear is total BS.

  6. Iceland and Japan eat fish.

  7. I have no other word, but EXCELLENT presentation!

  8. This was awesome !!

  9. hugely informative talk , I learned so much . Thank you

  10. you can add the length of the intestine as well to your list of comparison b/w herbivorous and carnivores.

  11. Then my question is: Why did they kill Dr Sebi?

  12. What are we designed to eat? Whatever we can get. For millions of years our ancestors endured deprivation, disease, exposure, insects and predators. Living to 30 was unusual. Our biological purpose is to replicate ourselves and once we have done that nature is through with us, we can die and it makes no difference to the survival of our species. We are successful and our genes are passed on. So living to 50 and beyond has no evolutional advantage. What I'm saying is that after about 40 we are fighting nature to stay alive. When our ancestors were 10,15,20, they had the instinct to eat what they could get to survive today, living to 50 and beyond was not the goal. In our world today with abundant and concentrated foods this instinct kills us, but not before we pass on our genes.

  13. Entertaining.
    Too bad that it's all wrong. Completely wrong. So wrong that it is useless to argue about it.

  14. You lost me with ‘we’re exporting this epidemic overseas….’. I realize Mexico, for instance isn’t overseas, but their diabetes (and alcoholism) rates are ‘through the roof’. Mothers down there regularly feed their kids coke and candy bars for breakfast, the adults live on carbs and pure sugar. We don’t export it, they bring it in.

  15. Don't listen to this clown, he's pushing a high carb diet of grains and no animal products!

  16. This man is Precious! I enjoyed his humor so much! And I learned valuable information too!

  17. I really don't care for meat but I don't want to eat a bunch of carbs:/

  18. Bigfoot

  19. He lied from the start when my mother was given a diabetic diet to eat back in the 90s it was carb heavy and veg heavy. Just made it worse.

  20. This Neal Barnard is a quack. Actually worse, as he doesn't disclose his agenda. He is substantially funded by PETA. (Starting in fiscal year 1994, donations and grants to PCRM reportedly totaled more than a million dollars). He has decided against all meat and now makes up statements to try to support that point. He uses statistics the way a drunk uses a lamp post: for support, not for illumination.

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