Mortality and Diet

Hi All
I’m newly diagnosed (three months), 46 years old and I have been vegan for 7 yrs. As I settle into my new routines, I am starting to learn more about being diabetic.
In particular, I am interested to understand the links between diet, and glucose, and mortality. The reason I went vegan was because so many people in my family experienced health issues that are aggravated or caused by eating animal products (I stayed vegan because it made me feel so much better mentally and physically, and I do not associate it with my become T1D).
It seems to me that diabetics are more inclined to eat animal products, because they tend to be higher loaded with proteins and fats, rather than carbs. So then I wonder, if there is any research that has adjusted diabetic mortality for dietary factors.
Considering how new my disease is, I am reasonably satisfied with my progress toward control, but longer term I would like to make informed decisions about the balance of my diet with such information.
Are you vegan diabetic? Have you heard of any research around this subject? I’d be interested to hear your opinion. Many thanks for having me here!

Hi and welcome to the forum! I’m not vegan but it is well known that diets high in fat and cholesterol can cause or affect a multitude of health issues. I was diagnosed in the early 1960s and as medical science was trying to understand the condition a number of different eating approaches were developed over time. With advancements now it is more of an “all things in moderation” approach, managing your insulin to cover the carbs you eat and taking into account exercise and other factors.
There are a number of meal styles that people follow for health, and are probably considered healthier than the typical American way - Mediterranean style, vegetarian, and vegan to name a few. So long as you’re getting the nutrients your body needs is probably okay - some people decide to become vegetarian by simply eliminating flesh products, and end up making their health worse (temporarily) because they aren’t getting everything they need to function. You’ve been began for a while so it sounds like you know what you’re doing. Most newly diagnosed sit down with a nutritionist to learn about carb counting, how to estimate portion sizes when dining out, and to get some guidelines for losing or gaining weight if necessary. In your case they can help you determine if there’s anything you need to add or do so your vegan style continues to work well for you and your Type1. They probably have information about meal styles and length of life as well.

Thanks for your kind and gentle words. I did sit down with a nutritionist, but I am in a bit of a backwater, in Southern France, and in some key ways I think I knew more than she did.
I’ve found some interesting works to read, but so far nothing that distinguishes between diet and insulin as a cause of higher mortality. So for example, there is evidence that insulin usage is associated with higher rates of cancer, but equally, those eating more cancerous diets will need higher insulin. Chicken or the egg? Thanks again for your response!

Yes, as you learn more about Type1 - and specifically YOUR Type1 - you may find your personal learnings are greater than their book knowledge. There is a book called “Think Like a Pancreas” by Gary Scheme. Not only does he work in the field of diabetes health care, he lives with Type1 himself. You might find it helpful in your learnings.
Having Type1 isn’t fun, but try to keep your thoughts on the positive side - put your focus on living rather than mortality. Everyone will die at some time, and we may die earlier. Or we may outlive those around us. Growing up (again I was diagnosed in 1963) I couldn’t help notice that diabetes was ranked among the top 3 leading causes of death here in the US. Jamanetwork - a network of the American Medical Association - shoes diabetes ranked at #9 for 2020 so things are getting better. Tools, knowledge and treatments are improving so we have greater ability to help ourselves. Diabetes can contribute to and further complicate treatment of diseases higher on the list such as heart disease, but taking care of your diabetes overall can go a long way to helping manage others if they develop. A long time ago I heard it said that the way diabetics (ideally) eat - an overall healthful regimen - is the way people should eat as a whole, so your seven year advantage of a health conscious lifestyle should serve you well - you’re ahead of the pack.
Not trying to discourage you from learning, and if having the mortality info and statistics keeps you on your hands I wish you well in your search. Keep in mind that what you’re already doing well serve you well in the long run.
A bientôt mon ami!

Thanks again for your thoughts. I agree with you. Please don’t worry, I. Very relaxed about my condition, andy curiosity about mortality is a healthy one.
I start by being vegan for health reasons, then I want to understand the role of this lifestyle choice in my disease, and of course what is know about the disease more broadly. I like learning :slight_smile:
Thanks again, et bonne journée !

@jamesdb1 Hello James, and welcome to the JDRF TypeOneNation Forum! A couple of things upfront:

  • When you say “I went vegan”, I’m assuming that you began a diet similar to the diet of practitioners of veganism; that is, a totally plant based diet. From what I understand, this can be extremely healthful, but only when foods are carefully selected and eaten in proper portion to insure healthful nutrition.

  • TypeOne Diabetes, that is, Autoimmune Diabetes the focus of this forum is NOT caused by what we eat, or what we ate before onset. TypeOne is caused by the body killing off its own beta-cells having identified them as harmful. Mortality FROM diabetes depends much on how well each person with diabetes chooses to manage one’s own health condition. I was diagnosed many decades ago as a kid and told by doctors that I tried hard I might live as long as 10 years - I’m now past 80 years.

Now for your specific questions: YES, you can live a healthy life with diabetes and continue eating a vegan type diet that is strictly plant based. I expect that after seven years, you know how to select foods that will provide good level of protein, fats and, carbohydrate along with fiber and other essential [natural] vitamins. There are published guides put together by reputable organizations.

The real chalenge with diabetes is finding what is for you the “magical balance” between Food Consumption, your Activity level and, Insulin dose. For me, this balance often shifts and today is much different than it was a year ago and a decade ago. And that brings in the fourth element of effective diabetes management - your personal observation, being able to recognize change in your body and be ready to make necessary adjustments in your insulin regimen. You will make plenty of mistakes, but you can learn. Trial & error.

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I’m not vegan, but I have been trying to cut down on my meat consumption. I made some awesome vegan chili this week using Beyond “beef” and it tasted just like the real thing.

As Wanda said, I believe in a balanced, varied diet. Some people try to go low carb, and it may work for them, but ultimately I’m not a fan. Any decent cellular biology class will teach you that the basic functions of every cell in your body depend on carbs, and digesting protein and fat creates biproducts which make more work for your kidneys (already doing more work dealing with your higher than normal blood sugar levels).

Another important lesson I was taught early on in dealing with diabetes is that you match your insulin to what you eat (and do), not the other way around.

If you’re happy with your diet and it’s meeting your nutritional needs, stick with it. Just find the insulin dosage that works to keep your sugars under control.

As for mortality: My grandfather lived to 110, and he was spry and healthy for almost his whole life. He said the secret was “Get diabetes and have a mild heart attack, and then… take care of them.” He walked or exercised religiously, kept a careful diet, tracked his blood sugars, took his meds… And lived a long happy life.

Many things impact your health. Diabetes is just one factor. But the way diabetes impacts your long-term health and quality of life is your blood sugar. Over time, excess sugar builds up in your blood vessels, joints, organs, etc. That can restrict blood flow, leading to complications like organ failure. It can put you at increased risk for infection. It makes your joints stiffer. But that’s based on long-term averages. Running high now and again isn’t a problem if your overall control is good, and early damage can be reversed with better control that allows the excess sugar to be reabsorbed, clearing the blockages.

A vegan diet isn’t inherently healthy. A lot of vegan alternatives make heavy use of things like coconut oil, which is high in saturated fat. High fructose corn syrup is vegan, too. As is most sugar. If you’re living off popcorn cooked in coconut oil and covered in caramel, your lifespan may be shorter than you think. But if you’re on a healthy balanced diet and you keep your sugars under control and watch for other health conditions as they may develop, you’ve got a good chance at living well.

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I’m an omnivore, myself, but I try to avoid meat (and by that I mean all kinds from cattle to arthropods) for sustainability reasons. When I cook dinner at home I mostly cook vegan or vegetarian dishes. And, for a diabetic, my meals tend be to relatively high in carbohydrates. I like starchy foods, plain and simple, but I also have a hard time managing my blood sugar overnight when my dinner is high in fat and protein. For example, I like Beyond Burgers better than the real thing but, just like the real thing, they make my blood sugar plummet right after dinner and then rise slowly throughout the night.

I’m not familiar with any studies on the subject, but frankly, I don’t think my insulin cares if the fat I eat comes from a cow or an avocado. My heart might care, but not my insulin. I figure that if your diet makes you feel healthy and happy and you’re able to keep your blood sugars in range, then all’s well!

Thanks for your comments I appreciate them. For what it’s worth, there doesn’t seem to be any reputable evidence that plant based saturated fats (coconut oil) are a problem. On top of animal fats they might not help. But alone, they seem not to affect the body the same way.

You might be right that insulin doesn’t differentiate, but the body does. Thanks for your thoughts.
Personally I have been avoiding processed food like vegan burgers at night and it seems to help.
But I am lucky, 50% of nights I eat dinner with a three year old, so we tend to keep a relatively simple diet.

I don’t know what you personally consider reputable, but color me dubious. Regardless of whether it was made by a plant or an animal, a saturated fat molecule still doesn’t have any double bonds. Therefore, it will be just as difficult to digest and just as quick to congeal into a solid. But I’m too tired to go digging through medical studies and debating organic chemistry. Do what works for you and your medical team.