Many people have noticed veggie burgers showing up on menus at fast food and casual eateries. But, “What’s the point?” one might ask. It turns out that not only are vegetable-, grain- and bean-based burgers better for the general public, but they’ve now been scientifically shown to have a remarkable impact on those suffering from Type 2 diabetes. Within hours, the difference in one's ability to secrete insulin can be measured.

Most people believe that diabetes is caused by too much sugar and carbs in our diet, but it turns out saturated fat is the main culprit. In the book, “Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes,” Dr. Barnard, who is the president and founder of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, explains that too much saturated fat in our diet, found mostly in meat, dairy and eggs, embeds itself in our muscle cells. This fat in the cells, called intramyocellular lipids, then creates insulin resistance, and glucose cannot get into the muscle cells to provide energy, but rather is trapped in the bloodstream, and therefore results in high blood sugar. Additionally, as a counterpunch, the pancreas becomes overburdened from attempting to produce more and more insulin to overcome the insulin resistance. It is then unable to deliver the necessary amount, eventually leading to a Type II diabetic needing to inject insulin. All of this downstream effect is driven by a high saturated fat diet, in this case, a traditional hamburger.

But, in a recent study of men who had been diabetic for more than eight years, when given a veggie burger instead, each man’s pancreas secreted 30 percent more insulin than when the same men had been given a beef burger. This metabolic response took place over a three hour time frame, and the positive results could already begin to be measured within thirty minutes.

This 30 percent increase in insulin secretion is equivalent to diabetes medication, with none of the side effects, just from food. And not only that, over time if one continues to eat this way, the saturated fat built up in the muscle cells recedes, reducing insulin resistance, reducing one’s diabetic profile, and finally and profoundly, curing diabetes. As remarkable as this fact alone is, this same veggie burger also reduces one’s risk of heart disease by not damaging the arterial walls with plaque buildup, and the blood itself does not become viscous, or sticky, decreasing blood flow. All of this damage is caused by saturated fat and cholesterol, found only in animal products and processed junk food, not in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans.

A note of gratitude has to go out to Dr. Barnard and his team at PCRM for sponsoring this study, published in the journal, “Nutrients,” and to Dr. Hana Kahleova, the lead researcher. Dr. Kahleova expressed her comments on the outcomes of the study by emphasizing the power of food. “We’ve proved that one single plant-based meal is able to increase your insulin secretion as effectively as your medication, but another thing to realize is that a plant-based diet does a lot more. Your medication may increase your insulin secretion, but it will not affect your cholesterol levels, your high blood pressure and so on, while the plant-based meal will address all these risk factors at once.”

If you’ve been wondering what all the hype is about plant-based diets, now you know.

To learn more, Dr. Benjamin Ha runs a plant-based workshop, free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to noon on the first Sunday of the month at Kaiser Permanente on Ming Avenue (the second Sunday in September due to Labor Day weekend).

Patsy Ouellette is a retired teacher and long-time advocate for plant-based nutrition.