Why a healthy diet should be the first thing a doctor prescribes

Australia desperately needs to rethink its attitude towards weight-related disease.

We live in a society where food is often positioned as the problem, when in actual fact, good, real food, is often the solution.

Kate Save, accredited dietitian and the CEO and founder of Be Fit Food.
Kate Save, accredited dietitian and the CEO and founder of Be Fit Food. Photo: Supplied

Every five minutes another Australian develops diabetes, with the combined direct and indirect cost of diabetes on the economy estimated to be as high as $14 billion a year. This is only expected to rise, as the World Health Organisation predicts diabetes to become the seventh leading cause of death worldwide by 2030.

Type 2 diabetes – the often-preventable type that regularly occurs as a consequence of lifestyle choices, namely diet – accounts for 85 per cent of all diabetes cases. Ninety per cent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, and according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, if every Aussie was to weigh in within a healthy weight range, there would be a 53 per cent reduction in the incidence of diabetes.

The medical term for diabetes occurring in the context of obesity is “diabesity”. But unlike obesity, public dialogue surrounding diabesity is low. This is despite the fact that it is a growing epidemic in Australia and that it comes with increased health complications. While diabesity has no cure, weight loss can delay or prevent progression of type 2 diabetes by up to 60 per cent.

Before the discovery of insulin in 1921, very low carbohydrate diets were considered the standard, effective treatment for type 2 diabetes, and this still rings true. There is reliable evidence to show that low-carb eating reduces body fat and lowers blood glucose levels, blood pressure and blood sugar concentration.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to undermine modern medicine – of course it’s indispensable. But an approach where drugs and synthetic supplements are prescribed as the first solution, before addressing diet, is not always the right one.

An unfortunate consequence of having discovered amazing medicine is that we were quick to forget that food should be the first line of treatment for weight-related chronic disease. Contrary to popular practice, I believe doctors should first prescribe a low-carb diet before reaching for an insulin prescription.

At our kitchen headquarters, sugar is banned. That’s blasphemy for many chefs, but our customers’ waistlines thank us for it. Moreover, it means that we’re active in tackling Australia’s growing health crisis of diabesity.

In addressing diabesity, medicine will only be effective in managing the disease and keeping its symptoms at bay. A healthy diet is still the best treatment for successfully sending type 2 diabetes into remission, so let’s not forget it.

Diabesity and how it can be prevented needs to brought to the fore, and healthy food prescribed as the first medicine in the treatment of chronic weight-related disease.

Kate Save is an accredited dietitian and the CEO and founder of Be Fit Food.

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