Mastering Diabetes with Dr. Cyrus Khambatta: How a plant-based diet can help with Type 1 Diabetes

by | Feb 11, 2021 | 0 comments

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 2003, then earned a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 2012. He is the co-author of many peer-

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 2003, then earned a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 2012. He is the co-author of many peer-reviewed scientific publications and is the co-author of the New York Times bestselling book Mastering Diabetes.

He is the co-founder of Mastering Diabetes and Amla Green, and is an internationally recognized nutrition and fitness coach who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2002. He co-created the Mastering Diabetes Method to reverse insulin resistance in all forms of diabetes, and has helped more than 10,000 people improve their metabolic health using low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition, intermittent fasting, and exercise.

He is the co-host of the annual Mastering Diabetes Online Summit, a featured speaker at the Plant-Based Nutrition and Healthcare Conference (PBNHC), the American College of Lifestyle Medicine Conference (ACLM), Plant Stock, the Torrance Memorial Medical Center, and has been featured on NPR, KQED, Forks Over Knives, Healthline, Fast Company, Diet Fiction, and the wildly popular podcasts Plant Proof and Nutrition Rounds. He is a co-author of the upcoming book Mastering Diabetes with Robby Barbaro, MPH.

Interview Transcript

Sean Hashmi, MD

Dr. Cyrus Khambatta is somebody that I consider an absolute guru. Who’s done such phenomenal work to make the field of research, especially around diabetes, go forward and make sure that they can simplify topics and explain them easily to understand.  Dr. Cyrus Khambatta has a phenomenal book on Mastering Diabetes. It’s New York Times bestseller.

You can look at everything else. You can look at autoimmune conditions. You can look at hypertension, obesity, but you always come back to diabetes.

Dr. Cyrus Khambatta has a phenomenal story about his own life and sort of how you’ve dealt with your illness.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD

I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when I was twenty-two.  I was a senior in college, and I was going to Stanford University, and I was trying to graduate and move on with my life. And out of the blue, I started to feel strange. When I say strange, the first symptom was just excessive thirst.

I’ve always been an athlete. I’ve always had a voracious appetite, and I’ve drunk plenty of liquids. But, to go from drinking five, six, seven, eight cups of water per day to triple that within a twenty- four hour period, I knew something was very wrong. So I was drinking conservatively one gallon, sometimes upwards of one and a half, maybe even two gallons of water. And it seemed like every time I take a drink of water or took a glass of water and put the cup down within five seconds, I was like, I’m thirstier.

I just got thirstier by drinking water. And I could just skip this process kept on happening over and over again. I was also urinating very frequently because the volume of fluids that I was taking on was so large that I ended up having to go to the bathroom every 30 minutes or so like clockwork. In addition to that, I also started to flush electrolytes. So when I would go to sleep, I would lay in bed, and my muscles would cramp very quickly.

So you’ve probably been in that situation where you’re lying in bed and all of a sudden your calf cramps and you wake up and you’re like, oh, wow, I got to get rid of that calf crap, right? So my calf would cramp on one side, and then I would like to relieve the stress inside that muscle. And in so doing, I would cramp my left butt cheek. And then, in trying to ease the tension in both of those muscles, I would end up cramping and ab and then a shoulder and then a chest.

And before I knew it, there were certain times where I was lying in bed in what felt like full-body rigor mortis. And I just had to surrender. I cannot understand why this is happening to me. So two days of this went by. I picked up the phone. I called my sister, and she is a doctor of osteopathy, family practice in Davis, California. And I said to her, I said, “Shanaz, can you please explain to me what is happening here?”

 And so I gave her all my symptomology. Shanaz is very smart.  She knew immediately. She said, “Cyrus, drop everything that you’re doing right now. Go straight to the hospital or straight to the medical center. You have type I diabetes”. Those are all symptoms.

I don’t have diabetes. I thought diabetes was only something that happened to all people who ate cake. That’s it.  And so I was like, I’m like, I’m young, I’m fit. I’m not overweight. I go straight to the health center. I check myself in; a nurse meets me, checks my blood glucose, and walks out of the room to put in a glucometer.  She comes back three or four minutes later. I passed out.

Your blood glucose is supposed to be between about 70 and 130—an average of about 100. Your blood glucose is in the 600s right now.

They took me to the hospital while I was there. They ended up giving me an IV of saline into one arm, and then they gave me an IV of insulin. And over 24 hours, they were able to lower my blood glucose from 600 down to approximately two hundred or so. They don’t want to go too much lower than that. So they just brought it down using insulin.

While I was in the hospital, they did a little bit of detective work, and they started to unfold my health history that nobody had given attention to before. And what they helped me figure out was over the course of the preceding six months, I had also developed two other autoimmune conditions. So now I was living with three autoimmune conditions. The first one was Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism insufficient thyroid production. Number two was Alopecia Universalis, which, I have no hair, I have no eyelashes, no eyebrows. I have zero hair on my body. And then number three, with Type one diabetes. So you can imagine, at the age of twenty-two, getting diagnosed with three autoimmune conditions within six months. That’s a little unnerving. So I didn’t know anything about health, and I was like, OK…did I do this is? Is this my fault? Am I doing something incorrectly, or am I just sort of like a victim of bad genes?

And so the doctors couldn’t give me an explanation. All they could tell me is they said, listen. When it comes to diabetes, the most effective solution is to eat a low carbohydrate diet. And I said, why? And they said, here’s why. When you lower your carbohydrate intake, you reduce your blood glucose. Chances of blood glucose going high after you eat a meal. So people living with all forms of diabetes, primarily type one diabetes, we recommend that they eat a low carbohydrate diet because, as they said in quotes, “carbs make your blood sugar spike.”

That was the sort of message that I kept on hearing over and over and over again. So I developed this idea of carbohydrates equals bad carbohydrates, equal, not suitable for Cyrus anymore. As a result, I started to eat a low carbohydrate diet with turkey burgers, milk, cheese, and red meat.  White meat and chicken are trying to go for lean cuts of meat, but trying to avoid also fruits, potatoes, bread, pasta, cereals, and anything that contains carbohydrates.

So I did that for a year. It was so obvious to me so, so quickly into this process that this was not the right approach because, again, eating a low carbohydrate diet was supposed to keep my blood glucose nice and stable. So what that means is that I should be able to check my blood glucose five, six, seven, ten times a day. And the number should be somewhere around one hundred. Maybe 100, 120, and 130, and 150.

But when I checked my blood glucose, my blood glucose was just ping-ponging. It was ping-ponging between three hundred and fifty and fifty. I would check my blood glucose at any given moment, and it felt like I was sticking a blood glucose meter into a random number generator. I had no idea what my body was going to be.  When you’re living with a blood glucose control problem, any form of diabetes or prediabetes and your blood glucose is bouncing around.

It drains everything out of you.  It drains your physical energy, mental energy, and emotional energy. You start to beat yourself up. You begin to say; I’m not smart enough; I can’t figure this out; Something is wrong with me; I’m broken.  It becomes a mental preoccupation. But then, in addition to that, when your glucose is bouncing all over the place, it’ll zap your energy when you’re super low, and then when you’re super high, it’ll make you extremely thirsty, and it’ll zap your energy again.

This process is going on for about a year. At a certain point, I was like, you know what, I’ve got to change something. I ended up transitioning to a plant-based diet just out of pure circumstance. I just ended up talking to some people who knew, some people who introduced me to a guy who taught me how to eat a plant-based diet. And within one week of eating low-fat plant-based whole foods literally full of fruits and vegetables, my carbohydrate intake went from being about one hundred grams of carbohydrate per day on a low carbohydrate diet to six hundred grams carbohydrate per day.

I was afraid that my insulin use would also go up if not double, triple, quadruple, something like that. But what ended up happening was that my carbohydrate intake went up by six-fold, and my insulin use went down. This is fascinating to me.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD

In the world of pop science, I’ll say, and in the world of sort of public health. People have become terrified of this term called “carbs.” And so you see it all over the place. Eat a low carb diet. Carbs are bad for you. Carbs will cause digestive inflammation, or carbs will increase your cholesterol. They will increase your glucose, risk for diabetes, and make you obese.

You see this all over the place. But, what the public health world should do, in my opinion, is preface the word carbs with another name, and then that other word should be “refined.” So if they said to limit your refined carbohydrate intake, nobody’s going to argue with that. That is it. That is a perfectly valid, scientifically valid message. The refined carbohydrates that they should be referring to are things that come in packages and cans, cookies, crackers, chips, waffles, sodas, bear claws, sugar-sweetened beverages, Gatorade, stuff like that.

These are all manufactured products, and they often contain high fructose corn syrup or added dextrose, or some version of an artificial sweetener. But there’s another class of carbohydrates, which nobody, in my professional opinion or very few people, should be limited. And those classic carbohydrates are not refined. They are “whole” carbohydrates. And so whole carbohydrates don’t come from packages and cans and bottles. They come from real food. They come from fruits. They come from starchy vegetables. They come from legumes, and they come from whole grains.

When I transitioned, I started eating fruits and vegetables. That was it. I didn’t venture into legume or starchy vegetable territory. I was just eating fruits and vegetables. And by doing that, my carbohydrate intake six folded, and my insulin use came down by 40 percent. So I was fascinated by this. This experiment was underway in my body. And I said you know what? I want to understand the science here because, at heart, I’m a scientist. I’m an engineer.

And I want to I like to understand. I like to tinker and try and find out how things work. And so I put myself back to graduate school to get a Ph.D. in nutritional biochemistry to understand the nitty-gritty details of the molecular biology of what’s happening in my pancreas and liver tissue, my muscle tissue, and my thyroid gland in my brain. And how are all these tissues communicating with each other? And in so doing, while I was at UC Berkeley for five years.

I uncovered almost 100 years’ worth of scientific data. That dates back to the 1920s. That clearly describes not only what happened inside of me living with Type I diabetes, but clearly explains the incredible effect of lowering saturated fat intake and increasing plant intake for people living with all forms of diabetes. And once I read that information, as light bulbs went off in my head, I was like, you know what, I understand. The scientific world has an excellent grasp of a plant-based diet’s power.

But in the public health world, what people do in the real world is the exact opposite. There’s a giant wall. The scientific research is very clear. The public is doing the exact opposite. I decided that I wanted to get involved in this world and teach people living with any form of diabetes, type one, one and a half, prediabetes, type two gestational. They can transition to a plant-based diet to get similar effects, if not ultimately better.

Sean Hashmi, MD

You have people on one side who are researchers, and then you have the general public. And the conduit between these two arms delivers what type of message. So there may be a research study that says, you know, white flour is bad for you, but by the time it comes out, it’s translated into carbs are bad for you. And that makes it very, very tricky.  In the part of the reason, I appreciate the work you’re doing is we have to be those conduits in the middle.

Sean Hashmi, MD

Because you can’t take a foreign language in that translation, it’s all about the translation. And the work that I’ve seen you do is you’re able to translate very complicated things into fundamental things that people can understand. I saw some of your PowerPoint in the diagrams you have. It makes it so obvious for people to know why this matters.

Let’s talk about some controversy. Two things. First, everybody jumps on a low carb diet. Now two main varieties come in, right? One is the Atkins flavor, which is low carb, high protein. Don’t get me started on a kidney perspective.

Sean Hashmi, MD

The low carb, Ketogenic or low carb, high-fat perspective, quote-unquote, “for weight loss”?

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD

Because low carbohydrate diets admittedly produce good results in the short term. They really do. It can be confusing if you have talked with somebody eating a low carbohydrate diet, or maybe you have done it yourself within a short period.  Often people who do this end up benefiting from it. Let’s take somebody who is eating the standard American diet. Their protein intake is probably around 20 percent of total calories, maybe 25 percent. Their fat intake is about 40 percent of total calories, and carbohydrate intake is around 40 percent.  They’ve been eating this way for years. And what ends up happening over time is most people who had a standard American diet end up developing some combination of chronic conditions. It could be high blood glucose and or prediabetes.

It could be the beginning stages of chronic kidney disease. It could be fatty liver disease. It could be some version of autoimmune disease. It could be some high cholesterol, hypertension, atherosclerosis, and you name it. It could be any or all of those. An individual who’s been eating a standard American diet could end up developing one or more of these chronic conditions for some time. And then, at that point, they end up switching over to try and quote-unquote, “clean up their diet .”

If they choose a low carbohydrate diet, they often find that a low carbohydrate diet is a very effective rapid weight loss tool. And when I first saw the data on how effective low carbohydrate diets are, Ketogenic diets, if you will, are at promoting weight loss. I almost didn’t believe it. When I sort of learned empirical story after story after report and then read more of the research, I started to realize that, OK, great.

There’s a very sort of complex two-way signaling mechanism that happens between your digestive system and your brain that controls your appestat. It decreases your real desire to consume food when eating a high-fat diet and high protein. And as a result of that, you can get away with eating these foods, and you lower your appetite. You end up becoming somewhat calorie-restricted. And as a result of that, you end up losing weight.

So when I saw this information, I was like, oh, that’s interesting. One of the things that Dr. Greger talks about is that he says, listen, the most powerful way to improve your cholesterol is to lose weight. If you just lose weight, your cholesterol will come down, oK. But in addition to that, if you lose weight and guess what else will come down? Your blood pressure, your triglyceride values are probably going to come down. Your A1C values, fasting blood glucose, and fasting insulin level will also come down. OK, so what people who end up eating a low carbohydrate diet, whether it’s an Atkins diet or whether it’s a ketogenic diet, what they experience is all of that. They get a reduction in body weight, which then is the first domino in a whole series of dominoes that unfolds in their favor, reducing many of these biomarkers that would otherwise be elevated. Over the first three months, six months, nine months, they say they see all this improvement and then get their blood work, and my God, this is working.

I feel great. You know, I’ve lost, and my blood pressure storm on my A1C seems normal. And my doctor says that I don’t have diabetes anymore. So you’ve had them on the back. You say, hey, this is excellent stuff. The medical world sees this all the time. They say, OK, great people try low carbohydrate diet, lose weight, and improve many biomarkers.  That’s the solution.

The problem is that over time, time could be in time as a sort of relative metric, but it could be six months, nine months, 12 months, 2 years, 5 years, 15 years, 20 years into the future. There’s plenty of scientific data to demonstrate that people consume higher-fat diets and higher protein diets. Especially higher animal food diets end up developing more chronic diseases.

The risk for hypertension goes up. The risk for chronic kidney disease goes up, the risk for fatty liver disease goes up. The risk for type two diabetes goes up. So it’s almost like a U-shaped curve. You get sort of a reduction in many biomarkers and weight loss in the beginning. And then, at a certain point, you hit a plateau. When that plateau is achieved, oftentimes, there’s an increase in body weight and an increase in many of these other biomarkers that initially came down.

I encourage people to pay attention to what will happen to you in the long term. You cannot be blinded to the long term effects of what you’re doing only because the short term effects are good. You have to pay attention to both of those. When you do, a plant-based diet becomes an obvious solution.

Sean Hashmi, MD

When I reviewed all of the literature around these topics on low carb diets, the magic number in literature is six months. Any time you see a study that lasted six months or less on weight loss.  It’s not worth the paper that it’s printed. When you extend those studies out to one year or two years, you find the drop out rates in both ketogenic and low carb is substantial.

If you look at people who adopt more of a Whole Foods plant-based diet, I distinguish Whole Foods from vegan.  You can eat potato chips all day and call yourself a vegan. That’s great. Then you’re going to end up in all sorts of troubles. But if you look at a Whole Foods plant-based diet, it’s sustainable. And not only that, if you look at across the world the longest living people in the world, they eat a predominant Whole Foods plant-based diet.

It’s funny that people look for such quick solutions. When they do low carbs, what’s really scary is the second you expose them back to sugars. You can see their bloodstream starting to show the endothelial vessels’ lining. The cells are dying, breaking apart, and filling up the blood. And all that happens because you go back. And the ketogenic idea, the dilemma that we’re faced with, is that even in as little as just a few months on it, you start to see insulin resistance develop very rapidly.

Fatty livers, which I tell you in the coming storm on health care organizations.  We’re dealing with patients who have fatty livers going on to cirrhosis. It’s not Hep-C. It’s not HIV. It’s not other stuff. It’s the fatty liver that’s becoming one of the predominant things causing people to get on transplant lists for essentially what could be an utterly avoidable thing.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD

Let’s say eating a low carbohydrate diet, whether it’s a ketogenic diet that’s again, high fat, low or medium protein, or an Atkins diet, high fat, higher protein. Both of those scenarios cause the perfect storm for excess fat accumulation in your liver, excess fat accumulation in your muscle, and excess fat accumulation in your vasculature. And when you have a combination of excess fat.  The saturated fat accumulates inside your liver, muscle, and vasculature. It’s so it’s just a ticking time bomb.

At a certain point, you’re going to develop vascular problems.  You’re going to develop kidney problems, you’re going to develop liver problems, and you’re going to develop muscle problems and muscle. When it comes to this topic, muscle over-accumulation of fatty acids instead of muscle tissue is insulin resistance, which increases your risk for diabetes. And you were one of the first people that pointed this out to me that blew my mind. You said, “the more saturated fat you eat, the higher your risk for albuminuria.”

Right. And number two, that total protein is linked with total mortality. Those are two things that I didn’t understand until I heard you speak. And some combination of consuming too much of those two nutrients can lead to disaster down the road.

Sean Hashmi, MD

It’s this weird thing about whenever people try to take one macro down. What they don’t realize is, are you replacing that macronutrient with? You start to take carbohydrates down. If carbohydrates were indeed that bad for you, evolution over millions of years when we look at how plants actually formed and everything else, why would we have plants in the first place?

Sean Hashmi, MD

There’s this whole concept that people are missing is we feel like if now we get rid of all carbohydrates, somehow we’re doing ourselves justice.

There’s a fascinating study that looked at it. First-year grad students have to do the craziest thing. So in this study, what they looked at was what they wanted to see.  Could Whole Foods, especially whole grains could they cause weight loss? So they fed these guys refined grains and whole grains. And then what they did was they had these interns collect their stool samples, and then they would burn the stool samples to see how much energy to contain.

And what was fascinating was a few things. First, if you ate whole grains, a lot more energy went right through your body into the stool. So when they burned it, it had a lot more energy in it. Number two was that when they measured the bacteria inside your gut, of course, you were creating all this beautiful diversity going on throughout it. And then number three was when they looked at weight loss. Just that simple change of switching to whole grains increased the thermogenic effect of food.

So the TEE also went up. So you got TEE. You got the fact that you’re not absorbing the same amount of calories. You’ve got this beautiful microbiome, diversity. We still can’t find why people are so afraid of it when the literature repeatedly says how good it is.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD

People who consume a ketogenic diet tend to lower the carbohydrate intake in their glucose results. Their glucose comes down rather than elevated in the fasting and postprandial state their glucose normalizes. Suddenly, their A1C comes down, and they’re on a piece of paper.

They look like they don’t have diabetes anymore. If you consume something that’s carbohydrate-rich in that metabolic setting, as soon as you do that, all of a sudden, your blood glucose goes through the roof, and your insulin production spikes, right? And that can cause a whole collection of adverse events in your gut microbiome and beyond.  The only things that pull this entire thing together. One of the things that gets a little bit confusing here is that you have the effects you just described here when you’re consuming a plant-based diet, that you end up wasting more energy into the toilet because the thermic effect of food has gone up. There’s more undigested food material inside of the toilet.

In addition to that, it promotes weight loss, and it supports improved kidney function and beyond. On the other hand, you have people who empirically say that if I eat a low carbohydrate diet, I end up losing weight, and I feel great. And that is the truth. People do end up feeling great. But what they don’t realize is that in the carbohydrate avoidance game. When you put on the carbohydrate avoidance goggles, and you operate in that mentality, as long as you don’t challenge your digestive system or challenge your liver or challenge your pancreas to metabolize anything that contains a significant amount of carbohydrate in one meal.

This is otherwise known as a glucose challenge or a carbohydrate challenge. As long as that is not present, your blood glucose will be nice and flat. And your cholesterol levels be nice and flat. And you’re going to get the impression that you’re heart disease proof or you’re diabetes proof. The minute you eat a carbohydrate challenge in the clinical setting, you can get an oral glucose tolerance test, an OGTT where they will literally give you a solution that contains 75 grams worth of carbohydrates or what sort of dextrose, which is glucose.

You drink that, and then they monitor your blood glucose levels for the next two to three hours. Right. And people who are in a ketogenic setting or people who are in the Atkins setting in a low carbohydrate scenario. As soon as they drink, that’s 75 grams worth of glucose in water. Guess what happens to the blood glucose? It goes through the roof, and the blood glucose ends up climbing well beyond 130, 150, 200, 250, 300 sometimes.

As a result, the amount of insulin that their pancreas has to secrete is tremendous. People become hypoglycemic and hyperinsulinemic immediately. And that’s the problem that they think they have resolved diabetes. They believe that they’re no longer insulin resistant. But in reality, what they’re doing is they are insulin resistant. It’s just in dormancy. It’s there. You just don’t see it until you challenge.  Your digestive system with one meal that contains anything greater than usually about 50 grams of carbohydrate. As soon as you do that, you’ll see precisely that.

Your digestive system, liver, and pancreas are not equipped to handle carbohydrate energy. And as soon as that happens. That’s a strong indicator that you’re living in an insulin resistance state. And insulin resistance is the central node that increases your risk for all chronic diseases that I know.

Sean Hashmi, MD

When people do things like low carb or doing a Ketogenic variation of Atkins or a modified Atkins, and so forth. They do “cheat days.” And what the data shows, and stress is, if you do six days of one of these diets. Then you do a “cheat day” that “cheat day” does a significant amount of damage to your body and those microvascular complications. You’re destroying your endothelial cells’ lining, and all of that damages accumulate.

So it’s even worse when you try to cheat on these diets because your body can’t handle the sugar you put into it. And that’s key is if you take on one of these diets and, you know, you got a wedding plan coming up. So that’s why you’re going to do it, and then you’ll eat healthily. It doesn’t work. In fact, in the long run, it’s going to do far more significant damage to do this yo-yo cycle than to adopt the way you’re describing, which is if you switch to a healthy, minimally processed Whole Foods plant-based diet, you’re going to do fantastic.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD

Absolutely. Yeah, you hit it on the head. It’s confusing to me, and I don’t fully answer why sometimes there’s so much resistance to integrating a plant-based diet. And I understand that it’s you know, if you enjoy eating meat, you want drinking milk and enjoy eating cheese, you kind of view it from the perspective of like, well, I have to give those foods up.

And then I got to eat more plant material. And you know what, I don’t like eating broccoli. I don’t like eating bananas. It’s not tasty, right. But yet, when presented with the evidence, the weight of evidence that a plant-based diet is indeed not just a management technique but an actual reversal mechanism for so many chronic diseases. It still blows my mind that a broad segment of the population isn’t just flocking to a plant-based diet and doing it immediately.

Sean Hashmi, MD

I’ll tell you why. And this is based on World War two and World War II. The concept was we wanted an edge for our soldiers. And so there was this huge push in subsidizing meat. And if you were a homemaker and didn’t have meat on the plate, you were harming the country. That’s how this whole concept started. All of this subsidy led to the fact that there was so much milk produced.  As milk was made, they had nowhere to go with it.

So then they’re like, OK, we got all this milk, we got all these cows. What do we do that came the Cheese arare. It became about the cheeses and pushing forward on the cheeses. All of the marketing was milk, does a body good. Meat is associated with masculinity; meat is associated with strength and all of those things. You know, some of the stuff that we’ve seen, like the movies, come out like game-changers, finally were able to show athletes were following a Whole Foods plant-based diet.

There are stereotypes. A lot of what somebody who practices a Whole Foods plant-based diet is. We don’t have enough role models in the past, but now we’ve got guys like yourselves who are athletes. We got all of these celebrities who have switched were already athletes. So the world is changing, but those stigmas still stick. And what’s fascinating about the meat industry is. You know, since the 70s, red meat consumption in this country has steadily gone down.

People always think red meat is terrible. It’s not the red meat anymore. Pork is about the same. It’s increased a little bit, but it’s chicken. Chicken consumption has risen drastically in this country. And if you look at what they do to these baby chicks, there are only four major companies that make and you have to buy the baby chicks from them. You have to buy the feed they consume from them.

All the labels, such as they were allowed to be free-range. Well, they can’t be free-range because they bred to grow so big that they end up having hip fractures. They can’t stand up.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD

Wow!

Sean Hashmi, MD

So the baby chicks that the way you know that the chickens are ready to go to the slaughterhouses have heart attacks, and their breasts are so big that they’re getting the chickens are getting heart failure and heart attacks.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD

Unbelievable

Sean Hashmi, MD

And that’s why when people are consuming this stuff, the amount of cholesterol they’re getting in chickens, the amount of modifications that these chickens have had to grow rapidly is fascinating, and it’s inhumane on every single level. So when they talk about no antibiotics, well, you may say it’s no antibiotics, but you have bred these guys in a certain way, and that makes all the difference. So all of these marketing gimmicks are going on, people don’t see through it. But the data shows that it’s chicken that’s become the bigger problem now

Red meat overall, the consumption is going down. People are now switching over to the cheese. The big marketing ploy is, we don’t need that much meat. So what do we do with all of this livestock? It’s all about chicken, and it’s all about dairy and cheese. And what’s fascinating is this. If you look at livestock’s history, what did they feed livestock? When they were feeding them corn, they were getting more infections.

They were getting all sorts of diseases. So they started feeding them soy. We talk about soy protein, and we say soy protein is harmful. Kidney disease is probably the safest protein that you can have when protecting your kidneys from getting worse. But, the soy protein, what they found was cows would grow bigger, cows would be healthier, they would do better, and the meat was better quality.

Soy was good enough to be fed to every livestock we were eating. Yet when it comes to putting food directly in our body. No, no, no, we can’t have soy.

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD

No, it’s bad for you, right? And this is propaganda that’s always going to increase your risk for breast cancer. It’s going to increase your risk for prostate cancer. Don’t have any soy! It’s just it’s unfortunate. It’s just propaganda. It’s just marketing. It’s kind of sort of helped brainwash a lot of people. But in other words, what you know, what you’re saying about white meat being more problematic than red meat is that white meat is the new red meat to a certain extent because you’re consuming more of it.

And the conditions inside of these domesticated farms have deteriorated to the point where now the actual cholesterol content of the meat itself has gone up over time.  A recipe for disaster.

Sean Hashmi, MD

It absolutely is. And this is all fascinating. So let me ask you, in your mastering diabetes method. What is it that you teach? What are some things people can do? Where do they start?

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD

The diabetes method has four components. The first one is a Whole food plant-based diet, a low-fat, plant-based diet. When I say low fat, I’m speaking somewhere between. Suppose the total amount of fat in your diet is somewhere between approximately 10 percent and roughly 15 percent of total calories. That is what we classify as a low-fat diet. So that’s the first one. The second one is daily movement. I’m not talking about having to go to a high-intensity interval class.

I’m not talking about going across fit unless you want to. I’m talking about using your body and moving your body and challenging your musculature in some way, shape, or form.  Every single day for approximately 30 minutes at the minimum.  The third is documentation. Documentation using a tool that we’ve developed called the decision tree. And in other words, you don’t even have to use that. The idea here is that people living with diabetes or prediabetes strongly benefit from writing things down on a piece of paper.

There are so many gadgets and apps and devices that you can buy in today’s world that help. We have found that the power of using a pen or pencil far outweighs any of that. And it seems old school in today’s world. But that’s OK.  We have a precise method by which we suggest that you write down your blood glucose. The food that you’re eating. Know some simple information about what’s in that food.

You do a chronological assessment of what’s happening for 24 hours. When you do this repeatedly, you start to recognize patterns. As soon as you recognize those patterns, then you say, I see the cause and effect relationship between what I’m doing and what it’s worth and what it’s resulting. So that’s a huge component of our method. And then the fourth component is intermittent fasting. And we recommend that intermittent fasting is something that not everybody has to perform, intermittent fasting.

But there’s a lot of people who would benefit from intermittent fasting. Whether it’s a weekly 24-hour regimen fast or a daily 16-hour intermittent fasting, there’s a time and place for intermittent fasting. And it’s something that the research world has shown to be very effective at helping to improve or reduce the risk for many cardiovascular and diabetes-related complications. The primary focus is a low-fat, plant-based, whole food diet. In other words, you could write everything down, you can move your body all day long, and you can perform intermittent fasting, and you’re probably going to get healthier.

But if you’re not eating a low fat, healthy diet. Then you’re missing the most significant puzzle piece. That is the without question, the biggest puzzle piece because we find that people who make just that change by itself with nothing else literally just change the food they’re eating and become more plant-focused again. You don’t have to be a vegan. You don’t have to be vegetarian. I’m just asking you to increase your quantity of plant material. And when you do that, there are so many benefits that come along for the ride that people living with any form of diabetes who have elevated fasting or post-meal blood glucose end up seeing rapid results.

When I say rapid results, the results can start to unfold in as little as 24 hours as what happened in my case. The results could be as little as 48 hours or as long as a week. That’s mind-blowing because people develop diabetes and prediabetes for many years. It’s not something that just happens to you immediately. So prediabetes and type two diabetes development can sometimes take five years, 10 years, 15 years.

When you transition to a plant-strong diet, you start to see those symptoms’ resolutions. Not on the scale of years, not even on the scale of months. You begin to see the resolution of many of those symptoms within the scale of weeks, if not days. And that’s one of the thousand reasons why I think that the human body is just an unbelievably exquisite machine because it can tolerate a lot of damage over time.

As soon as you start to feed it the right material, all of a sudden, your chances of improving your health go up, and they go up quickly.

Sean Hashmi, MD

And it’s impressive.

You know, the same thing applies to the human spirit. You see, you can get it done throughout your life, and you can bounce back. It’s so true. This is a fascinating conversation. I guess what I would say to people who are watching is no matter where you are in life, no matter what you’ve gone through, there’s always hope to get better. It’s ain’t over. So, if you had to bring all of this together, and this would give people a few tips to walk away from this interview today and see wherever you are, take these two or three things and start, then what would you say?

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD

Ok, it is a great question.

So here’s what I would say. If you’re new to this idea of eating a plant-based diet, I would recommend the first thing I’d recommend that you do is find a way to eat five servings of plant-based foods per day. OK. Now, when I say five servings of plant-based foods. I mean you can eat some combination of fruits. Legumes being lentils, beans or lentils, beans, or peas.

Or starchy vegetables or whole grains. OK. So from those four categories. In addition to that. Sorry, let me back up, fruits, starchy vegetables, legumes, whole grains. Those are the carbohydrate-rich, you know, plant-based foods. In addition to that, you also have mushrooms. You also have green leafy vegetables and non-starchy vegetables. So choose from any of that. Just find a way to get five servings of those foods into your diet daily.

Do that for a week. Do that for two weeks. Just get comfortable with having that material inside your plan and inside of your diet.  Over the course, the next thing that I recommend doing is taking that five and turning it into ten. And that right there, that process could take another month. That’s fine. There’s no rush. What we’re trying to do is displace nonplant material with plant material. But I don’t recommend that you make the transition quickly.

I don’t recommend you do that. The reason why I don’t recommend that is multiple folds. If you’re taking medication for blood pressure or taking insulin or taking oral diabetes medications within a short time, those medication dosages can become too much. You can develop low blood pressure. You can develop hypoglycemia. Both of those are life-threatening. So do not do everything you can to transition slowly. Ok.

Phase one is having five fruits, vegetables, or plant-based material per day. The second phase would be ten. Then, phase three would be 15 servings of plant-based material. When you get to 15, if you’re not already feeling like a million bucks, if you already haven’t lost weight, if you already aren’t bouncing off the walls, trying to go outside and use all this newfound energy that you have, then I would be shocked. It can’t be that simple.

The next thing that I would put into play is to find a way to get 30 minutes of daily movement in the world of nutrition and the world of diabetes. I tend to talk a lot about food. I tend to talk a lot about food because food is a language. It’s a universal language. And it’s a medium that everybody has to be putting into their mouth every single day, most days. But, exercise and moving your body is so profoundly powerful for your cardiovascular system, for your liver, for your kidney, for your muscle tissue, for your sexual organs, for your brain, for your thyroid gland, for your vasculature, you name it.

The number of effects and the magnitude of change that can happen when you use your body on a daily basis is mind-boggling. We’re talking about if you rewired neurons inside of your brain. You can manufacture new nervous tissue when you use your muscles. You can reform your cardiovascular system, decrease your risks, and reverse chronic kidney disease. You can also reverse fatty liver disease and resolve many autoimmune conditions simply by moving your body more.

So if you haven’t already incorporated daily movement into your daily regimen, I would recommend doing that either in parallel with a transition to a plant-based diet or maybe as step four after you’ve gotten to about 15 plant foods per day. And the combination of the two of those, I think, can completely transform you from the inside out. And if it doesn’t, then I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Sean Hashmi, MD

This information is phenomenal. I want to thank you so much for today. I learned a lot, and that’s awesome. Thank you!

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD

Thank you so much, Dr. Hashmi

I really appreciate it.

Written By Sean Hashmi M.D.

Sean Hashmi, MD, MS, FASN, is a practicing Nephrologist and Obesity Medicine specialist in southern California. He is a sought-after speaker on topics ranging from health, nutrition, fitness, and wellness. Currently, Dr. Hashmi serves as the Regional Director for Clinical Nutrition and Weight Management at Southern California, Kaiser Permanente. Driven by his lifelong commitment to be of service to others, Dr. Hashmi provides evidence-based health, nutrition, and wellness research through his 501c(3) nonprofit, SELF Principle. In addition, SELF Principle also supports children’s education efforts worldwide through scholarships, books, and supplies.

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