The CDC estimates that 90 percent of the 30 million Americans with diabetes suffer from the Type 2 form of the disease. Last year, the cost of treating Type 2 diabetes and related illnesses cost more than $350 billion, and that number is expected to reach more than $600 billion in the next five years. In addition, 84 percent of healthcare costs in the United States are attributable to chronic diseases, with Type 2 diabetes at the top of the list.
But if one-fifth of the 30 million Type 2 sufferers in the United States used dietary changes to reduce HbA1c levels by one percentage point, they would not only reverse the course of their diabetes, but the healthcare system could save at least $10 billion annually, and outcomes would improve measurably.
Understanding the evidence
Despite widespread evidence that nutrition can lead to healthier lives and that healthier lives significantly lower costs, many policymakers and stakeholders continue to advocate for the same inadequate solutions.
Experts attribute five major factors to the increased prevalence and skyrocketing costs associated with Type 2 diabetes, including a more sedentary lifestyle at home and work, healthcare bias toward medication, confusion about healthy food choices, low prioritization by policymakers and demographic challenges.
Evidence shows that proper nutrition therapy and exercise can be effective in causing the remission of Type 2 diabetes and that a one percent decrease in HbA1c — an indicator of Type 2 diabetes — can be achieved through proper nutrition alone.
Championing nutrition-based strategies is one viable solution to addressing the diabetes issue. Controlling carbohydrates, for example, has been shown in scientific studies to be effective at managing glycemic control and weight among prediabetic populations. Yet these approaches are largely missing from the broader conversation about diabetes.
This is a public health crisis, and policymakers and public health experts have little to lose and much to gain from abandoning a “one-size-fits-all” approach. The future of our public health costs and the tens of millions of Type 2 diabetes sufferers in the United States require more creative solutions. Many of these — like nutrition therapy — exist. It’s time to make the most of them.