Fact Check: Exercise And Diet Do NOT Cure Type 1 Diabetes

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: Exercise And Diet Do NOT Cure Type 1 Diabetes No Cure

Can exercise and diet cure Type I diabetes? No, that's not true: At the time of this writing, there is no known cure for diabetes, medical experts told Lead Stories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Mayo Clinic both state that there is no cure for the disease as of April 2024.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) where it was published Facebook April 20, 2024, under the title "Conquer Diabetes type I & II." It opened with controversial naturopath Barbara O'Neill saying:

Diabetes one is really severe diabetes where the cells are damaged in the pancreas and unable to make insulin. Diabetes two is really a lifestyle disease where the pancreas has just been overworked by a high carbohydrate high sugar diet. But the same guidelines will heal both.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2024-04-22 at 1.43.39 PM.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Apr 22 20:14:01 2024 UTC)

O'Neill claims at 5:41 in the video that a man she knows "conquered" his diabetes:

Dan was diagnosed with type one diabetes and he conquered his diabetes.

She claimed he did so by exercising and changing his diet to one that is a very low carbohydrate diet with nuts, seeds, salads and water with salt and broth, among other things.

I can't say that will happen in every case but I have seen it happen every times so you know what I say, just give it your best.

"At this time, there is no known cure for diabetes," Melissa Prest (archived here), a Chicago-based registered dietician nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (archived here), a trade organization, told Lead Stories in an email received on April 22, 2024. She explained more about treatment of diabetes:

There are a variety of health conditions that cause an elevation in your blood sugar. Examples of these would be gestational diabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and prediabetes. Diet and lifestyle changes are always a part of the treatment plan for these conditions because they help people lower their blood sugar. Depending on the type of health condition, like prediabetes, diet and lifestyle changes allow people to manage their glucose without needing to take medication. For those conditions that require medication, like type 1 diabetes, medication will likely always be a part of the treatment plan along with diet and lifestyle strategies to keep blood glucose in a good range.

The president of the National Kidney Foundation (archived here), Sylvia Rosas (archived here), responded to an inquiry from Lead Stories about the claim. Asked if diabetes can be cured by exercise and diet, she said via email on April 22, 2024:

There is currently no treatment to "cure" diabetes but there are several interventions including lifestyle factors that may help control blood sugar levels as well as control complications in the future. Lifestyle factors like exercise, the recommended 150 min/week, weight control, to quit smoking and a healthy diet are recommended for all patients with diabetes. A healthy diet recognizes the patients' food preference and makes an emphasis on portion sizes.

Rosas recommended the Mediterranean diet, DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, vegetarian diet, or low-carb diet for patients living with diabetes and said, "While lifestyle factors are important, they are frequently not enough to maintain adequate glycemic control. Depending on type of diabetes (1 vs. 2) other medications could be added to improve glucose control if not at goal."

Cecilia Low Wang (archived here), an endocrinologist and Director of the Glucose Management Team at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital (archived here), told Lead Stories via email on April 22, 2024, that there is not a cure for either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes:

Not yet, unfortunately. Even though pancreas or islet transplantation is available, these are not good treatment options for most people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes (because of availability, low long-term success rate with high recurrence of diabetes). Type 2 diabetes can go into remission for awhile, though, if significant sustained lifestyle changes are made early on in the condition or with bariatric surgery.

She explained that diet and exercise are, "fundamental to both types 1 and 2 diabetes, and often lower the doses of insulin needed, or lessen the need for glucose-lowering medications (in type 2 diabetes) but these do not "cure" the disease:

Significant healthy lifestyle changes such as regular exercise (different types, not just aerobic!) and healthy food choices and portions early on in type 2 diabetes can make type 2 diabetes go into remission, but does not cure diabetes. When people have prediabetes, they can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes with healthy diet and exercise (as in the Diabetes Prevention Program). Getting good quality sleep of an adequate duration lowers insulin resistance.

The CDC notes that there is no cure for the disease on the website (archived here):

There isn't a cure yet for diabetes, but losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active can really help.

The Mayo Clinic also notes on their website (archived here) that there is not a cure for diabetes:

Even after a lot of research, type 1 diabetes has no cure. Treatment is directed toward managing the amount of sugar in the blood using insulin, diet and lifestyle to prevent complications.

O'Neill is prohibited from practicing health care in New South Wales, Australia

The video in question was posted to a Facebook page (archived here) dedicated to O'Neill. As Lead Stories has previously reported, O'Neill is well-known in the alternative medicine community but was permanently prohibited by the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) in 2019 from practicing any form of health care after an investigation concluded that her spread of misinformation breached New South Wales, Australia's Code of Conduct for Unregistered Practitioners. A statement from the HCCC, following an investigation, said:

The Commission is satisfied that Mrs O'Neill poses a risk to the health or safety of members of the public. The Commission therefore makes the following prohibition order:

  • Mrs O'Neill is permanently prohibited from providing any health services, as defined in s4 of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 (the Act), whether in a paid or voluntary capacity.

In a news release published on September 24, 2019, HCCC stated that O'Neill made "dubious and dangerous health claims" that were "not evidence based or supported by mainstream medicine."

Lead Stories has debunked other claims made by O'Neill, including claims that castor oil can "break up" gallstones or kidney stones, that water is the most powerful blood thinner and that a "potato poultice" is effective treatment for tissue inflammation. Other fact checks related to O'Neill can be read here.

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  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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