Can a Vegan Diet Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?

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A new study in the journal Nutrients of heavy-to-overweight adults suggests a low-fat, plant-based vegan diet can potentially lower the risk of a person developing Type 2 diabetes. According to lead author Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “…this study adds to the growing evidence that food really is medicine and that eating a healthful plant-based diet can ago a long way in preventing diabetes.”

For their study, the researchers recruited 73 adults age 25–75 (8 men and 67 women). They didn’t have diabetes but were heavy-to-overweight (their body-mass indexes [BMI] ranged from 28–40). The participants who went on a vegan diet were instructed to avoid animal products and added fats while taking a vitamin B-12 supplement. The dieters got 75 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, 15 percent from protein, and 10 percent from fats. A control group was told not to change their normal diet, although both groups were asked to limit alcohol intake. The study lasted for 16 weeks.

The researchers found that the vegan diet brought distinct increases in the secretion of insulin after meals. They also reported increased beta-cell glucose sensitivity (the beta cells store and release insulin). In addition, the dieters showed positive changes in BMI and visceral fat (the fat that surrounds the internal organs). These changes were not reported in the control group. The researchers summed up the findings by writing, “Our study suggests the potential of a low-fat plant-based diet in diabetes prevention, addressing both core pathophysiologic mechanisms — insulin resistance and diminished beta-cell function — at the same time.”

Want to learn more about plant-based diets for diabetes? Read “Adopting a Vegetarian Meal Plan” and “Plant Sources of Protein,” then try our recipes for Vegetarian Pizza, Vegetarian Chili with Brown Rice, Vegetarian Shephard’s Pie, and Zesty Vegetarian Chili.

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