Definitive Evidence Supports Plant-Based Diet to Control Diabetes

July 24, 2019

A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies assessing the association between plant-based dietary patterns and the risk of type 2 diabetes among adults, provides the strongest evidence to date that eating a plant-based diet does indeed lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies assessing the association between plant-based dietary patterns and the risk of type 2 diabetes among adults, provides the strongest evidence to date that eating a plant-based diet does indeed lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The benefits were even stronger when the plant-based foods included fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, wrote researchers writing online July 22 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Led by Qi Sun, M.D., ScD, of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, researchers based their findings on nine studies from seven publications that included 307,099 patients, 23,544 cases of type 2 diabetes. The studies varied in follow-up periods from two to 28 years. The association may even be greater than reported here, the researchers wrote, because the studies all adjusted for BMI.

“By analyzing dietary patterns, we can quantify the synergistic effects of dietary compositions on overall disease risk, including the substitution and replacement of major macronutrient types (ie, plant sources of fat and protein for the respective animal sources),” researchers wrote.

In addition to the inverse relationship between consuming a plant-based diet and lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, researchers outlined several other ways in which plant-based foods can lower the risk of diabetes.

  • Plant-based diets are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, phenolic compounds, and unsaturated fatty acids―all of which improve insulin sensitivity and blood pressure, reduce long-term weight gain and can control systemic inflammation pathways that lead to type 2 diabetes.

  • Avoiding red and processed meats in itself lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes. This may be due to their high cholesterol or heme iron content. Animal-derived compounds, such as choline and l-carnitine, can interact negatively with the gut microbiome.

  • Eating a plant-based diet can control the excessive weight gain associated with type 2 diabetes, which is probably the most important key factor in reducing type 2 diabetes risk.

  • But then the health benefits may extend beyond weight control, the researchers said because some evidence suggests that a plant-based diet can improve glycemic control regardless of body weight and diabetes status.

  • Preliminary evidence suggests that consuming a plant-based diets may lower the risk of adiposity-related risk markers, including leptin, adiponectin, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, and interleukin-6.

  • Three of the studies in the analysis found that a plant-based diet largely defined by refined grains, starches and sugars was consistently associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

“The totality of current evidence supports health benefits for increasing plant-based food consumption in lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes and, potentially, other cardiometabolic diseases,”  researchers wrote.

Source: JAMA Intern Med. Published online July 22, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.2195