Plant-based or vegan diet may be best for keeping type 2 diabetes in check

October 30, 2018, British Medical Journal
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A predominantly plant-based or vegan diet may be best for keeping type 2 diabetes in check, not least because of its potential impact on mood, suggests a systematic review of the available evidence, published in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.

This is associated with improved psychological wellbeing, a reduction in some of the known risk factors for type 2 diabetes, and possibly some of those linked to cardiovascular disease, one of the main causes of early death in people with the condition, the findings indicate.

The International Diabetes Federation estimates that 642 million people will be living with diabetes by 2040. In the UK around 4.5 million people have been diagnosed with it; in the US the equivalent figure is more than 30 million.

Nearly 15 per cent of all global deaths are attributed to diabetes; and it killed 5 million people before the age of 60 in 2015. It is also frequently associated with depression, which in turn affects how well blood glucose levels are controlled.

While a predominantly plant-based diet-rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and seeds with no (vegan) or few animal products-has been linked to a significantly lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, it's not clear if it might also be linked to improved mood and wellbeing.

To try and find out, the researchers trawled through the available evidence and found 11 relevant English language clinical trials, published between 1999 and 2017, comparing plant-based diets with other types of diet. The studies involved a total of 433 people in their mid-50s, on average.

Eight of the trials assessed the impact of a vegan diet and six included patients being given information on optimal nutrition to help them better understand the benefits of a plant based diet. The trials lasted for an average of 23 weeks.

A systematic critical analysis of the results showed that quality of life-both physical and emotional-improved only in those patients on a plant based/vegan diet. Similarly, depressive symptoms improved significantly only in these groups.

Nerve pain (neuropathy) eased in both the plant based and comparator diet groups, but more so in the former. And the loss of temperature control in the feet in those on the comparator diets suggests that eating predominantly plant based foods may have slowed the progressive nerve damage associated with diabetes, say the researchers.

Average (HbA1c) and fasting fell more sharply in those who cut out or ate very few animal products and these participants lost nearly twice as much weight: 5.23 kg vs 2.83 kg. The fall in blood fats—a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease—was also greater in those on plant based/vegan diets.

The researchers point out several caveats to their findings, including the small sample sizes of the studies they reviewed and the reliance of the data on participant recall. But this review is the first to attempt to look at the psychological impact of a plant based diet in people with type 2 diabetes, and it draws on research from five different countries, they say.

In six of the studies, those following a plant based/vegan diet were able to cut down or discontinue the drugs they were taking for their diabetes and associated underlying conditions, such as high blood pressure.

Overall, the results indicated that even though the plant based diets were more difficult to follow, at least to begin with, participants stuck to them better than those in the comparator groups.

"Based on the evidence of the research analysis by this , it can be concluded that plant-based diets accompanied by educational interventions can significantly improve psychological health, quality of life, HbA1c levels and weight, and therefore the management of diabetes," write the researchers.

"Furthermore, plant-based diets could potentially improve diabetic neuropathic pain and the levels of total cholesterol, [low density lipoprotein] cholesterol and triglycerides in [type 2 ].

Explore further: Plant-based diets improve cardiometabolic risk factors in diabetes patients

More information: BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, DOI: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2018-000534

Related Stories

Plant-based diets improve cardiometabolic risk factors in diabetes patients

June 18, 2018
Plant-based diets improve glycemic control, lead to weight loss, and improve cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes, according to a new review published in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

New study shows vegan diet improves diabetes markers in overweight adults

February 12, 2018
A plant-based diet improves beta-cell function and insulin sensitivity in overweight adults with no history of diabetes, according to a new study published in Nutrients by researchers from the Physicians Committee for Responsible ...

New review highlights benefits of plant-based diets for heart health

May 30, 2018
Vegetarian, especially vegan, diets are associated with better cardiovascular health, according to a new review published in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases.

Vegan diet might ease diabetic nerve pain

May 28, 2015
(HealthDay)—A vegan diet might help people with diabetes-related nerve damage shed weight and find some pain relief, a small pilot study suggests.

World-first study shows benefits of 5:2 diet for people with diabetes

July 23, 2018
People with type 2 diabetes are just as likely to lose weight and control their blood glucose levels if they follow a 5:2 diet than an ongoing daily calorie-restricted diet, according to a world-first study by University ...

Even moderate adherence to vegetarian diet could prevent overweight/obesity in middle age

May 23, 2018
Eating a diet high in plant-based foods and low in animal-based foods may protect against obesity in middle aged and elderly populations, even if a vegetarian or vegan diet is not strictly followed.

Recommended for you

Can't exercise? A hot bath may help improve inflammation, metabolism, study suggests

November 14, 2018
Hot water treatment may help improve inflammation and blood sugar (glucose) levels in people who are unable to exercise, according to a new study. The findings are published ahead of print in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Diabetic foot ulcers heal quickly with nitric oxide technology

November 12, 2018
Diabetic foot ulcers can take up to 150 days to heal. A biomedical engineering team wants to reduce it to 21 days.

Diabetes drug might also ease heart failure risks

November 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—The diabetes drug Farxiga might do double-duty for patients, helping to ward off another killer, heart failure, new research shows.

Marijuana use tied to serious diabetes complication

November 8, 2018
(HealthDay)—People with type 1 diabetes who use marijuana may double their risk of developing a life-threatening complication, a new study suggests.

Researchers report connection between intestinal bacteria and development of diabetes

November 7, 2018
Researchers at Örebro University have, together with a well-known research team in Denmark, developed a method for studying how metabolism in gut bacteria influences health. Their method will now be published in its entirety ...

Genetic factors tied to obesity may protect against diabetes

November 2, 2018
Some genetic variations linked with obesity actually protect against Type 2 diabetes, heart attack and stroke, new findings suggest.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.