Plant-Based Diet May Prevent Diabetes, New Study Shows

Plant-Based Diet May Prevent Diabetes
iStock/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

A plant-based diet could reduce the risk of overweight adults developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study. Researchers at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that overweight adults with no history of diabetes had improved insulin sensitivity once they switched to a plant-based diet.

The study, which was published in the journal Nutrients, tracked the insulin response of 75 overweight adults who were placed on either a low-calorie or a plant-based diet for 16 weeks. The researchers found that those on the plant-based diet exhibited increased insulin sensitivity at meal times. In addition, both low-calorie and plant-based dieters experienced reduced blood sugar levels, as compared to the control group. No participants changed their exercise or medication regimes as part of the study.

“The study has important implications for diabetes prevention,” lead study author Hana Kahleova, M.D., Ph.D. told Diabetes.co.uk, noting that the results of the study “add to the growing evidence that food really is medicine.”

Another recent study published last May also pointed to a plant-based diet as a possible solution for the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes.

“There is a general consensus that the elements of a whole-foods plant-based diet — legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, with limited or no intake of refined foods and animal products — are highly beneficial for preventing and treating type 2 diabetes,” wrote the authors of the study, which was published in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology.

“Equally important, plant-based diets address the bigger picture for patients with diabetes by simultaneously treating cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, and its risk factors such as obesity, hypertension, hyper-lipidemia, and inflammation.”

A study published last fall by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York found that people who ate a predominantly plant-based diet were 42 percent less likely to experience heart failure.

The science pointing to the role of plant-based diets in preventing or managing the symptoms of chronic diseases has led organizations such as Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest healthcare network, to promote these diets as an alternative to or in tandem with pharmacological treatments. In 2013, Kaiser asked its doctors to suggest that their patients adopt a plant-based diet, and last year, the American Medical Association passed a resolution recommending that hospitals offer vegetarian meals to patients.

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Emily Monaco
Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.