Vegan diet improves diabetes markers in overweight adults: study


16 Feb 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 Medicine. Measuring the function of beta cells, which store and release insulin, can help assess future type 2 diabetes risk.

The study randomly assigned participants – who were overweight and had no history of diabetes – to an intervention or control group in a 1:1 ratio. For 16 weeks, participants in the intervention group followed a low-fat vegan diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes with no calorie limit. The control group made no diet changes. Neither group changed exercise or medication routines.

Based on mathematical modeling, the researchers determined that those on a plant-based diet increased meal-stimulated insulin secretion and beta-cell glucose sensitivity, compared to those in the control group. The plant-based diet group also experienced a decrease in blood sugar levels both while fasting and during meal tests.

Type 2 diabetes affects approximately 30 million Americans, with 84 million more suffering from prediabetes, and according to lead study author Hana Kahleova, M.D., Ph.D., this new study has important implications for diabetes prevention.

The researchers posit that because the intervention group experienced weight loss, including loss of body fat, their fasting insulin resistance decreased (i.e., improved), and their beta-cell function improved as a result.

“This study adds to the growing evidence that food really is medicine and that eating a healthful plant-based diet can go a long way in preventing diabetes," says Dr. Kahleova.

Plant-based diets are gaining attention for their myriad health benefits. Previous studies have shown that plant-based diets not only have the power to prevent and reverse type 2 diabetes, but that they also lead to weight loss, improved cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and less heart disease.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition, billions of euros could be saved from a country’s annual healthcare bill over the next years if more people followed a plant-based diet. 

Last month, “Veganuary” became a top trend in the UK for those looking to bring in the New Year with a detox, according to The Telegraph. The campaign, which encouraged people to go vegan for a month, saw over 140,000 sign-ups.