Vegan Diet Could Help Keep Diabetes Under Control

People with type 2 diabetes (T2D) who follow plant-based or vegan diets could not only experience greater weight loss and improvements in glucose and symptom control but also have improved wellbeing and quality of life, the results of a UK systematic review suggest.

Anastasios Toumpanakis, a doctoral candidate in health psychology at the School of Health Sciences, University of London, and colleagues examined 11 studies that looked at the impact of a plant-based or vegan diet in T2D patients.

They found that physical and emotional quality of life improved with a plant-based/vegan diet, and depressive symptoms lifted. In addition, symptoms of neuropathy improved more than that seen with control diets.

The findings also suggested that measures of glucose control improved with a plant-based/vegan diet over a control diet, while patients following them also lost more weight and had greater reductions in cholesterol levels and triglycerides.

The research was published online by BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care on October 30th.

Significant Improvements

While acknowledging the small sample sizes of the included studies and the self-report nature of the data, the team nevertheless concludes “that plant-based diets accompanied by educational interventions can significantly improve…the management of diabetes”.

The results follow those of a recent study suggesting that following a low-fat, plant-based vegan diet could reduce the risk of developing T2D through the reduction of visceral fat and by significantly improving both pancreatic beta-cell function and insulin resistance.

Another analysis indicated that only partially switching to a vegetarian diet, the so-called flexitarian diet, could offer health benefits, as well as costing less than other healthy diets.

Toumpanakis told Medscape News UK that, currently, the focus in treating diabetes “is more on treating and managing the symptoms than the cause itself”.

He continued: “Diabetes is a complex chronic condition that cannot simply be managed by a prescription-focused treatment.

“We need to alter and enrich our approach as health professionals and offer more support, guidance and psycho-education in people with diabetes so they would be more able to take control of their condition in the long-term.”

He believes that, as patients diagnosed with diabetes face “major changes” in their lives, interventions that focus on the psychological aspects of living with diabetes are required, alongside a greater focus on education and information on lifestyle interventions.

Toumpanakis said: “The potential impact of those lifestyle interventions could subsequently lead to an improvement of individual’s psychological wellbeing and quality of life.

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