- November 1 is World Vegan Day.
- Plant-based diets are good for your brain and body.
- According to new research, a plant-based or vegan diet might be the best to follow for people with type 2 diabetes.
- An analysis of past research showed people with the disease could manage their blood sugar better, lost more weight, and had less nerve pain when they followed a plant-based diet.
- Not all vegan diets are healthy, so it’s important to take note of what’s going into your food.
Research has consistently shown that a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats is the healthiest for your brain and body.
According to new research, published in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care, a plant-based or vegan diet may be the best for people with type 2 diabetes, as it can help manage weight and blood sugar levels.
In the study, researchers from the University of London, the University of Northampton, and East Sussex NHS Healthcare Trust looked at 11 clinical trials published between 1999 and 2017 which compared plant-based diets to other diets.
There were a total of 433 people, all in their mid 50s, involved in the studies, and results showed a plant-based diet could “significantly improve psychological health and quality of life.”
Eight of the trials looked at how the vegan diet affected health and six included giving patients information about optimal nutrition. They lasted 23 weeks on average.
The results showed people’s quality of life – both physically and emotionally – improved when following a plant-based or vegan diet, and any depressive symptoms improved significantly.
Also, their nerve pain eased, and they could more easily manage their blood sugar levels. Participants lost nearly twice as much weight – 5.23 kg compared to 2.83 kg on other diets – and also saw a reduction in blood fat levels, which increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
There are several caveats to the findings, such as small sample sizes. But the researchers are confident that the results of their study show the positive impact a plant based diet can have on people with type 2 diabetes.
“Based on the evidence of the research analysis by this systematic review, it can be concluded that plant-based diets accompanied by educational interventions can significantly improve psychological health, quality of life, HbA1c [blood sugar] levels and weight, and therefore the management of diabetes,” they wrote.
“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 diabetes].”
Diabetes UK says on its website that plant-based food is often associated with lower levels of type 2 diabetes, less hypertension, lower cholesterol levels, and reduced cancer rates. But it also notes that not all vegan diets are healthy.
Ingredients like added salt, sugar, and fat can make some vegan alternatives less healthy, so it’s important to know what is going into your food before you follow a vegan diet for health benefits.
“Vegan diets tend to be lower in saturated fat, higher in fibre, fruit and vegetables and other protective substances like phytochemicals and antioxidants – as a result, they fit well with the current dietary guidelines for people with diabetes,” it says.
“There is no reason why you shouldn’t choose to follow a vegan diet if you wish, but it’s important to discuss the matter with your diabetes team if you have any queries or concerns.”