A plant-based diet may lower risk of type 2 diabetes


Eating a mainly plant-based diet especially one with lots of healthy veggies, fruit and whole grains may significantly lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests.

Chronic disease prevention

"This study highlights that even moderate dietary changes in the direction of a healthful plant-based diet can play a significant role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes," said study lead author Ambika Satija, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

Read: Eat your veggies

"These findings provide further evidence to support current dietary recommendations for chronic disease prevention," Satija added in a school news release.

The study included information from more than 200,000 Americans. They all completed a series of questionnaires about their diet, lifestyle, medical history and current health. The information was collected over 20 years.

People who closely followed a plant-based diet low in animal-based foods had a 20 percent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes than those who didn't. However, the research didn't establish a firm cause-and-effect relationship; it only showed a link.

The researchers also found that the healthier the foods, the lower the risk seemed to be.

Read: Green leafy vegetables cut diabetes risk

A healthy version of a plant-based diet lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes by 34 percent. A healthy diet included foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, the study noted.

But, people who opted for less healthy foods – though they still ate many plant-based foods – had a 16 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes, the study revealed. The less healthy diet included foods such as refined grains, potatoes and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Substantial health benefits

The researchers also found that even a modest reduction in animal-based food consumption was linked to a lower type 2 diabetes risk. The reduced risk was seen with as little a change as going from five to six servings of animal-based foods per day to about four servings per day, the study said.

Read: Diabetes type 2 and diet

"A shift to a dietary pattern higher in healthful plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and lower in animal-based foods, especially red and processed meats, can confer substantial health benefits in reducing risk of type 2 diabetes," study senior author Frank Hu said. He's a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard.

The study was published online in the journal PLoS Medicine. Funding was provided by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

In related news, another study found that eating three or more servings of whole grains a day lowered the risk of premature death by 20 percent compared to eating fewer or no servings of whole grains daily. This study was published in Circulation.

Read more:

Symptoms of diabetes

Causes of diabetes

Diagnosing diabetes

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
27% - 9951 votes
73% - 26300 votes