Is a plant-based or vegan diet better for diabetes?
Diabetes is a global health concern. If not well managed and treated, it can cause a number of health complications that can potentially impact people’s lives physically and psychologically. Nearly 15 per cent of global deaths are associated with diabetes. The International Diabetes Federation estimates that 642 million people will be living with diabetes by 2040 while in Australia 1.7 million people have diabetes. The condition is frequently associated with depression, which in turn affects how well blood glucose levels are controlled. A plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and seeds with no (vegan) or few animal-based food products has been significantly attributed to lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, it is unclear if a plant-based diet or a vegan diet can improve psychological health.
The results showed that quality of life — physical and emotional — improved only in those patients on a plant-based/vegan diet.
To evaluate this, researchers conducted a systematic review of controlled trials which included 11 relevant English language clinical trials published between 1999 and 2017. The trials compared plant-based diets with other types of diets and involved 433 people with a sample age of 54.8 years. Eight of the trials assessed the effect of a vegan diet and six trials included patients being given information on optimal nutrition to help them better understand the benefits of a plant-based diet. The trials lasted for an average of 23 weeks.
After a systematic critical analysis, the results showed that quality of life — physical and emotional — improved only in those patients on a plant-based/vegan diet. The results also showed that depressive symptoms improved significantly only in these groups. Both groups — plant-based and the comparator diet — had reduced nerve pain (neuropathy) but it was more in the plant-based group. There was a significant drop in average (HbA1c) and fasting blood glucose levels in those who cut out or ate very few animal products, along with a significant loss in weight in these participants compared to others at 2.83 kg vs 5.23 kg. There was also a fall in blood fats — a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease — which was also greater in those on plant-based/vegan diets.
Based on the evidence in this study, a plant-based or a vegan diet accompanied by educational intervention on nutrition can significantly improve psychological health and the quality of life of people with diabetes, as well as reduce some of the known risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Source: BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care
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