Diabetes and a Plant based/ Vegan diet
Type 2 diabetes is a global epidemic, and continues to grow rapidly in middle- and low-income countries. Prediabetes is even more common among those aged ≥ 65 in the United States, with a prevalence of 50%. Diabetes accounts for in excess of $176 billion of direct medical costs in the US, including annual per capita costs of $7900, a number 2.3 times higher than costs for adults without diabetes. Staggering numbers indeed!
Lifestyle choices, including dietary intake, remain a key driver of insulin resistance, especially in an aging, more sedentary population. Simple changes in lifestyle; therefore, become very effective in preventing (and in many cases, reversing) diabetes. Multiple studies have strongly supported the role of a plant-based diet/vegan in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
According to the National Institutes of Health, plant-based /vegan diets―which emphasize legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds (while discouraging all animal products) ―are highly effective in preventing Type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, these dietary patterns have been associated with much lower rates of obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular mortality, and cancer.
Plant based /vegan diets significantly lower the level of chronic inflammation in the body. Elevated levels of these serum (blood) biomarkers are linked to cardiovascular events (heart attack, stroke) and are influenced greatly by “meat based” dietary patterns. Insulin resistance is lowered with a plant based/vegan diet, which usually also yields weight loss; the overall effects add up to lower blood sugar levels, more energy, improved sleep habits and more.
Many persons with diabetes are concerned over the amount of carbohydrates found in a plant based/vegan diet. As with all diets, though, it is important to understand the different “quality” of carbohydrates found in a plant based/vegan diet. Whole grain and cereal fiber actually lower the risk of diabetes, while many processed or refined carbohydrates tend to negatively affect glucose levels. Furthermore, a diet rich in whole fruits and vegetables tends to be nutrient rich and improve overall health. Loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, this diet improves blood glucose control by lowering insulin resistance and improving insulin sensitivity.
For more information on diabetes, plant based/vegan diets and more, check out the references listed below. As always, discuss any diet changes with your healthcare provider.
Hippocrates said it best: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”