- Vegetarian and vegan diets can significantly improve blood sugar levels
- Removing animal fats helps improve insulin sensitivity
- Lowered levels of blood-protein glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c)
- Effect was comparable to drugs which prevent digestion of carbohydrates
- Changes to diet can be used as an alternative treatment for type 2 diabetes
Switching to a vegetarian diet could help reverse diabetes, a new study claims.
Millions of people battling the killer disease could improve their blood sugar levels by eradicating meat from their weekly shop.
Scientists believe removing animal fats could help cure the condition, leaving patients free from the disease.
They said changes to diet could be used as an alternative treatment for type 2 diabetes.
An analysis of previous studies revealed removing animal fats from diet helps improve insulin sensitivity.
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A vegetarian diet can significantly improve blood sugar levels and manage type 2 diabetes, a study found
Eating a vegetable-based diet reduced levels of a key blood-protein called glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c).
For people with diabetes, the higher the HbA1c in their blood, the greater the risk of developing diabetes-related complications such as nerve damage, eye problems, and heart disease.
The study found a vegan or vegetarian diet lowered HbA1c by an average of 0.4 percentage points, and up to 0.7 points.
This is comparable to the effects of drugs given to help patients with diabetes control their blood-sugar levels, researchers said.
‘A diet change beats a pill,’ said dietitian Susan Levin, one of the study’s authors.
‘A plant-based diet improves blood sugar, body weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol all at the same time, something no drug can do.’
Dr Neal Barnard, of the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, added: ‘Plant-based diets work in a different way than “conventional” diabetes diets.
‘We now know that type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance. Getting the animal fat — and fats in general — out of the diet helps repair insulin’s ability to function.’
He told the Daily Express: ‘We tell patients they can eat as much as they want – and as much whole wheat pasta, whole grains, and brown rice as they want – as long as they’re not eating animal products or lots of added oils.
Eating a vegan or a vegetarian diet lowered levels of a key blood protein. The effect was comparable to drugs which prevent the digestion of carbohydrates
‘The diet is simple and clear, and it’s easier than ever to follow. With a plant-based diet, we could help tackle the disease once and for all.’
He said the ‘side effects’ are beneficial, people lose weight, blood pressure improves and cholesterol levels drop.
And he added ‘best of all’, vegan diets remove the tedious routine of taking medication and injecting insulin.
Across the world, 347 million people have diabetes, according to the World Health Organization. They predict it will be the seventh leading cause of death by 2030.
The condition occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to take sugar out of the bloodstream, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.
Removing animal fats helps improve sensitivity to insulin, a hormone which controls blood sugar
Over time diabetes can lead to raised blood sugar levels, which causes damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.
This damage can lead to blindness, amputation, heart disease, kidney failure and stroke.
As part of the new study, researchers analysed the dietary patterns of 255 adults with type 2 diabetes in the U.S, Brazil, and the Czech Republic.
They found people who ate low-fat vegan diet, or a diet of egg and dairy products but no meat, lowered HbA1c by an average of 0.4 percentage points and up to 0.7 points in some studies.
This is comparable to the same effect of alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, drugs given to patients that help control their blood-glucose levels by preventing the digestion of carbohydrate, they said.
Writing in the report, the researchers said: ‘Vegetarian (including vegan) diets have benefits for cardiovascular health, hypertension, body weight, and plasma lipids, and also provide nutritional advantages compared with omnivorous diets.’
A vegetarian diet also contains fewer calories, therefore helping patients manage their weight, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Plant-based diets tend to be higher in fibre, which slows the rate sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, researchers added.
Swapping meat proteins for soy proteins have also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and lower cholesterol.
Therefore, a vegetarian diet could be used as a ‘treatment alternative for type 2 diabetes, they concluded.
The research was published in the journal Cardiovascular Diagnosis And Therapy.