Vegetarian diets protect heart health in people with diabetes

Credit: CC0 Public Domain.

Scientists from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that plant-based diets improve blood sugar control, lead to weight loss, and improve cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high.

Blood glucose is your primary energy source and comes mainly from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose get into your cells to be used for energy.

In type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Too much glucose then stays in your blood, and not enough reaches your cells.

A vegetarian diet is one that does not include any meat or seafood. However, there are many variations to this – some people following a vegetarian diet may eat eggs and dairy foods, while others may avoid one or both.

A vegan diet is another form of vegetarianism where only plant foods are eaten and all foods from animal sources are avoided (meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, and sometimes honey and gelatine).

Vegetarian diets can have many health benefits. They can offer all the essential vitamins and minerals necessary for a long and healthy life provided they are well-planned.

In the current study, researchers did a review of clinical trials to examine the impacts of vegetarian diets on blood sugar control and other heart disease risk factors in people with diabetes.

They included nine clinical studies longer than 3 weeks that tested the effect of vegetarian diets in individuals with diabetes. More than 600 people were involved in these studies.

The main outcomes included HbA1c, blood sugar control, blood lipids, body weight, body fat, and blood pressure.

HbA1c is a blood test that is used to help diagnose and monitor people with diabetes.

The researchers found that vegetarian diets strongly lowered HbA1c, blood sugar, LDL-C (‘bad’ cholesterol), body weight, BMI, and waist circumference.

Body mass index, or BMI, is used to determine whether you are in a healthy weight range for your height.

It is useful to consider BMI alongside waist circumference, as waist measurement helps to assess risk by measuring the amount of fat carried around your middle.

The team also found there was no big effect on fasting insulin, HDL-C (‘good’ cholesterol), triglycerides (a type of fat (lipid) found in your blood), or blood pressure.

The team concluded that vegetarian diets improve blood sugar, blood cholesterol, and body weight/fat in people with diabetes.

These findings support the inclusion of these diets for diabetes management.

The research is published in the journal Clinical Nutrition and was conducted by Hana Kahleova et al.

Copyright © 2022 Scientific Diet. All rights reserved.