Scientists from La Trobe University found that vegan, vegetarian and Mediterranean diets could help control type 2 diabetes.
The research is published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, and was conducted by D.B. Panagiotakos et al.
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 main source of energy 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.
The good news is that you can take steps to prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes.
According to the National Institute of Health, vegetarian diets focus on fruits and vegetables, dried beans, whole grains, seeds, and nuts.
There are many different types of vegetarian diets. Strict vegetarians, or vegans, eat plant foods and reject all animal products—meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, and sometimes honey.
Those who also eat dairy products are called Lacto vegetarians. Vegetarians who eat both dairy and eggs are called Lacto-ovo vegetarians.
Some vegetarians eat fish but not meat or poultry. They’re called pescatarians (Pesce is Italian for fish).
There are also so-called flexitarians or semi-vegetarians. These are people who eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but they occasionally eat meat.
The Mediterranean diet includes mostly plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, potatoes, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and extra virgin olive oil.
Meals are planned around these foods. The diet also includes moderate amounts of lean poultry, fish, seafood, dairy, and eggs.
Intermittent fasting means that you don’t eat for a period of time each day or week.
Some popular approaches to intermittent fasting include Alternate-day fasting. Eat a normal diet one day and either completely fast or have one small meal (less than 500 calories) the next day.
The macrobiotic diet aims to avoid foods containing toxins. It includes well-chewed whole cereal grains, especially brown rice: 40–60%.
Vegetables: 25–30%; Beans and legumes: 5–10%; Miso soup: 5%; Sea vegetables: 5%; and Traditionally or naturally processed foods: 5–10%.
In the current review study, researchers aimed to examine evidence on the effectiveness of six or more months of low carbohydrate, macrobiotic, vegan, vegetarian, Mediterranean, and intermittent fasting diets compared to low-fat diets on diabetes control and management.
They reviewed 20 studies in which people with type 2 diabetes took part in more than 6 months of dietary interventions.
The team found there were no big differences in blood sugar control, weight, and lipids for the majority of low-carb diets compared to low-fat diets.
Four out of 15 low-carb diet interventions showed better blood sugar control while weight loss was greater in one study.
The researchers also found the Mediterranean diet showed a greater reduction in body weight and HbA1c levels and delayed requirement for diabetes medications.
The vegan and macrobiotic diet showed improved blood sugar control, while the vegetarian diet showed greater body weight reduction and insulin sensitivity.
These findings suggest that vegetarian and Mediterranean dietary patterns may be effective in improving blood sugar control in people with diabetes.
But evidence on the long-term benefits of low-carb diets in people with type 2 diabetes is not conclusive.
Intermittent fasting and macrobiotic diets in diabetes control need more conclusive research in the future.
The team concluded that although more long-term intervention studies are needed, current evidence supports the view that vegan, vegetarian and Mediterranean diets could help control type 2 diabetes.
These diets should be implemented in public health strategies, in order to improve health in people with type 2 diabetes.
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