Scientists from Harvard University and elsewhere found that eating a healthy plant-based diet may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in healthy people.
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.
Plant-based diets, especially when rich in healthy plant foods, have been linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
However, whether metabolite levels in the body related to plant-based diets reflect this association was unknown.
In the current study, researchers aimed to find the plasma metabolite profiles related to plant-based diets and to examine the associations between the metabolite profiles and the risk of type 2 diabetes.
They used data from three large studies (Nurses’ Health Study, Nurses’ Health Study II, and Health Professionals Follow-up Study) and measured plasma metabolites from 10,684 participants.
These people’s adherence to plant-based diets was assessed with three indices: an overall Plant-based Diet Index, a Healthy Plant-based Diet Index, and an Unhealthy Plant-based Diet Index.
The team found several metabolite profiles, including 55 metabolites for the Plant-based Diet Index, 93 metabolites for the Healthy Plant-based Diet Index, and 75 metabolites for the Unhealthy Plant-based Diet Index.
Metabolite profile scores based on the identified metabolite profiles were correlated with the corresponding diet index.
The team found metabolite scores of the Plant-based Diet Index and Healthy Plant-based Diet Index were linked to lower risks of type 2 diabetes, but the metabolite score for the Unhealthy Plant-based Diet Index was not linked to the risk.
The researchers also found trigonelline, hippurate, isoleucine, and a subset of triacylglycerols reduced the associations of diet indices Plant-based Diet Index and Healthy Plant-based Diet Index with lower type 2 diabetes risk.
Based on the findings, the team suggests that metabolite profiles in the body related to plant-based diets, especially a healthy plant-based diet, are linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes in healthy people.
The new findings support the benefits of healthy plant-based diets in diabetes prevention.
The research was published in Diabetologia and conducted by Fenglei Wang et al.
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