A substantially lower risk for the development of type 2 diabetes is found with consuming a plant-based diet, according to study findings published in PLOS Medicine.
“This study highlights that even moderate dietary changes in the direction of a healthful plant-based diet can play a significant role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes,” Ambikas Satija, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a press release. “These findings provide further evidence to support current dietary recommendations for chronic disease prevention.”
Satija and colleagues evaluated data from the Nurses’ Health Study (1984-2012; women, n = 69,949), the Nurses’ Health Study 2 (1991-2011; women, n = 90,239) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986-2010; men, n = 40,539) to determine links between an overall plant-based diet and healthful and unhealthful versions of a plant-based diet with type 2 diabetes incidence. A plant-based diet index was used to evaluate participants’ diets with plant-based foods receiving higher scores and animal-based foods receiving lower scores. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, vegetable oils and tea/coffee were considered healthy plant foods and fruit juices, sugar-sweetened beverages, refined grains, potatoes and sweets/desserts were considered less healthy plant foods. Animal fats, dairy, eggs, fish/seafood, meat (poultry and red meat) and miscellaneous animal-based foods were considered animal food groups.
Type 2 diabetes incidence was inversely associated with an overall plant-based diet index among all participants; the relationship was attenuated after adjustment for BMI but remained significant. The healthy plant-based diet revealed a strong inverse association with type 2 diabetes, and there was a positive relationship between type 2 diabetes and the less healthy plant-based diet.
Compared with low adherence to a plant-based diet, low in animal foods, high adherence to that diet was linked with a 20% reduced risk for type 2 diabetes. The healthy plant-based diet was linked with a 34% lower risk whereas the less healthy plant-based diet was linked with a 16% increased risk.
“A shift to dietary pattern higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods, especially red and processed meats, can confer substantial health benefits in reducing risk of type 2 diabetes,” study researcher Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in the release.
Disclosure: Hu and Satija reports no relevant financial disclosures.