Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists

Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists

August 06, 2014
2 min read
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Plant-based diet helps grow healthy microbiota, halt diabetes disease process

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ORLANDO — With research mounting on the onslaught the body’s microbiota take from human eating patterns and the environment, making choices to maintain inner ecosystem health is essential, according to presenters at the American Association of Diabetes Educators Annual Meeting.

Choosing a plant-based diet is one way people can increase the diversity of bacteria in their biome, reduce inflammation and begin to reverse the diseases processes involved in obesity and diabetes — often in just a few days.

“We know obesity and diabetes have increased tremendously in the last 20 years and we know that our genes haven’t changed, so that can’t account for the change,” Meghan Jardine, MS, MBA, RD, LD, CDE, RDN, of Parkland Health and Hospital System, said during a presentation. “Many scientists believe the changes in our diet and physical activity can’t really account for the change either, that there’s something else at work here.”

Weighing at least two kilograms in all and accounting for more than 3 times the amount of the body’s human cells, gut bacteria is colonized after birth, stabilized by age 3 years but influenced by a number of external factors, Jardine explained. Areas of influence include nutrition and immune function, both priorities in treating obesity and diabetes.

“Microbiota releases enzymes that digest food so we can absorb nutrients, produces vitamins, combats opportunistic infections and works with the immune system,” Jardine said. “About 70% of our immune systems are in our gut.”

Meghan Jardine, MS, MBA, RD, LD, CDE, RDN

Meghan Jardine

People who consume plant-based diets have “healthy” gut microbiota in terms of global parameters and functional and compositional features, Christina Kafity, RN, BSN, CHC, owner of a practice in Norwalk, Ohio, said during the same presentation.

“Children and elderly individuals who consumed more plant carbohydrates versus the typical standard American diet had rapid, reproducible alterations of the gut microbiota for the better, and this happened within 24 hours to a week,” Kafity said.

Growing good bacteria depends on creating an environment in which they can thrive, Kafity explained, including choosing foods that contain certain fibers intact in plants and probiotics; among them are soluble, insoluble and functional fibers as well as psyllium and inulin.

Intake of cruciferous vegetables including Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage can help boost healthy microbes and, further, provide glucosinolates to help to reduce inflammation, Kafity said.

Yogurt, kefir and probiotics also promote the growth of good bacteria, Kafity noted, while some popular beverages may not be much help. “We’re considering that coffee and teas may actually sterilize the bacteria.” — by Allegra Tiver

For more information: Jardine M. and Kafity C. W08. Presented at: The American Association of Diabetes Educators Annual Meeting 2014; August 6-9, 2014; Orlando, Fla.

Disclosure: Jardine and Kafity reported no relevant financial disclosures.