April 17, 2018
2 min read

Weekly classes improve outcomes of vegan, portion-controlled diets in diabetes management

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Neal D. Barnard

Adults with type 2 diabetes assigned to low-fat vegan or portion-controlled diets, combined with weekly nutrition classes, experienced weight loss and some nonstatistically significant improvements in glycemic control, according to findings published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“Even when patients are in ‘good control’ through the use of medications, paying attention to nutrition can yield substantially greater improvements,” Neal D. Barnard, MD, FACC, associate professor of medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington D.C., told Endocrine Today. “This can be done easily, with minimal investment, right in the waiting room, in the form of after-hours classes.”

In a 20-week clinical trial, researchers randomly assigned adult patients with type 2 diabetes to a low-fat vegan (n = 21; mean age, 61 years; eight men; 13 white) or a portion-controlled (n = 24; mean age, 61 years; 13 men; seven white) eating plan. The vegan diet consisted of no animal products or added oils and included low-glycemic index foods. The portion-controlled diet consisted of energy intake limits to promote weight loss (deficit of 500 calories per day) and recommendations for portion sizes. In addition, patients participated in weekly classes in the office waiting room of an endocrinology practice in Washington, D.C.

Researchers measured the participants’ body weight, HbA1c, plasma lipids, urinary albumin and blood pressure at baseline and 20 weeks.

Researchers found that body weight, HbA1c and LDL cholesterol improved for patients in both groups. In the vegan group, body weight decreased by 6.3 kg compared with 4.4 kg in the portion-controlled group (P = .1). BMI dropped by 2.3 kg/m2 in the vegan group and 1.5 kg/m2 in the portion-controlled group (P = .075). Median HbA1c levels decreased by 0.4% in both groups. Although LDL cholesterol concentrations were low at baseline, levels decreased nonsignificantly in both groups (vegan = –11.9; portion-controlled = –12.7).

When physicians turn their waiting rooms into classrooms, patients can learn about healthy eating and support one another by sharing tips, exchanging recipes and working through challenges together, Barnard said in a press release.

He emphasized the importance of recognizing nutrition as a powerful tool to treat diabetes.

“This study shows that even clinicians who are pressed for time can harness that power by offering group instruction to their patients,” Barnard said in the release. – by Melissa J. Webb

For more information:

Neal D. Barnard, MD, FACC, can be reached at nbarnard@pcrm.org.

Disclosure: Barnard reports that he is affiliated with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. He also reports that he has received honoraria and royalties from publishing books and giving lectures on nutrition and health.