Eating a plant-based or vegan diet could significantly improve psychological wellbeing and reduce risk factors of type 2 diabetes, research indicates.
The UK scientists behind the trial say the findings provide more understanding of how diet is linked to mood and wellbeing, which has previously been unclear.
An analysis of 11 trials found that plant-based diets lowered HbA1c levels and weight and also improved quality of life among participants.
Plant-based diets have previously been found to improve insulin sensitivity in obese adults without diabetes, and reduce cardiovascular risks. The UK researchers behind the study believe their benefits could extend to helping prevent type 2 diabetes.
A plant-based diet includes vegetables, nuts and seeds. They’re generally considered to be healthy because they contain lots of fibre, vitamins and antioxidants.
In the trials analysed, plant-based diets were compared with other diets among 433 people in their mid-50s, on average. The trials lasted for an average of 23 weeks.
Emotional and physical quality of life improvements were only observed in those on a plant-based/vegan diet, while depressive symptoms decreased significantly.
Other benefits observed included reduced nerve pain (neuropathy), reduced HbA1c and blood glucose levels and improved weight loss – 5.23kg on average compared to 2.83kg among those who ate very few animal products.
“Based on the evidence of the research analysis by this systematic review, it can be concluded that plant-based diets accompanied by educational interventions can significantly improve psychological health, quality of life, HbA1c levels and weight, and therefore the management of diabetes,” write the researchers.
While plant-based diets continue to show benefits, some fruits, legumes and whole grains which can be eaten in these diets are often higher in carbohydrate, which can negatively impact on blood glucose levels.
Eating a diet low in carbohydrate and high in plant-based foods is particularly effective for reducing type 2 diabetes and managing diabetes because it keeps blood glucose well controlled. For more information visit our Low Carb Program.
The study findings have been published online in The BMJ Open Diabetes Research &Care.

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