High fibre vegan diet may improve diabetes risk factors via the microbiome

Alex Williams
Tue, 17 Sep 2019
High fibre vegan diet may improve diabetes risk factors via the microbiome
A vegan diet that is high in fibre may cause beneficial changes to the microbiome, the bacteria in our gut, according to US researchers.

The gut, and the bacteria living in it, can play a vital role in overall health and wellbeing as it helps control everything from the weight to inflammation.

A team from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), Washington, DC, randomised 147 participants (86% of whom were female) into two groups. One group made no changes to their usual diet and the other followed a 16-week plant-based diet.

The researchers measured differences in weight, body fat, gut bacteria and insulin sensitivity before and after the intervention.

They found that those who had been eating the plant-based diet lost an average of 5.8kg (13 lbs), which was mostly due to reductions in fat mass, including the particularly problematic visceral fat. This group had also experienced a significant improvement in insulin sensitivity.

The authors concluded: "A 16-week low-fat vegan dietary intervention induced changes in gut microbiota that were related to changes in weight, body composition and insulin sensitivity in overweight adults."

Despite the findings, the researchers said more work needs to be done to further explore benefits a vegan diet may have on obesity and have high glucose levels. Their next step is to investigate how a plant-based diet might aid people with type 2 diabetes, when compared to a standard portion-controlled diet.

From their assessment, the research team said the gut changes were largely down to an increased amount of a 'good bacteria', including a species known as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, that feed on dietary fibre and produce short-chain fatty acids.

The authors concluded that "high dietary fibre content seems to be essential for the changes observed in our study".

The study was unveiled at the 55th Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) which is currently taking place in Barcelona.
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