By: Laurie Edwards for Wounds1
By now, we all know that the healthier our diet, the better we feel. But for people with Type 2 diabetes, that difference can be even more pronounced and even more important, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has an important message: Following a low-fat vegan diet can significantly improve glycemic control in diabetics.
In a study partially funded by the National Institutes of Health that was published in the August issue of Diabetes Care, the group reported that following the American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines was effective in terms of controlling blood sugars and improving cardiovascular risk, but following a low-fat vegan diet was even more successful.
|Considering a vegan diet? Here is a food breakdown by meal-type to give you an idea of your options:|
Breakfast: cereal/granola with soy/rice milk, oatmeal or other hot cereal, bagel/toast with jelly, pancakes, soy yogurt , fruit smoothie
Lunch/Dinner: peanut butter and jelly, grain/soy burger, vegetarian hotdog, baked/mashed potatoes, french fries, tofu, pasta with tomato sauce, bean burrito
In fact, 43 percent of patients in the 22-week study who followed the vegan diet reduced their need to use medication to control blood sugars, compared to 26 percent of patients who saw improvements using the ADA guidelines.
“The diet appears remarkably effective, and all the side effects are good ones – especially weight loss and lower cholesterol,” said Dr. Neal D. Barnard, adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The non-profit group opposes animal research and supports vegan diets.
Dr. Barnard added that hopefully, this study “will rekindle interest in using diet changes first, rather than prescription drugs.”
Specifically, study participants on the vegan diet ate fruits, vegetables and grains but no animal products and limited fats. Unlike most diets, there were no restrictions on calories, portions and carbohydrates, which may appeal to more people and may make it easier to follow in some ways.
To counteract possible vitamin B12 deficiency as a result of the diet, participants were given B12 vitamins.
The ADA diet consisted of 15 -20 percent protein intake, 60-70 percent carbohydrate intake and less than 7 percent intake of saturated fats, and participants were required to lower their total intake by 500-1,0000 calories a day.
Participants on both diets lost weight, but those on the vegan diets lost twice as much as their counterparts on the ADA diet – 14.3 lbs compared to 6.83 lbs.
Until now, most research involving vegan diets also took exercise into account, so these results are especially significant when evaluating diet and lifestyle choices for diabetics.
“Diabetes prevalence is relatively low among individuals following plant-based and vegetarian diets, and clinical trials using such diets have shown improvements in glycemic and cardiovascular health,” wrote the study authors. “Most of these trials have also included exercise, thus making it impossible to isolate diet effects.”
Interestingly, in a 2005 study published in the American Journal of Medicine, Barnard and colleagues found that overweight women who were not diabetic and followed the diet without adding exercise to their routine increased their insulin sensitivity and also reduced their overall body weight.
While the results are certainly promising, it is important to note that the study only lasted 22 weeks, pointing to the need for further research. Also, since most participants were taking medication to control blood pressure, it was not possible to isolate the effect of the two diets on hypertension.