Flashback Friday: Plant-Based Diets for Diabetes

Flashback Friday: Plant-Based Diets for Diabetes

October 4, 2019 24 By Ewald Bahringer


“Plant-Based Diets for Diabetes” I’ve talked about the role meat may
play in increasing the risk of diabetes, and the potential protective
role of healthy plant foods. But plant-based diets
not only appear to guard against getting diabetes
in the first place, they may successfully treat the disease
better than the diabetic diets patients are typically placed on, controlling
weight and cholesterol. Diets based on whole plant foods can
result in significant weight loss without any limits on portion
size or calorie counting, because plant foods tend
to be so calorically dilute. Here’s a 100 calories of broccoli,
tomatoes, strawberries, compare that to a 100 calories
of chicken, cheese, or fish. People just can’t seem to eat to enough
to compensate for the calorie deficit so lose weight eating whole plant foods.
And most importantly, it works. Better. A plant-based diet beat out the conventional
American Diabetes Association diet in a head-to-head randomized
controlled clinical trial, without restricting portions,
no calorie or carb counting. A review of all such studies found that
individuals following plant-based diets experience improved reductions in blood
sugars, body weight, and cardiovascular risk, compared with those following
diets that included animal products. And cardiovascular risk is
what kills diabetics the most. They’re more likely to get strokes,
more likely heart failure. In fact, diabetes has been proposed as
a coronary heart disease risk equivalent, meaning diabetic patients without
a history of coronary disease have an equivalent risk to those
non-diabetic individuals with confirmed heart disease. A newer study used a technique to
actually measure insulin sensitivity. Improved on both diets
in the first three months, but then the veg diet pulled ahead.
And look at their LDL cholesterol. That’s what we see when people
are put on plant-based diets; cholesterol comes down so much it can
actually reverse the atherosclerosis progression, reverse the
progression of heart disease. We know about the beneficial
effect of vegetarian diets on controlling weight, blood sugars,
cholesterol, insulin sensitivity, and oxidative stress compared
to conventional diabetic diets, but what about quality
of life, mood? How did people feel after making
such a dramatic change in their diets? In this randomized controlled trial,
study subjects were assigned either to a plant-based diet
group or control group. Vegetables, grains, beans, fruits, and
nuts, with animal products limited to a maximum of one daily
portion of low-fat yogurt, and the control group got
the official diabetes diet. Quality of life improved on both
diets in the first few months, but within six months, the plant-
based group clearly pulled ahead. Same thing with
depression scores. Dropped in both groups
in the first three months, but started to rebound
in the control group. Bottom line, the more plant-based
diet led to a greater improvement in quality of life
and mood. Patients consuming a vegetarian diet
also felt less constrained than those consuming the conventional diet.
People actually felt the conventional diabetic diet was more restrictive
than the plant-based diet. Disinhibition decreased
with a vegetarian diet, meaning those eating vegetarian
were less likely to binge. And the veg group folks
tended to feel less hungry, all of which helps with
sustainability in the long term, which is, of course, critical
for changing diet. So not only do plant-based diets
appear to work better, but they may be easier to stick to.
And with the improvement in mood, patients may exhibit desired
improvements not only in physical, but also in mental health.