Researchers found that predominantly plant-based or vegan diets can help manage blood sugar levels and weight among diabetes patients.
The study, published in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care, found that such diets could also “significantly improve psychological health and quality of life”.
The authors, from the University of London, the University of Northampton and East Sussex NHS Healthcare Trust, performed a systematic review of all studies relevant to type 2 diabetes patients and plant-based diets – or eating habits that avoid the consumption of most or all animal products and support high consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, whole grains and nuts.
They identified 11 studies conducted between 1999 and 2017 with 433 participants who had an average age of 55.
After looking at all the data, the authors concluded a plant-based diet, accompanied by “educational interventions”, can significantly improve psychological wellbeing and general quality of life.
Such diets were also linked to improving patients’ control of their type 2 diabetes including blood sugar management, weight loss and reductions in cholesterol levels.
The authors point out that in the UK there are 4.5 million people with diabetes costing the NHS vast sums of money.
Around nine in 10 patients with the condition have type 2 diabetes, which is linked to lifestyle factors including obesity.
Dr Katarina Kos, senior lecturer in diabetes and obesity at the University of Exeter, said: “What we learn from this systematic review is that (low fat) vegan or plant-based diets, together with weekly education sessions, are effective in providing more weight loss which unsurprisingly leads to improvement in diabetes and in diabetes and weight-related complications.
“Diets in the intervention and control group were not matched for calories in any of the studies. The success of this diet in people with diabetes was probably down to the fact a vegan diet tends to be low in calories and some were specifically low in fat – a non-vegan low-calorie diet might work just as well to have the same effect.”