Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes worldwide, accounting for over 90% of cases. Studies show that being vegan significantly reduces the chances of developing this disease.

Diabetes is one of the fastest-growing global conditions, and places a massive burden on individuals and health care services. According to the CDC, 34.2 million Americans—just over 1 in 10—have diabetes. 88 million American adults—approximately 1 in 3—have prediabetes.

1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year. Worryingly, About 210,000 Americans under age 20 are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes

“In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled as the American population has aged and become more overweight or obese.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Diabetes is a leading cause of death and disability in the western world, and can lead to vascular complications causing heart disease, foot ulcers, limb amputations, erectile dysfunction, kidney failure, and eye sight problems including blindness. On average a diabetic’s life expectancy is ten years less than that of an average non-diabetic.

How can being vegan help with type 2 diabetes?

A large prospective study measuring rates of diabetes in vegans, the Adventist Health Study 2, found vegans to have a 60% less chance of developing the disease than non-vegetarians after two years of follow-up. The lower rates of diabetes in vegetarians, and vegans especially, were commented on by the study authors:

“Fruits and vegetables may contribute to a decreased incidence of type 2 diabetes through their low energy density, low glycaemic load, and high fibre and macronutrient content. Other features of the vegetarian diet are whole grains and legumes. These foods have been shown to improve glycaemic control, slow the rate of carbohydrate absorption and the risk of diabetes.” 

A cross-sectional study from the Adventist Health Study-2 showed vegans to have a 68% lower rate of diabetes than non-vegetarians. A number of clinical trials have now shown that a vegan, or mostly vegan, diet can lower body weight, reduce blood sugar, and improve other parameters for type 2 diabetes.

According to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

“Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity.”

A 2016 Harvard University review of 3 large trials concluded that “plant-based diets, especially when rich in high-quality plant foods, are associated with substantially lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes” (1).  What is really important to note for health is that “while consumption of a plant-based diet high in less healthy plant foods was associated with a 16% increased diabetes risk.”  So we need to remember to eat a whole food plant-based diet for health.

Researchers from Oxford and Peking universities stated that “higher fresh fruit consumption was associated with significantly lower risk of diabetes and, among diabetic individuals, lower risks of death and development of major vascular complications.” in a population of ½ million Chinese. (2)

Sources:

(1)Satija A, Bhupathiraju SN, Rimm EB, et al. Plant-Based Dietary Patterns and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women: Results from Three Prospective Cohort Studies. Moore SC, ed. PLoS Medicine. 2016;13(6):e1002039. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002039.

(2) Du H, Li L, Bennett D, et al. Fresh fruit consumption in relation to incident diabetes and diabetic vascular complications: A 7-y prospective study of 0.5 million Chinese adults. Basu S, ed. PLoS Medicine. 2017;14(4):e1002279. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002279.

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