A new study by the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that eating a mainly plant-based diet, especially one with lots of healthy veggies, fruit and whole grains, may significantly lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
This study highlights that even moderate dietary changes in the direction of a healthful plant-based diet can play a significant role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. These findings provide further evidence to support current dietary recommendations for chronic disease prevention.
The study collected data on the diet, lifestyle, medical history and current health of over 200,000 individuals over a period of 20 years. People who closely followed a plant-based diet low in animal-based foods had a 20 percent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes than those who did not. However, the research did not establish a firm cause-and-effect relationship; it only showed a link.
The researchers also found that the healthier the foods, the lower the risk seemed to be. The study also revealed that people who opted for less healthy foods, though they still ate many plant-based foods, had a 16 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes. The less healthy diet included foods such as refined grains, potatoes and sugar-sweetened beverages.
The researchers also found that even a modest reduction in animal-based food consumption was linked to a lower type 2 diabetes risk. The reduced risk was seen with as little a change as going from five to six servings of animal-based foods per day to about four servings per day, the study said.
A shift to a dietary pattern higher in healthful plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods, especially red and processed meats, was found to confer substantial health benefits in reducing risk of type 2 diabetes.