A vegan diet could prevent, treat and even reverse type 2 diabetes, say leading experts this Diabetes Week (12-18 June).
Diet and lifestyle have long been regarded as the main causes of type 2 diabetes. Now research suggests that vegans reduce their risk of diabetes by 78% compared with people who eat meat on a daily basis.
“Type 2 diabetes is almost always preventable, often treatable, and sometimes reversible through diet and lifestyle changes,” wrote Dr Michael Greger, internationally-renowned physician, in his best-selling book How Not To Die.
“People who eat a plant-based diet have just a small fraction of the rates of diabetes seen in those who regularly eat meat. By switching to a healthy diet, you can start improving your health within a matter of hours.”
This is partly because vegans are better able to control their weight. Carrying excess body fat is the number one risk factor of type 2 diabetes, with around 90% of those who develop the disease being overweight. Vegans, however, have lower levels of obesity on average than any other dietary group.
It is also because, Dr Greger explains, the saturated fats found in animal products contribute to insulin resistance – the cause of type 2 diabetes – whereas monosaturated fats found in nuts and avocados may actually protect against the detrimental effects of saturated fats.
As a result, people eating plant-based diets appear to have better insulin sensitivity, better blood sugar levels and better levels of insulin, which enables blood sugar to enter your cells.
Type 2 diabetes is spreading fast. Over 21 million people have been diagnosed with the disease in the United States, a number that has roughly tripled since 1990, with devastating health implications. Diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, and stroke.
Sandra Hood, state registered dietitian in the UK, said: “A plant-based diet can be very helpful in preventing and controlling diabetes. This may be through weight management as obesity is the dominant factor for diabetes prevention and vegans tend to be slimmer than their omnivore peers.”
There are now at least 542,000 people in Britain following a vegan diet with another 521,000 vegetarians wanting to reduce their consumption of animal products. Going vegan has never been easier, with far wider availability of vegan products in cafes, restaurants and shops across the UK.