Research shows that plant-based diets can alleviate type 2 diabetes

Lifestyle-based therapeutic interventions that promote adherence to whole-food, plant-based diets and incorporate them into daily care can successfully achieve type 2 diabetes remission, according to a study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

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The case series determined that 59 patients with type 2 diabetes from a heart health program achieved significant improvements in blood sugar control, with 37% of patients achieving complete remission of diabetes. The patients were treated with a low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet while also receiving standard medical care at a Virginia health center. The improvement in glycemic control was accompanied by a significant reduction in body mass index.

Previous research has shown that plant-based eating patterns can improve diabetes outcomes, but that research mostly involved heavy calorie restriction, often relying on liquid meal replacements or fasting. The study, published in collaboration with the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM), is unique in that remission was assessed as the primary outcome and provides new information on the feasibility of achieving remission simply by consuming healthy foods.

“The prevalence of diabetes is rising and the healthcare community is recognizing that diet as a primary intervention can lead to durable remission in patients with type 2 diabetes,” said the study’s first author, Gunadhar Panigrahi, MD, FACC, DipABLM.

“This case series further supports the effectiveness of whole-food, plant-based diets as a primary intervention for achieving remission, and the need for increased clinician and patient education to successfully apply lifestyle medicine principles and dietary interventions in everyday medical practice. ”

Researchers reviewed electronic health records of patients treated at health clinics between 2007 and 2021 to identify those who ate a whole-food, plant-based diet and achieved meaningful improvements in HbA1c, or blood sugar control, and remission of type 2 diabetes. Data points were extracted from the period before and after the most recent lifestyle intervention.