Plant-based Diets Lead To Lower A1c Levels

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If you’re battling type 2, switching to a vegetarian diet could help significantly reduce symptoms, according to researchers.

And before you lament the thought of a diet free from meat, the myriad health benefits researchers from the Physicians Committee found during their analysis might totally change your mind about black beans, tofu and soy-based meat substitutes.

By analyzing data from 255 participants with type 2 in studies from the United States, Brazil and the Czech Republic, researchers found that those who ate a low-fat vegan or lacto-ovo diet (one that allows the consumptions of eggs and milk products) had an A1c that ranged from .4 to .7 percent lower than those whose diets included meat products.

“Plant-based diets work in a different way than ‘conventional’ diabetes diets,” said Neal Barnard, M.D., of the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and one of the study authors. “We now know that type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance. Getting the animal fat — and fats in general — out of the diet helps repair insulin’s ability to function.”

The diet, in fact, worked as well as alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, a diabetes drug that works by slowing the digestion of carbohydrates, so sugars are released more slowly into the bloodstream.

“A diet change beats a pill,” said registered dietitian Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., another of the study’s authors. “A plant-based diet improves blood sugar, body weight, blood pressure and cholesterol all at the same time, something no drug can do.”

The American Diabetes Association has expressed support for a vegan diet for those with type 2 for several years. The hope is that the study results will help doctors feel more confident about recommending dietary changes in place of medications.

Currently, more than 100 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes.

The study appeared in the journal Cardiovascular Diagnosis and Therapy.

The results echo those of a 2006 study also led by Dr. Barnard that appeared in the journal Diabetes Care. Which that found a low-fat vegan diet led to lower A1c levels, lower weight and better glycemic control.

Barnard, an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine, is the author of the 2008 book “Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes without Drugs.” He currently serves as the president of the non-profit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

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