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diabetes in the news

Another Reason to Go Vegan!
Vegan diets low in fat could enhance glycemic control and insulin sensitivity.

by, IDS Intern, Krystal Bosenbark, MPH, MS

diabetes and the vegan diet

There are numerous studies showing that vegan diets may protect against certain cancers, can reduce the risk of conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and can improve liver and kidney function. Because this diet includes fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, eating a healthy vegan diet (as opposed to eating mainly processed vegan foods) can also lead to weight loss.

A new study may have found yet another reason to adopt a vegan diet for those with type 1 diabetes.

In their study published to Clinical Diabetes in March 2024, Kahleova et al. compared the effects of eating a low-fat vegan diet to a portion-controlled omnivore diet, or a diet that contains both plant and animal-based foods, in a population of adults with type 1 diabetes. In their 12-week randomized control trial, researchers grouped study participants into either the low-fat vegan diet group that had no calorie or carbohydrate restrictions or the portion-controlled group, which included individualized diet plans that reduced daily calorie intake for overweight individuals and maintained consistent carbohydrate intake for everyone in the group over the course of the study. Their outcomes of interest included daily insulin requirements, insulin sensitivity, glycemic control, lipid levels, and renal health.

The findings of the study suggested that those in the low-fat vegan group had significantly better outcomes overall compared to the portion-controlled group.

For example, the low-fat vegan group decreased insulin needs by 28% and increased insulin sensitivity by 127% compared to those in the portion-controlled group. This led to reductions in body weight, with those in the vegan group lowering their body weight by an average of 11 pounds compared with their counterparts, who did not experience any significant weight change. Furthermore, the vegan group experienced a 32.3 mg/dl decrease in total cholesterol by the end of the study, compared to a 10.9 mg/dl decrease among those in the portion-controlled group. Specifically, there was an 18.6 mg/dl decline in LDL cholesterol among those in the low-fat vegan group, whereas the LDL cholesterol did not change significantly in the portion-controlled group.

These results are important, especially considering that individuals with type 1 diabetes who have better glycemic control and increased sensitivity to insulin tend to also prevent the onset of long-term diabetes complications.

However, before switching to a vegan diet cold turkey, it’s important to do your research first. Careful planning is necessary to make sure you are getting enough nutrients like protein, healthy fats, calcium, vitamin B12, and iodine, which will be less abundant after switching to a plant-based diet.

If you’d like to learn more about vegan diets and how they could impact your diabetes management, we encourage you to reach out to your provider, a registered dietitian, or your IDS clinician for more information.

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