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Wednesday, 14 November 2018
The International Diabetes Federation estimates that 642 million people will be living with diabetes by 2040. In the UK around 4.5 million people have been diagnosed with it; in the US the equivalent figure is more than 30 million.
Nearly 15 per cent of all global deaths are attributed to diabetes. It is also frequently associated with depression, which in turn affects how well blood glucose levels are controlled, having a major impact on our health.
While a predominantly plant-based diet-rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and seeds with no (vegan) or few animal products-has been linked to a significantly lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, it's not clear if it might also be linked to improved mood and wellbeing.
To try and find out, researchers trawled through the available evidence and found 11 relevant English language clinical trials, published between 1999 and 2017, comparing plant-based diets with other types of diet. The studies involved a total of 433 people in their mid-50s, on average.
Eight of the trials assessed the impact of a vegan diet and six included patients being given information on optimal nutrition to help them better understand the benefits of a plant based diet. The trials lasted for an average of 23 weeks.
A systematic critical analysis of the results showed that quality of life-both physical and emotional-improved only in those patients on a plant based/vegan diet. Similarly, depressive symptoms improved significantly only in these groups.
Nerve pain (neuropathy) eased in both the plant based and comparator diet groups, but more so in the former. And the loss of temperature control in the feet in those on the comparator diets suggests that eating predominantly plant based foods may have slowed the progressive nerve damage associated with diabetes, say the researchers.
In six of the studies, those following a plant based/vegan diet were able to cut down or discontinue the drugs they were taking for their diabetes and associated underlying conditions, such as high blood pressure.
While holding some caveats, this review is the first to attempt to look at the psychological impact of a plant based diet in people with type 2 diabetes, and it draws on research from five different countries, they say. Overall, the results indicated that even though the plant based diets were more difficult to follow, at least to begin with, participants stuck to them better than those in the comparator groups.
"Based on the evidence of the research analysis by this systematic review, it can be concluded that plant-based diets accompanied by educational interventions can significantly improve psychological health, quality of life, HbA1c levels and weight, and therefore the management of diabetes," write the researchers.
"Furthermore, plant-based diets could potentially improve diabetic neuropathic pain and the levels of total cholesterol, [low density lipoprotein] cholesterol and triglycerides in [type 2 diabetes].
1. Anastasios Toumpanakis, Triece Turnbull, Isaura Alba-Barba. Effectiveness of plant-based diets in promoting well-being in the management of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review. BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, 2018; 6 (1): e000534 DOI: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2018-000534