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Vegan diet linked to better diabetes control and wellbeing

Plant-based diets can significantly improve psychological health, HbA1c levels and weight

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Plant-based diets were associated with significant improvements in psychological health, quality of life, glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) levels and weight in adults with type 2 diabetes and so could improve its management, researchers have found. They said the results of their systematic review*, published today in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, also showed the potential for plant-based diets to improve diabetic neuropathic pain and the levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in type 2 diabetes.

The UK research team, led from the University of London, noted that earlier diet interventions have already suggested an association between plant-based diets and improvements in psychological well-being, quality of life and HbA1c control in populations with diabetes, but they wanted to clearly define the benefits on well-being of such intervention through a systematic review of controlled trials.

They analysed 11 trials of diet interventions, including a total of 433 adults with type 2 diabetes (mean age 54.8 years), that had clearly defined health outcomes and were peer-reviewed.

Their analysis revealed that plant-based diets were associated with significant improvement in emotional well-being, physical well-being, depression, quality of life, general health, HbA1c levels, weight, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, compared with several diabetic associations’ official guidelines and other comparator diets.

The review authors noted its limitations, in that the included studies had rather small sample sizes (although they were adequate to estimate significance levels), and that two of the studies were not randomised. However, they pointed out that it also had several strengths: it is the first to attempt to summarise the significant psychological outcomes of a plant-based diet intervention in adults with type 2 diabetes; and it included controlled trials done in several different countries, and that focused on dietary patterns rather than isolated nutrients, both of which improve the generalisability of its findings.

They said more research is needed to explore the relationship between psychological health, dietary patterns/behaviour and diabetes control, but said that based on the evidence from their 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. Furthermore, plant-based diets could potentially improve diabetic neuropathic pain and the levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in T2D.”


*Toumpanakis A, Turnbull T, Alba-Barba I. Effectiveness of plant-based diets in promoting well-being in the management of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review. BMJ Open Diab Res Care 2018; 6: e000534. doi:10.1136/bmjdrc-2018-00053.

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