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Eating a plant-based diet can do wonders for your health. Studies have found that limiting red meat and eating whole grains, legumes, and a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables can lower cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease, prevent type 2 diabetes, and even extend human life — not to mention the planet.
However, when it comes to diabetes prevention, these benefits may only appear if a plant-based diet is healthy and limits highly processed or sugar-laden foods, according to a new study that analyzed 206 different types of foods.
An analysis of dietary patterns over 12 years of more than 113,000 participants in the UK Biobank Study, a longitudinal study of health among the country’s population, classified people into four categories based on their intake of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
People in the top 25% follow a vegetarian diet low in sweets, refined grains, and sugary drinks. People in the bottom 25% consume a lot of these unhealthy plant foods.
Compared with people in the lowest class, those who ate the most whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and reduced their intake of unhealthy options had a 24% lower risk of developing diabetes, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Diabetes and Metabolism.
People who ate a healthier diet also had a lower body mass index and waist circumference, as well as better blood sugar levels and lower levels of inflammation.
The study found that the benefit extended to people with a genetic predisposition to diabetes and those with other risk factors for diabetes such as obesity.
First author Alisha Thompson, a PhD student at UCL, said: “These data are really important, especially for those thought to be at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, because they show that they can significantly reduce their risk by following a healthy, plant-based diet.” “. Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland said in a statement.
However, the study found that people who ate a less healthy plant-based diet had a 37% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, along with larger waist circumference and higher levels of triglycerides, a form of cholesterol.
In fact, obesity was “a major mediator behind the increased risk of type 2 diabetes among individuals following unhealthy plant-based diets,” said co-author Tilman Kuhn, lecturer from the Institute of Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast and head of the Department of Public Health Nutrition at Queen’s University Belfast. The Medical University of Vienna said in a statement.
How does a healthy vegetarian diet help protect the body from type 2 diabetes? By influencing a range of antidiabetic mechanisms, “including blood sugar and lipid levels and decreased body fat,” Cohen said.
Another finding was the important role that the kidneys and liver play in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, said co-author Aidan Cassidy, a professor at the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast.
“For the first time, we have shown that improvements in both metabolism and liver and kidney function as a result of a healthy, plant-based diet may explain how this diet can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” Cassidy said. In the current situation.
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Experts say some plant-based diets are healthier than others, so stick with whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Although the study found only an association, not a direct cause and effect, the results were “interesting,” Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and senior teaching fellow at Aston Medical School in Birmingham, UK, said in a statement to the Center for Science Media. in London.
The analysis “looked at aspects of liver health and other measures of inflammation and explored how they might be linked to diet and risk of type 2 diabetes,” said Mellor, who was not involved in the study. “This suggests a number of potential designs for future research to evaluate whether this type of plant-based diet could actually reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”
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