More Plants, Less Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis from Harvard

August 5, 2019 • 2 min read

A systematic review and meta-analysis of nine prospective observational studies, including more than 300,000 participants and more than 23,000 cases of type 2 diabetes (T2D), developed a clear association between plant-based dietary patterns and the risk of T2D in adults.

Researchers found that the greater the adherence to plant-based dietary patterns, the lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Plant-based diets are often associated with addressing current cases or reducing the risk of future cases of chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. This connection is largely due to the high concentration of vitamins and minerals, fiber, phenolic compounds, and unsaturated fatty acids found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. These high concentrations are linked to health benefits through improving insulin sensitivity, maintaining healthy blood pressure and body weight, and keeping a healthy balance of inflammation.

While plant-based diets may sometimes exclude potentially beneficial animal-based products like yogurt and fish, which are often associated with reduced risk of cardiometabolic conditions, plant-based diets also may exclude animal foods like red and processed meats. These foods are often linked to increased risk of T2D. However, plant-based diets may also include foods like refined grains, starches, and sugars that, like red and processed meats, are linked to a higher risk of T2D.

That being said, the study found that when plant-based diets were defined more specifically as dense with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, the connection to reduced risk of T2D was much stronger.

For the full article from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, click here.

For more on the importance of plant-based dietary patterns and applying these patterns in real life, stay tuned for the launch of the WholisticMatters Culinary Wellness series, featuring healthy recipes, cooking skills videos, and culinary demos. Coming soon to WholisticMatters.com.

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