Plant-based diets helpful in mediating type 2 diabetes

Pank Jit Sin
07 Jan 2019
Plant-based diets helpful in mediating type 2 diabetes

Switching from animal to plant-based proteins in one’s daily diet is linked to many benefits, one of which is the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus, says a researcher.

The increase in consumption of calorie-dense foods which include fast foods, meats and other animal fats; highly refined grains and sugar refined drinks are dietary choices contributing to the rising rates of obesity around the world.

According to Martalena Br Purba, dietitian, Nutrition Department, Dr Sardjito Hospital, Indonesia, studies show that populations eating a plant-heavy, low-fat diet have less risk of heart disease, lower death rates from heart conditions, less hypertension, less risk of type 2 diabetes, fewer intestinal disorders, less incidence of certain cancers and less risk of osteoporosis, kidney stones and gallstones. [Perm J 2013;17(2):61–66, J Geriatr Cardiol 2017;14(5):342–354]
Purba noted the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) recently recommended a well-balanced, plant-based diet as part of diabetes nutrition. These guidelines recommend carbohydrates intake from legumes, whole grains, vegetables and dairy products, with an emphasis on nutrient-dense, high-fiber, low-glycaemic load foods. In short, plant-based diets are consistent with these diets, said Purba. She was speaking at the recent 12th International Diabetes Federation Western Pacific Region (IDF-WPR) Congress and 10th Asian Association for the Study of Diabetes (AASD) Scientific Meeting.

Plant-based diets are beneficial for blood sugar control because they contain less saturated fatty acids and long-term dietary consumption results in lower free-fatty acid levels and lesser lipid accumulation thus leading to a reduction in diseases associated with free fatty acids, which includes heart failure, metabolic syndrome, and more. [Perm J 2015;19(1):62–67]

Early stage diabetes can be mediated with weight loss
Early stage treatment involves lifestyle modifications. Basic strategies prescribed by GPs include weight loss, increased exercise and physical activity, monitoring of blood glucose and medication adjustment.

To facilitate weight loss, Purba said it could be done by reducing daily calorie intake by 250 to 500 kcal. Replacing animal protein with plant proteins will naturally reduce the calorie density of a meal assuming the dishes are not prepared with excessive oil. Persons with type 2 diabetes should also spread their nutrient intake throughout the day, especially carbohydrates as this will prevent insulin spikes and crashes. Of course, one should always monitor the blood glucose and update the doctor if their sugar levels run awry so that the doctor can add medications if necessary.

Ed: Plant-based diets here are not necessarily vegan or vegetarian in nature but rather plant-heavy. Animal proteins can be replaced with plant proteins such as tempeh and other soy-based products and legumes. Carbohydrates can come from fruits, vegetables and nuts while calcium and other nutrients can be sourced from dairy, leafy vegetables and eggs.    

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