According to a recent study published in Diabetologia, the Journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, individuals who eat more plant-based foods – such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes – can significantly lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D).
These findings are in line with previous studies that show the benefits of plant-based diets in the prevention of T2D.
The relationship between diet and diabetes
Researchers from the Department of Nutrition, at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, set out to identify any associations between dietary profiles and the risk of developing T2D.
To do this, they analyzed the metabolite profiles associated with different plant-based diets. A metabolite is a substance that is used or produced by a living organism through the chemical process of breaking down or metabolizing foods.
The study methodology
The study involved analyzing blood plasma samples from 10,684 adults from three different longitudinal cohort studies (Nurses’ Health Study, Nurses’ Health Study II, and Health Professionals Follow-up Study).
All participants filled out food and diet questionnaires. They were then separated into three different groups:
- Group 1 was made up of participants who ate a diet rich in healthy plant foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes
- Group 2 was made up of participants who ate a diet of unhealthy plant foods, such as refined grains, fruit juices, sugar-sweetened beverages, and sweets/desserts
- Group 3 was made up of animal foods, such as dairy, eggs, and meat, including fish
The study’s findings
The researchers found that participants who went on to develop T2D generally recorded lower consumption levels of healthy plant-based foods. Those with T2D typically had a higher average BMI and were more likely to have high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They were also less physically active.
Further, researchers found that participants who stuck to plant-based foods, especially those rich in polyphenols, had lower odds of developing the disease.
Plant-based diets and diabetes prevention
The authors concluded: “Our findings support the beneficial role of healthy plant-based diets in diabetes prevention and provide new insights for future investigation.
“… our findings regarding the intermediate metabolites are at the moment intriguing, but further studies are needed to confirm their causal role in the associations of plant-based diets and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”
You can view the full study here.