A new study indicates that eating a low-fat, vegan diet could decrease the risk of chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes.
The research was published in Dietary Science and Practice. It looked at the ways in which low-fat, plant-based foods impact body weight and composition, as well as insulin sensitivity.
The 16-week study, conducted by Hana Kahleova and Neal D. Barnard, observed 244 overweight individuals assigned to either the intervention or control groups.
The intervention group was prescribed a low-fat vegan diet, with around 75 percent of energy coming from carbohydrates, 15 percent from protein, and 10 percent from fat. They were asked to avoid all animal products and added fats. And instead, prioritize fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes like beans, peas, and lentils. They were also instructed to take a daily vitamin B12 supplement.
As part of the study, researchers monitored participants’ levels of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs).
AGEs are toxic compounds that are produced when protein or fat combines with glucose in the bloodstream. AGEs accumulate naturally as one ages, and the body is generally capable of eliminating them on its own. But high levels of AGEs can cause inflammation and impair the body’s ability to repair itself.
This can create the perfect conditions for certain chronic diseases, like diabetes, to take hold.
Researchers recorded a 79 percent reduction in AGEs for the plant-based intervention group.
Reduced meat intake was found to be responsible for 55 percent of the decrease. Meanwhile, dairy reduction accounted for 26 percent, and 15 percent came from a lowered fat intake.
A further breakdown of food types revealed that reduced white meat (like chicken or turkey) was most effective in reducing AGEs from meat. This alone accounted for 59 percent of the meat drop. Researchers said this was “surprising,” and attributed it to the quantity of the white meat being eaten. Processed meat followed in second place.
In contrast, the control group, which made no dietary changes at all, only saw around a 15 percent reduction of AGEs.
The decrease in AGEs was also connected to an average weight loss of 14 pounds experienced by participants in the intervention group. As individuals lost weight, their sensitivity to insulin improved. This then made them less likely to develop type 2 diabetes in future.
How diet affects diabetes
It is estimated that one in 10 people in the US are diabetic.
Diets that are high in calories, cholesterol, and fat significantly increase the chances of people developing type 2 diabetes. Cholesterol is only found in animal products such as meat and dairy, alongside high levels of fat. As such, the potential of healthy plant-based eating as a preventative action or remedial prescription is being widely examined.
At the start of the year, a new study confirmed that diets high in fruit, vegetables, legumes, and nuts can significantly lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It followed similar findings from 2021 that demonstrated a reduced likelihood of not only diabetes, but also heart disease and stroke.
Reducing disease risk with plant-based diets
The latest research adds more weight to the growing number of studies and professional nutrition textbooks that suggest plant-based eating as a route to lessen chronic disease risk.
Earlier this year, a study revealed that animal-free foods could lower the chances of developing fatal prostate cancer by 19 percent. And, that such diets could be a preventative measure against ever contracting the condition.
It was also revealed, by Massachusetts’ Tufts University, that red meat can increase the risk of heart disease.