Is there a practical solution to alleviate symptoms of Type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes? A new study suggests the answer is “yes,” and that quite simply, “meaningful” weight loss is often the first step. Losing weight allows for lowered blood sugar and a way for the body to regulate its insulin response, reversing a condition where the pancreas fails to release enough insulin to meet the need, which eventually leads to full-blown diabetes. The best way to lose weight for these patients, according to Danish researchers, is by following a vegan diet.

In the study presented at the European Congress on Obesity, the Danish researchers found that switching to a vegan diet for three months worked to "significantly curb the symptoms of diabetes," providing diabetics with a simple at-home solution to reduce or eradicate the negative side effects of the disease.

The study analyzed 796 individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes or who were clinically overweight. They tracked how cardio-metabolic risk factors, including body weight, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, blood sugar levels, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels, responded on a vegan diet. The participants followed a vegan diet for 12 weeks and the results indicated that a vegan diet immediate relief for some of these risk factors.

The participants following vegan diets reduced their weight by an average of 9 pounds (4.1 kg) and lowered their BMI in every trial. The vegan diet group was compared with control groups and other active groups following portion-controlled or Mediterranean diets. The weight-loss potential was remarkably more, averaging 16 pounds of weight loss from the vegan diet.

“This rigorous assessment of the best available evidence to date indicates with reasonable certainty that adhering to a vegan diet for at least 12 weeks may result in clinically meaningful weight loss and improve blood sugar levels,” lead author Anne-Ditte Termannsen said in a statement.

The study did not differentiate between healthier and less healthy plant-based diets. The vegan diets could potentially contain junk food, which would skew some plant-based diets to be unhealthier. However, the study showed that regardless of the lack of distinction, the vegan diet reduces cholesterol intake and typically improves fiber consumption.

“Vegan diets likely lead to weight loss because they are associated with a reduced-calorie intake due to a lower content of fat and higher content of dietary fiber,” according to Termannsen, adding “more evidence is needed regarding cardiometabolic outcomes.”

A Vegan Diet and Diabetes

The Danish researchers’ study will join a consistently growing body of research that link plant-based diets to weight loss and even improved diabetes symptoms. Last year, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) released a report that found that participants following a low-fat vegan diet lost 13 pounds on the vegan diet, whereas another group following the Mediterranean diet showed no change.

“Previous studies have suggested that both Mediterranean and vegan diets improve body weight and cardiometabolic risk factors, but until now, their relative efficacy had not been compared in a randomized trial,” study author and Director of Clinical Research for PCRM Hana Kahleova, MD, Ph.D. said. “We decided to test the diets head to head and found that a vegan diet is more effective for both improving health markers and boosting weight loss.”

Last month, the Department of Nutrition at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health released a study that asserted that a plant-based diet full of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts could significantly lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. With cases of type 2 diabetes predicted to reach 700 million globally by 2045, preventative measures have become all the more necessary.

Currently, 90 percent of diabetes cases diagnosed are type 2 diabetes – meaning related to lifestyle choices, diet, and exercise as opposed to genetically inherited. Another study found that consuming red and processed meat could be responsible for raising diabetes risks by 33 percent whereas certain foods including whole grains, beans, and lentils can prevent diabetes development.

Harvard Health suggests that the easiest ways to avoid type 2 diabetes are dietary changes including limiting high processed carbohydrates, sugary drinks, and red and processed meats. Increasingly research is pointing to plant-based diets as both a preventative measure and a solution for symptom alleviation.

Check out The Beet’s Plant-Based Guide to Preventing and Reversing Diabetes.

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