Researchers at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Brigham
and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School have found
that higher plant-based dietary patterns are associated with a
lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
This lower risk is strengthened when healthy plant-based foods,
such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, are
included in a nutrition plan.
A less healthy plant-based diet would include potatoes, white
flour, sugar and modest amounts of animal products.
The research team explained that healthy plant-based foods have
been known to improve insulin sensitivity, lower blood
pressure, help reduce weight, and alleviate systemic
The team reviewed nine studies involving 307,099 participants
with 23,544 cases of type 2 diabetes. Their findings were broadly
The meta-analysis could provide the most comprehensive evidence
of the association between plant-based diet and lower risk of type
2 diabetes to date.
"Overall, these data highlighted the importance of adhering to
plant-based diets to achieve or maintain good health, and people
should choose fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, tofu, and
other healthy plant foods as the cornerstone of such diets," said
Dr Qi Sun, from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
Researchers measured benefits of the plant-based diet but not
the benefits of weight loss.
"We essentially removed the benefits through weight control from
the estimated reduction of diabetes risk for eating plant-based
diets," said Dr Qi, an associate professor in the Department of
Because of that, the 23 percent reduction could be an
underestimate and the risk reduction may be higher if a person also
loses weight, he added.
Some foods that are associated with an increased risk for type 2
diabetes (soft drinks, refined carbohydrates, red meat, processed
meats) are also associated with excess inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is linked to all types of diabetes.
Lowering inflammation, and eating a more natural, less processed
diet can have noticeable effects on a person's physical and
Plant-based foods that offer protection include:
- olive oil
- green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and
- nuts such as almonds and walnuts
- fruits such as blackberries, strawberries, blueberries,
cherries, and oranges
For more information:
"Association between plant-based dietary patterns and risk of type
2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis," Frank Qian,
Gang Liu, Frank B. Hu, Shilpa N. Bhupathiraju, Qi Sun, JAMA
Internal Medicine: doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.2195