We are all well-aware that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is essential to living a healthy lifestyle. We have also been taught that living a healthy lifestyle is the main preventative measure to avoiding the increasingly prevalent Type 2 Diabetes. While the meaning of following a healthy diet may vary from person to person, recent studies have proven that consuming fewer animal products and more plant-based foods is a better option. Previous studies have already proven that following a vegetarian diet can lower risk of cancer and high blood pressure, but new research proves that making this change significantly reduces type 2 diabetes risk.
The study, published in PLOS Medicine, surveyed data from more than 200,000 male and female health professionals across the United States over a 20-year period. Participants filled out questionnaires about their diet, medical history, current diagnoses, and lifestyle. Each individual’s diet was evaluated, animal-derived foods were given low scores whereas plant-based foods received higher scores. Here, they discovered that a diet low in animal products and high in plant products reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 20 percent.
All vegetarian diets were not found to be equal. For many vegetarians, it can be quite easy to lean onto a carb-crutch, but healthy plant-based diet was shown to reduce type 2 diabetes by 34 percent whereas less healthy plant-based diets were linked to a 16 percent increased risk of the condition.
The researchers also found that even a relatively moderate drop in animal product consumption, from five to six servings a day down to four servings per day, reduced occurrence of type 2 diabetes. Making one small change can produce large benefits.
How does a vegetarian diet make such a change? Plant-based foods are thought to reduce type 2 diabetes due to their high levels of antioxidants, fiber, micronutrients, and unsaturated fatty acids. Other researchers argue that a vegetarian diet positively affects the gut’s microbiome, further reducing type 2 diabetes.1
Simply abstaining from animal products is not enough to completely prevent type 2 diabetes, nor is skipping unhealthy food items. The most important preventative measure is to make a dietary shift towards more healthful plant-based foods and lower consumption of animal-based foods. Making this change can be hard, especially if you live another healthcare challenge. Joining a community of healthcare peers can help you explore all the risks and benefits so that you can make the most educated decision.