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Plant-based diet can help reverse type 2 diabetes
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Plant-based diet can help reverse type 2 diabetes

Following plant-based dietary interventions can lead to lower cholesterol levels, improved glycemic control and weight loss in individuals thereby reversing Type 2 diabetes
Dr Vanita Rahman, a US-based lifestyle medicine physician

Poor diet in individuals is associated with 1 in 5 fatalities worldwide, according to a Lancet Study published in the year 2017. In the study ‘Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017’, the researchers also found that poor nutrition was responsible for more deaths worldwide than high blood pressure, smoking, and all other risk factors combined, says Dr Vanita Rahman, a US-based lifestyle medicine physician. During an interaction with Happiest Health, Rahman recommends following a plant-based diet to reverse non-communicable diseases like type 2 diabetes and obesity.  

Dr Rahman shared the story of Anjali Kumar (name changed), a 55-year-old woman who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and was able to reverse her diabetes by following a plant-based diet. “When we met Anjali, her body mass index (BMI) was 45 and her A1C (a test used to measure the average amount of glucose in the blood over three months) was 12.7%. She was unable to walk a few steps,” shares Dr Rahman, who is currently practicing at the Barnard Medical Center and is also the clinic director at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.  

How did a plant-based diet help?  

Anjali’s treatment options for type 2 diabetes included taking insulin or injections, tablets, bariatric surgery or eating a plant-based diet. Since Anjali did not want to be on medications, she chose to eat a low-fat plant-based diet and exercise regularly.  

Dr Rahman highlights, “Usually, A1C 5.6 % or less is considered normal in individuals. However, Anjali was having an A1C of 12.7% which was extremely high. After being put on a low-fat plant-based diet, Anjali’s A1C levels dropped to 6.7% in 3 months, then gradually decreased to 5.8% in eight months and then after 11 months, it became 5.7%. Her BMI also reduced to 40.9.” Anjali is now able to walk 3.2 kilometers every day, she added.  

The expert says that just as Anjali was able to reverse type 2 diabetes with a plant-based diet, many individuals diagnosed with noncommunicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity, can manage the condition by following this diet.  

In the clinical trials, Dr Rahman and her colleagues also found that plant-based dietary interventions led to weight loss, lowered cholesterol levels, and improved glycemic control in individuals.  

Meanwhile, Dr Mahesh DM, consultant-Endocrinology, Aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore says that a plant-based diet can lead to remission of Type 2 diabetes. However, it is not necessary to fully avoid animal-based products from the diet. “Individuals can be encouraged to consume whole grains and naturally available substances rather than processed foods and meat. Plant-based diet therefore includes consuming less refined foods,” he added.   


Indians are at higher risk of diabetes   

Citing emerging research data, Dr Rahman says that South Asians, particularly Indians, are at higher risk of diabetes because of their unique genotype. “When compared to Europeans, Indians usually have more body and abdominal fat and less muscle mass which increases the risk of developing such chronic conditions,” she added.   

She also says that Indians have more visceral fat that can contribute to chronic health conditions like diabetes and obesity.  

Plant-based diets can provide all essential nutrients and not vitamin B12. All individuals following a plant-based diet should consume a simple over-the-counter vitamin B12 supplement.  

“Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are increasing and Indians propensity for greater amounts of visceral and abdominal fat. Research has shown that plant-based diets are an effective way to prevent, manage and reverse many NCDs,” says Dr Rahman. 

Takeaways  

  • A US-based expert highlights that a plant-based diet can help reverse non-communicable diseases like type 2 diabetes and obesity.  
  • A low-fat plant-based diet includes four components: fruits, grains, legumes and vegetables. 
  • Other experts say that shifting towards a plant-based diet can lead to remission of Type 2 diabetes. However, it is not necessary to fully avoid animal-based products from the diet. 

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