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Plant-based diets significantly reduce diabetes risk

Type 2 diabetes, a condition affecting millions worldwide, has been a major health concern for decades. Recent research, however, sheds new light on how this disease can be effectively combatted through dietary choices.

Scientists have found that adopting a healthy lifestyle, particularly focusing on a plant-based diet, can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Role of diet in diabetes prevention

A cornerstone of this new approach is the emphasis on a plant-based diet. The research underscores that not only is it important to reduce the consumption of animal-based foods, but also to limit industrially processed and highly sugary foods. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can lead to considerable health benefits, including a reduced risk of diabetes.

For the first time, scientists have identified improvements in metabolism and liver and kidney function as key reasons behind the positive effects of a plant-based diet. These factors contribute significantly to the lowered likelihood of obesity, a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. The study’s findings mark a significant advancement in understanding diabetes prevention.

Quantifying the benefits

Through their research, the team managed to quantify the impact of a healthy plant-based diet. Their analyses indicate a 24% reduction in diabetes risk, even among individuals with a genetic predisposition or other risk factors like obesity, advanced age, or a lack of physical activity. This is a substantial finding, highlighting the power of diet in managing health risks.

Conversely, the research also points out the risks associated with unhealthy plant-based diets. Diets high in sweets, refined grains, and sugary drinks are linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, emphasizing the importance of not just a plant-based diet, but a healthy one.

Studying diet and diabetes

Professor Tilman Kühn, a leading figure in Public Health Nutrition at MedUni Vienna and the University of Vienna, played a pivotal role in this study. Collaborating with researchers from Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Kühn’s work has been instrumental in identifying biomarkers of central metabolic processes and organ functions as mediators of the health effects of a plant-based diet.

“Our study is the first to identify biomarkers of central metabolic processes and organ functions as mediators of the health effects of a plant-based diet,” says Kühn.

Their research involved a comprehensive analysis of 113,097 participants in the UK Biobank study over twelve years. This large-scale study has provided invaluable insights into the long-term effects of diet on health.

What the research team learned

The findings go beyond the commonly known benefits of reduced body fat percentage and waist circumference. It highlights the importance of considering central metabolic processes and organ functions in understanding the health impacts of diet.

One of the novel findings of this research is the emphasis on the full function of the liver and kidneys in diabetes prevention. These organs are crucial in individuals with diabetes, but the study reveals how a healthy plant-based diet can enhance their function, thereby reducing diabetes risk.

“However, our research has now shown that a healthy plant-based diet can improve liver and kidney function and thus reduce the risk of diabetes,” says Kühn.

This research offers a new perspective on diabetes prevention. It underscores the importance of dietary choices, particularly the adoption of a healthy plant-based diet, in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

As noted by Professor Kühn, this study not only confirms known benefits but also reveals previously underestimated advantages of a plant-based diet, offering hope for millions at risk of this chronic condition.

The full study is published in the journal Diabetes and Metabolism.


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