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More Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet: Boost in Mood (and Other Positive Changes) for Those with Type 2 Diabetes

A new analysis out this week found that people with type 2 diabetes who eat a largely plant-based diet can experience a boost in quality of life and well being, in addition to improvements in other diabetes-related factors.

The analysis, which appears in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, reviewed the results of 11 separate dietary intervention studies in adults with diabetes.  Each study included a group that followed a largely plant-based or vegan diet and a control group that followed a standard comparison diet.  The studies included in the analysis lasted for at least 3 weeks.

Compared to the control groups, those in the plant-based diet groups reported a higher quality of life, better self-esteem, and lower rates of depression and perceived pain.  They also largely showed better blood sugar control, improved blood cholesterol, greater weight loss, and a drop in use of diabetes-related medications.

These findings suggest there could be important, wide-ranging benefits if more people switched from the standard American diet to one that limits animal products and focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and healthy oils (like vegetable and olive oil). Around 30 million Americans – or close to 10 percent of the population – have type 2 diabetes. And this number rises to 100 million if those on the cusp of developing diabetes (pre-diabetes) are included.

Plus, the benefits of plant-based diets reach well beyond those with diabetes. In more general studies, vegetarian or mostly vegetarian diets have been shown to curb weight gain and help with weight loss as well as lower the risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, unhealthy blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. And they are increasingly being recommended as a key aspect of efforts to improve environmental sustainability, as meat products require greater resources to bring to market than plant products.

While the switch to a plant-based diet can take some effort initially, it doesn’t have to happen all at once, and it certainly doesn’t need to be all-or-nothing. Try a new whole grain.  Go meatless for one day of the week.  Or make a recipe with beans that you’d normally make with ground beef.  There’s no rush.  See what works for you and build on that.

Such moves toward more plant-based eating can have important benefits over time – for you, the nation, and the planet.

Why not give it a try?

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