Vegan Diet Reverses Diabetes Symptoms
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science
-27 July 2006
People who ate a low-fat vegan diet, cutting out all meat
and dairy, lowered their blood sugar more and lost more weight than
people on a standard American Diabetes Association diet, researchers
said on Thursday.
They lowered their cholesterol more and ended up with
better kidney function, according to the report published in Diabetes
Care, a journal published by the American Diabetes Association.
Participants said the vegan diet was easier to follow than
most because they did not measure portions or count calories. Three of
the vegan dieters dropped out of the study, compared to eight on the
"I hope this study will rekindle interest in using diet
changes first, rather than prescription drugs," Dr. Neal Barnard,
president of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, which
helped conduct the study, told a news conference.
An estimated 18 million Americans have type-2 diabetes,
which results from a combination of genetics and poor eating and
exercise habits. They run a high risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney
failure, blindness and limb loss.
Barnard's team and colleagues at George Washington
University, the University of Toronto and the University of North
Carolina tested 99 people with type-2 diabetes, assigning them randomly
to either a low-fat, low-sugar vegan diet or the standard American
Diabetes Association diet.
After 22 weeks on the diet, 43 percent of those on the
vegan diet and 26 percent of those on the standard diet were either able
to stop taking some of their drugs such as insulin or glucose-control
medications, or lowered the doses.
The vegan dieters lost 14 pounds (6.5 kg) on average while
the diabetes association dieters lost 6.8 pounds (3.1 kg).
An important level of glucose control called a1c fell by
1.23 points in the vegan group and by 0.38 in the group on the standard
A1c gives a measure of how well-controlled blood sugar
has been over the preceding three months.
In the dieters who did not change whatever cholesterol
drugs they were on during the study, LDL or "bad" cholesterol fell by 21
percent in the vegan group and 10 percent in the standard diet group.
The vegan diet removed all animal products, including
meat, fish and dairy. It was also low in added fat and in sugar.
The American Diabetes Association diet is more
tailored, taking into account the patient's weight and cholesterol. Most
patients on this diet cut calories significantly, and were told to eat
sugary and starchy foods in moderation.
All 99 participants met weekly with advisers, who
advised them on recipes, gave them tips for sticking to their respective
diets, and offered encouragement.
"We have got a combination here that works
successfully," said Dr. David Jenkins of the University of Toronto, who
worked on the study. "The message that we so often get with diet is that
it is no good because nobody follows it for very long."
Dr. Joshua Cohen, George Washington University
associate professor of medicine, said everyone diagnosed with diabetes
is told to start eating more carefully.
"That may be among the hardest things that any of us
can do," Cohen told the news conference.
The vegan diet "is at least as good, if not better
than traditional approaches," Cohen said.
Vance Warren, a 36-year-old retired police officer
living in Washington, said he lowered his a1c from 10.4, considered
uncontrolled diabetes, to 5.1, considered a healthy level, over 18
months. "My life is much better being 74 pounds (34 kg) lighter," Warren
told the news conference.
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