Few diseases get more attention than obesity and Type 2 diabetes. One recent study reveals a powerful intervention for people who battle one or both conditions. Research shows that 12 weeks of selective consumption of vegan foods can result in beneficial weight loss and improved blood sugar control in overweight adults and those with Type 2 diabetes.
Scientists from the Steno Diabetes Center in Copenhagen, Denmark shared their findings at the 2022 European Congress on Obesity. Led by Anne-Ditte Termannsen, the research team reviewed relevant randomized trials which compared the effects of vegan diets to other types of diets on cardiometabolic risk factors. These included body weight, body mass index [BMI], blood sugar levels, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (so-called “bad cholesterol”), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (“good cholesterol”), and triglycerides.
There were groups in which participants continued their usual food intake, while other groups followed selective regimens, such as Mediterranean diets, various diabetes diets, or portion-controlled diets.
Their analysis included 11 studies with 796 subjects, ages 48 to 61 years. The participants were overweight (BMI > 25) or diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The trials lasted for at least 12 weeks (average duration 19 weeks). Weight loss of at least 11 pounds was defined as clinically meaningful.
Compared with controlled diets, vegan diets reduced body weight by an average of about 9 pounds. BMI was reduced by 1.38 on average. The effects on blood sugar level, total cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol were negligible.
Greater reductions in body weight and BMI were found when vegan diets were compared with an unchanged diet (-16.3 pounds and -2.78 respectively), than compared with other intervention diets (-5.95 kg and -0.87).
“This rigorous assessment of the best available evidence to date indicates with reasonable certainty that adhering to a vegan diet for at least 12 weeks may result in clinically meaningful weight loss and improve blood sugar levels, and therefore can be used in the management of overweight and Type 2 diabetes”, says Termannsen in a media release. “Vegan diets likely lead to weight loss because they are associated with a reduced calorie intake due to a lower content of fat and higher content of dietary fiber. More evidence is needed regarding other cardiometabolic metrics.”
The researchers noted several limitations to their findings. Sample sizes of the studies were small. The vegan diets varied in carbohydrate, protein, and fat content. None of the studies matched the intervention diet in all other aspects except veganism. Thus, the effects of vegan interventions on cardiovascular risk factors could have been caused by variations in nutrient composition and caloric intake between the groups.