Vegan diet may boost gut health, improve body weight and blood sugar

In a new study, researchers found a 16-week vegan diet can boost the gut microbes that are related to improvements in body weight, body composition and blood sugar control.

The research was conducted by a team from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Gut microbiota play an important role in weight regulation, the development of metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.

The aim of this study was to test the effect of a 16-week plant-based diet on gut microbiota composition, body weight, body composition, and insulin resistance in overweight adults with no history of diabetes.

The study included 147 people who ate a low-fat vegan diet or to make no changes to their diet for 16 weeks.

Before and after 16 weeks, their gut microbiota composition was assessed. Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry was used to measure body composition.

A standard method called the PREDIM index was used to assess insulin sensitivity.

Following the 16-week study, the team found the people’s body weight was reduced much in the vegan group (5.8 kg), particularly due to a reduction in fat mass (3.9 kg) and in visceral fat.

Insulin sensitivity also increased in the vegan group.

The team also found increased gut bacteria Faecalibacterium prausnitzii in the vegan group was linked to decreases in body weight, fat mass, and visceral fat.

In addition, increased gut bacteria Bacteoides fragilis in the vegan group was linked to decreases in body weight, fat mass and visceral fat, and increases in insulin sensitivity.

The team says a 16-week low-fat vegan dietary intervention induced changes in gut microbiota that were related to changes in weight, body composition and insulin sensitivity in overweight adults.

Further work is needed to separate out the effects of the vegan diet itself from that of the reduced calories.

The authors say that fiber is the most important component of plant foods that promotes a healthy gut microbiome.

The lead author of the study is Dr. Hana Kahleova, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

The study was presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

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