Vegan diet vs. conventional diet: Which can manage diabetes better?

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Scientists from Kyungpook National University found compared with a conventional diabetic diet, a vegan diet could manage blood sugar levels better in people with type 2 diabetes.

The research is published in PLoS One and was conducted by Yu-Mi Lee et al.

Previous studies have suggested that vegetarian or vegan diets have clinical benefits, particularly in terms of blood sugar control, in patients with type 2 diabetes.

However, no study has been conducted in Asians who more commonly depend on plant-based foods, as compared to Western populations.

In the study, the team aimed to compare the effect of a vegan diet and a conventional diabetic diet on blood sugar control among Korean people.

Participants diagnosed with type 2 diabetes were assigned to follow either a vegan diet (excluding animal-based food including fish) or a conventional diet recommended by the Korean Diabetes Association 2011 for 12 weeks.

The researchers measured their HbA1c levels at weeks 0, 4, and 12, and examined the changes of HbA1c levels over 12 weeks.

They found that the mean HbA1c levels at weeks 0, 4, and 12 were 7.7%, 7.2%, and 7.1% in the vegan group, and 7.4%, 7.2%, and 7.2% in the conventional group, respectively.

Although both groups showed big reductions in HbA1C levels, the reductions were larger in the vegan group than in the conventional group.

When only considering participants with high compliance of the diet, the difference in HbA1c level reduction between the groups was found to be larger.

The beneficial effect of vegan diets was found even after adjusting for changes in total energy intake or waist circumference over the 12 weeks.

The findings suggest that both diets led to reductions in HbA1c levels. However, blood sugar control was better with the vegan diet than with the conventional diet.

The team says the dietary guidelines for patients with T2D should include a vegan diet for better management and treatment.

However, further studies are needed to evaluate the long-term effects of a vegan diet, and to identify potential explanations of the underlying mechanisms.

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