Plant-based diets are steadily gaining popularity with the general public. As a wave of interest fuels research into the health benefits of such diets, studies on how they influence the incidence of heart disease is an important consideration.
Heart disease is the number one killer of adults in the US. For that reason, researchers at Harvard University thought it was essential to quantify the association such diets have with diabetes.
Researchers at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted a comprehensive meta-analysis. The analysis considered the association between these types of diets and type 2 diabetes.
From the nine studies reviewed, data from 307,099 participants were analyzed. Of that figure, 23,544 had type 2 diabetes.
The participants were separated into two groups. The first group contained people consume who a mostly plant-based diet. That could include less healthful foods like potatoes and sugars. Some persons in the first group also consumed animal products.
The second group focused more strictly on a plant-focused diet. They primarily consumed fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. They also strictly limited added sugars and animal products.
Researchers found that those who stuck to a more strictly a plant-based diet had a 23% lower risk of type 2 diabetes than did the less strict group.
Researchers know this is simply a correlation, but they believe a causal relationship may exist. This is because several pathways are influenced by diet. These include insulin sensitivity and blood pressure. The healthier diet also seems to prevent weight gain, a factor that contributes to the onset of heart disease.
More than 100 million adults in the US have diabetes or prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The type mainly observed is type 2 diabetes, which is largely influenced by diet. As diet is modifiable, there is a pathway to avoiding diabetes through the adoption of a healthful diet.
Exercise has also been shown to decrease this risk and can safely be added to the lifestyle of most patients. Even patients with cardiovascular disease, or recovering from a cardiovascular event can benefit from adding some form of exercise to their routine.
Though more research is needed, it seems that a vegan, vegetarian, or other plant-based diets might be the best option for heart health. The above video takes a look at an interesting thought experiment in which all people suddenly switched over to a strictly plant-based diet.