Pamela A. Popper, Ph.D., N.D.

Wellness Forum Health

Diabetes is a preventable disease, and the best way to prevent it is to adopt a plant-based diet. A research team at a diabetes center in Iran enrolled 150 patients with pre-diabetes and 150 matched controls in a study in which health status and dietary patterns were evaluated. The patients were under the age of 30 and were either overweight or obese; had a family history of diabetes; or had two symptoms of diabetes.

Weight, height, waist circumference, physical activity, blood pressure and glucose levels were measured for all study participants. Dietary information was gathered and showed two distinct patterns. One was a diet including lots of fruits, vegetables and legumes, and the other was a diet including large amounts of sweets, solid fats, meats and mayonnaise.

The plant-based diet was negatively associated with the development of pre-diabetes while the high-fat meat based diet was positively associated with the development of pre-diabetes. Those eating a plant-based diet also had better weight, waist circumference, body mass index, blood pressure, fasting blood glucose, and 2-hour oral glucose tests than those eating the high-fat meat-based diet.

The researchers stated that red meat, processed meat and animal fat were responsible for the association with pre-diabetes. They said that the high-fiber, low-calorie and high satiety effect of whole grains, vegetables, and fruit were responsible for both lower body weight and lower risk of pre-diabetes.

Perhaps most important, the researchers stated that it is more important to focus on dietary pattern in preventing disease than to focus on individual nutrients. They wrote, “People do not make use of the concept of nutrients and food separately. Nutrients of different foods may have synergistic or interactive effects on each other and it is easier to educate subjects on dietary pattern.”

It is unfortunate, but the American Diabetes Association is still not promoting a plant-based diet as the best option for preventing type 2 diabetes. While the ADA encourages people to include fruit, vegetables, and whole grains in the diet and to minimize junk foods, advice posted on the group’s website for lowering the risk of diabetes encourages people to “Buy leaner meats (such as chicken, turkey and lean cuts of pork or beef such as sirloin or chuck roast) and lower fat dairy products (like low-fat or skim milk and yogurt.)” There is nothing mentioned about plant-based diets, and I could find no research citations to support the dietary recommendations provided.

I’m sure there are many well-meaning people at the ADA who want to help others, but the group continues to promote diets that will lead more people to develop diabetes, and more people who have it to progress to worsening health.

Just another example of how incorrect the messages are that people receive from “trusted sources.”

Bagheri F, Siassi F, Koohdani F et al. “Healthy and unhealthy dietary patterns are related to pre-diabetes: a case–control study.” Br J Nutr Published online ahead of print July 25 2016 DOI: