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Low-fat vegan diet treats type 2 diabetes more effectively than a standard diabetes diet

June 27, 2017

Study participants on the low-fat vegan diet showed dramatic improvement in four disease markers: blood sugar control, cholesterol reduction, weight control, and kidney function. The randomized controlled trial was conducted by doctors and dieticians with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), the George Washington University, and the University of Toronto with funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation.

The vegan diet represents a major departure from current diabetes diets, in that it placed no limits on calories, carbohydrates, or portions. "The diet appears remarkably effective, and all the side effects are good ones--especially weight loss and lower cholesterol," says lead researcher Neal D. Barnard, M.D., PCRM president and adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University. "I hope this study will rekindle interest in using diet changes first, rather than prescription drugs."

Diabetes rates have climbed rapidly in recent years, and more than 20 million Americans now have the disease, which is linked to kidney failure, blindness, and cardiovascular disease.

pcrm

Twenty-six-year-olds who were socially isolated as children were significantly more likely to be unhealthy as adults, as measured by six cardiovascular risk factors, including weight, blood pressure and HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. This association remained significant even when the researchers considered established childhood risk factors for poor cardiovascular health, such as low socioeconomic status, low IQ and being overweight. Unhealthy adult behaviors, including smoking, drinking and lack of exercise, also could not explain the connection, nor could the greater exposure to stressful situations typically experienced by isolated children in adulthood.

Social isolation tended to persist throughout life, and the longer an individual was isolated the worse their adult health, the authors report. "A useful concept for understanding how repeated social isolation can lead to poor health is allostatic load, which refers to the cumulative wear and tear caused by repeated adaptations to psychosocial stressors (such as social isolation) in childhood, adolescence and adulthood," they write. "It is also possible that social isolation disrupts constructive and restorative processes that enhance physiological capacities, as suggested by evidence that lonely individuals experience disrupted sleep and engage in passive rather than active coping strategies in their everyday lives."

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