Diabetes Can't Handle Veggies

Type 2 diabetes risk in reduced by vegetarian diet

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Here in the United States, we eat a lot of meat. We also have a huge public health problem with diabetes. While meat may not be responsible for the soaring rates of diabetes, not eating meat could prevent the disease.

African Americans who ate a vegetarian diet and exercised a minimum of three times per week lowered their risk of type 2 diabetes.

"Exercise and limit how much meat you eat."

According to Serena Tonstad, M.D., of Loma Linda University and lead author of the study, these findings show promise for preventing diabetes in African Americans, a population that has twice the risk of developing diabetes compared to whites.

Blacks not only have a higher risk for diabetes, but are also more likely to have diabetes-related complications like foot amputations and end-stage renal disease.

Dr. Tonstad says that a vegetarian diet may be a good strategy to prevent type 2 diabetes in this high-risk population.

From their research, Dr. Tonstad and colleagues found that African American vegans and vegetarians have a substantially lower risk of diabetes compared to their meat-eating counterparts. Vegan blacks had a 70 percent lower risk of diabetes while vegetarian blacks (those who eat dairy products but no meat) had a 53 percent lower risk.

One possible explanation for the reduced risk, says Dr. Tonstad, may be the foods that vegetarians typically eat. Vegetarians eat greater amounts of fruits and vegetables, which have a high fiber content. High fiber may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Vegetarians also eat more whole grains and beans, who have been show to improve blood sugar control, slow the rate of carbohydrate absorption, and reduce the overall risk of diabetes.

The researchers also found that blacks who exercised at least three times per week had a 35 percent lower risk of diabetes, compared to those who exercised once a week or never.

The study involved more than 7,000 African American Seventh-day Adventists, a Protestant religious group that encourages vegetarianism. The researchers gave participants a questionnaire that asked how often they at certain foods. The participants were then placed into a category based on their diet, such as vegan or lacto-ovo vegetarian.

Non-black Adventists were also included in the study. The researchers found that a non-meat diet offered similar protections against diabetes for this population.

The study - which was funded in part by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and by the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University - appears in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 3, 2011
Last Updated:
November 3, 2011