Mood support one way plant-based diets help type 2 diabetes sufferers, study finds

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / Kesu01
Getty Images / Kesu01

Related tags plant-based

Mood support is one of the mechanisms by which a plant based diet can help suffers of type 2 diabetes, a new meta analysis has found.

In a study conducted by a team at the University of London, researchers conducted a review looking at the best nutritional interventions for sufferers of type 2 diabetes. In what will be welcome news for purveyors of plant protein and others riding the plant-based nutrition trend, plant based or fully vegan diets were found to be the best in helping to manage this condition.

Growing problem

There is a growing need for new avenues of care for sufferers of type 2 diabetes. The International Diabetes Federation estimates that 642 million people will be living with diabetes by 2040. In the US more than 30 million people have already been diagnoses with the condition. In the UK the figure is around 4.5 million.

Nearly 15% of all global deaths are attributed to diabetes; and it killed 5 million people before the age of 60 in 2015. It is also frequently associated with depression, which in turn affects how well blood glucose levels are controlled.

The researchers noted that plant based diets have already been linked to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. These diets have also been linked with improved biomarkers, such as cholesterol, associated with cardiovascular health. 

“A plant-based diet pattern seems to offer high protection against the development of diabetes as it contains antioxidants, fiber, micronutrients and unsaturated fatty acids, which are considered to act as protective factors against diabetes,”​ they wrote.

Improving blood parameters, yes. But mood?

What was not known is whether these diets could also be associated with heightened mood states.

“Diabetes is often comorbid with depression, which has an impact on its management and control,”​ they noted.

“[But] no systematic review was found in the literature solely focusing on the psychological and medical outcomes of plant-based diet interventions in adults with T2D,”​ they wrote.

To find out, the researchers combed through more than 1,200 articles. These were paired down to about 40 of which 11 were selected as best matching the search criteria. Of these, 10 studies were conducted since 2009, while one study from 1999 was also included.  

The total number of subjects was 433, with 219 in the intervention groups and 214 in the control groups. The mean size of the studies was 48 participants, and the average length was 28 weeks.

A systematic critical analysis of the results showed that quality of life–both physical and emotional–improved only in those patients on a plant based/vegan diet. Similarly, depressive symptoms improved significantly only in these groups.

Better mood and less pain

The subjects following plant based diets also showed improvement in blood glucose levels and lost more weight than did the control groups.  The plant based groups also reported reduced levels of diabetic nerve pain.

“Based on the evidence of the research analysis by this systematic review, it can be concluded that plant-based diets accompanied by educational interventions can significantly improve psychological health, quality of life, HbA1c levels and weight, and therefore the management of diabetes,”​ the researchers concluded.

Source: BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care
Volume 6, Issue 1
“Effectiveness of plant-based diets in promoting well-being in the management of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review”
Authors: Toumpanakis A, Turnbull T, Alba-Barba I

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