Sticking to a vegan diet may be the best way of preventing type 2 diabetes – and mental health problems, according to new research.
The University of London study, published in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care, showed that a plant-based diet can boost mood and lower weight.
In the UK, around 4.5 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes; in the US the equivalent is more than 30 million.
Nearly 15 per cent of all global deaths are attributed to diabetes – which killed five million before the age of 60 in 2015.
The International Diabetes Federation estimated that 642 million people will be living with diabetes by 2040.
An expert trawled through 11 clinical trials between 1999 and 2017 to determine the effects of a vegan diet on the body.
The separate studies lasted for 23 weeks on average and included 433 people – who were mostly aged in their mid-fifties.
Of the trials, eight assessed the impact of a vegan diet and six included patients given information on a balanced diet.
It was found that quality of life – both physical and emotional – improved only in those patients on a plant-based, or vegan diet.
Researchers also found that so-called depressive mental health symptoms improved ‘significantly’ – but only in vegan groups.
They claim that a regular diet led to ‘a loss of temperature control’ in diabetes patients – the opposite to a plant based diet.
This potentially reveals that a long-term vegan diet may ‘slow progressive nerve damage’ that is associated with diabetes.
In six studies, those following a plant based diet were able to cut down or discontinue the drugs they were taking for their diabetes.
The researchers found that those who cut out animal products lost nearly twice as much weight – with a decrease in blood fats.
Blood fats, or lipids, were found to be more prevalent in meat-based dieters – with vegan diets leading to their reduction.
Lead author Anastasios Toumpanakis said that plant-based dieters could potentially improve diabetic pain and cholesterol.
The PhD candidate said: “It can be concluded that plant-based diets accompanied by education can significantly improve psychological health.
“Adopting a vegan diet can improve quality of life and weight, and therefore the management of diabetes.”
Researchers pointed out some limitations, including the sample study sizes and the reliance of the data on participant recall.