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The study is the first to make a distinction between healthy plant-based diets and less healthy ones that include things like sweetened foods and beverages, which may be detrimental to health
Consumption of high-quality plant foods is linked to substantially lower risk of developing type-2 diabetes, a new study done by the US-based Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health has found.
The study found that plant-based diet, which includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, was associated with 20 per cent reduced risk of developing type-2 diabetes as compared to low adherence to such a diet. The study was published online on June 14, 2016 in the journal, PLOS Medicine.
“A shift to a dietary pattern higher in healthful plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds and lower in animal-based foods, especially red and processed meats, can confer substantial health benefits in reducing (the) risk of type-2 diabetes,” Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study, said.
Eating a healthy version of plant-based diet was linked to 34 per cent lower diabetes risk while a less healthy version—including foods such as refined grains, potatoes and sugar-sweetened beverages—was linked to 16 per cent increased risk.
The study is the first to make a distinction between healthy plant-based diets and less healthy ones that include things like sweetened foods and beverages, which may be detrimental to health. The study also considered the effect of including some animal foods in the diet.
Even modestly lowering animal food consumption, for instance, from five to six servings per day to about four servings per day, is linked to lower diabetes incidence, the study says.
According to the researchers, healthful plant-based diets can be associated with lowering the risk of type-2 diabetes because they are rich in fibre, antioxidants, unsaturated fatty acids and micronutrients such as magnesium and are low in saturated fats. Healthy plant foods may also contribute to a healthy gut microbiome, the authors said.
The researchers followed more than 200,000 male and female health professionals across the US for more than 20 years, who had regularly filled out questionnaires on their diet, lifestyle, medical history and new disease diagnoses as part of three large long-term studies.
The researchers evaluated the participants’ diets using a plant-based diet index in which they assigned plant-derived foods higher scores and animal-derived foods lower scores.
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