A plant-based diet improves the secretion of insulin and incretin hormones in those with type 2 diabetes, according to new research published in Nutrients.
Researchers compared the effects of a plant-based meal to a meal containing meat on the hormone levels of a group of 20 men who have type 2 diabetes in a randomized crossover trial. The meals consisted of either a tofu-based veggie burger or a meat-based burger and contained the same amount of calories and ratio of macronutrients.
The results show that participants' postprandial secretion of insulin increased more after the plant-based meal than the meat-based meal. Secretion of incretin hormones, particularly glucagon-like-peptide 1 (GLP-1), also increased more after the vegan meal. Incretin hormones amplify the release of insulin after a meal and also help decrease blood glucose levels.
Beta-cell function parameters also improved after the vegan meal. Beta cells synthesize, store, and release insulin. Beta-cell function is typically diminished in those who have diabetes, and preserving beta cells' capacity to produce insulin is a cornerstone in the treatment of diabetes.
"With diabetes rates rising and insulin costs soaring, this study offers hope that a solution could be close at hand: the food on our plates," says study author Hana Kahleova, M.D., Ph.D., director of clinical research at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. "The results add to the evidence that a plant-based diet should be considered a frontline treatment for type 2 diabetes."
A previous study found that a 16-week plant-based dietary intervention improves insulin resistance and beta-cell function in overweight adults. Other studies have shown that plant-based diets are effective in managing and even reversing type 2 diabetes and that those following a plant-based diet have approximately half the risk of developing diabetes, compared with non-vegetarians.
In the United States today, more than 114 million adults have either diabetes or prediabetes.