Plant Based Diet Reduces Type 2 Diabetes Risk

A review recently published online by JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) explored the association between plant-based dietary patterns and risk of type 2 diabetes. Nine studies that examined associations between adherence to plant-based dietary patterns and the incidence of type 2 diabetes among adults were included and their findings reviewed and collated, totalling 307, 099 participants with 23, 544 cases of type 2 diabetes.  The authors found that a greater adherence to plant-based dietary patterns was inversely associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes. Or simply put, the more plant based foods we consume, the less likely we are to develop type 2 diabetes.


Plant-based diets usually place great emphasis on intake of salads, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and whole grains, which are foods that contain fibre, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, phenolic compounds, and unsaturated fatty acids.


Plant based diets have featured in the media more frequently this year due the EAT Report produced by the Lancet Commission this January. The main findings of this report are aimed at food sustainability both to improve health but also to leave a better planet for today’s children. It recommends that globally we need to double our intake of fruits, nuts, vegetables, pulses and reduce our intakes of red meat and sugars by half.


We have known for a while that a diet based on more fruit and vegetables with less animal fats is good for our health and can help reduce chronic conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The food pyramid encourages us to aim for 5-7 sources of vegetables, salads and fruits daily.



If you have diabetes every meal should contain vegetables, pulses or salad with fruits spaced evenly over the day.


Here are some simple swaps to increase the amount of plant based foods in your diet –


Current Meal Change to…
Cottage Pie (with beef) Cottage Pie (with lentils)
Turkey Burgers Bean Burgers
Pasta Bolognese (meat sauce) Pasta Marinara (tomato sauce)
Chicken Stir Fry Vegetable Stir Fry with Cashew Nuts/ Soya Protein Chunks
Beef Chilli Vegetarian Chilli (with quorn mince)
Roast Meat/Chicken Stuffed Mushrooms & Aubergines


Clinical trials and observational studies have shown that plant based foods individually and jointly improve insulin sensitivity and blood pressure, reduce long-term weight gain, and improve systemic inflammation, pathways involved in the cause of type 2 diabetes.


Further experimental evidence could help provide insights into other novel pathways that could mediate the beneficial association between plant based dietary patterns and type 2 diabetes. See our article on balancing a vegan or vegetarian diet with diabetes