Following a plant-based diet could lower the risk of type 2 diabetes to as much as 23 percent, researchers have found.

A new meta-analysis from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health revealed that people who more strictly adhere to a predominantly plant-based diet are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who follow a plant-based diet with low adherence. Moreover, those who stick to healthy plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts) reap more benefits compared to those who consume refined grains, starches, and sugars.

"Plant-based dietary patterns are gaining popularity in recent years, so we thought it was crucial to quantify their overall association with diabetes risk, particularly since these diets can vary substantially in terms of their food composition," stated Frank Qian, the first author of the research.

Study Links Plant-Based Diet To A Lower Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

The researchers reviewed nine studies on the association between a plant-based diet and type 2 diabetes in adults. In total, the studies involved 307,099 participants with 23,544 cases of type 2 diabetes.

Their findings were published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

The meta-analysis revealed that people who have the highest adherence to a predominantly plant-based diet has a 23 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to others. Those who eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts had a 30 percent reduction.

A Healthy Lifestyle Can Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

The researchers explained that healthy plant-based foods have been known to improve insulin sensitivity, lower blood pressure, help shed extra weight, and alleviate systemic inflammation. All of these factors contribute to a person's diabetes risk.

"Overall, these data highlighted the importance of adhering to plant-based diets to achieve or maintain good health, and people should choose fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, tofu, and other healthy plant foods as the cornerstone of such diets," added Qi Sun, one of the authors of the research.

Doctors have known that a healthy diet, coupled with regular exercise, can prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. The researchers claimed that the new study provides the most comprehensive evidence of the association between plant-based diet and lower risk of type 2 diabetes to date.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than 30 million people, or about one in 10, in the United States have diabetes. Globally, the number of people who have diabetes have reached 422 million in 2014, according to the data from the World Health Organization.

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