• Long-term study reveals benefits of plant-based diets
    Tilman Kühn (credit: MedUni Vienna)

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Long-term study reveals benefits of plant-based diets

Jan 19 2024

A study led by MedUni Vienna’s Center for Public Health has concluded that at least 75 per cent of type 2 diabetes cases could be avoided by adopting a healthy lifestyle including a plant-based diet as these were shown to play a key role – but, with limitations. Plant-based diets only develop protective effects if the consumption of animal-based foods and industrially processed and highly sugary foods are reduced, according to the researchers.

Improvements in metabolism and liver and kidney function were also identified as reasons for the positive effects of increased intake of more fruit & vegetables along with the associated lower likelihood of obesity.

The research was carried out with 113,097 participants in the large-scale British cohort study (UK Biobank) over an observation period of twelve years. According to their findings, the reasons behind the anti-diabetic effect of a healthy plant-based diet go far beyond the well-known lower body fat percentage and waist circumference.

“Our study is the first to identify biomarkers of central metabolic processes and organ functions as mediators of the health effects of a plant-based diet," said Tilman Kühn, Professor of Public Health Nutrition at MedUni Vienna and the University of Vienna, who led the study in close collaboration with researchers from Queen's University Belfast. The investigations confirmed that normal values for blood lipids (triglycerides), blood sugar (HbA1c), inflammatory parameters (CRP) and the insulin-like growth factor (IGF1) are associated with a low risk of diabetes.

It also demonstrated how important the full function of the liver and kidneys is in diabetes prevention given that both organs play a major role in people who already have diabetes. "However, our research has now shown that a healthy plant-based diet can improve liver and kidney function and thus reduce the risk of diabetes," said  Kühn, outlining a previously underestimated benefit of a conscious plant-based diet.

The paper, ‘A healthful plant-based diet is associated with lower type 2 diabetes risk via improved metabolic state and organ function: A prospective cohort study: Alysha S. Thompson, Catharina J. Candussi, Anna Tresserra-Rimbau, Amy Jennings, Nicola P. Bondonno, Claire Hill, Solomon A. Sowah, Aedín Cassidy, Tilman Kühn, was published in Diabetes & Metabolism.

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