Hana Kahleova and Neal D. Barnard conducted a 16-week study in which 244 overweight people were randomly assigned to either the intervention or control groups.
The intervention group was given a low-fat vegan diet with approximately 75% of their energy coming from carbohydrates, 15% from protein, and 10% from fat. They were instructed to abstain from all animal products and added fats. Instead, focus on fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils. They were also told to take a vitamin B12 supplement every day.
Researchers measured participants’ levels of advanced glycation end-products as part of the study (AGEs).
AGEs are toxic compounds formed in the bloodstream when protein or fat combines with glucose. AGEs naturally accumulate with age, and the body is generally capable of eliminating them on its own. High levels of AGEs, on the other hand, can cause inflammation and impair the body’s ability to repair itself.
This can create ideal conditions for chronic diseases like diabetes to take hold.
The study’s findings
The plant-based intervention group had a 79 percent reduction in AGEs, according to the researchers.
Reduced meat consumption was found to be responsible for 55% of the decrease. Meanwhile, dairy consumption was reduced by 26%, and fat consumption was reduced by 15%.
A further breakdown of food types revealed that reduced white meat such as chicken or turkey was the most effective in lowering AGEs in meat. This alone accounted for 59% of the meat loss. Researchers called this “surprising” and attributed it to the amount of white meat consumed. Second place went to processed meat.
In comparison, the control group, which made no dietary changes, only saw a 15% reduction in AGEs.
The reduction in AGEs was also linked to an average weight loss of 14 pounds among intervention group participants. Individuals’ insulin sensitivity improved as they lost weight. As a result, they were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the future.
The impact of diet on diabetes
Diabetes affects one out of every ten people in the United States.
High-calorie, high-cholesterol, and high-fat diets significantly increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Cholesterol, along with high levels of fat, is only found in animal products such as meat and dairy. As a result, the potential of healthy plant-based eating as a preventative or curative measure is being widely investigated.
A new study published at the beginning of the year confirmed that diets rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It followed similar findings from 2021, which showed a lower risk of not only diabetes, but also heart disease and stroke.
Plant-based diets reduce disease risk
The new study adds to the growing body of research and professional nutrition textbooks that advocate plant-based eating as a way to reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Earlier this year, a study found that eating animal-free foods could reduce the risk of developing fatal prostate cancer by 19%. Furthermore, such diets may be a preventative measure against contracting the condition in the future.
Tufts University in Massachusetts also discovered that red meat can increase the risk of heart disease.