Healthy plant-based diet can eliminate many type 2 diabetes cases, study finds

Diet high in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains can reduce risk by 24%, even for those with added risk factors

Many type 2 diabetes cases could be avoided by adopting a healthy plant-based diet, according to a study by scientists at Queen’s University Belfast.

Higher intake of fruits, vegetables and wholegrains can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to a plant-based diet high in snacks, desserts, refined grains and sugary drinks, the study found.

The high fruit, vegetable and wholegrain diet can reduce the risk of diabetes by 24 per cent, even for those genetically predisposed to the disease and those with other risk factors such as obesity, the researchers at Queen’s say.

More than 113,000 people were observed over a 12-year period for the research, of whom 2,600 developed type 2 diabetes.


Healthy plant-based diets may protect against type 2 diabetes through lower body fatness, but also via normal blood sugar levels, lower inflammation as well as improved kidney and liver function, the authors posit.

“For the first time we have shown that improvements in both metabolism and the function of the liver and the kidney as a result of a healthy plant-based diet may explain how this diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes,” co-lead author Prof Aedín Cassidy from the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s said.

“This is one of the first studies to try and identify how a healthful plant-based diet might reduce the risk,” according to Prof Tilman Kuhn, the other co-lead author and chair in public health nutrition at University of Vienna. “Our results suggest that such a diet exerts anti-diabetic effects via a range of mechanisms including blood sugar and lipid levels and lower body fatness. In contrast, obesity is a key mediator underlying greater type 2 diabetes risk among individuals following unhealthful plant-based diets.”

The study is published in Diabetes & Metabolism journal.

The global prevalence of diabetes is 6 per cent, and is projected to increase to 10pc by 2050. Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 95 per cent of cases.

About 10 per cent of Irish adults aged over 50 have type 2 diabetes, rising to 16 per cent in those aged over 80.

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Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.