Published on 28 November 2023

Study reports that switching to plant-based foods could improve health for people living with a number of health conditions, including type 2 diabetes.

A change from a meat-based diet to eating more plant-based foods, could be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the German Diabetes Centre in Düsseldorf, Germany, looked at the impact of an animal-based diet, including red and processed meat, eggs, dairy, poultry, butter; compared to plant-based items, such as nuts, legumes, whole grains, olive oil on different health conditions.

The study, recently published in BMC Medicine explored how replacing animal-based with plant-based foods could lower the risk of developing heart conditions and type 2 diabetes.

Researchers said: “Our aim was to summarise and evaluate the evidence for the substitution of any animal-based foods with plant-based foods on cardiometabolic health and all-cause mortality in a systematic review and meta-analysis.”

The study found that the risk of cardiovascular disease was around 25% lower when 50g of processed meat a day was replaced with nuts or legumes. In addition, replacing one egg a day with 25g of nuts was linked to a 17% lower risk. However, there was no clear evidence that replacing poultry or fish with nuts or legumes reduced cardiovascular disease.

Similar benefits were seen for type 2 diabetes, as study authors reported a reduction in type 2 diabetes of around 20% when 50g of processed meat daily was swapped for up to 28g of nuts, or when a daily egg was replaced with 30g of whole grains or 10g of nuts.

The report added: “The current food system has been shown to be detrimental to planetary health by depleting Earth’s resources and contributing to climate change, thus decreasing the quality and sufficiency of food. Furthermore, non-communicable diseases related to dietary choices such as cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes highly contribute to deaths worldwide.

“Therefore, the food system and current dietary habits negatively impact both planetary and human health. Consequently, one of the approaches to address these problems is to change dietary habits. Plant-based diets are the focus of recent studies suggesting that increased intake of plant-based foods is not only beneficial for planetary health, but also reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and premature death.”

The study concluded: “Our findings suggest that a shift in diet from a high consumption of animal-based foods, especially red and processed meat, to plant-based foods (e.g., nuts, legumes, and whole grains) is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. Thus, a change in dietary habits towards an increment of plant-based products appears to be important for cardiometabolic health. However, more research is needed in order to strengthen the existing evidence and to investigate new associations, especially with a focus on meat and dairy replacement products.”

Read the report in BMC Medicine
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