High-carb vegan diet can improve type 1 diabetes, according to new case studies

Two case studies from researchers at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that a vegan diet rich in high carbohydrates can improve the health of individuals with type 1 diabetes.

Researchers from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine have found that a vegan diet rich in whole carbohydrates can improve insulin sensitivity and other health markers in individuals with type 1 diabetes.

Both studies, published in the Journal of Diabetes and Metabolism, followed individuals with type 1 diabetes who converted to a plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetable, whole grains and legumes. Their health care teams tracked their blood sugar control and risk of heart disease before and after the study. 

The first case study followed a man who, in 2013, decided to convert to a plant-based diet at the age of 42. After adopting a carbohydrate-rich diet. He was able to lose weight, needed less insulin and reduced his blood sugar levels over a period of three months.

The second case study followed a woman who was diagnosed with diabetes in 2004. After following a low-carb, high-fat diet, her cholesterol levels increased and needed more insulin per gram of carbohydrates she consumed. She then switched to an entirely plant-based diet and was able to decrease her insulin dosage. Her cholesterol levels dropped too.

challenges the misconception

This study “challenges the misconception that carbs are the enemy when it comes to diabetes”. As stated by study author, Hana Kahleova, director of clinical research at the Physicians Committee.

Kahleova added: “The patient in this case study experienced the opposite. Adding more healthful carbohydrates to her diet stabilised her glycaemic control, reduced her insulin needs, and boosted her overall health.”

The next step, according to the authors, is to do randomised clinical trials to verify the case studies’ findings. Evaluate their generalisability and quantify the effectiveness of vegan diets in managing type 1 diabetes.

“Decades of research has proven that a plant-based diet can be beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes. Now, these groundbreaking case studies are offering hope that. The same may be true for those with type 1 diabetes,” said Kahleova.

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