Vegan Diet Most Effective Against Diabetes Symptoms


A new study has revealed that a simple vegan diet may be much more effective in promoting weight loss and reversing other type 2 diabetes symptoms than the diet previously recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA).  Researchers noted that the vegan diet seemed to be easier for participants to follow, as there were no calories to count, portion sizes to measure, or carbohydrates to limit.  Unlike the ADA diet, the vegan diet did not need to be customized to the individual based upon weight, lifestyle, or other health factors.  As an added bonus, the only reported side effects of the vegan diet seemed to be positive ones, including weight loss and lowered cholesterol. 

In the study, researchers at George Washington University and the University of Toronto compared the diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association to a traditional vegan diet, free of animal products.  The goal was to examine how the diets may reduce the need for drugs in diabetes management, kidney function, cholesterol levels, and weight loss.   

Of the 99 diabetic participants, half were randomly put on a vegan diet and the other half on the ADA diet.  Vegan dieters followed a simple plant-based diet, avoiding meat and dairy foods.  They received roughly 10 percent of daily calories from fat, 15 percent from protein, and 75 percent from carbohydrates; yet their portion sizes were unlimited.  The vegan group was also advised to take a daily vitamin B12 supplement.  The ADA dieters had a few more rules.  They consumed 15 to 20 percent of calories from protein, 60 to 70 percent from carbohydrates and monounsaturated fats, less than 7 percent from saturated fats, and no more than 200mg of cholesterol per day.  Overweight participants within the ADA group were also advised to reduce daily calorie intake by 500 to 1,000 calories per day.
After just 22 weeks, positive improvements in both groups were observed, though the vegan diet outscored the ADA diet in every reported category.  Among all medication-stable participants, the vegan dieters enjoyed an average weight loss of 14.3 pounds (6.5kg), compared to 6.8 pounds (3.1kg) for the ADA dieters.  In addition, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol dropped by 21% in the vegan group, compared to just 9% in the ADA group. 
For a more specific measure of diabetes, the researchers also tracked hemoglobin A1c, a commonly used index of long-term blood glucose.  According to the ADA, A1c levels should be should be less than 7 percentage points. The average participant began the study with an A1c of 8 percentage points.  Among those whose diabetes medications remained stable, A1c levels dropped 1.2 points in the vegan group, compared to a drop of only 0.4 points in the ADA group. 
Overall, a clinically significant improvement, defined as either an A1c reduction of greater than 1 percentage point or any reduction in the use of diabetes medication, occurred in 69% of the vegan group and 46% of the ADA group.  The lead researcher, Dr. Neal D. Barnard, expressed his hopes that these finding would help to promote dietary changes as the first line of defense against diabetes, rather than prescription drugs.
According to the American Diabetes Association 20.8 million adults and children in the United States alone are living with diabetes.  This is roughly 7 percent of the country’s entire population.  Complications from the disease include increased risk for heart disease, stoke, high blood pressure, blindness, amputation, and kidney disease.

For Further Reading:

 The Vegan Diet As Chronic Disease Prevention: Evidence Supporting the New Four Food Groups by Dr. Kerrie K. Saunders

  • This book is "arguably the most comprehensive argument in print for the human health benefits of the vegan diet."  Readers have been intriqued by the untold information that Dr. Saunders presents on the benefits of a diet free of animal products.  

 The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Thomas M. Campbell II

  • This real world, 20 year study gives a first hand account of diet as it pertains to overall health.  This must read covers valuable topics such as obesity, common cancers, how to eat, the medical industry, and the effect of excess weight on children. 

Vegan with a Vengeance : Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipes That Rock (Paperback) by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

  • On the market for less than one year, this popular cookbook has already received 68 reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 5-stars.  Not bad!



  • The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine,
  • The study is to be published in the August issue of Diabetes Care, a journal published by the American Diabetes Association:
    Barnard ND, Cohen, J, Jenkins DJ, Turner-McGrievy G, Gloede L, Jaster B, Seidl K, Green AA, Talpers S. “A low-fat, vegan diet improves glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in a randomized clinical trial in individuals with type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes Care, August 2006 volume 29: pp 1777-1783

About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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