Claim: Healthy plant-based diet linked with substantially lower type 2 diabetes risk


More weak correlation epidemiology from the perpetual junk science machine known as the Nurses Health Study. No one knows what causes diabetes. Sweetened foods and meat are not know to cause diabetes — ergo eating less does not reduce the risk.

The media release is below.


Healthy plant-based diet linked with substantially lower type 2 diabetes risk

Boston, MA — Consuming a plant-based diet–especially one rich in high-quality plant foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes–is linked with substantially lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“This study highlights that even moderate dietary changes in the direction of a healthful plant-based diet can play a significant role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes,” said Ambika Satija, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Nutrition, lead author of the study. “These findings provide further evidence to support current dietary recommendations for chronic disease prevention.”

The study will be published online June 14, 2016 in PLOS Medicine.

While previous studies have found links between vegetarian diets and improved health outcomes, including reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, this new study is the first to make distinctions between healthy plant-based diets and less healthy ones that include things like sweetened foods and beverages, which may be detrimental for health. The study also considered the effect of including some animal foods in the diet.

The researchers followed more than 200,000 male and female health professionals across the U.S. for more than 20 years who had regularly filled out questionnaires on their diet, lifestyle, medical history, and new disease diagnoses as part of three large long-term studies. The researchers evaluated participants’ diets using a plant-based diet index in which they assigned plant-derived foods higher scores and animal-derived foods lower scores.

The study found that high adherence to a plant-based diet that was low in animal foods was associated with a 20% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes compared with low adherence to such a diet. Eating a healthy version of a plant-based diet was linked with a 34% lower diabetes risk, while a less healthy version–including foods such as refined grains, potatoes, and sugar-sweetened beverages–was linked with a 16% increased risk.

Even modestly lowering animal food consumption–for example, from 5-6 servings per day to about 4 servings per day–was linked with lower diabetes incidence, the study found.

“A shift to a dietary pattern higher in healthful plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods, especially red and processed meats, can confer substantial health benefits in reducing risk of type 2 diabetes,” said Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study.

The researchers suggested that healthful plant-based diets could be lowering type 2 diabetes risk because such diets are high in fiber, antioxidants, unsaturated fatty acids, and micronutrients such as magnesium, and are low in saturated fat. Healthy plant foods may also be contributing to a healthy gut microbiome, the authors said.

Limitations of the study include possible measurement errors because the data was self-reported, although the authors noted that because the study cumulatively measured diet over time, it reduced such errors. The authors also said that their findings need to be replicated in other populations.


Other Harvard Chan School authors included Shilpa Bhupathiraju, Eric Rimm, Donna Spiegelman, Stephanie Chiuve, Walter Willett, Joann Manson, and Qi Sun.

Funding for the study came from National Institutes of Health research grants DK58845, UM1 CA186107, UM1 CA176726, and UM1 CA167552.

“Plant-Based Dietary Patterns and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women: Results from Three Prospective Cohort Studies,” Ambika Satija, Shilpa N. Bhupathiraju, Eric B. Rimm, Donna Spiegelman, Stephanie E. Chiuve, Lea Borgi, Walter C. Willett, JoAnn E. Manson, Qi Sun, Frank B. Hu, PLOS Medicine, online June 14, 2016, doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002039.

6 thoughts on “Claim: Healthy plant-based diet linked with substantially lower type 2 diabetes risk”

  1. I got type 2 because I allowed my ancestors to get it. It’s organ failure, not lifestyle. Go to any support group of diabetics and look around at all the skinny type 2’s. You can help some of the symptoms with lifestyle, but you’re still diabetic. It’s chronic folks! You’ll die with it, but you don’t have to die because of it.

  2. Healthy plant-based diet ? – “…dere’s your problem right dere, you don’t have enuff porkfat in your saasage”

  3. I know exactly what causes Type II diabetes – a self-appointed group of doctors who (re-)defined what constitutes a normal blood sugar level on the back of the invention of blood-glucose measuring equipment.

    Until 30-40 years ago we could not routinely measure blood glucose levels – heck, we used to diagnose diabetes (real “type I” diabetes that is) by having med students taste patients urine! Now we have the ability to measure something we have to set a level for what is “normal” and this then drives an industry for treatment of the “abnormal” levels through the definition of anything outside these levels as a disease.

  4. Research is currently showing that the character of the intestinal flora is a powerful driver of health issues.
    Specifically, Gram-negative bacteria such as E. coli have a class of compounds called lipopolysaccharides in their cell walls. When these bacteria die in the gut, these molecules (also called endotoxins) are released into the digestive tract to be absorbed by the host. Once absorbed they wreak havoc with the immune system, the circulatory system, the pancreas, the liver, etc.
    This has absolutely NOTHING to do with what the bacteria are being fed.
    A good strategy would be to (1) purge the Gram-negative bacteria from the stomach, duodenum, and intestines (as if prepping for a colonoscopy), and (2) to replace them with benign microbes (probiotics or a ‘feces transplant’ from a healthy young person).

  5. Complete BS – if my own experience is any indication. I’ve been borderline Ty-2 for about 4-years and controlled it well on an Atkins/Paleo sort of diet for most of that time. Decided to try this “healthy-plant” approach at the beginning of the year. The result? An A1C of 8 and a fasting glucose of 177 – pretty much the opposite of what these hacks predict.

    “While previous studies have found links between vegetarian diets and improved health outcomes…” tells you all you need to know. Where, precisely, have these “studies” been done on a large-enough population to be meaningful? More crap from the MEAT-IS-MURDER(tm) crusaders.

    “Limitations of the study include possible measurement errors because the data was self-reported…” Duh, you think?!?

    “… because the study cumulatively measured diet over time, it reduced such errors.” Because they say so, that’s why.

    Complete. Utter. Ridiculous. Nonsense.

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