- A preliminary study indicates that a plant-based diet could help in weight loss and pain relief for those with diabetes-related nerve damage.
- The participants in the study, all dealing with type 2 diabetes and nerve damage, saw an average weight loss of 15 pounds, improved blood circulation in their feet, and lessened nerve pain.
- While a plant-based diet has shown positive effects in this small study, it does not definitively prove that this type of diet alone improves neuropathy – a common consequence of chronically high blood sugar levels in diabetics.
- According to some experts, the critical factors are weight loss, healthful eating, and control of blood sugar levels, regardless of whether the diet is entirely plant-based.
- Those considering switching to a plant-based diet should seek advice to ensure proper nutrition, including a sufficient intake of Vitamin B12, which is often lacking because it’s primarily found in animal products.
A plant-based diet could provide weight loss benefits and pain relief for individuals experiencing diabetes-related nerve damage, according to a small preliminary study.
Plant-based diets exclude all animal-derived products, including eggs and dairy. Instead, they source protein, fats, and all other nutrients from foods like beans, nuts, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and plant-based oils.
Study on Plant-based Diet and its impact on Type 2 Diabetes
In the referenced study, the investigation was focused on whether a plant-based diet could benefit individuals with type 2 diabetes and painful nerve damage in their extremities. The study lasted 20 weeks and involved 17 participants who were prescribed the diet. They experienced an average weight loss of 15 pounds. Simultaneously, blood circulation in their feet improved and their pain diminished.
Experts have stated that these findings, released in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes, emphasize the significance of healthy eating and weight loss for people with type 2 diabetes.
However, it remains uncertain whether adopting a completely plant-based lifestyle is necessary to achieve these benefits.
The Role of Weight Loss in Reducing Pain
“The weight loss, independently, can aid in alleviating pain,” stated Dr. Maria Pena, an endocrinologist and weight management specialist. According to her explanation, shedding excess fat can reduce inflammation in the body and improve a person’s mobility, both of which could contribute to alleviating diabetic nerve pain. Additionally, better blood sugar control is crucial for reducing diabetic nerve pain, and this control was evident among the plant-based dieters in this study.
Pena further added that any diet that prioritizes weight loss and the replacement of processed foods with nutritious “whole” foods might generate similar benefits.
Diabetic Nerve Damage and its Consequences
Approximately half of all individuals with diabetes end up developing nerve damage as a result of chronically high blood sugar levels. This nerve damage, also termed neuropathy, could happen anywhere but is most commonly experienced in the feet and legs. Symptoms include sharp pain, burning sensations, tingling or sensitivity to even a slight touch, making people susceptible to serious foot problems, including ulcers and infections.
The Impact of a Plant-based Diet on Neuropathy
Despite the positive results, researchers on the study noted that these findings do not definitively confirm that a plant-based diet solely leads to improvements in neuropathy.
The proposed “hypothesis” is that the diet might be effective by enhancing people’s sensitivity to the hormone insulin, subsequently reducing their blood sugar levels.
The plant-based dieters were advised to restrict their fat intake to 20 to30 grams a day and focus on “low GI” foods, which do not prompt a large spike in blood sugar.
Results and Recommendations
Following the study’s conclusion, the plant-based group reported losing an average of 15 pounds, while the comparison group averaged only a 1 pound loss. They also reported significant improvements in pain-related measurements.
“In just 20 weeks, participants saw weight loss, reduced blood sugar levels, and pain alleviation,” stated the researchers, making a case for diet making substantial differences to health and well-being.
However, while plant-based diets have shown health benefits, this study does not conclusively establish that vegan eating is the ultimate or only way to manage diabetes and neuropathy.
For those with diabetes intending to adopt a plant-based lifestyle, it is crucial to obtain sound advice and ensure it is done properly. Inclusion of a B12 supplement in their diet was recommended in this study, key because Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal products and can be deficient in plant-based diets. Moreover, as many people with diabetes take medication known as metformin, which lowers the body’s B12 levels, deficiency of this vitamin could potentially contribute towards nerve damage.
Comprehensive assistance in identifying good sources of plant-based protein and other nutrients may also be required for those transitioning from omnivorous diets.
Participants in this study attended weekly nutrition classes, but self-guidance, armed with well-informed resources, is also an achievable route towards a plant-based lifestyle.
More information on diabetes and diet can be found at the American Diabetes Association.