Date:10/01/2008 URL:

New Delhi

Low-fat vegetarian diet ideal for diabetics, says study

Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: Low-fat, vegetarian diets are ideal for people with diabetes and for Indians who are topping the charts with the highest incidence of Type 2 diabetes in the world, it would be a good idea to stay with the traditional Indian diet, remain fit and keep diabetes at bay.

According to a new study conducted and published by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine along with George Washington University and the University of Toronto, a low-fat, unrefined, vegan diet (excluding all animal products) is ideal for people with Type 2 diabetes.

“The diet appears remarkably effective and all the side effects are good ones -- especially weight loss and lower cholesterol levels. This study we hope will rekindle interest in using diet changes first, rather than prescription drugs,” said Neal D. Barnard, lead researcher of the study now in India to talk about his research.

Dr. Barnard is also president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a non-government organisation that promotes preventive medicine, especially good nutrition.

“The number of people with Type 2 diabetes in India has more than doubled since 1995 largely because of changing eating habits. A low-fat vegan diet could reverse this trend,” said Dr. Barnard, who delivered a lecture at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences here on Tuesday.

Blood sugar levels

Dr. Barnard spoke about his research work which was funded by the U.S.-based National Institutes of Health and indicated that a dairy-free vegan diet can help many patients cut their blood sugar levels, improve their insulin sensitivity and reduce if not eliminate their medications. The study was published in “Diabetes Care”, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.

Type 2 diabetes usually does not occur until adulthood. In this form of the disease there may be plenty of insulin in the bloodstream but the cells are resistant to it. Glucose cannot easily get into the cells and it backs up in the bloodstream.

“The new study shows that in people with diabetes a low-fat vegan diet reduces blood sugar to a greater degree than even common oral diabetes medications. Type 2 diabetes can cause heart disease, kidney failure, stroke, nervous system damage, vision loss and other serious life-threatening complications. Rather than compensate for malfunctioning insulin, like other treatments our diet actually helps an individual’s own insulin work better by altering what goes on inside that person’s cell,” said Dr. Barnard.

“I see India as a key player in combating the global diabetes epidemic. A tradition northern Indian diet which is vegetarian, has minimal use of cooking oils and has a variety of food stuff is the best for human use,” added Dr. Barnard.

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