How This Helps

We are lucky that the benefits of plant­based diet are becoming popular these days and the method  is  proving  to  be  extremely  effective  in  fighting  against  chronic  conditions  like diabetes.

Science and Research

Diabetes has turned out to be a common disease these days. 9.3% (this figure estimates about 29.1 million people) of the U.S population are affected by this condition each year and this number is 1.4 million of the country’s population are being affected by the disease. Even if you  are  not  affected  by  this  disease,  you  must  know  someone  who  has  diabetes.  This condition  has  extensive  effects  and  leads  to tuations  like  hypertension,  cardiac  diseases, blindness, kidney disorder and even amputation of limbs (1).

Several  doctors  opine  that  plant­based  foods  in  the  form  of  pills  would  prove  to  be  the miraculous  and  popular  cure.  The  pharmaceutical  companies  are sure  to  earn  huge  profits from such products. Just think about the vast extent of benefits that can be achieved through this form of diet. Right from losing excess weight, controlling blood sugar levels and keeping your skin clean to have a long healthy life and that too without any adverse effects. Don’t all these sound absolutely perfect?

There are numerous research results to speak in favor of plant based diet. For instance, the most recent study has revealed a meta­analysis; i.e. the research that has been picked up from several research  articles to find out if there  are  any identifiable pattern. This meta­analysis has been successful in short listing 13 such research articles which go in line with the basic requirement. Through some difficult analysis, it has been found that blood sugar controlling abilities  in  diabetes  patients  have  shown  great  improvement  when  meat  in  the  diet  was
replaced with  plant  proteins; i.e.  by  consuming foods like legumes, soy,  and  nuts (2). The clinical  parameters  were  measured  for  haemoglobin  (A1C  values);  i.e.  the  average  blood sugar  of  2  to  3  months,  insulin  levels,  and  fasting  glucose  levels.  To  get  the  desired ‘moderate’ standard  of  benefits  (as  determined  by  the researchers)  the  participants  of  this study were made to replace just 35% of their protein consumption with plant proteins. So, it can be well imagined how beneficial the effects will be when 50% of the protein intake can be replaced in this method, or even better if entire protein intake can be altered.

The outcome of the mentioned research goes hand in hand with some other studies, like the Adventist Health Study; i.e. the method in which the vegetarian or vegan type of diets  are associated  with  reduced  risk  of  diabetes  and  overall  causes  of  human  mortality  (3,4).  A research study was done with 92,000 women and 40,000 men, where one serving in their diet was replaced with plant proteins and the result reflected 10 to 21% reduction in the risk of Type 2 diabetes (5). The other side of the coin shows that diets rich in animal protein (red meat in most cases) result in an increase in the occurrence of diabetes (5,6).

Now,  the  question  is,  why  these  things  happen? Basically,  the fat  that  comes  with  animal protein interferes with the function  of insulin  and  creates the situation where  no sugar  can enter the cells. Animal protein is not the only target in this report and some other determining factors  are  given  equal  importance  along  with  animal  protein.  It  is  also  noticed  that  high amounts of stored iron in the body are also responsible for diabetes. The iron that we get from animal proteins (the heme­iron) can be easily absorbed by our body and is not always good for  health.  Iron  can  also  act  as  pro­oxidant  (just  the  opposite  of  anti­oxidant)  and  cause damage to our tissues. In the case of people suffering from diabetes, the excess amounts of heme­iron can damage the cells in the pancreas and thus affect the production of insulin (8,9).

On the other hand, the iron which we get from plants is safe as they cannot be absorbed easily by our body and thus our body is not at risk of overloading with iron. It is also noticed that the amino acid profile in plant proteins actually function as protectors of our body. The level
of nitrites and sodium in animal protein (specifically in meat) are seriously harmful (2).

The bottom­line is if you aim at lowering your blood sugar levels and want to keep yourself safe  from  problems  related  to  blood  sugar  (or  even  conditions  related  to  cholesterol, inflammation and overweight), switching to plant proteins will help you a lot. Just switch to a
bean burger instead of ham or chicken. You can top your pizza with tofu and feta cheese and have the mouthwatering side dishes as the walnut­spinach­apple salad. You can learn more about such tasty  and  healthy  plant  protein  and  understand  benefits  of  plant  based  diet  and options by talking to your dietician.

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