In the United States, approximately 93.3 million people live with obesity, and over 100 million have diabetes or prediabetes.
A key factor in the development of these — and other — metabolic conditions is diet.
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s dietary guidelines for 2015-2020, “the typical eating patterns currently consumed by many in the [US] do not align” with official recommendations.
Their estimates indicate that approximately “three-fourths of the population” does not consume enough vegetables, fruits, dairy products, or oils.
New research conducted by investigators from three international institutions — the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine and the Institute of Endocrinology in Prague, Czech Republic, as well as the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC — now suggests that following a plant-based diet could have a beneficial impact on many aspects of a person’s health.
More specifically, the study’s findings — which the researchers report in “Vegan Nutrition,” which is a special issue of the journal Nutrients — suggest that following a vegan type diet fosters the presence of certain gut hormones that help to regulate blood pressure.
These hormones also help a person feel fuller sooner, and their action is thus beneficial for weight management.
Promoting good gut hormones
In this study, the research team worked with 60 male participants, of whom 20 had a diagnosis of obesity, 20 had type 2 diabetes, and a further 20 had no health complaints and made up the control group.
The researchers split the participants randomly so that some of them ate a vegan meal with tofu, while others ate a meal of processed meat and cheese. The researchers matched both meals for the number of calories and macronutrients.
Regardless of whether they had diabetes, obesity, or no health problems at all, the people who ate the vegan meal had a higher level of beneficial gut hormones than the people who ate meat and cheese.
The beneficial gut hormones, the researchers explain, help regulate glucose (simple sugar) levels, insulin production, and energy levels. They also help increase the feeling of satiety, thus contributing to weight management.
According to the investigators, people may feel fuller because plant-based foods are rich in fiber, which can increase satiety but do not add extra calories.
“These beneficial gut hormones can help keep weight down, enhance insulin secretion, regulate blood sugar, and keep us feeling full longer,” notes study co-author Dr. Hana Kahleova.
“The fact that simple meal choices can increase the secretion of these healthy hormones has important implications for those with type 2 diabetes or weight problems,” she suggests.
In previous research — which we covered last year on Medical News Today — Dr. Kahleova had already found that vegan diets can help people with type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin secretion and improving insulin sensitivity.
The current study strengthens previously uncovered proof of the benefits afforded by plant-based diets, and further shows that it can contribute to weight management.
“This study adds to the mounting evidence that plant-based diets can help manage and prevent type 2 diabetes and obesity.”
Dr. Hana Kahleova
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