(HealthDay News) — Adherence to plant-based diets is associated with a lower risk for type 2 diabetes, according to a study published online in Diabetes Care.

Zhangling Chen, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues used data from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS [1986 to 2012]; 76,530 women) and NHS II (1991 to 2017; 81,569 women) as well as the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986 to 2016; 34,468 men) to evaluate the association between plant-based diets and the subsequent risk for type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found 12,627 cases of type 2 diabetes during 2,955,350 person-years of follow-up. Participants with the largest decrease (>10%) in the plant-based diet index (PDI) and healthful PDI (hPDI) over 4 years had a higher diabetes risk in the subsequent 4 years (PDI: pooled hazard ratio [HR], 1.12; hPDI: HR, 1.23) compared with participants with stable PDI or hPDI, when adjusting for initial body mass index and initial and 4-year changes in alcohol intake, smoking, physical activity, and other factors. The risk for diabetes was lower for each 10% increment in the PDI and hPDI over 4 years (PDI: HR, 0.93; hPDI: HR, 0.91). There was no association noted between changes in unhealthful PDI and diabetes risk. Between 6% and 35.6% of the associations between changes in the PDI and hPDI and diabetes risk was accounted for by weight changes.

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“The findings of the current study not only confirm previous reports but also demonstrate that both 4-year and longer-term (8-year) improvements in adherence to overall and healthful plant-based diets are associated with lower diabetes risk,” the authors write.


Chen Z, Drouin-Chartier JP, Li Y, et al. Changes in plant-based diet indices and subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes in women and men: Three US prospective cohorts. Diab Care 2021 Jan; dc201636. doi:10.2337/dc20-1636