July 22 (UPI) -- People who follow strict plant-based diets have are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, a new study says.
In fact, findings published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine showed having a "high adherence" to plant-based diets was linked to a 23 percent lower risk of developing diabetes compared to people with a weaker adherence.
"Plant-based dietary patterns are gaining popularity in recent years, so we thought it was crucial to quantify their overall association with diabetes risk, particularly since these diets can vary substantially in terms of their food composition," Frank Qian, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and study first author, said in a news release.
The researchers analyzed studies with data for more than 307,000 patients, with 23,544 having type 2 diabetes.
The researchers observed how well the patients adhered to healthy plant-based diets consisting of fruits, legumes, nuts, vegetables and whole grains. They also looked at levels of less healthy plant-based foods eaten by participants, such as potatoes, sugar and white flour.
Diets with healthier plant-based options can lower blood pressure and body mass while raising insulin sensitivity, researchers point out. Plant-based diets with less healthy options, on the other hand, have been linked to increasing the risk of death by 11 percent.
"Overall, these data highlighted the importance of adhering to plant-based diets to achieve or maintain good health, and people should choose fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, tofu, and other healthy plant foods as the cornerstone of such diets," said Qi Sun, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and study senior author.