New study supports major change in diet treatment for diabetes

Low-fat vegan diet rivals oral diabetes medications in federally funded study

WASHINGTON--A low-fat vegan diet treats type 2 diabetes more effectively than a standard diabetes diet and may be more effective than single-agent therapy with oral diabetes drugs, according to a study in the August issue of Diabetes Care, a journal published by the American Diabetes Association. Study participants on the low-fat vegan diet showed dramatic improvement in four disease markers: blood sugar control, cholesterol reduction, weight control, and kidney function. The randomized controlled trial was conducted by doctors and dieticians with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), the George Washington University, and the University of Toronto with funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation.

The vegan diet represents a major departure from current diabetes diets, in that it placed no limits on calories, carbohydrates, or portions. "The diet appears remarkably effective, and all the side effects are good ones--especially weight loss and lower cholesterol," says lead researcher Neal D. Barnard, M.D., PCRM president and adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University. "I hope this study will rekindle interest in using diet changes first, rather than prescription drugs."

Diabetes rates have climbed rapidly in recent years, and more than 20 million Americans now have the disease, which is linked to kidney failure, blindness, and cardiovascular disease.

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Two study participants are available for interviews. Vance is a study participant and former police officer who lives in the District of Columbia. In response to the intervention diet, Vance's high blood sugar plunged rapidly into the normal range, and he dropped about 60 pounds. Nancy also has a compelling story to tell. Until she tried the intervention diet, Nancy's diabetes was worsening and not responding to intensified drug therapy. During the course of the study she lost about 42 pounds and was able to discontinue one of her medications. For an interview with Dr. Barnard or one of the study participants, please contact Jeanne S. McVey at 202-686-2210 or jeannem@pcrm.org.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, especially good nutrition. PCRM also conducts clinical research studies, opposes unethical human experimentation, and promotes alternatives to animal research.

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