Plant-based diet improves insulin sensitivity in overweight people with no history of diabetes

Overweight people with no history of diabetes should consider following a plant-based diet. A study published in the journal Nutrients found that adhering to a plant-based diet improves insulin sensitivity and beta cell function in overweight adults with no history of diabetes. An individual’s risk of Type 2 diabetes may be assessed by measuring the function of beta cells, which store and release insulin.

Earlier studies have shown that plant-based diets can prevent and reverse Type 2 diabetes. Adherence to plant-based diets have also been shown to result in weight loss, improved cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and better heart health. (Related: Plant-based diet prevents and fights chronic diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, and coronary heart disease.)

For the current study, researchers from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recruited individuals who were overweight and had no history of diabetes. Then, they randomly assigned participants to a treatment or control group.

Participants assigned to the treatment group followed a low-fat vegan diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes with no calorie limit for 16 weeks. On the other hand, those in the control group maintained their usual diet. None of the participants changed their exercise or medication routines.

After the 16-week intervention period, the researchers found that those who followed a plant-based diet had better meal-stimulated insulin secretion and beta-cell glucose sensitivity than those in the control group. In addition, the plant-based diet group experienced a reduction in blood sugar levels both while fasting and during meal tests.

The researchers explained that the plant-based diet group experienced a reduction in fasting insulin resistance and an improvement in beta cell function because they lost weight and body fat.

These findings indicated that following a plant-based diet may help prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. Finding ways to prevent diabetes is important as the number of people suffering from this condition continues to increase. In the U.S, about 30 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes and another 84.1 million have prediabetes, a condition that often leads to Type 2 diabetes within five years if left untreated.

Other ways to improve insulin sensitivity and prevent diabetes

In addition to dietary changes, making healthy lifestyle changes and taking supplements can also help improve insulin sensitivity. Here are several ways to naturally improve your insulin sensitivity:

  • Exercise more: Getting more exercise may enhance insulin sensitivity. A 2012 study on 55 healthy adults who completed a 16-week exercise program showed a link between increased physical activity levels and improved insulin sensitivity. The result was dose-dependent, which means that the more they exercised, the more their insulin sensitivity improved.
  • Get enough sleep: Having enough sleep may also improve an individual’s insulin sensitivity. A 2015 study revealed that when 16 healthy people who did not have enough sleep extended their sleep by one hour each day for six weeks, they experienced an improvement in their insulin sensitivity.
  • Manage stress: Too much stress can increase blood sugar and make the body more insulin resistant. You may reduce stress by meditating, exercising, and having enough sleep.
  • Take dietary supplements: In addition to making dietary changes, people who need or want to improve their insulin sensitivity may find taking certain dietary supplements helpful. Probiotic supplements, omega-3 supplements, magnesium supplements, and resveratrol supplements are some dietary supplements you may take to improve insulin sensitivity.

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