Low fat plant based diets have been shown to improve glycemic control, blood lipid concentrations, blood pressure and weight. Diet acceptance is similar to that of other diets.
Researchers, N D Barnard et al. 1, conducted a 20-week low fat plant based diet intervention measuring any benefits of a Vegan diet vs. a control group given a B12 vitamin pill as a placebo control. Body weight and BMI (body mass index) showed a greater decrease in intervention group, and blood sugar greatly declined in the intervention group only. The researchers also observed a decrease in the effects of neuropathy in type 2 diabetics as well as the control group. The intervention group reported less pain caused by neuropathy when given various pain questionnaires. The control group also reported improvements in self-reported pain.
Bernard et al. 1 conducting this pilot intervention found similar results with other smaller studies that were focused on improvements in neuropathic pain and symptoms with the dietary intervention. A study by Crane and Sample2 used a reduced calorie, low fat, plant based diet with exercise for 25 days. 81% of participants in the study reported complete remission of symptoms. The remaining participants reported partial amelioration of their symptoms. Other noted changes included weight-loss decreased blood lipid concentrations and reduced need for blood pressure meds and glucose control meds.
Susan E. Berkow, PhD, CNS, and Neal Barnard, MD concluded in an earlier study, “Observational studies indicate that the weight and BMI of both male and female vegetarians, on average, is approximately 3% to 20% lower than that of non-vegetarians. Obesity prevalence ranges from 0% to 6% in vegetarians and from about 5% to 45% in non-vegetarians. Randomized trials suggest that dietary factors influencing energy intake and possibly thermic effect of food may be responsible for these differences. Because vegetarian diets are associated with reduced body weight and lower rates of obesity, vegetarians generally have a lower risk of coronary heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. A 1995 study estimated that vegetarians also incur significantly lower medical costs compared with non-vegetarians. The positive effects of a plant-based diet on chronic disease prevention may be mediated, in part, by changes in body weight.”5
In another study, Smith et al.3 investigated individuals with impaired glucose tolerance and peripheral neuropathy. Participants were coached on a diet and exercise in this one-year study. Smith et al. found participants had greater glucose tolerance, decreased body weight, and decrease cholesterol levels. Insignificant improvements in pain were reported. Bernard et al.’s study was more intense but of a shorter duration.
The mechanisms of action by which the Vegan diet improves neuropathic pain “may involve improved insulin sensitivity, leading to better glucose control. 4 in addition, diabetic neuropathy is associated with hypertension, dyslipidemia, and obesity, all of which can be ameliorated with the plant-based diet.” 5, 6, 7
Bernard et al. state that this pilot study shows the potential for a dietary approach in treating diabetic neuropathy as well as weight gain.
The researchers went on to say that, nutrition studies are important “given that drugs used to manage blood glucose have significant side effects, and drugs used for diabetic nerve pain typically offer only limited benefit. Further studies might eliminate the confounding factor of vitamin B12 status by including vitamin B12 pretreatment or an alternative control, such as a subclinical dose of B12. A trial testing diet, exercise and vitamin B12 in combination might be a useful means of assessing the effects of a more intensive intervention in this otherwise intractable and debilitating chronic disease.” 1
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- A E Bunner, C. L. (2015, 5 26). A dietary intervention for chronic diabetic neuropathy pain: a randomized controlled pilot study. Retrieved 6, 2, 2015, from Nutrition & Diabetes: http://www.nature.com/nutd/journal/v5/n5/full/nutd20158a.html
- Crane MG, Sample C. Regression of diabetic neuropathy with total vegetarian (vegan) diet. J Nutr Med1994; 4: 431–439. | Article |
- Smith AG, Russell J, Feldman EL, Goldstein J, Peltier A, Smith S et al. Lifestyle intervention for pre-diabetic neuropathy. Diabetes Care2006; 29: 1294–1299. | Article | PubMed | ISI |
- Barnard ND, Scialli AR, Turner-McGrievy G, Lanou AJ, Glass J. The effects of a low fat, plant-based dietary intervention on body weight, metabolism, and insulin sensitivity. Am J Med2005; 118: 991–997. | Article | PubMed | ISI | CAS |
- Berkow SE, Barnard N. Vegetarian diets and weight status. Nutr Rev2006; 64: 175–188. | Article | PubMed | ISI |
- Barnard N, Akhtar A, Nicholson A. Factors that facilitate dietary change. Arch Fam Med1995; 4: 153–158. | Article | PubMed | CAS |
- Yokoyama Y, Nishimura K, Barnard ND, Takegami M, Watanabe M, Sekikawa A et al. Vegetarian diets and blood pressure: a meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med2014; 174: 577–587. | Article | PubMed | ISI |
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