Plant based diets & diabetes

Introduction

Most epidemiological headlines don’t make sense, but some make even less sense than others. When you see “red meat raises risk of bowel cancer by x%” you think – as Surgeon Captain Thomas (Peter) Cleave famously said – “For a modern disease to be related to an old-fashioned food is one of the most ludicrous things I have ever heard in my life."

The headlines this week were “Eating a plant-based diet might help prevent type 2 diabetes, study suggests” (CNN) (Ref 1). The senior author, of the paper behind these headlines, said: “We found that eating plant-based diets was associated with, on average, 23% reduction in diabetes risk".

This makes no sense. Diabetes can be simply described as the inability to handle glucose. Plant foods provide glucose. Meat and fish provide none and eggs to all intents and purposes provide none. Dairy products provide lactose, which breaks down into glucose and galactose. Dairy products are thus the only animal foods that provide glucose to any extent and it’s still not much. The glucose in dairy is tiny compared to that in the starchy carbohydrates upon which plant-food diets are based. The idea that a diet based on glucose is somehow helpful for avoiding a ‘can’t-handle-glucose’ intolerance condition just doesn’t make sense.
I’m going to try to make some sense of this study…

 

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