A plant-based diet slashes the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a major scientific review.
Researchers analysed more than 300,000 people who followed a plant-based diet, such as vegetarian or vegan, to some degree.
Those who stuck to it religiously had the lowest chances of getting the condition, compared to those who were more flexible.
Adults who chose 'healthy' plant-based foods low in sugar, fat and salt, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, had the lowest risk.
In all of the studies analysed, the highest category of adherence to plant-based diets still involved a significant amount of food derived from animals.
It's not currently clear whether reduced meat consumption is behind the reduced risk, or another factor such as a high amount of fibre.
Plant-based diets have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce weight, both of which can slash the risk of type 2 diabetes.
There are four million people living with diabetes in the UK, and 90 per cent of those have type 2.
A plant-based diet, rich in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and with little meat and dairy, slashes the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a comprehensive review of the evidence
Researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in Boston, Massachusetts, used nine studies which investigated the link between a plant-based diet and type 2 diabetes.
The review included data from 307,099 participants, of which 23,544 were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
The researchers found people with the highest adherence to plant-based diets had a 23 per cent lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared to those with weaker adherence to the diets.
The risk was most reduced in those who ate healthy plant-based diets, according to the findings published in The Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.
Lead author Frank Qian, who conducted the research as a masters student, said: 'Plant-based dietary patterns are gaining popularity in recent years.
A plant-based diet is based on foods derived from plants, including vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds and fruits, with few or no animal products.
Types of plant-based diets include:Lacto-ovo vegetarians – eat dairy foods and eggs but not meat, poultry or seafood. Ovo-vegetarians – include eggs but avoid all other animal foods, including dairy. Lacto-vegetarians – eat dairy foods but exclude eggs, meat, poultry and seafood. Vegans – don’t eat any animal products at all, including honey, dairy and eggs. Many shop bought ready-made products may contain animal ingredients so the labels of all manufactured products do need to be read carefully. Pescetarians – eat fish and/or shellfish. Semi-vegetarians (or flexitarians) – occasionally eat meat or poultry.
Source: The British Dietetic Association
'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.'
According to the researchers, the current study provides the most comprehensive evidence to date for the link between plant-based diets and reduced