New research confirms that plant-based diets rich in whole carbohydrates can improve insulin sensitivity in those with type 1 diabetes. According to the latest study from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a change in diet can lead to an improvement in overall health markers, which can be beneficial for patients diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
The study published in the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolism included two case studies that followed individuals with type 1 diabetes who adopted plant-based diets rich in whole carbohydrates. The diet included fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Both studies involved tracking the patients’ blood sugar control, heart disease risk factors, and other health measurements before and after the diet change.
The first case study involved a female patient who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2018. At the beginning of the study, her A1c was 8.7%. The first diet she was required to follow included low-carbohydrate meals (less than 30 grams of carbohydrates per day) that were based around high-fat meats and dairy. It was recorded that her blood sugar stabilized, but she required more insulin per gram of carbohydrate consumed. Her total cholesterol also increased from 175 to 221 mg/dL. After switching to a plant-based diet, eliminating eggs, dairy, and meat, she was able to decrease her insulin dosage, maintain her A1c level at 5.4%, and drop her cholesterol to 158 mg/dL.
“This study challenges the misconception that carbs are the enemy when it comes to diabetes,” says study author Hana Kahleova, MD, Ph.D., director of clinical research at the Physicians Committee. “The patient in this case study experienced the opposite: Adding more healthful carbohydrates to her diet stabilized her glycemic control, reduced her insulin needs, and boosted her overall health.”
Increased Carbohydrate Consumption
The next case study involved a 42-year old man who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 25. He eliminated all animal products from his diet and switched to a whole food, plant-based diet and increased his carbohydrate consumption from 150 grams to 400-450 grams per day. After the change in diet, it was found that he lost weight, required less insulin, and reduced his A1c from 6.2% to a range between 5.5 – 5.8%.
Previous studies have found that low-fat, plant-based diets can be beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes, and for reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The authors of this study suggest the next step should be a randomized clinical trial to verify the case studies’ findings, assess their generalizability, and quantify the effectiveness of plant-based diets in the management of type 1 diabetes.
“Decades of research have proven that a plant-based diet can be beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes. Now, these groundbreaking case studies are offering hope that the same may be true for those with type 1 diabetes,” adds Dr. Kahleova.