What a vegan diet does to your body – and what the NHS has to say about it
Veganism, the plant-based diet that removes all meat and dairy products, is having its time in the limelight.
In fact, the number of vegans in the UK has grown from 150,000 to 600,000 in the past four years, according to the Vegan society.
Whether it be for ethical reasons such as animal welfare, anxiety about the environment or those looking for a healthier diet, veganism is a popular option.
But before switching diets, it’s worth knowing what the potential benefits and concerns could be and how the lifestyle change could affect your body.
The NHS has conducted research revealing some surprising results ans to whether the popular diet is worth it.
What was the research?
The research analysed 11 studies which looked into the effects of a plant-based diet on adults with type 2 diabetes, the Daily Post reports.
They compared the outcomes between those on plant-based diets and those not, including quality of life, depression and the use of diabetes medication.
It was conducted by staff from the University of London, the University of Northampton as well as researchers from East Sussex NHS Healthcare Trust.
Their findings were published in medical journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care.
What did it reveal?
In three studies including 117 adults with diabetes, quality of life improved in the plant-based diet groups but not in the control groups.
Of these three studies, one specifically reported improvements in a psychological measure of quality of life, one reported decreased depression levels, and the other found decreased pain symptoms.
Eight of the studies including 405 adults with diabetes found that diabetes control measured by HbA1c was better in the plant-based groups than in the control groups.
In five of six studies which reported weight outcomes, those in the plant-based groups lost more weight than people in the control groups.
There was an average weight loss of 5.23kg for those on plant-based diets, compared to 2.83kg for the others.
“It can be concluded that plant-based diets accompanied by educational interventions can significantly improve psychological health, quality of life, HbA1c levels and weight and therefore the management of diabetes,” the researchers said.
What does the NHS make of the research?
The NHS said: “Eating a healthy diet can help people with type 2 diabetes to manage their condition and avoid complications.”
They acknowledge that the research around plant-based diets does support this conclusion, but insist its not firm evidence.
“It has too many limitations to tell us for sure that a vegan diet, specifically, is the best diet for people with diabetes,” they added.
“We don’t know enough about the interventions or control groups in the individual studies included in the review.
“For example, if the plant-based diets were lower in calories than the control group diets, it’s not surprising people lost more weight on the plant-based diet.”
The NHS further explained that too little research has been done into plant-based diets to “draw firm conclusions” about their effects.
They add that: “A healthy diet includes lots of fresh vegetables, pulses, fruits and wholegrains.
“A plant-based diet needs to include plenty of these types of food, rather than relying on refined plant-based carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour, to be truly healthy.”