First-of-Its-Kind Study: Plant-Based Diets Improve Metabolic, Liver, and Kidney Health

Healthy Plant Based Diet Concept

A study reveals that a healthy plant-based diet, involving reduced intake of processed and sugary foods, can decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes by 24% by improving metabolism and organ function.

A plant-based diet has been proven for the first time to improve metabolism and liver and kidney function.

At least three-quarters of type 2 diabetes cases could be prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Consuming a diet primarily consisting of plant-based foods has been demonstrated to be significantly influential in this prevention.

With limitations – as demonstrated in a study led by Tilman Kühn from MedUni Vienna’s Center for Public Health: A more plant-based diet only develops its protective effects if not only the consumption of animal-based foods, but also industrially processed and highly sugary foods is reduced.

For the first time, the scientists identified improvements in metabolism and liver and kidney function as reasons for the positive effects of a healthy plant-based diet, in addition to the associated lower likelihood of obesity. The study results were recently published in the journal Diabetes & Metabolism.

According to analyses by the research team, a healthy plant-based diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and wholemeal products reduces the risk of diabetes by 24 percent, even in the presence of a genetic predisposition and other diabetes risk factors such as obesity, advanced age or a lack of physical activity.

Unhealthy plant-based diets with a high proportion of sweets, refined grains, and sugary drinks, on the other hand, are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.  

Key biomarkers identified

The research was carried out with 113,097 participants in the large-scale British cohort study (UK Biobank) over an observation period of twelve years. According to their findings, the reasons behind the anti-diabetic effect of a healthy plant-based diet go far beyond the well-known lower body fat percentage and waist circumference.

“Our study is the first to identify biomarkers of central metabolic processes and organ functions as mediators of the health effects of a plant-based diet,” says Tilman Kühn, Professor of Public Health Nutrition at MedUni Vienna and the University of Vienna, who led the study in close collaboration with researchers from Queen’s University Belfast.

The investigations confirmed that normal values for blood lipids (triglycerides), blood sugar (HbA1c), inflammatory parameters (CRP), and the insulin-like growth factor (IGF1) are associated with a low risk of diabetes.

Further benefits discovered

It has also been demonstrated how important the full function of the liver and kidneys is in diabetes prevention. Both organs play a major role in people who already have diabetes.

“However, our research has now shown that a healthy plant-based diet can improve liver and kidney function and thus reduce the risk of diabetes,” says Kühn, outlining a previously underestimated benefit of a conscious plant-based diet.

Reference: “A healthful plant-based diet is associated with lower type 2 diabetes risk via improved metabolic state and organ function: A prospective cohort study” by Alysha S. Thompson, Catharina J. Candussi, Anna Tresserra-Rimbau, Amy Jennings, Nicola P. Bondonno, Claire Hill, Solomon A. Sowah, Aedín Cassidy and Tilman Kühn, 28 November 2023, Diabetes & Metabolism.
DOI: 10.1016/j.diabet.2023.101499

3 Comments on "First-of-Its-Kind Study: Plant-Based Diets Improve Metabolic, Liver, and Kidney Health"

  1. Charles G. Shaver | January 15, 2024 at 11:29 am | Reply

    Of course the researchers got positive results, they failed to factor-in allergies to animal proteins (e.g., Dr. Arthur F. Coca, by 1935), officially (FDA in the US) approved food poisoning (e.g., soy processed with hexane and toxic added MSG, minimally) and excessive related/resultant medical errors. Additionally, when I cut back on my animal proteins for allergy reasons in late 1981 it took about twenty-seven years for me to develop a serious calcium deficiency. Then, from late 2010 to mid-March of 2021, it took another ten years for me to develop an even more serious phosphorus deficiency. The article describes another excellent example of how fatal flaws in all of mainstream medicine since the early 1900s can invalidate even the best of modern research.

  2. Propaganda. Meat is part of the normal human diet. We evolved to eat it.

  3. I wonder how ultra processed plant based cheaper foods fit in this, most patients do not have time, knowledge and skill to follow a life time of plant based food only, are we not omnivores? The problems is that the amount of food we now consume is probably twice, including mixed sources of protein, the amount protein and energy we need. The food industry and politicians should help a lot more to prevent disease and budget to fund and educate the population thereby preventing disease, not contributing to it. Increase taxes on unhealthy food and reduce on healthy food products.

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