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Apples versus Avandia: Vegan Diets Treat Diabetes

As diabetes drugs such as Avandia are being linked to dangerous side effects, PCRM is providing evidence and education on the power of a low-fat vegan diet to treat and prevent type 2 diabetes. Last month, PCRM published diabetes studies in two major nutrition journals—and PCRM nurse practitioner Caroline Trapp was a finalist for a prestigious American Association of Diabetes Educators award.

healthy woman eating an appleIn a 74-week clinical trial in May’s American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, study participants on a low-fat vegan diet showed dramatic improvement in four disease markers: blood sugar control, cholesterol reduction, weight control, and kidney function. The randomized, controlled trial is a milestone in diabetes research because previous studies had collected data for six months or less.

The second paper, a scientific review of observational and interventional studies appearing in May’s Nutrition Reviews, shows that vegan and vegetarian diets are consistently associated with lower rates of diabetes, heart disease, and overweight. Both studies are authored by nutrition researcher Neal Barnard, M.D., David J.A. Jenkins, M.D., Ph.D., Sc.D., and other doctors and dietitians with the Washington Center for Clinical Research, the George Washington University, and the University of Toronto.

“A low-fat vegan diet has proved its staying power as one of the most effective long-term treatments for type 2 diabetes,” says Dr. Barnard. “Study participants on the vegan diet experienced dramatic improvements during the first phase. A year later, blood sugar, cholesterol, and body weight were still at healthier levels. The vegan diet works, and people can stick with it over the long run.” 

The vegan diet represents a major departure from standard diabetes diets because it places no limits on calories, carbohydrates, or portions. Participants can eat to satiety and still experience weight loss, lower cholesterol, and other benefits.

But conducting research and publishing findings on the link between diet and diabetes is just the first step in reversing diabetes rates that have climbed rapidly in recent years. PCRM also provides education—from continuing medical education credits to the Get Healthy Club message board—on these findings to help the more than 20 million Americans who have diabetes.

In recognition of education initiatives like these—and for her “contribution to diabetes education through dedication and innovation in the daily practice of patient care”—Caroline Trapp, M.S.N., C.D.E., PCRM director of diabetes education and care, was recently honored as a finalist for this year’s American Association of Diabetes Educators’ Diabetes Educator of the Year award.

To learn more about PCRM’s diabetes research and resources, visit

Neal Barnard, M.D.
Neal Barnard, M.D.

PCRM Online, June 2009

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