Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is rapidly becoming one of the most prevalent avoidable health issues in New Zealand, with the potential to result in severe complications such as heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, vision impairment, and the necessity for limb amputations. A report in 2021 found that nearly 5% of kiwis have type 2 diabetes and this is forecast to increase by 70-90% over the next 20 years.

Insulin resistance is the cause of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. The accumulation of fat in our muscle cells is now recognized as closely linked to the cause of insulin resistance. This fat toxicity in our muscles disrupts the normal functioning of insulin. The fat contributing to this issue can originate from both dietary fat intake and the body’s own stored fat. Furthermore, its essential to recognize that not all fats are the same. The particular concern regarding fat-induced insulin insensitivity revolves around saturated animal fats in the diet, as opposed to plant fats.  Plant based fats/oils do have saturated fats but much less. Adopting a whole foods, no (or minimal) oil plant-based diet, therefore, proves to be a potent strategy for preventing, managing, and reversing type 2 diabetes. A plant-based diet can be beneficial for individuals with type 2 diabetes in several ways. It may help the condition and improve overall health in the following ways:

Improved Insulin Sensitivity
Plant-based diets are often rich in fiber, which can help improve insulin sensitivity. Fiber slows down the absorption of sugar, preventing rapid spikes in blood glucose levels after meals. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Weight Management
A plant-based diet tends to be lower in calorie density and saturated fats, making it easier for individuals to manage their weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for managing type 2 diabetes, as excess weight can contribute to insulin resistance.

Reduced Inflammation
Plant-based diets are associated with lower levels of inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is linked to insulin resistance and is a factor in the development and progression of type 2 diabetes. Consuming anti-inflammatory foods found in plant-based diets can help mitigate this.

Improved Blood Lipids
Plant-based diets can contribute to healthier blood lipid profiles by reducing levels of LDL cholesterol (often referred to as “bad” cholesterol). This is important because individuals with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Rich in Antioxidants
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are rich in antioxidants, which can help protect cells from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to the development and progression of diabetes-related complications.

Lower Glycemic Load
Plant-based diets often include foods with a lower glycemic load, meaning they have a milder impact on blood sugar levels. This can be advantageous for individuals with diabetes in managing their glucose levels.

Increased Nutrient Intake
A well-planned plant-based diet can provide essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that support overall health. Meeting nutrient needs is important for individuals with diabetes to maintain optimal health.




Type 2 Diabetes
University of Otago

What is the best diet for Diabetes?
NutritionFacts.org – Dr Michael Greger

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

The Benefits of Plant-Based Nutrition: Treatment and Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes
American College of Lifestyle Medicine

Plant-Based Diet for Diabetes: What About Carbs?
T Colin Campbell Centre For Nutrition Studies

How to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes
NurtitionFacts.org  – Dr Michael Greger

Clinical Study Confirms that Beans are the Preferred Starch Source For Diabetes
Dr Joel Fuhrman

Fat is the Cause of Type 2 Diabetes
NutritionFacts.org – Dr Michael Greger

Research papers

A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes

Effect of Brown Rice Based Vegan Diet and Conventional Diabetic Diet on Glycemic Control of Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A 12-Week Randomized Clinical Trial

Rapid impairment of skeletal muscle glucose transport/phosphorylation by free fatty acids in humans

Effect of legumes as part of a low glycemic index diet on glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomised controlled trial

Free fatty acids in obesity and type 2 diabetes: defining their role in the development of insulin resistance and beta-cell dysfunction