Favorable impact of a vegan diet with exercise on hemorheology: implications for control of diabetic neuropathy

Med Hypotheses. 2002 Jun;58(6):476-86. doi: 10.1054/mehy.2001.1456.


A little-noticed clinical report indicates that a low-fat, whole-food vegan diet, coupled with daily walking exercise, leads to rapid remission of neuropathic pain in the majority of type 2 diabetics expressing this complication. Concurrent marked improvements in glycemic control presumably contribute to this benefit, but are unlikely to be solely responsible. Consideration should be given to the possibility that improved blood rheology - decreased blood viscosity and increased blood filterability - plays a prominent role in mediating this effect. There is considerable evidence that neural hypoxia, secondary to impaired endoneurial microcirculatory perfusion, is a crucial etiologic factor in diabetic neuropathy; the unfavorable impact of diabetes on hemorheology would be expected to exacerbate endoneurial ischemia. Conversely, measures which improve blood fluidity would likely have a beneficial impact on diabetic neuropathy. There is indeed evidence that vegan diets, as well as exercise training, tend to decrease the viscosity of both whole blood and plasma; reductions in hematocrit and in fibrinogen may contribute to this effect. The fact that vegan diets decrease the white cell count is suggestive of an improvement in blood filterability as well; filterability improves with exercise training owing to an increase in erythrocyte deformability. Whether these measures influence the activation of leukocytes in diabetics - an important determinant of blood filterability - remains to be determined. There are various reasons for suspecting that a vegan diet can reduce risk for other major complications of diabetes - retinopathy, nephropathy, and macrovascular disease - independent of its tendency to improve glycemic control in type 2 patients. The vegan diet/exercise strategy represents a safe, 'low-tech' approach to managing diabetes that deserves far greater attention from medical researchers and practitioners.

MeSH terms

  • Diabetic Nephropathies / blood
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / prevention & control*
  • Diet, Vegetarian*
  • Exercise*
  • Hemorheology*
  • Humans