Turning the Waiting Room into a Classroom: Weekly Classes Using a Vegan or a Portion-Controlled Eating Plan Improve Diabetes Control in a Randomized Translational Study

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2018 Jun;118(6):1072-1079. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2017.11.017. Epub 2018 Feb 15.


Background: In research settings, plant-based (vegan) eating plans improve diabetes management, typically reducing weight, glycemia, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentrations to a greater extent than has been shown with portion-controlled eating plans.

Objective: The study aimed to test whether similar benefits could be found using weekly nutrition classes in a typical endocrinology practice, hypothesizing that a vegan eating plan would improve glycemic control, weight, lipid concentrations, blood pressure, and renal function and would do so more effectively than a portion-controlled eating plan.

Design: In a 20-week trial, participants were randomly assigned to a low-fat vegan or portion-controlled eating plan.

Participants/setting: Individuals with type 2 diabetes treated in a single endocrinology practice in Washington, DC, participated (45 starters, 40 completers).

Intervention: Participants attended weekly after-hours classes in the office waiting room. The vegan plan excluded animal products and added oils and favored low-glycemic index foods. The portion-controlled plan included energy intake limits for weight loss (typically a deficit of 500 calories/day) and provided guidance on portion sizes.

Main outcome measures: Body weight, hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), plasma lipids, urinary albumin, and blood pressure were measured.

Statistical analyses performed: For normally distributed data, t tests were used; for skewed outcomes, rank-based approaches were implemented (Wilcoxon signed-rank test for within-group changes, Wilcoxon two-sample test for between-group comparisons, and exact Hodges-Lehmann estimation to estimate effect sizes).

Results: Although participants were in generally good metabolic control at baseline, body weight, HbA1c, and LDL cholesterol improved significantly within each group, with no significant differences between the two eating plans (weight: -6.3 kg vegan, -4.4 kg portion-controlled, between-group P=0.10; HbA1c, -0.40 percentage point in both groups, P=0.68; LDL cholesterol -11.9 mg/dL vegan, -12.7 mg/dL portion-controlled, P=0.89). Mean urinary albumin was normal at baseline and did not meaningfully change. Blood pressure changes were not significant.

Conclusions: Weekly classes, integrated into a clinical practice and using either a low-fat vegan or portion-controlled eating plan, led to clinical improvements in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01222429.

Keywords: Nutrition education; Translational research; Type 2 diabetes; Vegan diets; Weight loss.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diet therapy*
  • Diet, Diabetic / methods*
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted / methods*
  • Diet, Vegan / methods*
  • Endocrinology / methods
  • Female
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / analysis
  • Glycemic Index
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Portion Size
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • hemoglobin A1c protein, human

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01222429