Vegetarian Diets and the Risk of Diabetes

Curr Diab Rep. 2018 Sep 18;18(11):101. doi: 10.1007/s11892-018-1070-9.


Purpose of review: Worldwide, diabetes has increased steadily and in recent years, drastically. The majority of diabetes cases are type 2 (T2DM), caused by modifiable risk factors such as diet. Vegetarian diets have been studied over the past few decades for their preventative and therapeutic effects on diabetes and may be more beneficial than medication for diabetes management.

Recent findings: A vegetarian diet characterized by whole plant foods is most beneficial for diabetes prevention and management. Vegetarian diets are inversely associated with risk of developing diabetes independent of the positive association of meat consumption with diabetes development. Vegetarian diets range from vegan (no animal products), lacto-ovo-vegetarian (no animal meat, but consumes milk and eggs), pesco-vegetarian (consumes fish), and semi-vegetarian (occasional meat consumption). There has been an observed difference in the extent of preventative and therapeutic effects of these different types of diets. The most important aspect of any of these types of diets is emphasizing whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, and nuts and reducing saturated and trans fats.

Keywords: Diabetes; Nutrition; Plant-based; Vegan; Vegetarian.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Complications / prevention & control
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / prevention & control
  • Diet, Vegetarian*
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Reduction Behavior