There’s a new study in one of Nature.com’s journals, Nutrition and Diabetes, that found people with type 2 diabetes lessened their nerve pain by eating a low-fat, plant-based diet. This study looks to me like an arm or continuation of the study presented last August at the American Association of Diabetes Educators’ (AADE) annual meeting. Same lead author, but while the AADE study was just a presentation (15 participants) this new one was published (35 participants). Both lasted 20 weeks. I wrote about the 15-person study when it came out: Study: Plant-Based Diet Reduces Diabetic Neuropathy Pain. Here’s the new published study:
A Dietary Intervention For Chronic Diabetic Neuropathy Pain: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study, Nutrition and Diabetes, 26 May 2015
Those eating a low-fat, plant-based diet lost an average of 14 pounds compared to 1 pound in the control group (who didn’t make any dietary changes). They also dropped from an HbA1c (a measure of blood glucose over 2-3 months) of 8% to 7.2%, a 12% drop, even though they were eating more carbohydrate than when they started. Everybody and his brother tells me that’s impossible, even though I’ve posted numerous studies that show people with diabetes who reduce their fat intake see a drop in their blood glucose.
As to the study’s research question … Will a low-fat, plant-based diet reduce neurpathy? It did. The intervention group experienced statistically significant improvements in several measurements of pain.
Here’s the diet, the goal for the diet at least. Only about 75% of the intervention group went animal-product-free. Many ate more fat than the 20-30 grams/day. They still lost weight and reduced pain:
The intervention diet omitted animal products, limited fat intake to 20–30 g per day and favored low-glycemic index foods. The diet focused on vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes. Example meals included oatmeal with raisins, pasta with marinara sauce, vegetable stir-fry with rice and lentil stew. In addition, participants were asked to take a provided daily tablet of 1000 mcg methylcobalamin (vitamin B12).
The mechanism(s) by which the low-fat plant-based diet improves neuropathy pain may involve improved insulin sensitivity, leading to better glucose control. In addition, diabetic neuropathy is associated with hypertension, dyslipidemia and obesity, all of which can be ameliorated with a plant-based diet.
This is interesting. Although B12-deficient participants were excluded, those in the placebo group, who also took B12, reported some improvements in pain, and:
The magnitude of the improvement suggests that the B12 supplement, intended to serve as a placebo, may have had real effects in both groups.
I don’t think people, especially those over 50, realize the importance of taking B12 supplements, regardless of whether they eat meat. You can’t cure a B12 deficiency by eating meat.
You don’t have to have diabetes to have neuropathy. People with pre-diabetes or high fasting or post-meal blood sugars suffer from it. And although numb fingertips are a dead giveaway, it doesn’t affect just fingers and toes. It affects the stomach, intestines, brain, eyes, sexual organs – any place there’s a nerve.