In her latest Advertiser column, our health writer Lucy Dunn explains how plants can significantly improve the health of people with diabetes...

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Can swapping chicken for chickpeas really help your diabetes? New research states that certain dietary changes can help to lower blood sugar levels, reduce the chance of metabolic syndrome by 50 per cent, and significantly aid shedding of excess weight.

Diabetes is a lack of insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas), meaning there is nothing to carry glucose out of the blood. High blood sugar (hyperglycaemia) means the sugar from the food we eat can’t serve its proper purpose, as it doesn’t reach the cells it needs to, for example, muscle, where it is converted into energy.

Hyperglycaemia changes the consistency of the blood: it thickens and concentrates the blood, consequently damaging our kidneys, nerves, blood vessels and eyes.

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Type 1 is an autoimmune disease affecting younger patients. Type 2 is an acquired condition, linked with older adults, poor diet and lack of exercise, with death often due to heart disease, a strongly-linked complication of diabetes. A high-sugar diet will cause over-stimulation of the pancreas to produce insulin.

Eventually the body’s normal processes become overwhelmed, meaning these people’s bodies no longer remove sugar from the blood as efficiently, potentially requiring mountains of medication in order to prevent some of those life-changing consequences previously mentioned.

Plant-based diets are increasingly beneficial: responsible for improving glycaemic control, lowering weight and massively reducing your risk of getting T2D and associated heart disease (referred to as metabolic syndrome).

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The more plant-based your diet is, the less insulin resistance there is, and the better your glycaemic control,so the body performs better in moving blood sugar to the appropriate tissues. Another study indicates a reduction in methionine in your diet (mainly from animal and dairy products) helps to reduce hyperglycaemia.

Although it may seem like a fad, it appears that moving towards an increasingly plant-based diet can significantly improve your health, and reduce the risk of heart problems or other serious consequences accompanying your diabetes. On top of that, you may experience some of that long-sought-after weight loss along with the switch!