Could going vegan help ease diabetes pain?

By Stacey Marquis • Published: August 7th, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

People with pain associated with diabetes could potentially find relief — by switching to a vegan diet.

Vegans do not consume animal products such as meat, eggs, dairy or other foods derived from animals. A small study published in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes showed that going vegan improved symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, which includes pain, numbness and other nerve issues that can occur in people with diabetes.

In the small study, researchers placed 17 adults with diabetic neuropathy on a low-fat vegan diet with weekly nutrition classes for 20 weeks.

As the study progressed, the participants’ pain improved as well. The researchers measured the participants’ pain through pain surveys and electrochemical tests of their feet. As an added benefit, the participants also lost an average of 14 pounds.

The vegan diet also improved insulin resistance, which occurs when the body does not respond properly to insulin and doesn’t absorb excess glucose in the bloodstream.

Glucose absorption is essential for the body to convert this sugar into energy. When there is excess glucose in the bloodstream, it is instead stored in the liver or as fat around the body.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, as many as 60 percent of people who have diabetes also will face some type of neuropathy. The risk for the condition rises as people age. Being overweight or obese can also increase a person’s risk.

Although the study was limited, a vegan diet may help some people with diabetes, perhaps because of weight loss.

Of course, if you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, the smart move is to ask your doctor first before making a big diet change.