A vegetarian diet is often recommended as a way to improve glycemic control in type 2 diabetics and a way to help diabetics better manage their diabetes. But, a new study shows that there may be some flaws with the research that previously reported the diabetic health benefits of a vegetarian diet.

New results for the vegetarian diet

A meta-analysis was used to reassess previous studies that claimed a vegetarian diet was beneficial to type 2 diabetics in helping them control their disease. This analysis found that many of the studies were limited by a small sample size, a short trial length (of less than a month), and not enough hindsight to completely recognize the effects that a vegetarian diet has for diabetics.

The results of the meta-analysis showed that there is an association between vegetarian diets and the reduction of HbA1c levels, but of only 0.39%, which is not an incredibly significant amount.

Alternatives to a vegetarian diet

Asking a patient to change their diet so drastically can be difficult and ineffective for such a small improvement to HbA1c levels. Suggesting a medication that can offer greater HbA1c reductions may be more effective, as it won’t require such a drastic life change and will most likely yield better results. Recommending a vegetarian diet is only practical for a patient who refuses to take medication and requests an alternative.

Vegetarianism may not be the most effective way to increase glycemic control, but on the other hand no studies suggest that a balanced vegetarian diet will have a negative effect on diabetes, as long as you are meeting all of your nutrition requirements. If you are a diabetic considering a vegetarian diet for either purposes of glycemic control or your own reasons, you may want to speak with a dietician who can help you create an eating plan to make sure that you are getting all of the necessary nutrients and the correct number of calories.

For more on nutrition for diabetics:

Why It’s Okay to Eat Fat
8 Best Fast Food Options for Diabetics
Study Shows Mediterranean Diet May Reverse Metabolic Syndrome