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Key Elements of Plant-Based Diets Associated with Reduced Risk of Metabolic Syndrome


Approximately 20 %–25 % of adults worldwide have metabolic syndrome. Vegetarian and vegan diets have demonstrated effectiveness in improving body weight, glycemic control, and cardiovascular risk factors, as compared with conventional therapeutic approaches, and are potentially useful in the prevention of metabolic syndrome. This article consists of two steps: (1) a review of the literature on studies examining vegetarian and vegan diets and metabolic syndrome and (2) a review of foods and nutrients that are protective against or associated with metabolic syndromes that may help to explain the beneficial effects of plant-based dietary approaches for metabolic syndrome. The present review found eight observational research studies, and no intervention studies, examining the association of plant-based dietary approaches with metabolic syndrome. These studies, conducted mostly in Asian populations, yielded varying results. The majority, however, found better metabolic risk factors and lowered risk of metabolic syndrome among individuals following plant-based diets, as compared with omnivores. Some dietary components that are lower in the diets of vegetarians, such as energy intake, saturated fat, heme iron, and red and processed meat, may influence metabolic syndrome risk. In addition, plant-based diets are higher in fruits, vegetables, and fiber, which are protective against the development of metabolic syndrome.

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Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy and Metria Harris declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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Correspondence to Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Lifestyle Management to Reduce Diabetes/Cardiovascular Risk

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Turner-McGrievy, G., Harris, M. Key Elements of Plant-Based Diets Associated with Reduced Risk of Metabolic Syndrome. Curr Diab Rep 14, 524 (2014).

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  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Diet
  • Nutrition
  • Plant-based diets