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Reducing Neuropathic Pain with a Vegan Diet

Low fat, low GI diet results in lost weight, some reduction in diabetic nerve pain…

Encouraging lifestyle and dietary modifications is a standard protocol for physicians and educators working with type 2 diabetic patients in an effort to reduce diabetes-related complications.

In a small pilot study researchers investigated whether or not a vegan diet could help patients with nerve pain in their extremities while also looking at the results of their weight loss during this time.

Thirty-four type 2 diabetic patients were recruited who experienced painful neuropathy and were randomly assigned to either adhere to a vegan diet while also taking a vitamin B12 supplement daily. The control group remained on their regular diets.

Those placed in the intervention group were required to limit their fat intake to 20-30 grams per day and increase their intake of low GI foods such as oatmeal, lentil stew and vegetable stir-fry. Seventeen patients who were placed on the vegan diet had lost an average of 15 pounds compared to a one-pound weight loss in the control group over 20 weeks.

Cameron Wells, one of the study researchers, noted that this study does not prove that a vegan diet necessarily reduced patients’ neuropathic pain, but may reduce pain by enhancing insulin sensitivity.

Practice Pearls:

  • A vegan diet over 5 months reduced diabetic nerve pain and resulted in a 15:1 weight loss when compared to the control group.
  • B12 supplementation is necessary especially for diabetic patients who opt for a vegan diet.
  • Other diets and management tools may show similar results and be less burdensome on patients.

AE Bunner. A dietary intervention for chronic diabetic neuropathy pain: a randomized controlled pilot study. Nutrition & Diabetes (2015) 5, e158; doi:10.1038/nutd.2015.8. Published online 26 May 2015