BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Vegetarian diets are inversely associated with diabetes in Westerners but their impact on Asians-whose pathophysiology differ from Westerners-is unknown. We aim to investigate the association between a vegetarian diet, change in dietary patterns and diabetes risk in a Taiwanese Buddhist population.
METHODS: We prospectively followed 2918 non-smoking, non-alcohol drinking Buddhists free of diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases at baseline, for a median of 5 years, with 183 incident diabetes cases confirmed. Diet was assessed through a validated food frequency questionnaire at baseline and a simple questionnaire during follow-ups. Incident cases of diabetes were ascertained through follow-up questionnaires, fasting glucose and HbA1C. Stratified Cox Proportional Hazards Regression was used to assess the effect of diets on risk of diabetes.
RESULTS: Consistent vegetarian diet was associated with 35% lower hazards (HR: 0.65, 95% CI: 0.46, 0.92), while converting from a nonvegetarian to a vegetarian pattern was associated with 53% lower hazards (HR: 0.47, 95% CI: 0.30, 0.71) for diabetes, comparing with nonvegetarians while adjusting for age, gender, education, physical activity, family history of diabetes, follow-up methods, use of lipid-lowering medications, and baseline BMI.
CONCLUSION: Vegetarian diet and converting to vegetarian diet may protect against diabetes independent of BMI among Taiwanese.