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Suffering from type 2 diabetes or worried that you might be at risk? The results of a new study show that dodging this all too common disease could be as easy as changing what goes on your plate.

African-Americans who follow a vegetarian diet and exercise at least three times a week see significantly reduced rates of diabetes, say researchers from Loma Linda University.

“These findings are encouraging for preventing type 2 diabetes in the Black population, which is more susceptible to the disease than other populations,” said Serena Tonstad, MD, a professor at Loma Linda University and lead author of the research, published in the October issue of Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases.

African-Americans are twice as likely to suffer from diabetes as non-Hispanic whites – a statistic that also comes with higher rates of diabetes-related complications, such as end-stage renal disease and lower-extremity amputations. Despite this trend, researchers say that small changes in diet and lifestyle can reverse this legacy of illness in the Black community.

“A vegetarian diet may be a way to counteract the increased diabetes risk for the Black population,” Tonstad said.

Among the Black people studied, vegans (those who consume a completely plant-based diet with no eggs, dairy, meat or fish) had a 70 percent reduced risk of diabetes, and lacto-ovo vegetarian Blacks (those who consume dairy, but no meat) had a 53 percent reduced risk of diabetes as compared to non-vegetarians.

Researchers say that eating more fruits and vegetables provides the body with more fiber, which may contribute to a decreased occurrence of type 2 diabetes. Also, increased consumption of whole grains and legumes (beans) helps to control blood sugar levels and slow the rate at which carbohydrates are absorbed; all contributing to a lower diabetes risk.

In addition to diet, the study also showed that Blacks who exercised three or more times a week, compared to once a week or never, reduced their diabetes risk by 35 percent.

The study used data from 7,172 Black Seventh-day Adventists. Adventists are a Protestant religious group that promotes vegetarianism and advocates abstinence from tobacco and alcohol.

November is National Diabetes Month, so take the time to get tested and stay alert for warning signs of the disease that affects 15 percent of all African-Americans.