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Insulin sensitivity in Chinese ovo-lactovegetarians compared with omnivores


Aim: To compare the insulin sensitivity indices between Chinese vegetarians and omnivores.

Methods: The study included 36 healthy volunteers (vegetarian, n=19; omnivore, n=17) who had normal fasting plasma glucose levels. Each participant completed an insulin suppression test. We compared steady-state plasma glucose (SSPG), fasting insulin, the homeostasis model assessment for insulin sensitivity (HOMA-IR and HOMA %S) and β-cell function (HOMA %β) between the groups. We also tested the correlation of SSPG with years on a vegetarian diet.

Results: The omnivore subjects were younger than the vegetarians (55.7±3.7 vs 58.6±3.6 year of age, P=0.022). There was no difference between the two groups in sex, blood pressure, renal function tests and lipid profiles. The omnivores had higher serum uric acid levels than vegetarians (5.25±0.84 vs 4.54±0.75 mg/dl, P=0.011). The results of the indices were different between omnivores and vegetarians (SSPG (mean±s.d.) 105.4±10.2 vs 80.3±11.3 mg/dl, P<0.001; fasting insulin, 4.06±0.77 vs 3.02±1.19 μU/ml, P=0.004; HOMA-IR, 6.75±1.31 vs 4.78±2.07, P=0.002; HOMA %S, 159.2±31.7 vs 264.3±171.7%, P=0.018) except insulin secretion index, HOMA %β (65.6±18.0 vs 58.6±14.8%, P=0.208). We found a clear linear relation between years on a vegetarian diet and SSPG (r=−0.541, P=0.017).

Conclusions: The vegetarians were more insulin sensitive than the omnivore counterparts. The degree of insulin sensitivity appeared to be correlated with years on a vegetarian diet.

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Dr Jonathan C Levy at the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, Oxford, UK, kindly provided the HOMA computer program. The study was supported by a grant TCMRC 87-21 from the Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital, Haulien, Taiwan.

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Correspondence to C-L Lin.

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Kuo, CS., Lai, NS., Ho, LT. et al. Insulin sensitivity in Chinese ovo-lactovegetarians compared with omnivores. Eur J Clin Nutr 58, 312–316 (2004).

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  • diabetes mellitus
  • insulin sensitivity
  • insulin suppression test
  • vegetarian

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