Plant-based diet may prevent obesity

A group of scientists from the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)’s Biomedical Research and Innovation Platform (BRIP) suggest that plant-based diets high in Polyphenols may be a solution to obesity and related metabolic diseases.

This is according to a review paper they recently published in Molecular Metabolism, an international peer-reviewed academic journal that serves as a platform for reporting breakthrough discoveries in treatment and associated health consequences of metabolic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Globally, the prevalence of obesity and related metabolic diseases continues to rise at an unprecedented rate, and South Africa is no exception. Despite numerous scientific studies over the years, no effective therapeutic or preventative solutions have been found. In pursuing this, post-doctoral researcher at BRIP, Dr Ebrahim Samodien and co-authors believe that Polyphenols, found in some plant-based foods, are micronutrients that are high in antioxidants may prevent the on-set of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, neurodegenerative disease as well as improve general cardiovascular health.

The review paper evaluated the evidences related to the effect of unhealthy diets on the brain and the downstream effects in terms of metabolic diseases.  The review also intended to raise awareness about the dangers of such diets and to encourage healthy lifestyle choices, such as increased physical activity, which remains the best method for disease prevention.

It also reveals that the consumption of energy-rich diets that are high in saturated fat and sugar can cause oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain, which is closely linked to obesity, metabolic diseases, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as psychological mood disorders, such as depression. On the other hand, diets rich in polyphenols, which are found in fruit and vegetables, nuts, herbs, spices and even dark chocolate, are associated with a reduced risk for developing metabolic diseases, which is, in part, attributed to the prevention of oxidative stress and inflammation in key brain regions.

While the review concludes that plant-based diets high in polyphenols show great therapeutic potential for obesity and related metabolic diseases, they are also able to protect the brain, enhance the body’s antioxidant defense system and improve overall health and well-being of people.

View the complete Review online (Diet-induced hypothalamic dysfunction and metabolic disease, and the therapeutic potential of polyphenols)