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Boosting Sex-Hormone Binding

The benefits of a plant-based diet for diabetes prevention appear to extend beyond weight loss.

November 15, 2010 |
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Sources Cited


Image thanks to Jessica Merz.


Two years ago I presented a mystery… Long-term adherence to a diet that includes meat even just once a week or more was associated with a 74% increase in the odds of getting diabetes relative to long-term adherence to a zero meat diet. Just a single serving of any type of meat or more a week, was associated with dramatically increased risk. This makes sense, though. Eating vegetarian helps you lose weight, losing weight helps you avoid diabetes, so what’s the mystery?
Even after controlling for weight, controlling for weight change, weekly meat intake remained an important risk factor for diabetes. So even at the exact same weight, eating meat weekly significantly increases our risk of diabetes. So there must be a more direct factor. And this year we got closer to an answer.
Your body’s smart. It knows that high levels of circulating steroid sex hormones in the bloodstream can be deleterious, increasing our risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and other disorders like diabetes. So our bodies produce a sex hormone-binding globulin, a protein your body makes that takes excess hormones out of circulation. The more hormone-binding proteins we have, the lower our risk of these diseases. That’s, where a plant-based diet comes in.
Sex-hormone binding levels were significantly higher by more than half in vegetarian women compared to omnivore women. And higher concentrations have been shown to be associated with a favorable metabolic profile as well as reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. So this may explain why even when vegetarians are overweight, they don’t suffer the same rate of diabetes that meat-eaters do.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on hormones. Also, there are 1,686 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For more context, check out my associated blog post, Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk.

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on hormones. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • David H

    What effect is this going to have on my sex drive?!:-|

  • Wendy0703

    I would kindly ask if you have
    some recommendations for hormonal balance (low estrogen and