Vegetarian diets almost twice as effective in reducing body weight, study finds

June 12, 2017, Taylor & Francis
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Dieters who go vegetarian not only lose weight more effectively than those on conventional low-calorie diets but also improve their metabolism by reducing muscle fat, a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition has found.

Losing muscle fat improves glucose and so this finding is particularly important for people with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, says lead author, Dr. Hana Kahleová, Director of Clinical Research at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington DC.

Seventy-four subjects with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to follow either a vegetarian diet or a conventional anti-diabetic diet. The vegetarian diet consisted of vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits and nuts, with animal products limited to a maximum of one portion of low-fat yoghurt per day; the conventional diabetic diet followed the official recommendations of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD). Both diets were restricted by 500 kilocalories per day compared to an isocaloric intake for each individual.

The vegetarian diet was found to be almost twice as effective in reducing body weight, resulting in an average loss of 6.2kg compared to 3.2kg for the conventional diet.

Using , Dr. Kahleová and colleagues then studied adipose (fat-storage) tissue in the subjects' thighs to see how the two different diets had affected subcutaneous, subfascial and intramuscular fat (that is, fat under the skin, on the surface of muscles and inside muscles).

They found that both diets caused a similar reduction in . However, subfascial fat was only reduced in response to the vegetarian diet, and intramuscular fat was more greatly reduced by the vegetarian diet.

This is important as increased subfascial fat in patients with type 2 diabetes has been associated with insulin resistance, so reducing it could have a beneficial effect on glucose . In addition, reducing intramuscular fat could help improve muscular strength and mobility, particularly in older people with diabetes.

Dr. Kahleová said: "Vegetarian diets proved to be the most effective diets for weight loss. However, we also showed that a vegetarian diet is much more effective at reducing fat, thus improving metabolism. This finding is important for people who are trying to lose weight, including those suffering from and/or type 2 diabetes. But it is also relevant to anyone who takes their weight management seriously and wants to stay lean and healthy."

Explore further: Eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables could cut obesity risk

More information: Hana Kahleova et al. The Effect of a Vegetarian vs Conventional Hypocaloric Diabetic Diet on Thigh Adipose Tissue Distribution in Subjects with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Study, Journal of the American College of Nutrition (2017). DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2017.1302367

Related Stories

Eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables could cut obesity risk

May 19, 2017
Pro-vegetarian diets (with a higher consumption of plant-based foods compared to animal-based foods) could provide substantial protection against obesity, according to new research presented at this year's European Congress ...

Review of vegetarian diet studies highlights benefit of vegan-eating plans

June 30, 2015
People on a vegetarian diet, and especially those following a vegan one that includes no animal products, see better results than dieters on other weight-reducing plans. In fact, they can lose around two kilograms more on ...

Vegetarian diets associated with lower blood pressure

February 24, 2014
Eating a vegetarian diet appears to be associated with lower blood pressure (BP), and the diets can also be used to reduce blood pressure.

Fasting plasma glucose and insulin are determinants of dietary weight loss success

June 12, 2017
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen, together with colleagues from the University of Colorado, Tufts University, Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y Nutrición (CIBER OBN) ...

Plant-based diets score big for healthy weight loss

January 4, 2017
(HealthDay)—If you've resolved to eat healthy and lose weight in 2017, a new report suggests the DASH diet may be your best bet.

Vegetarian diets associated with lower risk of death

June 3, 2013
Vegetarian diets are associated with reduced death rates in a study of more than 70,000 Seventh-day Adventists with more favorable results for men than women, according to a report published Online First by JAMA Internal ...

Recommended for you

Whether sustained or sporadic, exercise offers same reductions in death risk

March 22, 2018
For decades, Americans have been inundated with a confusing barrage of messages about how best to counteract the health risks of sedentary lifestyles: walk 10,000 steps a day; do a seven-minute workout from a phone app; flip ...

Tai chi as good as or better than aerobic exercise for managing chronic pain

March 21, 2018
The ancient martial art of tai chi has similar or greater benefits than aerobic exercise for people with the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia, finds a trial published by The BMJ today.

Study: Poor health is a less common cause of bankruptcy than commonly thought, but it brings other economic woes

March 21, 2018
A team of researchers led by an MIT economist has found that medical expenses account for roughly 4 percent of bankruptcy filings among nonelderly adults in the U.S.

Study finds bad sleep habits start early in school-age children

March 21, 2018
Bad sleep habits in children begin earlier than many experts assume. That's the takeaway from a new study led by McGill University researchers. The findings suggest that official sleep guidelines for young school children ...

Medical expansion has improved health—with one exception

March 21, 2018
While Americans debate the rising cost of health care, a new study of 30 countries over 27 years found that medical expansion has improved overall health - with one major exception.

Forgetting details, getting the gist may prompt false memories in older adults

March 21, 2018
Older adults often complain about forgetting, but Penn State psychologists suggest that another problem may be misremembering.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.