Vegetarian diets found to be most effective for weight loss

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 lipid metabolism 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 yogurt 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 magnetic resonance imaging, 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 subcutaneous fat. 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 metabolism. 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 muscle fat, thus improving metabolism. This finding is important for people who are trying to lose weight, including those suffering from metabolic syndrome 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."


  1. Liz O Liz O Canada says:

    Lean and healthy requires muscle mass. Research into people admitted to hospital due to illness shows low muscle mass relates to death, longer length or stay, greater diabetes complications. Muscle loss commonly occurs in dieting, and restrictions to easily digestable protein found in milk in addition to meat seems like a recipe for muscle loss and thereby an increase in illness and risk of death. Where is the measures of muscle? Why is this not addressed in this publication that purports to look at articles relating to medical news? This article is missing common sense cautionary sentences, such as do not try this diet without a registered dietitian's guidance, etc.

    • benning chace benning chace Canada says:

      Please do your research
      You don't need animal protein to build muscle
      Any credible evidence based medical practitioner is recommending more plant based diets for overall health
      Plant based RDs include Leslie Beck, Brenda Davis, Ginny Messina, Jeff Novick, and Jack Norris to name only a small few
      Medical doctors advocating plant based diets include Garth Davis, Joel Kahn, Michael Gregor, and Neil Barnard, again just to name but a few of the many evidence based practitioners who understand and apply the scientific evidence
      But if you choose to ignore the evidence, that is your choice

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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