New Study Says Plant Based Diet Is the Best Way to Lose Weight

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Looking to lose a few pounds or drop the quarantine 15? According to a new study, a vegan diet is your best bet. 

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, pitted a low-fat vegan diet against the Mediterranean diet, which has often been touted for its weight loss potential.

The vegan diet was a win, and not just when it came to weight loss. It also beat out the Mediterranean diet when it came to body composition, insulin sensitivity, and cholesterol. 

“While many people think of the Mediterranean diet as one of the best ways to lose weight, the diet actually crashed and burned when we put it to the test,” says study author Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, in a press release. “In a randomized, controlled trial, the Mediterranean diet caused no weight loss at all.”

The lack of weight loss was attributed to “the inclusion of fatty fish, dairy products, and oils.” 

So what did the participants eat on these diets, exactly? The Mediterranean diet consisted of fruit, veggies and beans/legumes plus fish, low-fat dairy, and extra virgin olive oil, with a minimal amount of red meat or saturated fat. 

The low-fat vegan diet consisted of no animal products at all and a focus on fruit, veggies, whole grains, and beans/legumes. It included approximately 75% of energy from carbohydrates, 15% protein, and 10% fat.

There were lots of interesting nuggets found in the study, including: 

  • Participants lost an average of around 13 pounds on the vegan diet, compared with those on the Mediterranean diet.
  • Participants lost around 7.5 pounds more fat on the vegan diet.
  • The vegan diet decreased total cholesterol by 18.7 mg/dL and LDL cholesterol by 15.3 mg/dL.  
  • Blood pressure decreased on both diets, but more so on the Mediterranean diet. 
  • The weight loss on the vegan diet was attributed to reduced calories, an increase in fiber, and a decrease in fat and saturated fat.

The study itself concluded: “A low-fat vegan diet improved body weight, lipid concentrations, and insulin sensitivity, both from baseline and compared with a Mediterranean diet. Blood pressure decreased on both diets, more on the Mediterranean diet.”

This was the first time that these two diets had been compared in a randomized trial, and it’s clear who came out ahead!

“Previous studies have suggested that both Mediterranean and vegan diets improve body weight and cardiometabolic risk factors, but until now, their relative efficacy had not been compared in a randomized trial,” says study author Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee, in a press release. “We decided to test the diets head to head and found that a vegan diet is more effective for both improving health markers and boosting weight loss.”

This isn’t the first time a vegan lifestyle has been shown to slim down dieters; many other studies have confirmed said results. A 2015 study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that those on a plant-based diet lost more weight than meat eaters. It reported: “Vegetarian diets appeared to have significant benefits on weight reduction compared to non–vegetarian diets.”

And it’s the position of the American Dietetic Association that vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates, plus lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes. 

So if your 2021 plans include weight loss, opting for healthy vegan eats is the scientific consensus.