A new study has found that going vegetarian is not only good for the planet — it can help you get rid of those extra pounds as well.

Image credits: Zeetz.

There is a lot of controversy and plenty of misconceptions floating around the vegetarian diet. It certainly doesn’t help that some people are treating it like a fad, or that others are boasting it to no limit, but going vegetarian (and science has proven this time and time again) can be very healthy for you, and is certainly eco-friendly. Saving plenty of animal lives is, of course, a very significant bonus. Another bonus might be losing extra weight.

Dr. Hana Kahleová, Director of Clinical Research at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington DC conducted a study with 74 participants, randomly assigned to follow either a vegetarian diet or a conventional anti-diabetic diet. The vegetarian diet was varied, consisting of vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, and nuts. Animal products were limited to a maximum of one portion of low-fat yogurt per day. The anti-diabetic diet followed the recommendations of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes and allowed meat and other animal products.

Both diets forced participants to eat 500 calories less than what they would usually have, but the results were quite different.

Although both diets led to a significant weight reduction, people following the vegetarian diet reported an average loss of 6.2kg compared to 3.2kg for the conventional diet. Kahleová commented:

“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.”

There was another added benefit to the vegetarian diet: while both diets led to a reduction in subcutaneous, subfascial and intramuscular fat  (as was highlighted by Magnetic Resonance Imaging), the vegetarian diet greatly reduced muscle fat, improving metabolism. Reducing intramuscular fat is particularly important for people with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, as this type of fat has been associated with insulin resistance. Reducing intramuscular fat also improves overall strength and mobility, especially in older patients.

Of course, it has to be kept in mind that this study is limited both in its sample size and in scope. This doesn’t, in any way, claim that a vegetarian diet is the be-all-end-all of losing weight. It does, however, show even more benefits of going vegetarian.

Journal Reference: 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. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2017.1302367

 

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