When it comes to weight loss, some people opt for ultra-calorie-restrictive diets (and often end up later gaining the weight back because those diets aren’t sustainable). But a new study found that following a vegetarian diet is twice as effective in reducing body weight as conventional low-calorie diets. On top of that, dieters who go vegetarian may also boost their metabolism by reducing their muscle fat.
Published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, the (small) study set out to examine the effect of vegetarian diets on patients with type 2 diabetes. Scientists from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine analyzed 74 subjects with type 2 diabetes, who were randomly assigned to follow a vegetarian diet (mostly fruits, grains, vegetables, and nuts, with the only animal product being low-fat yogurt) or a conventional low-calorie, anti-diabetic diet.
After six months, those following the vegetarian diet lost an average of 6.2 kg, as compared to 3.2 kg for those following the conventional diet, which means the vegetarian diet was nearly twice as effective in reducing the participants’ body weight. The scientists also looked at the adipose (fat-storage) tissue in the participants’ thighs to see how the diets affected the fat on the surface of and inside muscles. Both of the diets had a similar reduction in subcutaneous fat, but more muscle fat was lost by those on the vegetarian diet.
“This finding is important for people who are trying to lose weight, including those suffering from metabolic syndrome and/or type 2 diabetes,” lead study author Dr. Hana Kahleová said in a statement. “But it is also relevant to anyone who takes their weight management seriously and wants to stay lean and healthy.”