vegetarian and vegan diets better and safer for weight loss than high protein diets

If you’re serious about getting to your healthy weight, then let the real science separate the diet fact from the diet fiction.

In the past several years, all kinds of weight loss diets have become very popular. Many of them are variants of a high protein diet. But many of them, while hooking you in the short run, are ineffective in the long run, and many are unhealthy. So, if you are serious about getting to your healthy weight in a way that is effective, healthy and allows you to keep the weight off, what should you do?

A meta-analysis set out to answer that very question. It looked at twelve controlled diet studies that included 1,151 men and women between the ages of 18 and 82. The studies were of different lengths, but the average was 18 weeks. The meta-analysis concluded that the best diet is the vegetarian or vegan diet. Vegetarian and vegan diets produced significantly better weight loss results that high protein, low fat or diabetes diets. They were better by 4.5 pounds (2.02 kg). The vegetarian diet beat those diets by 3.26 pounds (1.48 kg); the vegan diet beat them by 5.6 pounds (2.52 kg).

The researchers say that the evidence shows that vegetarian diets are superior to non-vegetarian diets for weight loss.

And they’re not only more effective, they’re also safer and better for you. When researchers compared how good for you the different weight loss diets are, they discovered that the trendy low carb fab diets are the worst, while the vegetarian/vegan diets that are high in fiber and complex carb and low in cholesterol and saturated fat are the best (J Am Diet Assoc 2007;107:1701). At least five previous studies have shown that high protein weight loss diets are dangerous for your cardiovascular system. People with the highest protein and the lowest carbs in their diet have a 60% higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Vegetarian diets are also superior for keeping the weight off in the long run. In one of the few studies to look at long-term weight loss, overweight women were put on either a low-fat diet or a vegan diet. The women on the vegan diet lost significantly more weight. After a year, the vegans had lost 11 pounds compared to only 4 in the low-fat group, and they were still 7 pounds lighter after 2 years, while the women in the low-fat group were only 2 pounds lighter (Obesity 2007;15:2276-81).

And vegetarian diets have even another big benefit. When type 2 diabetics were put on either the conventional antidiabetic diet or a vegetarian diet, the vegetarian diet was nearly twice as effective: people on the low-calorie diet lost 3.2kg, but the people on the vegetarian diet lost 6.2kg in 6 months. Importantly, though, the vegetarian diet led to greater reduction of intramuscular fat (fat inside the muscle), and only the vegetarian diet reduced subfascial fat (fat on the surface of muscle). This information is important because losing muscle fat actually improves metabolism, and subfascial fat on the muscles is associated with insulin resistance. So, losing it could improve insulin resistance and help glucose metabolism. The researchers concluded, “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” (J Am Coll Nutr 2017;36(5):364-369).

When you combine all this research, the bottom line is that vegetarian diets are superior for losing weight, for maintaining the weight loss and for your overall health and safety.

J Gen Intern Med 2016;31(1):109-16

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 is intended for educational purposes only and is in no way intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. For health problems, consult a qualified health practitioner for a comprehensive program.

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