New Research: The Most Effective Way To Lose Weight Is To Eat A Vegetarian Diet


By: Jon Henshaw, M.A.

People in the United States are more overweight than ever. As a result, the struggle to mange weight has spawned an entire industry of special diets and dieting clubs. Unfortunately, most popular diet plans are either too extreme or they're difficult for people to sustain. A good example is the Atkins diet. Although it has helped many people lose weight by effectively cutting out all carbohydrates, people have a hard time sticking to it, and critics claim it doesn't provide balanced nutrition. So in the search for the perfect diet, authors Susan E. Berkow, Ph.D., CNS and Neal Barnard, MD, found success in an age old practice, vegetarianism.

The authors found that the body weight of both male and female vegetarians is, on average, 3 percent to 20 percent lower than that of meat-eaters. Vegetarian and vegan diets have also been put to the test in clinical studies, as the review notes. The best of these clinical studies isolated the effects of diet by keeping exercise constant. The researchers found that a low-fat vegan diet leads to weight loss of about 1 pound per week, even without additional exercise or limits on portion sizes, calories, or carbohydrates.

FamilyResource.com interviewed one of the authors, Susan E. Berkow, Ph.D., CNS, and here's what she had to say:

Is the link to a vegetarian diet and weight loss new, or has their been previous research?

There has been published research over the past 20-25 years examining the relationship between vegetarian diets and many health indices, including weight; however this is the most recent review of 87 articles.

What's new and different about this study?

In this study we reviewed articles that controlled for exercise, smoking as well as specific dietary components and total calories in order to try to ascertain if it is a vegetarian diet, per se, or other factors, that link vegetarians with lower body weights than non vegetarians.

Did you find any other factors, besides a vegetarian diet, that led to weight loss in the cultures you studied? For example, was exercise an important factor in the study?

Exercise was controlled for as were other factors that may contribute to lower body weights in vegetarian. For example, Seventh Day Adventists were able to serve as their own controls as approximately one half are vegetarian and one half are non vegetarian. They proscribe the same behaviors. Seventh day Adventists vegetarians had lower body rates as compared to their non vegetarian counterparts.

What does a balanced vegetarian diet look like (one that will help people lose weight)?

Plentiful fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant sources of protein such as soy, nuts and beans.

Do you predict that vegetarianism will be the next big diet craze?

A well-balanced vegetarian diet is a terrific choice as a means to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, especially good nutrition. PCRM also conducts clinical research studies, opposes unethical human experimentation, and promotes alternatives to animal research.

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