According to new research, eating vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, and nuts may be almost twice as effective in reducing body weight as conventional low-calorie diets.
The vegetarian diet led to a reduction in muscle fat which helped improve glucose and lipid metabolism as well as an average loss of 6.2 kg compared to 3.2 kg for the conventional diet, researchers said.
“The finding is important for people who are trying to lose weight, including those suffering from metabolic syndrome and/or Type 2 diabetes. It is also relevant to anyone who takes their weight management seriously and wants to stay lean and healthy,” said lead author Hana Kahleova, from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington DC.
For the small yet significant study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, the team randomly assigned 74 people to follow either a vegetarian or a conventional diet. Both diets were restricted by 500 kilocalories per day compared to an isocaloric intake for each individual. Both vegetarian and conventional diets caused a similar reduction in subcutaneous fat fat under the skin.
Subfascial fat — fat on the surface of muscles — was only reduced in response to the vegetarian diet. Intramuscular fat — fat inside muscles — was more greatly reduced by the vegetarian diet.
“This is important as increased subfascial fat in patients with Type 2 diabetes has been associated with insulin resistance while reducing intramuscular fat could help improve muscular strength and mobility, particularly in older people with diabetes,” the researchers noted. “Vegetarian diets proved to be the most effective for weight loss. However, we also showed that a vegetarian diet is much more effective at reducing muscle fat, thus improving metabolism,” Kahleova said.