Plant-based diets may be the perfect option for individuals who may want to lose weight, due to the way they affect metabolism.
That is the takeaway from a recent JAMA Network Open report.
Switching to a low fat, plant-based diet, according to the study results, could improve the metabolism of the body sufficiently to burn excess weight and fat, even without vigorous exercise.
Dr. Kitt Petersen and Dr. Gerald Shulman of Yale University have been partnered by researchers with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Together, they performed a 16-week trial where a low fat, vegan diet was followed by participants in the intervention group.
The research team hoped to explore the full effect of a low fat, vegan diet. May metabolism be increased, visceral fat reduced, and substantial weight loss aided?
Initially, 3,115 individuals replied to the flyers the research team distributed. Of these, 244 met the study participation requirements.
Participants in the qualifying sample were overweight, with body mass indexes ranging from 28 to 40 and aged 25-75.
Researchers divided the participants in the study randomly into two groups. A 4-month-long low fat, vegan diet, consuming fruits, vegetables, pulses, and grains preceded the first category in serving sizes equivalent to what they normally consume at mealtimes. The second group did not change their eating patterns, acting as the control group.
For the duration of the study, members of both groups curbed their daily alcohol intake. A single alcoholic drink could be drank by women every day while men could have up to two drinks a day. During the 16-week trial, neither group started an exercise regimen or deviated from any current physical behaviors.
Study outcome and implications
At the start and end of the experiment, researchers took measurements. The plant-based diet group averaged an 18.7 percent rise in their after-meal calorie burn by the end of the report. They also saw a weight loss of around 14 pounds on average (lb).
In addition, a decrease in insulin resistance and a reduction in body fat were experienced by the vegan diet community. Crucially, a substantial loss of visceral fat, the more damaging form of fat that is accumulated around the internal organs, was shown by this group.
By comparison, no substantial weight loss or decrease in body fat was experienced by the control group. It was clear to researchers, after comparing the two groups, that the low fat, vegan diet had a measurable effect on the intervention group’s weight and health.
“Lead research author Dr. Hana Kahleova, PCRM’s director of clinical research, considers the results “basic for the 160 million Americans dealing with obesity and overweight.
She continues, “Burning more calories after every meal over the course of years and decades can make a significant difference in weight management.”
Findings back up existing research
These results are consistent with a number of previous studies which have shown that decreased excess body fat is associated with plant-based diets. As Rami S. Najjar and Rafaela G. Feresin have recently reviewed, in Nutrient:
“Plant-based diets can reduce body fat […] [and] cumulatively lead to reduced calorie intake and increased energy expenditure.”
It is worth noting that the researchers at PCRM and Yale University concentrated on individuals without a history of diabetes. The pool of participants also skewed overwhelmingly towards one sex, with 86 percent of all participants being females.
For those already experiencing similar health conditions, or for a more balanced group of participants, additional research may be required.
Nevertheless, there is enough existing evidence to indicate that their health results could improve regardless of the current diabetes status of an individual by adopting a diet mainly consisting of fruits and vegetables.
At least one clinical research participant wanted to make a permanent adjustment to his lifestyle. The plant-based diet continued with Sam T., who lost 34 lb during the four-month trial. He achieved his target weight and started to compete in half-marathons and marathons.