A new US study has revealed that turning vegetarian can be more helpful for weight loss than pursuing a traditional low-calorie diet. The research, led by Dr Hana Kahleová, Director of Clinical Research at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington DC, also implies that a vegetarian diet also improves metabolism by reducing muscle fat.
For the research, the team recruited 74 participants, all with type 2 diabetes and randomly assigned subjects to two groups, one group either following a vegetarian diet and the other a conventional anti-diabetic diet.
The vegetarian diet included vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits and nuts, with animal products limited to a maximum of one portion of low-fat yogurt per day.
The conventional diabetic diet pursued the official recommendations of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD). All participants had their daily diets cut by 500 kilocalories per day.
The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) method to see the adipose (fat-storage) tissue in the subjects’ thighs to see how the two different diets had influenced subcutaneous fat, found under the skin, sub fascial fat, on the surface of the muscles, and intramuscular fat, on the inside of the muscles.
The team found that the vegetarian diet affected the body weight but almost twice as much, resulting in an average loss of 6.2kg compared to 3.2kg for the conventional diet in 6 months.
They also found that although both diets caused a similar reduction in subcutaneous fat, those following the vegetarian diet showed a greater decline in intramuscular fat than those following the low-calorie diet, and showed a decline in sub fascial fat also as compared to the conventional diet.
The results are important for those with type 2 diabetes as sub fascial fat has been previously associated with insulin resistance, so its decrease could have a positive effect on glucose metabolism as well.
Decreasing intramuscular fat could also help to develop muscle strength and mobility, particularly in older people with diabetes.
Dr Kahleová concluded that not only did the vegetarian diet prove most successful in their research, it “also showed that a vegetarian diet is much more effective at reducing muscle fat, thus improving metabolism. This finding is important for people who are trying to lose weight, including those suffering from metabolic syndrome and/or type 2 diabetes. But it is also relevant to anyone who takes their weight management seriously and wants to stay lean and healthy.”
The results can be found published online in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.