Double Your Weight Loss With a Plant-Based Diet

Posted on by Neal Barnard, MD, FACC

plant-based-dietThere’s one question that nearly everyone wants answered: which diet will really help me maintain a healthy weight? New research presented this week from the Physicians Committee’s Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, at the American Diabetes Association’s 77th Scientific Sessions finds a plant-based vegetarian diet is the answer. Dr. Kahleova’s research shows that a vegetarian diet centered around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes is twice as effective at boosting weight loss, compared to a traditional diabetes diet. For the study, she split 74 adults into two groups and compared two calorie-equivalent diets. One group ate a plant-based vegetarian diet and the other a traditional diabetes diet. Both diets had similar macronutrient profiles –carbohydrates, protein, and fat. She measured the results after 6 months. The results were striking. Those in the vegetarian diet group lost twice as much weight, compared to those following a traditional diabetes diet. After 6 months, those who followed the vegetarian diet lost nearly 14 pounds. Those who followed the diabetes diet lost 7. Both groups improved A1c, fasting plasma glucose, and insulin sensitivity, markers of blood sugar control. After a year, the weight-loss results were consistent for both groups. If a pharmaceutical company could replicate the results of the study, they would have a blockbuster drug overnight. One study participant in the vegetarian diet group told Dr. Kahleova he previously viewed type 2 diabetes as a disease that got progressively worse with age. Today, he no longer has type 2 diabetes, he is off all of his medications, and he has maintained his weight loss. That’s good news for the 422 million people worldwide who have diabetes. If left untreated, diabetes complications are costly and can include vision loss, kidney damage, and diabetic neuropathy, or a tingling sensation in the fingers and toes, which can lead to foot amputations. Type 2 diabetes also doubles the risk for heart disease, the number one killer worldwide. This is why it’s important to educate physicians and patients about how a dietary intervention can be used to boost weight loss and insulin function. Once the extra fat is removed from the muscle cell, insulin is able to deliver glucose, or energy, and metabolism starts to function efficiently again. The results last as long as the diet. A plant-based diet works well for nearly everyone, whether you are an adult looking to lose 100 pounds and get off all of your diabetes medications, a professional athlete looking to extend your career, or if you are a teenager looking to sidestep a family history of heart disease. It also fits within most dietary and cultural preferences and food budgets: You can purchase pre-assembled kale salads, or buy frozen spinach, in bulk, for half the price. You can spend an hour grilling portobello mushrooms, beets, and beefsteak tomatoes on the grill or invest 5 minutes in the kitchen to chop carrots, celery, and onions. The procurement and preparation is personal, but the prescription remains the same. Photo from here, with thanks.