- A vegan diet is more effective for weight loss than a Mediterranean diet
- Vegan diet is associated with a reduction in calorie intake, increase in fiber intake, decrease in fat consumption, and decrease in saturated fat consumption.
- A vegan diet excludes all foods containing animal products
A randomized crossover trial, conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), found that a low-fat vegan diet leads to a better weight, body composition, insulin sensitivity, and cholesterol outcomes than a Mediterranean diet.
The study assigned participants who were overweight with no history of diabetes randomly to a vegan diet or a Mediterranean diet for 16 weeks.
The vegan diet was low-fat and eliminated animal products, focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. The Mediterranean diet followed the PREDIMED protocol, focusing on fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, low-fat dairy, and extra virgin olive oil while limiting or avoiding red meat and saturated fats.
The participants then went back to their baseline diets for a four-week "washout" period before switching to the opposite diet for 16 more weeks.
The key findings of the study are as follows -
- Participants lost an average weight of 6 kgs on the vegan diet, compared to no mean change in weight from the Mediterranean diet.
- Participants lost 3.4 kg more fat mass on the vegan diet.
- The vegan diet led to a more significant reduction in visceral fat by 315 cm3.
- The vegan diet decreased total cholesterol levels by 18.7 mg/dL and LDL cholesterol levels by 15.3 mg/dL, with no significant cholesterol changes from the Mediterranean diet.
- Blood pressure decreased more on the Mediterranean diet (6.0 mm Hg) than the vegan diet (3.2 mmHg)
The Basics of Vegan DietVegans avoid eating foods that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs. A vegan diet is rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K, fiber, antioxidants. People following a vegan diet could miss essential nutrients-calcium, iron, vitamin B12, and omega 3 fatty acids.
Study author Hana Kahleova says that while prior research has suggested that both vegan and Mediterranean diets improve cardiometabolic risk factors and body weight, their relative efficacy had not been compared in a randomized trial until now.
She adds, "We decided to test the diets head to head and found that a vegan diet is more effective for both improving health markers and boosting weight loss."
The authors explain that since a vegan diet is associated with a reduction in calorie intake, increase in fiber intake, decrease in fat consumption, and decrease in saturated fat consumption, it led to more significant weight loss. They added that the problem with the Mediterranean diet seems to be the inclusion of fatty fish, dairy products, and oils.
"While many people think of the Mediterranean diet as one of the best ways to lose weight, the diet crashed and burned when we put it to the test," says study author and president of PCRM, Neal Barnard.
Health Benefits of a Vegan DietApart from improving weight loss and cholesterol levels, a vegan diet can help
- Reduce heart disease risk
- Manage diabetes
- Lower cancer risk
- Reduce pain from arthritis
- A Mediterranean Diet and Low-Fat Vegan Diet to Improve Body Weight and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors: A Randomized, Cross-over Trial - (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07315724.2020.1869625)
- The vegan diet - (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-vegan-diet/)
- Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet - (https://www.rush.edu/news/health-benefits-vegan-diet)
- The Basics of a Vegan Diet - (https://foodinsight.org/basics-of-vegan-diet/)