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Vegetarian Diet Offers Protection Against Obesity
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Vegetarian Diet Offers Protection Against Obesity

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Highlights:
  • A vegetarian or vegan diet can protect middle aged and elderly populations from obesity.
  • Even if the diet is not followed strictly, the plant-based diet helps prevents obesity.
  • This could mean that simply reducing red meat consumption or eating a few more vegetables could help fight obesity.

Even moderate adherence to a vegetarian or vegan diet can protect middle aged and elderly populations from obesity, according to a new study presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Vienna, Austria. The study shows that even if the diet is not strictly followed, a plant-based diet may prevent obesity.

Study Overview

While previous studies have suggested that plant-based diets may reduce the risk of developing obesity, it was unclear if and how varying degrees of adherence to a plant-based diet influenced obesity.

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The new study was led by Zhangling Chen, and colleagues from Erasmuc MC Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The team examined the association between varying degrees of adherence to plant-based diet and body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, fat mass index (fat weight relative to height), fat-free mass index, and body fat percentage. The association was analyzed over the long term in 9,641 middle-aged and elderly adults from the Rotterdam Study, an ongoing population-based study in The Netherlands.

The dietary data was collected using a food frequency questionnaire. Positive scores were given to participants for eating plant-based foods such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Negative scores were given for eating animal foods like meat, dairy, and fish. A higher score indicated better adherence to a diet rich in plant-based products and low in animal-based products.
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Also, participants had their height, weight, and waist circumference repeatedly measured every 3 to 5 years between 1986 and 2016. Fat mass and fat-free mass were measured using dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scanning every 3 to 5 years from 2002 to 2016.

Study Findings:
  • Participants who had higher scores on the plant-based diet index had a lower BMI over the long term, mainly due to lower body fat mass.
  • Compared to participants with a score of zero on the index, participants with a 10 point score had 0.70 kg/mē lower BMI and 0.62kg/mē lower fat mass index.
  • A higher score index was achieved by replacing 50g of red meat per day with 200g of vegetables.
  • A higher score was associated with lower waist circumference and body fat percentage.
Chen concludes: "Our study suggests that a more plant-based and less animal-based diet beyond strict adherence to vegan or vegetarian diets may be beneficial for preventing overweight/ obesity in middle-aged and elderly populations. In other words, eating a plant-based diet to protect against obesity does not require a radical change in diet or a total elimination of meat or animal products. Instead, it can be achieved in various ways, such as moderate reduction of red meat consumption or eating a few more vegetables. This supports current recommendations to shift to diets rich in plant foods, with low in consumption of animal foods."

References :
  1. Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy, Trisha Mandes, Anthony Crimarco, "A plant-based diet for overweight and obesity prevention and treatment" (2017) 14(5): 369-374. doi: 10.11909/j.issn.1671-5411.2017.05.002 Journal of Geriatric Cardiology
  2. BMI Calculator - (https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/know-your-risks/healthy-weight/bmi-calculator)


Source: Medindia

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