Vegetarian Diet May Help Weight Loss
Greater Weight Loss, Less Obesity in Vegetarians, Researchers Say
April 3, 2006 -- When people want to lose weight, going vegetarian might be
The finding comes from Susan Berkow, PhD, CNS, and Neal Barnard, MD, of the
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a nonprofit group that
supports vegetarian diets.
Berkow and Barnard reviewed 87 past studies by various researchers. They
found that vegetarians were less likely to be obese and that vegetarian diets
brought greater weight loss.
The reviewed studies generally used the word "vegetarian" for people
who avoid meat but consume dairy products and eggs. "Vegans avoid all food
products of animal origin," write Berkow and Barnard.
The review is due to appear in April's edition of Nutrition
More Weight Lost
In weight loss studies, participants who had been randomly assigned to
follow vegetarian or vegan diets lost more weight than those not on vegetarian
Those studies were short and typically featured low-fat vegetarian diets. In
several studies, participants were asked not to change their exercise habits.
That way, their weight loss would have stemmed from diet, not extra
The review also included observational studies, in which participants
weren't asked to change their diets. The observational studies showed that up
to 6% of vegetarians were obese, compared with 5%-45% of nonvegetarians, and
that vegetarians tended to weigh less than nonvegetarians.
Were those differences due to diet, or were other factors (such as exercise)
important? The review doesn't provide the details of every study that was
reviewed, so that's not clear.
Vegans and vegetarians typically eat diets that are higher in carbohydrates
and dietary fiber and lower in calories, protein, total fat, cholesterol, and
saturated fat, according to the review.