Effective weight loss: hit the vegetables

It seems that those wanting to lose wight not only lose it more effectively but also demonstrate a healthier metabolic profile if they adopt a vegetarian diet. Recent work to appear in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition has reported that dieters not only lose more weight than those on conventional low-calorie diets but also experience a reduction in muscle fat. Such reductions are known to be associated with improvements in glucose and lipid metabolism and therefore the findings of this study are also likely to be of particularly interest to people dealing with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

In the study, 74 patients with type 2 diabetes were assigned randomly either  to adopt a vegetarian diet or a conventional anti-diabetic diet. The vegetarian diet consisted of vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits and nuts, with animal products limited to a maximum of one portion of low-fat yoghurt per day. In contrast, the conventional diabetic diet followed the official recommendations of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD). Both diets were restricted by 500 kilocalories per day compared to an isocaloric intake for each individual.

In terms of weight loss, the vegetarian diet was found to be almost twice as effective at reducing weight, with the patients experiencing, on average, a loss of 6.2 kg. This was compared to a loss of 3.2 kg for the conventional diet. Magnetic resonance imaging was also used to investigate the impact of the diet on the distribution of subcutaneous,  subfascial and intramuscular atadipose tissue (fat-storage) in the thighs. It was noted that both diets caused a similar reduction in subcutaneous fat (fat under the skin). However, subfascial fat (on the surface of muscles) was only reduced in response to the vegetarian diet, and intramuscular fat (in the muscle tissue) was more greatly reduced by the vegetarian diet.

The authors reason that this is an important finding as increased subfascial fat in patients with type 2 diabetes has been associated with insulin resistance and reducing this might have beneficial effects on glucose metabolism. Furthermore, reducing intramuscular fat could result in improvements in muscular strength and mobility, particularly in older people with diabetes. Clearly, this finding is important for people suffering with 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.