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Does a Vegetarian Diet Promote Weight Loss?

vegetarian diet promote weight loss

When people learn that I have been following a plant-based diet for more than four decades, one question that I’m frequently asked is whether a vegetarian diet can help with weight loss. My reply is that generally, yes, and that it depends on what your diet is like now and what changes you are willing to make in adopting a healthful vegetarian diet.


(Spoiler alert: My next article will provide you with lots of easy ways to transition to a healthful vegetarian diet that can support your weight loss efforts.)

I say “healthful” because I have met individuals whose diet consisted largely of fast and junk foods; that is, pizza, diet soda, potato chips, and French fries. Vegetarian, yes; healthy, no.

The typical American diet is SAD (Standard American Diet), which consists primarily of meat, dairy, sugar, and processed foods and woefully small portions of the recommended amounst of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. If you substitute plant-based foods for the meat and some or all of the dairy, that's a recipe for success in dropping some significant weight and improving your overall health as well.

In a new study appearing in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, a team of researchers explored the idea that vegetarian diets may promote weight loss. The meta-analysis included 12 randomized controlled trials involving 1,151 individuals who followed a vegetarian diet for a median of 18 weeks.

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Three types of plant-based diets were covered: vegetarian (no animal flesh but dairy was consumed), lacto-ovo-vegetarian (no animal flesh but dairy and eggs were consumed), and vegan (no animal flesh, dairy, or eggs). Here’s what the researchers found after 18 weeks:

  • Individuals assigned to any type of vegetarian diet lost significantly more weight than participants who followed a non-vegetarian diet (mean difference, 4.44 lb)
  • Those who followed a vegan diet lost the most weight (mean, 5.54 lb) while those who followed the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet lost the least amount (mean 3.25 lb)

The authors concluded that “vegetarian diets appeared to have significant benefits on weight reduction compared to non-vegetarian diets.”

Look for my next article on tips on how to switch to a vegetarian diet and boost your weight loss efforts.

Also Read: Vegetarian diet could eliminate 75 common chronic diseases
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DASH diet for vegetarians and vegans
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Huang RY et al. Vegetarian diets and weight reduction: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of General Internal Medicine 2016 Jan; 31(1): 109-16