Dieters who go vegetarian not only lose weight more effectively than those on conventional low-calorie diets but also improve their metabolism by reducing muscle fat, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
The study was conducted by the researchers at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington DC. In the study, 74 adult volunteers with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to follow either 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; 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.
The vegetarian diet was found to be almost twice as effective in reducing body weight, resulting in an average loss of 6.2kg compared to 3.2kg for the conventional diet. Using magnetic resonance imaging, the researchers then studied adipose (fat-storage) tissue in the subjects’ thighs to see how the two different diets had affected subcutaneous, subfascial and intramuscular fat (that is, fat under the skin, on the surface of muscles and inside muscles).
They found that both diets caused a similar reduction in the fat under the skin. However, the fat on the surface of the muscles was only reduced in response to the vegetarian diet, and the fat inside the muscles was more greatly reduced by the vegetarian diet.
This is important as increased fat on the surface of the muscle in patients with type 2 diabetes has been associated with insulin resistance, so reducing it could have a beneficial effect on glucose metabolism. In addition, reducing the fat inside the muscle could help improve muscular strength and mobility, particularly in older people with diabetes.
The study concluded that vegetarian diets are the most effective diets for weight loss. In addition, a vegetarian diet is much more effective at reducing muscle fat, thus improving metabolism. This finding is important for people who are trying to lose weight, including those suffering from 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.
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Journal Reference: Hana Kahleova, Marta Klementova, Vit Herynek, Antonin Skoch, Stepan Herynek, Martin Hill, Andrea Mari, Terezie Pelikanova. The Effect of a Vegetarian vs Conventional Hypocaloric Diabetic Diet on Thigh Adipose Tissue Distribution in Subjects with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Study. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2017; 1 DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2017.1302367
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