Scientists from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that a vegan diet improves diet quality, leading to decreased weight and improved insulin sensitivity.
Recent studies have found eating different foods and nutrients can have differential effects on body weight, body composition, and insulin sensitivity.
In the current study, researchers aimed to find how food group, nutrient intake, and diet quality change relative to usual-diet controls after 16 weeks on a low-fat vegan diet.
On a vegan diet, people usually eat foods made from plants, including fruits and vegetables. Legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils. Nuts and seeds. Bread, rice, and pasta. Dairy alternatives such as soymilk, coconut milk, and almond milk. Vegetable oils.
The researchers also wanted to see those changes have with changes in body weight, body composition, and measures of metabolic health.
The team examined 219 healthy adults in the Washington DC area. These people had a body mass index (BMI) between 28 and 40.
The researchers assigned these people to either follow a low-fat vegan diet or make no diet changes.
In the study, the low-fat, vegan diet derives about 10% of energy from fat, with weekly classes including dietary instruction, group discussion, and education on the health effects of plant-based nutrition. Control group participants continued their usual diets.
After 16 weeks, the researchers found that fruit, vegetable, legume, meat alternative, and whole grain intake strongly increased in the vegan group.
On the other hand, the intake of meat, fish, poultry; dairy products; eggs; nuts, and seeds; and added fats decreased.
The team also found that decreased weight was most linked to a higher intake of legumes and decreased intake of total meat, fish, and poultry.
People who ate a low-fat vegan diet also increased their intake of carbohydrates, fiber, and several micronutrients and decreased fat intake.
Reduced fat intake was linked to reduced body weight and reduced fat mass.
Based on the findings, the team concluded that eating a low-fat vegan diet could increase the intake of plant foods and decrease the consumption of animal foods, nuts and seeds, and added fats.
In addition, increased legume intake was the best single food group predictor of weight loss.
The researchers suggest that increasing low-fat plant foods and lowering high-fat and animal foods are linked to decreased body weight and fat loss and that a low-fat vegan diet can improve measures of diet quality and metabolic health.
The research is published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and was conducted by Hana Kahleova et al.
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