Scientists from the Physicians Committee found a low-fat vegan diet could help people lose weight, and reduce blood cholesterol and insulin resistance better than a Mediterranean diet.
A vegan diet contains only plants (such as vegetables, grains, nuts, and fruits) and foods made from plants. Vegans do not eat foods that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs.
A low-fat vegan diet focuses on whole plant foods, such as pulses, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables, and eliminates processed foods, including refined oils, sugars, and grains.
The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that’s based on the traditional cuisines of Greece, Italy, and other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea.
Plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices, are the foundation of the diet.
Previous research suggests that both Mediterranean and vegan diets improve body weight and heart and metabolic risk factors, but their relative efficacy has not been compared.
In this study, researchers tested 62 overweight people, who were assigned to a Mediterranean or vegan diet for 16 weeks.
Thereafter, participants were asked to return to their baseline diets for 4 weeks, after which they began the opposite diet for 16 weeks.
The team measured body weight, blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and body composition. They also tested these people’s insulin resistance and blood sugar.
Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t use glucose from your blood for energy.
To make up for it, your pancreas makes more insulin. Over time, your blood sugar levels go up.
The researchers found that in the vegan diet group, the participants lost 6.0 kg of body weight. In the Mediterranean diet group, the participants did not change their body weights.
They also found insulin resistance and blood sugar levels decreased in the vegan diet group, but not in the Mediterranean diet group.
In addition, total and LDL-cholesterol decreased by 18.7 mg/dL and 15.3 mg/dL (0.4 mmol/L), respectively, on the vegan diet, compared with no change on the Mediterranean diet.
The systolic and diastolic blood pressure decreased by 9.3 and 7.3 mmHg on the Mediterranean diet, compared with 3.4 and 4.1 mmHg on the vegan diet.
Blood pressure is measured using two numbers: The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.
These findings suggest that a low-fat vegan diet could improve body weight, blood cholesterol levels, and insulin sensitivity more than a Mediterranean diet.
On the other hand, blood pressure can decrease on both diets, more on the Mediterranean diet.
The research was published in the Journal of the American Nutrition Association and was conducted by Neal D. Barnard et al.
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