New research shows that following a plant-based diet not only helps in weight management, it also helps reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.
A plant-based diet increases “after-meal burn,” aids weight loss, and improves cardiometabolic risk factors in overweight individuals, a new study reveals.
The new study by researchers with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, has been published in JAMA Network Open.
The 16-week trial found that those randomized to a low-fat plant-based diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes with no calorie limit lost an average 13 pounds.
Overweight adults in the control group, on the other hand, with no dietary modification maintained their weight throughout the 4-month trial.
Within just 16 weeks, the plant-based group showed an approximate 18.7 % increase in after-meal calorie burn, measured using indirect calorimetry. The control group’s after-meal burn did not change significantly.
The trial also found that participants in the plant-based group dropped fat mass and visceral fat volume—the dangerous fat that accumulates around the internal organs.
Significant difference in weight management
“These findings are groundbreaking for the 160 million Americans struggling with overweight and obesity,” study author Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee said.
“Over the course of years and decades, burning more calories after every meal can make a significant difference in weight management.”
Among other findings, the study showed that participants in the plant-based group reduced the fat inside the liver and muscle cells by 34% and 10%, respectively, while the control group did not experience significant changes.
The researchers teamed up with Yale University researchers Kitt Petersen, MD, and Gerald Shulman, MD, to track fat levels in the liver and muscle cells.
Fat stored in these cells has been linked to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
The study also found that the plant-based group had lowered their fasting plasma insulin concentration by 21.6 pmol/L, and had decreased insulin resistance and increased insulin sensitivity in comparison to the control group, which showed no significant changes.
The plant-based group even recorded a 19.3 mg/dL and 15.5 mg/dL decrease in total and LDL cholesterol, respectively.
“When fat builds up in liver and muscle cells, it interferes with insulin’s ability to move glucose out from the bloodstream and into the cells,” Dr. Kahleova explained.
“After just 16 weeks on a low-fat, plant-based diet, study participants reduced the fat in their cells and lowered their chances for developing type 2 diabetes.”
Based on the findings, Dr. Kahleova concluded: “Not only did the plant-based group lose weight, but they experienced cardiometabolic improvements that will reduce their risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.”
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