IN THE NEWS: On JUN 13, 2017
Long Story Short
Struggling to lose weight? Science says you may want to switch to a vegetarian diet.
Type 2 diabetes is on a rampage throughout the United States. 2014 estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had the figure at 29.1 million sufferers — over 9% of the population. That’s up from 26 million in 2010. And it’s so prevalent, it’s estimated that one in four people don’t even know they have the disease.
Another 86 million adults have prediabetes, where their blood sugar levels are higher than normal. Without weight loss and exercise, between 15 and 30% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.
While it’s unknown what exactly causes type 2 diabetes, it’s associated with modifiable lifestyle risk factors. That is, it’s got a lot to do with how much you weigh, how much you eat and what you eat.
The diabetes epidemic was one of the inspirations for a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Dr. Hana Kahleová, Director of Clinical Research at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington DC, and her co-authors wanted to take the conventional anti-diabetic diet recommended by the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) and put it up against a vegetarian diet. [Ed note: The PCRM is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that promotes a vegetarian diet.]
It turned out that those on the vegetarian diet not only lost weight more effectively than those on the low calorie diet, but also improved their metabolism by reducing muscle fat. Shedding muscle fat improves glucose and lipid metabolism, so Kahleová reckons the finding is particularly important for those with type 2 diabetes (and metabolic syndrome).
We’re not talking a small difference here. Across 74 subjects with type 2 diabetes, the vegetarian diet was found to be almost twice as effective in reducing body weight, resulting in an average loss of 13.6 lbs versus 7 lbs for the conventional diet. The vegetarian diet consisted of vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits and nuts. The one bit of animal product was a small portion of low-fat yogurt.
The differences in fat storage told a similar story. While both diets led to reductions in subcutaneous fat, intramuscular fat responded better to the vegetarian diet than it did the anti-diabetic diet. Subfascial fat responded to the vegetarian diet but didn’t budge at all on the anti-diabetic diet. The subfascial fat component of the study is particularly important, with a build-up in type 2 diabetes patients associated with insulin resistance.
“This finding is important for people who are trying to lose weight, including those suffering from metabolic syndrome and/or type 2 diabetes,” Kahleová said in a news release. “But it is also relevant to anyone who takes their weight management seriously and wants to stay lean and healthy."