Vegetarian diets cause major weight loss

A scientific review in April’s Nutrition Reviews shows that a vegetarian diet is highly effective for weight loss.

Vegetarian populations tend to be slimmer than meat-eaters, and they experience lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other life-threatening conditions linked to overweight and obesity. The new review, compiling data from 87 previous studies, shows the weight-loss effect does not depend on exercise or calorie-counting, and it occurs at a rate of approximately 1 pound per week.

Rates of obesity in the general population are skyrocketing, while in vegetarians, obesity prevalence ranges from 0 percent to 6 percent, note study authors Susan E. Berkow, Ph.D., C.N.S., and Neal D. Barnard, M.D., of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).

The authors found that the body weight of both male and female vegetarians is, on average, 3 percent to 20 percent lower than that of meat-eaters. Vegetarian and vegan diets have also been put to the test in clinical studies, as the review notes. The best of these clinical studies isolated the effects of diet by keeping exercise constant. The researchers found that a low-fat vegan diet leads to weight loss of about 1 pound per week, even without additional exercise or limits on portion sizes, calories, or carbohydrates.

“Our research reveals that people can enjoy unlimited portions of high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight without feeling hungry,” says Dr. Berkow, the lead author.

“There is evidence that a vegan diet causes an increased calorie burn after meals, meaning plant-based foods are being used more efficiently as fuel for the body, as opposed to being stored as fat,” says Dr. Barnard. Insulin sensitivity is increased by a vegan diet, allowing nutrients to more rapidly enter the cells of the body to be converted to heat rather than to fat.

Earlier this month, a team of researchers led by Tim Key of Oxford University found that meat-eaters who switched to a plant-based diet gained less weight over a period of five years. Papers reviewed by Drs. Berkow and Barnard include several published by Dr. Key and his colleagues, as well as a recent study of more than 55,000 Swedish women showing that meat-eaters are more likely to be overweight than vegetarians and vegans.

From PCRM, filed under vegan weight loss diet

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118 thoughts on “Vegetarian diets cause major weight loss”

  1. It appears that you’ve put a good amount of effort into your article and I want a lot more of these on the web these days. I truly got a kick out of your post. I do not have a bunch to to say in response, I only wanted to register to say marvellous work.Top Listings

  2. Ola! Scienceblog,
    Thanks for the above, Being a vegetarian can be quite good in that you have a select group of foods which don’t traditionally cause weight gain. Most vegetables are actually low in carbohydrates which are fibrous carbohydrates that are good for your digestive system. So any vegetarian diet plan that excludes anything but fruits and vegetables is likely to succeed.
    I look forward to your next post

  3. I weighed 135 before I became vegetarian and I was already super skinny and in a year I’ve lost 10 pounds and there is like no way for me to get it back lol well… I could work out and get some muscle but i’m lazy…

  4. I recently changed to a vegan diet 5/30/11 for health reasons (high cholesterol for the last decade). Not only has my cholseterol dropped from 230 to 185 in less than 5 months but I have dropped more than 20 lbs and went from tight 34 inch pants to loose 32s. I am not 100% vegan, I do cheat a little with cheese and I have not eliminated all oils (as some diets suggest). One comment though, as Satish says you are saving money, I don’t find that to be the case, although I am not buying expensive cuts of beef or fish, some of the other specialty items to support a vegan diet are making up and possibly exceding what I was spending before. But who can put a pricetag on health.

    • It surprises me that you don’t see a savings in your grocery bill since you stopped eating meat. My bill was cut in half. I think maybe it could be because I don’t shop at the health food store. Sometimes I go just for fun to look around and I will treat myself to the odd thing, but I couldn’t afford to go all the time. All my veggie burgers are scratch and my hummus is homemade and I don’t think I have opened a can of soup in ten years. Everything is from the ordinary supermarket. Indian stores are the best. Every kind of cheap bean and spice you could want. I spend thirty dollars a week on my food. I couldn’t do that if I ate meat, no way. But it does take a little time in the kitchen, but it is so worth it.

    • Congrats Peter on your health… I was diagnosed with Crohn’s diesease in my mid twenties…There was no way I was going to do those horrid drugs with god awful side effects…I changed my diet and improved my digestive tract by 80%..Once in a while (due to stress) I get a little sick, but had I not changed my diet years ago I sure by now without a doubt I would have a colostomy bag….Eat to Live, don’t Live to Eat… Good for you Peter. :0)

  5. I lost half my body weight when I became a vegeterian for 7 months I lost 100 lbs I didn’t even realise I was losing so much I still ate my. Carbs and had lots of soya products

    • I just became a vegetarian like 4 days ago. And i need to know what to eat. Can you give me like a eating plan? Please.

      • Hi Alexis :) I’m proud of your descision to become a vegetarian. I myself have been a vegetarian for 7 months, as of yesterday (1-21-12) And i’m very proud of myself. Within’ the first few months I dropped ten pounds, but now i’m on a plateau because i do indulge in sweets ALOT. & it prevents me from losing any sort of weight. It kinda sucks because being 16, it’s IN to be fit.
        I’m not. lol.
        I don’t have a specific eating plan, but I make sure to have my mom buy Veggie Burgers. I eat them constantly &it’s an easy way to get protein. Theyre a little expensive, but deffinatly worth it. I have a problem with not getting enough protein & it makes me very weak and tired & i also loose my hair alot. (not alot of it though)
        You can find plans easily on the internet. but make sure you get LOTS of protein.
        Good luck! :D

  6. I have also heard about several success stories where people who switched to vegan diet lost weight without exercise. By eating a plant-based diet, you are not only saving money but also get antioxidants that help you lose weight. Also, a vegetarian diet tends to be low in calories and saturated fat.

  7. Great article I like the way of promoting healthy ways for weight loss; I also like the step by step process that they recommend this would help people have a good method to follow. Considering that there a lot of articles out there that promoted healthy weight loss, this is a great article. I also found a great article like this one you can check it out by clicking the name above

  8. I don’t think that the article shows the full story. I am vegetarian myself. Became one for some reasons or other but it was after I had already lost 4 stones and now I maintain my current weight. However, I know many vegetarians who are overweight. Since eliminating meat from their diets, they replaced it with bread, potatoes and sugary and processed food products. So maybe, overall, there is a link between vegetarianism and weight loss but I had not witnessed it myself, as “vegetarianism” not always equals to “healthy”. As a vegetarian, I would love to believe that but it is not always the truth. Being vegetarians, some of my friends still find it equally difficult to choose healthy options over the not healthy ones as when they used to eat meat. The truth is that they became veggies not solely to loose weight but from environmental, ethical etc reasons; however, it still leaves some of them with the feeling of being somewhat cheated (the belief of many: “you’re vegetarian = you should be thin!”). So vegetarians cannot advertise vegetarianism alone as a way of loose weight. The statement that the vegetarianism makes you loose weight should be followed by the sentence: “when you choose healthy foods (non-processed, fresh fruit and veg without added sugar and additives)”.
    And also, you put on weight simply because your energy intake (measured in calories) is higher than the energy you use (I am talking of healthy people, some weight gain can be due to thyroid gland or other hormonal issues). Surplus of energy (too high calorie intake) is stored as fat. You loose weight either by decreasing the intake (diet) or increasing the use (exercises). So it is not entirely true that counting calories is rubbish. The reason some veggies (the ones that eat healthy) loose weight is that most of fruit and vegetables are naturally low calorific and they stimulate faster burning of the energy (calories) so still their calorie intake is lower than the use and this is what is visible on the scales, not being vegetarian alone.
    Although most of the fruit and veg is low in calories, some of them are not. Two avocado fruits (and I can easily put both of them into my sandwich) can have up to 500 calories (same as a small steak portion or a BigMac) but here’s a reason why eating them stimulates weight loss: Fruit and veg apart from obvious health benefits of being full of vitamins and nutrients, are made of carbohydrates that are more easily digested. Those sugars release energy slower so they keep you fuller for longer and they do not provide you with sudden energy highs and drops like refined sugars do therefore you don’t crave sugary foods or more food than you actually need. Besides, they are high in fiber that makes them even quicker to go through our digestive systems.
    The stress of vegetarian diet should be on choosing fruit and veg over other products rather than just cutting out the meat for the sake of it.
    What I’m trying to say that the issue is more complicated than a simple statement: vegetarian=thin

      • I know some people don’t lose weight on a vegan diet… However, I have been vegan for just under 4 months and have lost 48 pounds! You lose a LOT of weight very quickly in the beginning because meat and dairy gunk up your intestines, and can cause lots of extra poundage. The fiber you consume from all the plant-based foods helps cleanse your body of this rotting animal material. Then in the long run, your cholesterol-free, low fat, wholesome diet will help you lose a lot more weight. I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve heard steak can stay in your bowels for weeks.
        Anyway good for you for losing 13 pounds! If you read this, let me know if you stuck with it, and how that went for you. For the first time in my life I feel like a healthy weight is attainable, I am so happy to be vegan.
        Also I think it should really be noted that the more healthy, whole foods that you consume as a vegan doesn’t just affect your body weight and energy levels. It helps level your emotions (in a good way!) and, at least for me, has helped me make healthy choices completely. I’ve even been able to quit smoking and I truly believe my healthy vegan diet has a lot to do with it.
        But it is important to eat natural, whole foods. If the ingredient label has a word that you cannot pronounce, it’s best that you not eat it, otherwise it’s entirely possible to gain weight on vegan diet, or just vegetarian.
        Good luck to anybody who decides to go down this path, it is likely the best decision I ever made!

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