By Kimberly Beauchamp, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (November 8, 2007)—When it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, a vegan diet, which excludes all animal foods. beats a low-fat diet, according to the journal Obesity.
About two-thirds of US adults and one-half of UK adults are overweight or obese. Many popular diets can help with weight loss in the short term, but the question remains how to keep the weight off. The new study compared a low-fat diet from the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) with a vegan diet for 14 weeks in 64 overweight postmenopausal women. “This is the first randomized, controlled trial to examine the effects of a vegan diet on weight loss maintenance,” the team said.
The women in the low-fat-diet group were instructed to keep their daily fat intake to less than 30% of their total calories, with no more than 7% of calories from saturated fat, and to keep cholesterol intake to less than 200 mg per day. The vegan group was to avoid all animal foods including meat, dairy, and eggs, and to limit nuts, seeds, and avocados. This group mostly ate legumes, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Both groups were told to eat until they were satisfied.
At the end of the study, half of the women from each group were offered weekly group weight-loss support meetings for one year.
The women in the vegan group lost significantly more weight than those in the low-fat group after one and two years. At the end of the first year, women in the vegan group lost an average of 11 pounds, while women in the low-fat group lost about 4 pounds. By the end of the second year, women in the vegan group were about 7 pounds lighter than when they started the study, and women in the low-fat group were about 2 pounds lighter.
Group support also made a difference in how successful the women were at keeping the weight off. Women who were offered weight-loss support after the trial lost significantly more weight than those who didn’t have this option, regardless of the diet they were following. The authors commented, “This suggests that prolonged support and instruction can help promote weight loss maintenance.”
Although a vegan diet can be very healthful and can help prevent a number of chronic diseases, it may also require extra planning and supplementation to avoid deficiencies in certain important nutrients, such as vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and vitamin D. People interested in following a vegan diet should seek the guidance of a nutritionist or healthcare practitioner.
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.
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