A low-fat, plant-based diet is more effective at helping women lose weight and improve insulin sensitivity than an omnivorous diet, shows a new study on 59 overweight, postmenopausal women. In the study, conducted by Neal D. Barnard, MD, half of the participants followed a vegan diet, while the other half followed a control diet based on National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines.

“The study participants following the vegan diet enjoyed unlimited servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other healthful foods that enabled them to lose weight without feeling hungry,” says Dr. Barnard, the lead author. “As they began to experience the positive effects – weight loss and improved insulin sensitivity – the women in the intervention group became even more motivated to follow the plant-based eating plan.”

Scientific studies show that obesity and being overweight are far less prevalent in populations following a plant-based diet. In a recent study of more than 55,000 Swedish women, Tufts University researcher P. Kirstin Newby and her colleagues found that 40 percent of meat-eaters were overweight or obese while only 25 to 29 percent of vegetarians and vegans were.

The simplicity of a vegan diet appeals to people who are busy with work and family, and many familiar recipes are easy to adapt. At least four studies published in peer-reviewed journals show that patients give the low-fat vegetarian diet a high rating in terms of acceptability, and that the transition only takes about three weeks or less.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Sept 9, 2005