New research conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine suggests that a vegan diet offers a range of health benefits, such as offering a positive boost to weight loss efforts and improving insulin sensitivity.
Specifically, eating more legumes—beans, peats, lentils—was more often associated with weight loss.
In a study published in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers explain their attempts to measure the impact of vegan diets on weight loss. They followed about 244 overweight participants during a 16-week randomized-controlled trial. Each participant was assigned to either continue with their normal dietary habits or to start following a vegan diet, which consisted of low-fat food options (grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables) with no restrictions in the number of calories they could eat. About 219 participants finished the study. Researchers collected information about weight, amount of fat on the body, the quality of the vegan diet participants followed, and adherence to the diet throughout the course of the study.
Overall, researchers found that people who followed the vegan diet lost on average about 13 pounds of body weight and about 9 pounds of fat. There were no decreases in body weight or fat in the control group. Notably, the shift to more fruits and legumes and less animal products was associated with the best chance of losing weight.
Researchers used the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI) to score and measure the quality of the diets each participant followed. The AHEI can help gauge a person’s risk of developing chronic disease. People in the vegan diet group overall saw a 6 point increase in the quality of their diet compared to no change in diet quality in the control group.
Vegan diets, more than just a fad, do offer a range of health benefits. Because they cut out a lot of animal products, especially red and fatty meats, research has shown following a vegan diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease and even metabolic syndrome.