With Britain in the grip of a cost-of-living crisis, it’s good to know there’s a much cheaper way to keep to a healthy weight than paying a subscription for a diet app and joining a gym – just cut out the meat and dairy.
The new research, based on data from 11 randomised trials, shows that sticking to plant-based food for at least 12 weeks can help adults who are overweight or have type 2 diabetes boost weight loss and keep their glucose levels under control.
Over three months, plant-based eaters dropped just over 4kg in weight and saw a fall in their blood sugar levels compared with those on a control diet. And compared with those who ate as they normally would, without making any changes to their diet, the weight loss associated with cutting out animal products increased to 7.4kg, while other diets led to drops of just 2.7kg.
Anne-Ditte Termannsen of the Steno Diabetes Centre in Copenhagen, who led the study, said the assessment of the best available data showed “with reasonable certainty that adhering to a vegan diet for at least 12 weeks may result in clinically meaningful weight loss and improve blood sugar levels, and therefore can be used in the management of overweight and type 2 diabetes”.
She added: “Vegan diets likely lead to weight loss because they are associated with a reduced calorie intake due to a lower content of fat and higher content of dietary fibre.”
Taking an overview of the data from the 11 trials, the researchers looked at how well a vegan diet tackled risk factors for heart problems – including a person’s weight, body mass index, blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol – compared with other diets.
But they pointed out that not all plant-based diets are created equal, with vegan eaters across the various studies consuming different amounts of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Nor were all the control diets the same, meaning there could be more at play than simply not eating meat and dairy.
Other research has already shown, however, that dieting can be 2kg more effective without meat, that plant-based diets are doubly effective for diabetics, and that a high-meat diet does little to prevent obesity or promote weight-loss.