There are lots of diets out there, and many of us have tried one or two of them – maybe with some success… or maybe not. If you’re anything like me, the number one quality I want in my diet is how easy it is to maintain. Many of us diet, lose lots of weight, and then gain it back (with a little extra, in many cases) because whatever diet we tried wasn’t sustainable over a long period of time. This is the very reason why we love the vegan approach to weight loss.
For one, it’s incredibly nutrient and microbe rich and does wonders for the gut microbiome and for your overall health and disease risk. But if all you care about is your waistline right now (especially after possibly overindulging during the pandemic), don’t fret. A vegan diet proves effective in promoting sustained weight loss too!
A recent study – authored by Dr. Neil Barnard of PCRM and co-authored by our very own, Dr. Robynne Chutkan – looked at the effects of a 16-week low-fat vegan diet on gut microbiome parameters, body weight, body fat, and insulin sensitivity, in 168 overweight men and women. Half the group was put on a vegan diet while the other half acted as the control. After the 16 weeks, significant changes in the gut microbiome were observed (including an increase in Faecalibacterium prauznitzii and a moderate decrease in Bacteroides fragilis). These changes were strongly associated with a significant decrease in body weight and body fat; those randomized to the vegan diet lost on average ~6kg (13 pounds), and the majority of pounds lost were fat. Insulin sensitivity was also significantly increased in the vegan group. Researchers concluded that a vegan diet results in significant positive changes in gut microbiota, body composition, weight loss, and insulin sensitivity, and is an effective clinical tool in managing weight and insulin resistance in overweight individuals.
It’s important to note that caloric restriction was not a part of this dietary intervention. The intervention was instead about what the participants were eating, not how much they were eating. That’s why plant-based eating is so sustainable in promoting long-term weight management. If you’re looking to adopt a mostly plant-based diet over a lifetime and feel that avoiding animal protein isn’t sustainable for you, following a plan that allows for a small amount of animal foods may be a better fit for you than a strict vegan diet. In her book, The Microbiome Solution, Dr. Chutkan lays out a step-by-step plan for mostly plant-based eating, along with recipes and a meal plan. Her guide allows for a bit of wiggle room in the meat department, without sacrificing your gut or overall health! Check it out here.