Details: 18 overweight and obese women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) were recruited. Each was randomly assigned to follow a low-fat vegan diet or a low-calorie diet for six months.
Results: Women in the vegan group lost a total of 1.8% of their body weight over the first three months, compared to 0% in the low-calorie group. However, no significant differences were observed after six months.
Interestingly, participants with higher engagement in a Facebook support group lost more weight than the rest.
Those following the vegan diet consumed an average of 265 fewer calories than those on the low-calorie diet, despite not being given a specific lower-calorie goal.
Participants in the vegan group also consumed less protein, less fat and more carbs than those following the low-calorie diet.
No differences were observed in pregnancy or PCOS-related symptoms between the two groups.
Conclusions: A vegan diet is more effective at naturally reducing the amount of calories eaten per day, despite the lack of a calorie restriction goal. It may also help women with PCOS lose weight.
Details: 50 overweight adults were recruited and randomized to follow one of five low-fat, low-glycemic index diets for six months. The assigned diets were either vegan, vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian or omnivorous.
Participants were given instructions related to their respective diets by a registered dietitian and encouraged to limit processed and fast food.
All participants except those in the omnivorous diet group attended weekly group meetings. The omnivore group attended monthly sessions and received the same diet information through weekly emails instead.
All participants consumed a daily vitamin B12 supplement and had access to private Facebook support groups.
Results: Participants in the vegan group lost an average of 7.5% of their body weight, which was the most of all groups. In comparison, omnivores lost only 3.1%.
The vegan diet group consumed more carbs, as well as fewer calories and fat than omnivores, despite not having been given any specific calorie or fat restriction goals.
Protein intakes were not significantly different between groups.
Conclusions: Vegan diets can result in greater weight loss than vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian or omnivorous diets.
Details: 106 type 2 diabetics were randomly assigned to a 12-week vegan or conventional diet recommended by the Korean Diabetes Association (KDA).
Calorie intake was not restricted for either group over the 12-week study period.
Results: Participants in the vegan group naturally consumed an average of 60 fewer calories per day, compared to the conventional diet group.
Hemoglobin A1C levels decreased in both groups. However, those in the vegan group reduced their levels by 0.3–0.6% more than the conventional diet group.
Interestingly, BMI and waist circumference decreased only in the vegan group.
There were no significant changes in blood pressure or blood cholesterol levels between groups.
Conclusions: Both diets helped type 2 diabetics’ blood sugar control. However, the vegan diet improved it more than the conventional diet. Also, a vegan diet was more effective at reducing BMI and waist circumference.
Details: 50 type 2 diabetics and 50 healthy subjects were randomly assigned to consume either a protein and saturated fat-rich pork burger or a carb-rich vegan couscous burger.
Blood concentrations of sugar, insulin, triglycerides, free fatty acids, gastric appetite hormones and oxidative stress markers were measured before the meals, as well as up to 180 minutes after the meals.
Results: The two different meals produced similar blood sugar responses in both groups over the 180-minute study period.
High insulin levels persisted for longer after the meat meal than the vegan meal in both healthy participants and type 2 diabetics.
Triglyceride levels increased and free fatty acids decreased to a higher extent following the meat meal. This happened in both groups, but the difference was more obvious in type 2 diabetics.
The meat meal produced a greater decrease in the hunger hormone ghrelin than the vegan meal. Additionally, the meat meal led to greater increases in markers of cell-damaging oxidative stress than the vegan meal, but only in diabetics.
Oxidative stress-fighting antioxidant activity increased following the vegan meal, but only in healthy controls.
Conclusions: In healthy individuals, vegan meals reduce hunger less but increase antioxidant activity more. Meat meals cause more oxidative stress in diabetics and greater increases in blood sugar levels.
Details:This study used the same 43 participants with rheumatoid arthritis as in the study above.
Participants were randomly assigned to follow a lactobacilli-rich, raw vegan diet or continue with their existing omnivorous diet for 2–3 months.
Those in the vegan group received pre-packed, probiotic-rich raw meals for the duration of the study.
Results: The participants in the raw vegan group lost 9% of their body weight, while the control group gained 1% of their body weight, on average.
By the end of the study, blood protein and vitamin B12 levels slightly decreased, but only in the raw vegan group.
Participants in the raw vegan group reported significantly less pain, joint swelling and morning stiffness than those continuing with their existing diet. A return to their omnivorous diet aggravated their symptoms.
Conclusions: A probiotic-rich, raw vegan diet increased weight loss and improved disease symptoms in those with rheumatoid arthritis.
10 of the randomized controlled trials above examined the effects of a vegan diet on weight loss.
Seven out of the 10 studies reported that a vegan diet was more effective than the control diet at helping participants lose weight.
In the most impressive study, the vegan diet was able to help participants lose 9.3 more pounds (4.2 kg) than the control diet over an 18-week period (3).
This effect persisted even when the vegan participants were allowed to eat until fullness, while the control groups had to restrict their calories (6, 9).
This natural tendency to consume fewer calories on a vegan diet could be due to the higher intake of dietary fiber, which is known for inducing satiety (3, 4, 6, 11).
Despite being generally higher in carbs, vegan diets were up to 2.4 times more effective at improving blood sugar control in diabetics, compared to control diets.
In fact, seven out of eight randomized controlled studies reported vegan diets to be more effective than conventional ones, including diets recommended by the ADA, AHA and NCEP.
The one study that didn’t find the vegan diet to be better reported it to be as effective as the control diet (12).
Part of the advantage of the vegan diet could be explained by the higher fiber intake, which could somewhat blunt the blood sugar response (3, 6, 4, 11).
The greater weight loss generally reported in participants following the vegan diet could further contribute to the blood sugar-lowering effects.
LDL, HDL and Total Cholesterol
In total, 14 studies examined the effects of vegan diets on blood cholesterol levels.
Their results indicate that vegan diets are much more effective at reducing total and LDL cholesterol than omnivorous control diets (1, 2, 3, 13).
However, the effects on HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels are mixed. Some studies reported increases, others decreases and some no effect at all.
Appetite and Satiety
Only two of the studies looked at the effects of vegan diets on appetite and satiety.
The first reported that a vegan meal reduced the hunger hormone ghrelin less than a meat-containing meal in healthy participants, whereas the second reports no difference between a vegan meal and a meat-containing meal in diabetics (12, 13).
Symptoms of Arthritis
So far, only three randomized controlled studies looked at the effects of a vegan diet on osteo- or rheumatoid arthritis.
All three report that the vegan diet improved symptoms more effectively than the previous omnivorous diet (14, 15, 16).
Take Home Message
Vegan diets seem to be very effective at helping people lose weight.
They also seem to be well suited to reduce symptoms of arthritis.
In addition, there’s scientific evidence to support that vegan diets greatly reduce blood sugar, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
Based on the best available evidence, a vegan diet can be very healthy if done right.
Dea is passionate about pursuing gentle, pure living in all its forms. She’s a veg and fruit foodie, who loves to explore the healing properties of plant-based foods and then fully indulge in their sun-filled taste. She believes that “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”