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Vegetarianism and Weight Loss

Since at least the mid-1980's, scientists have found that vegetarians and vegans tend to weigh less
than omnivores (meat-eaters). Decades later, whether adopting a vegetarian diet can lead directly to
weight loss is still under scrutiny.
The Bottom Line on Vegetarianism and Weight LossVegetarians and vegans are less likely to be
overweight and obese than those who eat meat.Cutting out red meat is associated with lower body
weightIt is unclear whether switching from to a vegetarian diet will necessarily cause weight loss;
but there is some evidence that is doesSwitching to a vegetarian diet can lead to small weight losses,
and these losses become more significant over timeExperts recommend going vegetarian - or at least
increasing plant foods and eating fewer animal products - to help weight control (Newby et al.
2005).Studying Vegetarians and Their DietsA vegetarian diet is associated with low body weight and
low body fat.Long-term maintenance of a meat-free diet might be the key to low body weight (Key &
Davey, 1996).1. In the UK, body mass index was 36% lower in males and 31% lower in females
following a vegetarian diet compared to meat-eaters, even after taking into account other dietary
variables like fibre, smoking, and alcohol (Appelby et al. 1998). Read more about BMI, a ratio of
weight to height that estimates fatness.
2. A Swedish study found that those who avoid red meat (but eat poultry), lacto-vegetarians (dairyconsuming vegetarians) and vegans have a lower risk of being overweight or obese than omnivores
(Newby et al. 2005).
40% of red meat-eaters were overweight.29% of non-red meat eaters and vegans were considered
overweightOnly 25% of lacto-vegetarians met the cut-off for overweight3. A study of vegetarian
preschoolers found they were less likely to be obese than their non-vegetarian schoolmates (Dwyer

et al. 1980).
4. Among college students, a vegetarian diet was maintained longer than a weight-loss diet (Smith et
al. 2000).
Can Switching to a Vegetarian Diet Cause Weight Loss?
1. New vegetarians transitioning from an omnivorous diet over six months naturally decreased their
energy intake (calories eaten)(Phillips et al. 2004).
They had no changes in body weight but body fat decreased2. Vegans and fish-eating women gained
the least weight out a group of 21 966 health-conscious men and women who were followed over five
years (Rosell et al. 2006).People who switched from being a meat-eater to fish-eater, from fish-eater
to vegetarian, or from vegetarian to vegan gained the least amount of weight Differences between
all groups were small but the smallest weights gains were among those who decreased their
consumption of animal products References:
Appelby M, Mann JI, and Key TJ. Low body mass index in non-meat eaters: the possible roles of
animal fat, dietary fibre and alcohol. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic
Disorders. 1998; 22(5):454-60.
Dwyer JT, Andrew EW, Valadian I, and Reed RB. Size, obesity, and leanness in vegetarian preschool
children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 1980; 77(4):434-9.
Key T and Davey G. Letters: Prevalence of obesity is low in people who do not eat meat. BMJ. 1996;

Newby PK, Tucker KL, and Wolk A. Risk of overweight and obesity among semivegetarian,
lactovegetarian, and vegan women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2005; 81:1267-74.
Phillips F, Hackett AF, Stratton G, and Billington D .Effect of changing to a self-selected vegetarian
diet on anthropometric measurements in UK adults. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 2004;
Rosell M, Appleby P, Spencer E, and Key T. Weight gain over 5 years in 21 966 meat-eating, fisheating, vegetarian, and vegan men and women in EPIC-Oxford. International Journal of Obesity.

2006; 30(9):1389-96.
Smith CF, Burke LE, and Wing RR. Vegetarian and weight-loss diets among young adults. Obesity
Research. 2000; 8(2):123-9.
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