June 12 (UPI) -- A new study shows vegetarians lose weight more effectively and improve their metabolism by reducing muscle fat compared to low-calorie dieters.
The study -- of 74 people with type 2 diabetes, randomly selected to follow a vegetarian diet or a conventional anti-diabetic diet -- found the vegetarian diet was nearly twice as effective at reducing body weight with an average weight loss of 14 pounds compared to 7 pounds on the conventional diet.
Participants on the vegetarian diet ate mostly vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits and nuts with animal products limited to one low-fat yogurt per day. The conventional diet followed recommendations from the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, or EASD.
"Vegetarian diets proved to be the most effective diets for weight loss," Dr. Hana Kahleova, director of Clinical Research at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, said in a press release. "However, we also showed that a vegetarian diet is much more effective at reducing muscle fat, thus improving metabolism. This finding is important for people who are trying to lose weight, including those suffering from metabolic syndrome and/or type 2 diabetes. But it is also relevant to anyone who takes their weight management seriously and wants to stay lean and healthy."
Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to study adipose tissue in participant's thighs to see how the two different diets affected subcutaneous, subfascial and intramuscular fat.
The study found both diets had a similar reduction in subcutaneous fat but subfascial fat was only reduced in the vegetarian diet and intramuscular fat was more greatly reduced in the vegetarian diet.
The study was published June 10 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.