August 26,2021

How Do Vegan Diets Affect Health

America’s SAD diet

You have probably read that the Standard American Diet (SAD) is killing us. Half of Americans are overweight or obese. Although the reasons for the latter is multifactorial, and we are learning more and more every day, we do know that those who struggle with overweight and obesity are at higher risk of many medical disorders including diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. 

Plant-based diets and your health

Plant-based diets have already proven to decrease the bad LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure. They allow insulin to more easily do its job of clearing sugar from the bloodstream, while improving the ability of pancreatic β-cells to regulate glucose, all of which helps lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetes and improve symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes. Certain types of cancer have also been shown to occur less often in those who avoid animal products and high-fat foods and who eat high-fiber plant-based foods.

What’s our Metabolism got to do with it? 

Many of us are dismayed to find out that our metabolism tends to slow down as we get older. A recent study however showed that this can be altered by the types of foods that we consume. And burning more calories after every meal can make a significant difference in weight management. Dr. Hana Kahleova MD Ph.D., the director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington DC, and her team, looked at body weight, insulin resistance, postprandial (= after a meal) metabolism, as well as muscle and liver fat after introducing a low-fat vegan, plant-based diet. They randomized 244  patients age 25 to 75 years with a body mass index of 28 to 40 into two groups. One group continued their usual diet and one group ate a diet that consisted of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, limited oils, and other high-fat foods, eliminated all animal products and was supplemented with Vitamin B12 (500 mcg/d).

What they found after only 4 months was impressive! Switching to a plant-based diet increased after-meal metabolism by 18.7%!  The vegan diet group had decreased body weight (5.9 kilos or 13 pounds), decreased resistance to insulin, and lowered muscle and liver fat levels (the latter by 34% in just 4 months!). This is important as it is thought that fat in the liver and muscle contributes to insulin resistance. Interestingly they discovered that the energy that is expended after a vegan meal (i.e. the thermic effect) increased in the intervention group i.e. it got rid of extra calories in the form of heat.

The Best Part?

The best part, the vegan intervention group did not have to count calories, or carbs, or limit portion size. Incorporating whole fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes and as much as they wanted until they felt full, led to the increased metabolism after eating and all the beneficial effects noted above! 

Words by Eva Weinlander, PlantX Medical Advisor.