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NEWS RELEASE December 19, 2006

Weight of Evidence Favors Vegetarian Diets for Keeping Slim: Doctors Cite Six Studies from 2006

Plant-Based Diet Best Bet for Losing Weight in New Year

WASHINGTON—Nutrition scientists with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) have reviewed scientific studies published in 2006 and found six studies linking vegetarian diets with healthy body weight, improved heart health, increased insulin sensitivity, and other benefits. In one study, Oxford University professor Timothy Key and his colleagues found that men who switch to a meat-free diet are less subject to the yearly weight gain that causes ever-expanding waistlines and clogged arteries in middle-aged omnivores. Another study published this year found that vegetarian women in Taiwan have slimmer waists and greater insulin sensitivity than omnivores. Five studies in 2005 presented results similar to the six from 2006, as have numerous other studies published in previous years.

“People who switch to a vegetarian diet typically lose about 10 percent of their body weight,” says PCRM nutrition scientist Amy Joy Lanou, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. “Countless studies published in the scientific literature show that resolving to go meat-free in 2007 is the best way slim down and get healthy.”

The Findings:

In a study of nearly 22,000 people, Oxford University professor Timothy Key and his colleagues found that those who avoid animal products gain less weight over time than meat-eaters. The findings are published in the International Journal of Obesity.

A study of young Taiwanese women found that the vegetarians have slimmer waists and higher insulin sensitivity compared with omnivores. C. Hung and colleagues published the findings this year in the British Journal of Nutrition.

In a literature review published this year, Oxford 's Dr. Key and his colleagues found that vegetarians and vegans weigh less and have lower plasma cholesterol concentration than meat-eaters. The review appears in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society.

A literature review conducted by researchers with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine notes that between zero and six percent of vegetarians are obese, while nearly 20 percent of the adult population in the United States is obese. Drs. Susan Berkow and Neal Barnard published the paper in Nutrition Reviews.

When individuals adhere to a low-calorie, low-fat vegetarian diet, they lose more weight and achieve greater decreases in blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels than if they follow a low-calorie and low-fat diet that includes meat. L. Burke and colleagues published these findings in the journal Obesity.

Vegetarians have a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease because they consistently consume higher amounts of protective foods compared with omnivores of the same weight. M. Vavlchovicova and colleagues published these findings this year in the European Journal of Nutrition.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Jeanne S. McVey

Amy Lanou, Ph.D.

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