Diabetes Forecast

Vegetarian Diet Is a Win for Weight Loss

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What to Know

Healthy eating habits play a critical role in managing type 2 diabetes, as does achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. This study investigated the benefits of a low-calorie vegetarian diet for people with type 2 diabetes. Its aim: to determine whether going meat free would lead to greater weight loss and a greater reduction in fat around the thighs, which has been linked to insulin resistance, compared with a low-calorie diet that included meat.

The Study

Researchers in the Czech Republic recruited 74 overweight or obese men and women with type 2 diabetes whose average age was 52. They divided them randomly into two groups. Over 24 weeks, one group ate a vegetarian diet. The other ate a diet based on conventional European dietary guidelines for people with diabetes. All meals were provided by the researchers, and portion size was adjusted so that each volunteer ate 500 fewer calories per day than normal. For 12 weeks, they kept to their normal exercise routine. Then, they followed an aerobic exercise program designed by the researchers. Twice during the study, the researchers measured fat tissue around the volunteers’ thighs to gauge the diets’ impact.

The Results

The volunteers on the vegetarian diet lost an average of nearly 14 pounds during the study. The meat eaters lost half that. The vegetarians also lost a significantly greater amount of some types of fat around their thigh muscles. Such fat loss, the researchers found, was linked to improved insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels, as well as lower triglycerides, a type of fat that can build up in the blood and increase the risk of heart problems. Those on the vegetarian diet did lose more muscle mass than the meat eaters, though they regained some of it during the exercise portion of the study.


A vegetarian diet may offer better weight-loss results for people with type 2 diabetes. It also may help reduce fat around the thighs, which the authors linked to improvements in insulin sensitivity and A1C (a measure of your average blood glucose level over three months). However, the diet followed was nearly vegan. The only animal product allowed was a daily serving of yogurt. Such a diet may be a challenge to follow. The authors also point out that any weight-loss plan should include exercise in order to maintain muscle.

The Effect of a Vegetarian vs. Conventional Hypocaloric Diabetic Diet on Thigh Adipose Tissue Distribution in Subjects with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Study.” Hana Kahleova, Marta Klementova, Vit Herynek, Antonin Skoch, Stepan Herynek, Martin Hill, Andrea Mari, and Terezie Pelikanova. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2017 June; 36 (5): 364–369.

The information on this screen does not take the place of care from your doctor or other health care provider. If you have general questions about diabetes or diabetes-related research, e-mail askada@diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2382).



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