An increasing number of people are turning to plant-based diets in hopes of shedding excess weight. While there’s no guarantee that a vegan diet will lead to weight loss, there may be some good reasons to give it a try.
Many observational studies suggest that vegans tend to be thinner and have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than nonvegans (5Trusted Source).
In addition, several randomized controlled studies — the gold standard in scientific research — report that vegan diets are more effective for weight loss than the diets they are compared with (6Trusted Source, 7, 8, 9Trusted Source).
A small study found that people eating a low fat, high fiber vegan diet lost more weight than those eating a conventional low fat diet (6Trusted Source).
Participants following a vegan diet lost an average of 13 lbs (6 kg) over 16 weeks, while those following the Mediterranean diet did not see any weight loss (7).
Vegan eaters also lost more weight in a study than people who included meat or fish in their diets. Vegetarians lost just as much weight as vegans in this study (8).
When comparing a low fat, whole food vegan diet to a standard omnivorous diet over 16 weeks, the vegan diet resulted in an average of 13 lbs (6 kg) of weight loss. People eating their regular diets did not experience significant weight loss (9Trusted Source).
What’s more, a small study comparing the weight loss effects of five different diets concluded that vegetarian and vegan diets were just as well-accepted as semi-vegetarian and standard Western diets (10Trusted Source).
Even when study participants weren’t following the diets perfectly, the people in the vegetarian and vegan groups still lost more weight than those on a standard Western diet (10Trusted Source).
Overall, more studies are needed to understand which aspects of a vegan diet make the biggest difference when it comes to weight loss. Whether a diet is vegan or not, many factors can affect how well a weight loss diet works, including:
eating whole foods versus processed foods
Vegan diets may help to promote weight loss without the need to actively focus on cutting calories. More research is needed to understand why a vegan diet may be effective.
A vegan diet appears to lower blood sugar levels and improve kidney function
A vegan diet may also provide benefits for type 2 diabetes and declining kidney function.
Indeed, vegans tend to have lower blood sugar levels and higher insulin sensitivity and may have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (11Trusted Source, 12, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
Even if you don’t go fully vegan, increasing your intake of healthy plant-based foods and decreasing your intake of meat- and dairy-based foods may reduce your type 2 diabetes risk (15Trusted Source).
A 2006 study even reported that a vegan diet lowers blood sugar levels in people with diabetes more than the recommended diet from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) (16Trusted Source).
In one 2009 study, 43% of participants following a vegan diet were able to reduce their dosage of blood sugar-lowering medication, compared with only 26% of participants who followed an ADA-recommended diet (17Trusted Source).