It's not so hard to switch to a vegan diet

August 11, 2004 in Nutrition Topics in the News

It's not so hard to switch to a vegan diet

Making the switch from a regular meat-and-dairy diet to an all plant-based, vegan diet may be easier than it would seem, new research suggests.

Among a group of overweight, postmenopausal women, most of those who followed a vegan diet (a diet that contains no animal products such as dairy, meat or eggs) said they enjoyed the diet. Most of the women also said they were almost or completely used to the vegan diet after 14 weeks, and planned to continue it, for the most part at least, in the future.

Moreover, women eating only vegan foods lost an average of 13 pounds, more than women who followed a standard low-fat diet.

Lead researcher Dr. Neal D. Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC, explained that, for many people, giving up meat and animal products entirely is easier than trying to limit them as part of standard low-fat fare.

Another incentive for people to follow the vegan diet is that it works. Study after study has shown that vegan diets can lower cholesterol and lead to as many health benefits as medications.

Although it may seem daunting to give up all animal products, Barnard said that one easy way is to just try it for a few weeks, and see how you feel. Before beginning, ask family and friends to join in, and make a list of the foods you plan to eat at each meal.

After around three weeks of only vegan foods, he said, many people's tastes adapt, and they don't want to return to their old habits.

To investigate how people would cope with a switch to an all-vegan diet, the research team asked half of 64 overweight women to try a low-fat form of the diet: one that excluded all animal products, nuts, avocados and other fatty fare, for 14 weeks. The rest of the women ate a standard low-fat diet that included animal products.

There were no limits placed on calories or portion size, and people could eat allowed desserts as often as they liked. Vegan participants also took a supplement of vitamin B-12, which is naturally found in animal products.

Participants attended weekly meetings about their diets, and received instructions, tips for eating at restaurants and recipe ideas.

After 14 weeks, 93% of vegan eaters said the diet was good, moderately good or extremely good, and 79% rated the diet as "acceptable." Almost 90% said they planned to continue the diet after the experiment.

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