Plant-based diet, whether ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’, linked to weight loss

Switching to a plant-based diet leads to weight loss in overweight individuals. That’s according to a new study carried out by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And the advantages don’t end there, with findings also showing a plant-based diet lowers cholesterol and fat consumption, and boosts fibre intake.

Many will not be surprised by the initial results of this study, as a plant-based diet typically incorporates nuts, beans and pulses as replacements for meat products. Many will also have seen the Netflix documentary, You Are What You Eat, in which twins were put on separate diets, one following a vegan diet and the other following an omnivorous diet. The results were conclusive, with the leader of the study, director of nutrition studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, Christopher D. Gardner, noting “the twins on the vegan diet had a 10% to 15% drop in cholesterol, a 25% drop in insulin, and a 3% drop in body weight in just eight weeks”.

However, perhaps more surprising, was the fact the positive results of the study by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, were achieved across all participants, regardless of whether the plant-based items consumed were considered to be ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ on the plant-based diet index.

What is the plant-based diet index?

The PDI is a scoring system, which rates plant-based foods, giving the consumer an understanding of its health benefits. Ingredients and products deemed to be healthful, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts are listed on the healthy plant-based diet index (hPDI). Similarly, ingredients and products, deemed to be unhealthful, such as refined grains, sugar and processed foods​ are listed on the unhealthy plant-based diet index (uPDI).