Plant-Based Diets Can Play “Major Role” in Reversing Obesity and Chronic Disease Epidemics, Finds Study

Plant-predominant diets can play a major role in reversing the obesity and chronic disease epidemics. This is according to a new study published in the Oxford Academic Journal Nutrition Reviews. The study is titled Plant-predominant eating patterns – how effective are they for treating obesity and related cardiometabolic health outcomes? – a systematic review.

According to researchers, the purpose of this study was to “assess the efficacy of plant-predominant (vegan, vegetarian, plant-based whole foods [PBWFs]) diets in treating obesity and its main cardiometabolic sequelae: hyperlipidemia (HLD); indices of insulin resistance, glycemic control, and diabetes mellitus type 2 (DM2); and cardiovascular disease (CVD), including hypertension (HTN).”

A systematic search of multiple databases was conducted for articles published between November 2019 and February 2020; databases searched included: PubMed, Medline (Ovid), Cochrane, CENTRAL, and CINAHL.

“All interventional trials (randomized controlled trials [RCTs] and trials of non-randomized experimental design) that met the inclusion criteria (English language, duration of at least 4 weeks, primary end point congruent with above objectives, no major flaws in research design that would prevent interpretation) were included in the review”, states the study. “A total of 3135 articles were scanned and 84 were selected. The articles were collated and summarized in 2 evidence tables. Risk of bias for RCTs was assessed using the Cochrane Risk-of-Bias tool 2 as a guide. For non-randomized trials, higher risk of bias was assumed, and the JBI Critical Appraisal tool was used as a guide to determine inclusion.”

Researchers found that “Plant-based diets, in general, demonstrated improved weight control and cardiometabolic outcomes related to lipids, cardiovascular end points, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, A1C, and fasting glucose, and a lower risk of diabetes compared with usual diets and in some cases standard health-oriented diets such as the American Heart Association (AHA), American Diabetic Association (ADA), and Mediterranean diets.” In addition, “Preliminary studies suggest plant-predominant diets practiced as part of healthy lifestyle interventions may stabilize or even reverse DM 2 and CVD. The acceptability and sustainability of plant-predominant diets where measured were generally similar to other health-oriented diets.”

The study concludes by stating: “Plant-predominant diets can play a major role in reversing the obesity and chronic disease epidemics. In the setting of sustained lifestyle intervention programs, they may arrest or even reverse DM2 and CVD.”

Below is the study’s full abstract:

Abstract

Context: The obesity epidemic is a main driver of the chronic disease epidemic; however, present treatment approaches have suboptimal efficacy.

Objectives: To assess the efficacy of plant-predominant (vegan, vegetarian, plant-based whole foods [PBWFs]) diets in treating obesity and its main cardiometabolic sequelae: hyperlipidemia (HLD); indices of insulin resistance, glycemic control, and diabetes mellitus type 2 (DM2); and cardiovascular disease (CVD), including hypertension (HTN).

Data sources: A systematic search of multiple databases was conducted for articles published between November 2019 and February 2020; databases searched included: PubMed, Medline (Ovid), Cochrane, CENTRAL, and CINAHL.

Data extraction and analysis: All interventional trials (randomized controlled trials [RCTs] and trials of non-randomized experimental design) that met the inclusion criteria (English language, duration of at least 4 weeks, primary end point congruent with above objectives, no major flaws in research design that would prevent interpretation) were included in the review. A total of 3135 articles were scanned and 84 were selected. The articles were collated and summarized in 2 evidence tables. Risk of bias for RCTs was assessed using the Cochrane Risk-of-Bias tool 2 as a guide. For non-randomized trials, higher risk of bias was assumed, and the JBI Critical Appraisal tool was used as a guide to determine inclusion.

Results: Plant-based diets, in general, demonstrated improved weight control and cardiometabolic outcomes related to lipids, cardiovascular end points, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, A1C, and fasting glucose, and a lower risk of diabetes compared with usual diets and in some cases standard health-oriented diets such as the American Heart Association (AHA), American Diabetic Association (ADA), and Mediterranean diets. Preliminary studies suggest plant-predominant diets practiced as part of healthy lifestyle interventions may stabilize or even reverse DM 2 and CVD. The acceptability and sustainability of plant-predominant diets where measured were generally similar to other health-oriented diets.

Conclusion: Plant-predominant diets can play a major role in reversing the obesity and chronic disease epidemics. In the setting of sustained lifestyle intervention programs, they may arrest or even reverse DM2 and CVD. Further higher-level RCTs are needed to confirm and expand on these findings.

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