Changes in Food and Nutrient Intake and Diet Quality on a Low-Fat Vegan Diet Are Associated with Changes in Body Weight, Body Composition, and Insulin Sensitivity in Overweight Adults: A Randomized Clinical Trial
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
diet quality; food groups; plant-based; vegan; weight loss
BACKGROUND: Consuming different food groups and nutrients can have differential effects on body weight, body composition, and insulin sensitivity. OBJECTIVE: The aim was to identify how food group, nutrient intake, and diet quality change relative to usual-diet controls after 16 weeks on a low-fat vegan diet and what associations those changes have with changes in body weight, body composition, and measures of metabolic health. DESIGN: Secondary analysis of a randomized clinical trial conducted between October 2016 and December 2018 in four replications. PARTICIPANTS/SETTING: Participants included in this analysis were 219 healthy, community-based adults in the Washington, DC, area, with a body mass index (BMI) between 28 and 40 kg/m, who were randomly assigned to follow either a low-fat vegan diet or make no diet changes. INTERVENTION: A low-fat, vegan diet deriving approximately 10% of energy from fat, with weekly classes including dietary instruction, group discussion, and education on the health effects of plant-based nutrition. Control group participants continued their usual diets. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Changes in food group intake, macro- and micronutrient intake, and dietary quality as measured by Alternate Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI-2010), analyzed from 3-day diet records, and associations with changes in body weight, body composition, and insulin sensitivity were assessed. STATISTICAL ANALYSES PERFORMED: A repeated measure analysis of variance (ANOVA) model that included the factors group, subject, and time, was used to test the between-group differences throughout the 16-week study. Interaction between group and time (Gxt) was calculated for each variable. Within each diet group, paired comparison t-tests were calculated to identify significant changes from baseline to 16 weeks. Spearman correlations were calculated for the relationship between changes in food group intake, nutrient intake, AHEI-2010 score, and changes in body weight, body composition, and insulin sensitivity. The relative contribution of food groups and nutrients to weight loss was evaluated using linear regression. RESULTS: Fruit, vegetable, legume, meat alternative, and whole grain intake significantly increased in the vegan group. Intake of meat, fish and poultry; dairy products; eggs; nuts and seeds; and added fats decreased. Decreased weight was most associated with increased intake of legumes (r=-0.38; p<.0001) and decreased intake of total meat, fish, and poultry (r=+0.43; p<.0001). Those consuming a low-fat vegan diet also increased their intake of carbohydrates, fiber, and several micronutrients and decreased fat intake. Reduced fat intake was associated with reduced body weight (r=+0.15; p=0.02) and, after adjustment for changes in BMI and energy intake, with reduced fat mass (r=+0.14; p=0.04). The intervention group's AHEI-2010 increased by 6.0 points on average in contrast to no significant change in the control group (treatment effect +7.2 [95% CI +3.7 to +10.7]; p<0.001). Increase in AHEI-2010 correlated with reduction in body weight (r=0.14; p=0.04), fat mass (r=-0.14; p=0.03), and insulin resistance as measured by HOMA-IR (r=-0.17; p=0.02), after adjustment for changes in energy intake. CONCLUSIONS: When compared with participants' usual diets, intake of plant foods increased, and consumption of animal foods, nuts and seeds, and added fats decreased on a low-fat vegan diet. Increased legume intake was the best single food group predictor of weight loss. Diet quality as measured by AHEI-2010 improved on the low-fat vegan diet, which was associated with improvements in weight and metabolic outcomes. These data suggest that increasing low-fat plant foods and minimizing high-fat and animal foods is associated with decreased body weight and fat loss, and that a low-fat vegan diet can improve measures of diet quality and metabolic health.
Crosby, Lelia; Rembert, Emilie; Levin, Susan; Green, Amber; Ali, Zeeshan; Jardine, Meghan; Nguyen, Minh; Elliott, Patrick; Goldstein, Daniel; Freeman, Amber; Bradshaw, Meka; Holtz, Danielle N.; Holubkov, Richard; Barnard, Neal D.; and Kahleova, Hana, "Changes in Food and Nutrient Intake and Diet Quality on a Low-Fat Vegan Diet Are Associated with Changes in Body Weight, Body Composition, and Insulin Sensitivity in Overweight Adults: A Randomized Clinical Trial" (2022). GW Authored Works. Paper 775.