Is a Vegetarian Diet an Effective Choice for Weight Loss or Weight Control?

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Is a Vegetarian Diet an Effective Choice for Weight Loss or Weight Control?
In a study completed in 2003, it was found that approximately 4% of Canadians follow a vegetarian diet (“American Dietetic Association,” 2003). This type of diet concentrates on the consumption of plants for food. The most common type is the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, which restricts the intake of meat, poultry and fish, but allows the intake of eggs and dairy products (Vegetarian Diet, 2009). Many people become vegetarians because they feel it is wrong to kill or eat animals, but there are some that decide to follow a vegetarian diet because of its health benefits. One of these benefits includes attaining and maintaining a healthy body weight. Data has shown that people, who follow a vegetarian diet, are able to significantly improve their body weight. However, there are many risks associated with doing this. Despite the associated risks, it is believed that vegetarian diets are beneficial to weight loss as they improve overall biochemical, dietary and anthropometric measurements.

The use of a vegetarian diet leads to a substantial improvement in many biochemical measurements that have an effect on overall health and weight. Biochemical measurements are the measurements of chemical substances that are involved in vital processes in the body (Biochemical, 2009). Cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations are important biochemical measurements that are affected by a vegetarian diet. Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the body’s bloodstream and cells, which helps build cell membranes and some hormones. Having high cholesterol is a problem because it can lead to coronary heart disease (Cholesterol, 2008). Research shows that after being placed on a low fat, lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for two menstrual cycles, premenopausal women decreased their LDL, HDL and total cholesterol concentrations by 16.9% 16.5% and 13.2% respectively (Barnard, Scialli, Bertron, Hurlock, Edmonds, Talev, & Glass, 2000). This makes sense, since cholesterol is found in foods from animals, especially meat, fish and eggs. Foods from plants do not contain cholesterol (Cholesterol, 2008); therefore reducing the intake of cholesterol containing foods lowers the level of cholesterol in the body. Furthermore, cholesterol is also lowered because the intake of saturated fatty acids, which raise cholesterol levels, is reduced (Cholesterol, 2008). In addition to cholesterol, another important biochemical measurement that is significantly improved through a vegetarian diet is triglyceride concentrations. “Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food as well as in the body” (Triglycerides, 2008). They contribute to the structure of cell membranes and also act as a source of energy. However, high triglyceride levels have been linked with obesity and coronary artery disease (Triglycerides, 2008). The effect of a vegetarian diet on the concentration of triglycerides has been the topic of many studies. However, the most notable one is the PREFER study. In the PREFER study, 176 overweight and obese adults were assigned to a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. After eighteen months, these adults decreased their triglyceride levels by 5.5% (Burke et al., 2007). The low fat content in plants is primarily responsible for this significant drop in triglyceride levels. Thus, there is no doubt that biochemical measures, such as cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, are notably affected by a vegetarian diet and weight loss. Equally important to biochemical measurements, are the effects of a vegetarian diet on dietary measurements and how they result in weight loss.

Dietary measurements measure certain variables that are related to your diet (Dietary, 2009). The amounts of fat and fibre intakes are important dietary measurements that are affected by a vegetarian diet and result in weight loss. Firstly, a vegetarian diet greatly affects the amount of fat ingested by the...