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Nov 07, 2014 12:00 PM EST

Vegan Diets Are Best for Weight Loss

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A vegan diet may be best for weight loss, even if carbohydrates are also included, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of South Carolina found that people who say no to all animal products have the ability to shed weight faster than those who consume a diet that contains meat and dairy.  A Vegan diet may be the best answer for those looking to shed a few pounds and gain other health benefits.

"We've gotten somewhat carb-phobic here in the [United States] when it comes to weight loss," Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy, lead author of this study, said in a statement. "This study might help alleviate the fears of people who enjoy pasta, rice, and other grains but want to lose weight."

For the study, researchers compared the amount of weight lost by those on vegan diets to those on a mostly pant-based diet, and those eating an omnivorous diet with a mix of animal products and plant based foods. At the end of six months, individuals on the vegan diet lost more weight than the other two groups by an average of 4.3 percent, or 16.5 pounds.

The research team followed participants who were randomly assigned one of five diets on the dietary spectrum: vegan which excludes all animal products, semi-vegetarian with occasional meat intake; pesco-vegetarian which excludes all meat except seafood; vegetarian which excludes all meat and seafood but includes animal products, and omnivorous, which excludes no foods.

They found that weight loss was not the only positive outcome for participants in the strictly vegan group. They also showed the greatest amount of decrease in their fat and saturated fat levels at the two and six month checks, had lower BMIs, and improved macro nutrients more than other diets. Eschewing all animal products appears to be key for these positive results.

"I personally was surprised that the pesco-vegetarian group didn't fare better with weight loss. In the end, their loss was no different than the semi-vegetarian or omnivorous groups," McGrievy said.

The findings are detailed in The International Journal of Applied and Basic Nutritional Sciences.

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