VIRGINIA BEACH- A three-month study of some of the most popular diet plans found eating a Paleo diet led to the most weight loss. Eating a Vegan diet had almost the same impact on weight, and also improved other risk factors that lead to heart disease and diabetes.
The study, sponsored by the University of Virginia Health Systems, was conducted by Cardiovascular Associates of Virginia Beach.
The study ran for 60 days and had 280 participants.
The four diets analyzed were:
- Paleolithic - meat and vegetable-based diet that avoids processed foods, dairy, and grains
- Vegan - whole food/plant- based diet
- Mediterranean - grains, vegetables and healthy oils. Very limited red meat, sweets, and eggs
- DASH - Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, 2,000 calorie diet that focuses on all food groups to treat hypertension
Participants who observed a Paleo diet lost an average of 13.3 pounds during the 60-day test period.
Vegan participants lost an average of 12.7 pounds while other diets did not see as much weight loss (see chart below).
People tell Dan Wayland he looks younger after losing 40 pounds on the Mediterranean diet of chicken, fish, nuts, fruit and olive oil.
Wayland says his cholesterol is what he really cares about, given his genetics.
"My brother died of a heart attack at age 30 - died on his way to work. It just shocked our family."
Wayland lowered his numbers by 37 percent with diet alone. He says his old $900 dollar daily pill only reduced it by ten percent.
Leslie Law followed the Paleo diet. She lost about 12 pounds and her cholesterol also dropped.
She says she stays away from processed foods and even makes her own Paleo snacks.
Weight loss does not tell the whole story, according to the study's lead investigator Dr. Deepak Talreja.
Dr. Talreja says the vegan diet fared best when it came to lowering bad cholesterol (LDL-C) and increasing good (HDL-C).
The DASH diet had the biggest impact on triglyceride levels - a key risk factor for diabetes.
The chart below outlines how each of the diets fared on these risk factors.
Dr. Deepak Talreja says he now has a targeted way of prescribing diet to patients.
"Maybe vegan is what I would choose if LDL was high. If their triglycerides are high maybe I push them in the direction of Paleo."
It's not always as easy as prescribing the right diet.
"In each group I can find one or two people who did everything right and their numbers got worse. How do I explain that? That's genetics there."
Study participants took part in weekly group meetings and will also be part of a follow-up study in six months.