Does the type of weight loss diet affect who participates in a behavioral weight loss intervention? A comparison of participants for a plant-based diet versus a standard diet trial

Appetite. 2014 Feb;73:156-62. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.11.008. Epub 2013 Nov 20.


Studies have found that people following plant-based eating styles, such as vegan or vegetarian diets, often have different demographic characteristics, eating styles, and physical activity (PA) levels than individuals following an omnivorous dietary pattern. There has been no research examining if there are differences in these characteristics among people who are willing to participate in a weight loss intervention using plant-based dietary approaches as compared to a standard reduced calorie approach, which does not exclude food groups. The present study compared baseline characteristics (demographics, dietary intake, eating behaviors (Eating Behavior Inventory), and PA (Paffenbarger Physical Activity Questionnaire)) of participants enrolling in two different 6-month behavioral weight loss studies: the mobile Pounds Off Digitally (mPOD) study, which used a standard reduced calorie dietary approach and the New Dietary Interventions to Enhance the Treatments for weight loss (New DIETs) study, which randomized participants to follow one of five different dietary approaches (vegan, vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, or omnivorous diets). There were no differences in baseline demographics with the exception of New DIETs participants being older (48.5±8.3years versus 42.9±11.2, P=0.001) and having a higher Body Mass Index (BMI, 35.2±5.3kg/m(2) versus 32.6±4.7kg/m(2), P=0.001) than mPOD participants. In age- and BMI-adjusted models, there were no differences in EBI scores or in any dietary variables, with the exception of vitamin C (85.6±5.9mg/d mPOD versus 63.4±7.4mg/d New DIETs, P=0.02). New DIETs participants reported higher levels of intentional PA/day (180.0±18.1kcal/d) than mPOD participants (108.8±14.4kcal/d, P=0.003), which may have been the result of New DIETs study recommendations to avoid increasing or decreasing PA during the study. The findings of this study demonstrate that using plant-based dietary approaches for weight loss intervention studies does not lead to a population which is significantly different from who enrolls in a standard, behavioral weight loss study using a reduced calorie dietary approach.

Keywords: Diet; EBI; Eating Behaviors Inventory; Eating behavior; New DIETs; New Dietary Interventions to Enhance the Treatments for Weight Loss study; PA; TBP; Vegetarian; Weight loss; mHealth; mPOD; mobile Pounds Off Digitally study; physical activity; theory-based podcast.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet
  • Diet, Reducing*
  • Diet, Vegetarian*
  • Energy Intake*
  • Exercise
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Research Design*
  • Research Subjects*
  • Vitamins / administration & dosage
  • Weight Loss


  • Vitamins