Effects of Plant-Based Diets on Weight Status: A Systematic Review

Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2020 Sep 30:13:3433-3448. doi: 10.2147/DMSO.S272802. eCollection 2020.


There is an increasing number of people who convert to a plant-based diet. The desire for health benefits, including weight management, is often a contributing factor behind this dietary choice. The purpose of this review was to evaluate intervention studies assessing the effects of different plant-based diets on body mass index and weight. A literature search was conducted in PubMed until December 2019. Twenty-two publications from 19 studies were included. The majority of them were randomized controlled trials comparing a low-fat vegan diet to an omnivore diet in participants with overweight, type 2 diabetes mellitus and/or cardiovascular disease. All studies reported weight reductions, of which seven revealed significant differences, and four revealed non-significant differences between the intervention and the control groups. The results suggest that plant-based diets may improve weight status in some patient groups. Due to restrictions in fat intake in many studies, followed by reduced energy intake, the effects of the different interventions differ depending on the specific plant-based diets investigated. Future research should aim to include a representative study population and apply study diets without dietary restrictions.

Keywords: body weight; human nutrition; preventive nutrition; vegan diet; vegetarian diet; weight reduction.

Publication types

  • Review