The Use of Plant-Based Diets for Obesity Treatment


  • Neal D. Barnard, MD, FACC George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences; PCRM
  • Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD PCRM
  • Susan M. Levin PCRM



Obesity, vegetarian diet, vegan diet


In observational studies, individuals following vegetarian, particularly vegan, diets have healthier body weights, on average, compared with those following omnivorous diets. In clinical trials, vegetarian and vegan diets lead to significant weight loss, even in the absence of physical exercise or limits on energy intake. The mechanisms by which plant-based diets cause weight loss appear to be (1) reduced dietary energy density, as a result of their high fiber and low fat content, and (2) increased postprandial energy expenditure. The degree of weight loss associated with plant-based diets in clinical trials is as great as that with other popular diet patterns, and favorable changes in overall nutrition, plasma lipid concentrations, and blood pressure are also observed. Acceptability with, and adherence to vegan diets has been studied in varied populations in clinical trials and is similar to that of other therapeutic diets.  


Author Biographies

Neal D. Barnard, MD, FACC, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences; PCRM

Dr. Barnard is an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C., president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and founder of Barnard Medical Center.

Dr. Barnard is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, the 2016 recipient of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine’s Trailblazer Award, and has led numerous research studies investigating the effects of diet on diabetes, body weight, and chronic pain, including a groundbreaking study of dietary interventions in type 2 diabetes, funded by the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Barnard has authored more than 70 scientific publications.

As president of the Physicians Committee, Dr. Barnard leads programs advocating for preventive medicine, good nutrition, and higher ethical standards in research. He hosts four PBS television programs on nutrition and health and is frequently called on by news programs to discuss issues related to nutrition and research.

Dr. Barnard received his medical degree at the George Washington University School of Medicine and completed his residency at the same institution. He practiced at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York before returning to Washington to found the Physicians Committee.

Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, PCRM

Dr. Kahleova is the director of clinical research at the nonprofit Physicians Committee and directs research studies analyzing the effect food choices have on insulin resistance and the regulation of a healthy body weight. Dr. Kahleova has published more than a dozen nutrition studies. She is the author of Vegetarian Diet in the Treatment of Diabetes (Maxdorf, 2013). She also wrote the chapter about using a plant-based diet to treat diabetes in Vegetarian and Plant-Based Diets in Health and Disease Prevention (Academic Press, 2017). 

Her numerous research topics include testing the effect a plant-based diet has on metabolism, insulin function, fitness, and mental health, as well as studying the impact meal timing and meal frequency have on metabolism and body weight. Dr. Kahleova earned her doctorate in nutrition and diabetes and her medical degree from Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. As a postdoctoral research fellow at Loma Linda University in Calif., Dr. Kahlevoa analyzed data from 50,000 Adventist-Health Study-2 participants. She analyzed data on meal frequency and timing in relationship to changes in body weight.




How to Cite

Barnard, N. D., Kahleova, H., & Levin, S. M. (2019). The Use of Plant-Based Diets for Obesity Treatment. International Journal of Disease Reversal and Prevention, 1(1), 12 pp.