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Vegetarian Diet May be More Effective for Reducing Intramuscular Fat

Fat stored within the muscle is known as intramuscular fat. Increases in intramuscular fat have been linked to increased risk of insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes.. A recent study suggests that following a vegetarian diet may be more effective than an omnivorous, low-calorie diet for reducing intramuscular fat and overall weight loss.


Participants in the study included 74 people with type-2 diabetes who were instructed to follow either a vegetarian or conventional anti-diabetic diet for six months. The vegetarian group ate vegetables, legumes, fruits, and nuts as well as one portion of low-fat yogurt per day. The conventional diet group followed the recommendations of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. Both diets had a 500 kilocalorie per day restriction.


At the conclusion of the study, the vegetarian diet group had an average weight loss of 13.7 lbs., while the conventional diet group had a weight loss of 7.05 lbs. The researchers also used MRI to measure fat storage in the participants’ thighs. They found that the two diets were associated with similar reductions in subcutaneous fat. However, subfascial fat was only reduced in the vegetarian diet, while intramuscular fat was reduced more in the vegetarian diet.


Subfascial and intramuscular fat is fat under the skin, on the surface of muscles and inside muscles. Subfascial fat in people with type-2 diabetes has been associated with insulin resistance.  Reducing subfascial fat could have a beneficial effect on glucose metabolism. Reducing intramuscular fat could help improve muscular strength and mobility.


Researchers from the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine led the study. It was published online ahead of print on June 10, 2017, in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.


In addition to improved weight management, previous research has linked vegetarian diets with lower incidence of hypertension, obesity, and type-2 diabetes. If you decide to switch to a vegetarian diet, consult a nutritionist to make sure you’re getting all of the proper nutrients. Many vegetarians choose to complement their diets with high quality supplements.

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