Public Release: 

New study explodes myth about vegetarian diet

Transition to heart-healthy plant-based diet easily achieved

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

WASHINGTON--In a new study appearing in the summer 2004 issue of the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, Neal D. Barnard, M.D., and his colleagues show that patients easily transition from a standard omnivorous diet to a low-fat, vegetarian diet that helps people lose weight, lower blood pressure, and otherwise improve their health. Many doctors are aware that a low-fat vegetarian diet can reverse heart disease and provide other benefits; however, they mistakenly think that patients will not make the transition. Now, there are at least four studies published in scientific journals showing that patients can and do adapt to a "strict" diet that dramatically improves their health. The new paper is titled, "Acceptability of a low-fat, vegan diet compares favorably to a Step II diet in a randomized, controlled trial."

"For people battling overweight and heart disease, a vegetarian diet can be a life-saving prescription," says Neal D. Barnard, M. D., lead author of the article and president of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. "This new study shows that patients transition smoothly to a plant-based diet that allows them to eat to satiety and yet still lose weight. Patients are willing to make major changes in their eating patterns because they get major results such as lower cholesterol and reduced hypertension."

The study group was composed of well-educated, postmenopausal, overweight women. They were divided into two groups: one was assigned to the low-fat vegetarian diet, and the other group followed a control diet. In addition to losing significantly more weight, 89 percent of the women assigned to the low-fat vegetarian diet said they were feeling mostly or completely used to the diet at 14 weeks and 86 percent said they could continue with the vegetarian diet at least most of the time in the future.

A study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that a vegetarian diet emphasizing almonds, soy, and other healthful foods was essentially as effective at lowering cholesterol as a statin drug (Jenkins et al 2003; 290:502-510).


For a copy of the new paper, or an interview with one of the authors, please contact Jeanne S. McVey at 202-686-2210, ext. 316, or

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, especially good nutrition. PCRM also conducts clinical research studies, opposes unethical human experimentation, and promotes alternatives to animal research.

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