European Congress on Obesity

European Congress on Obesity

May 31, 2018
1 min read

Plant-based diet may prevent obesity in middle-aged, older adults

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Trudy Voortman
Trudy Voortman
Zhangling Chen
Zhangling Chen

A diet low in animal-based foods and high in plant-based foods, without strict adherence to a vegetarian or vegan diet, can potentially prevent overweight and obesity in middle-aged and older populations, according to findings presented at the European Congress on Obesity.

“Even a modest lowering of animal-based foods intake, especially a modest reduction of red and processed meat, may substantially reduce risk of obesity, which will largely increase confidence of the general population in prevention of obesity,” Zhangling Chen, MD, in the department of epidemiology at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, told Endocrine Today.

Chen, Trudy Voortman, PhD, and colleagues from Erasmus Medical Center examined data from 9,641 adults (mean age, 64 years) participating in three subcohorts of the ongoing population-based Rotterdam Study (enrollment: 1989-1993, 2000-2001 or 2006-2008). Dietary intake and body composition were assessed at baseline and at follow-up examinations performed every 3 to 5 years until 2016. The researchers create a plant-based diet index with higher scores indicating greater consumption of plant-based foods and lower consumption of animal-based foods.

After adjustment for confounders, a higher plant-based diet score was associated with lower BMI over time, which researchers attributed to lower fat mass. Similarly, a higher plant-based diet score was associated with smaller waist circumference and lower body fat percentage.

The researchers said the results suggest that strict adherence to a vegetarian or vegan diet is not necessary, but a high plant-based and low animal-based diet may protect against obesity in middle-aged and older adults.

“Studies on the associations of a plant-based diet and obesity in other populations are needed, such as studies in populations of other race and age,” Chen said. “Furthermore, for determining whether a cause-effect relationship exists between plant-based dietary interventions and management of obesity, randomized clinical trials into this topic are warranted.” – by Marley Ghizzone


Chen Z, et al. Abstract O6.2. Presented at: European Congress on Obesity; May 23-26, 2018; Vienna.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.