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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Ted

Two-thirds of the U.S. population is overweight or obese, and even children as young as five are now getting bariatric surgery. Obesity metabolically contributes to insulin resistance thought because of free fatty acid spillover into the blood. Even vegetarians are, on average, overweight in the United States, but those eating more strictly plant-based diets average an ideal body weight. This may be in part because meat has been found to be associated with an increased risk of obesity.

Diets that are more plant-based may help prevent weight gain, promote weight loss and maintain desired weight by up-regulating metabolism, thereby increasing resting energy expenditure, lowering caloric input, improving satiety, preventing fat cells from taking up fat and improving plasma adiponectin levels (a hormone that may help control weight).

Soy foods may help double weight loss and promote abdominal fat loss while protecting against breast cancer. Ordinary foods such as oatmeal and beans may have extraordinary benefits. Eating nuts and dates and drinking green tea on a daily basis may be helpful in preventing obesity. Eating slowly will help one feel full on less food. The beneficial gut microflora established and maintained by a plant diet rich in flavonoids and arginine may promote fat loss. Spicy foods may also help activate our brown adipose tissue, which could potentially facilitate weight loss.

Caloric restriction may not protect against cancer as well as a healthy plant-based diet. Paleo diets may undermine the benefits of exercise. The low-carb Atkins Diet is associated with greater mortality from all causes, although replacing its animal fat and protein with plant sources does improve survival in plant-based, low carb diet adherents. Even vigorous exercise may be less important than diet in reducing obesity or slowing cellular aging.

Image Credit: sam74100 / Thinkstock. This image has been modified.

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