Ask the Doctor: Does the Type of Food You Eat Make It Harder or Easier to Lose Weight?

Q: Does the type of food you eat make it harder or easier to lose weight?

A: For years we have said “calories in” must be less than “calories out” (burned) if you are to lose weight. Although this is a tried and true axiom there may be some caveats to it we heretofore have not understood.

A recent study (not yet completely peer reviewed) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln suggests that the same number of calories eaten from a more plant based diet may actually allow you to lose weight without giving up a single calorie. Animal based diets (more beef and dairy products) seem to go farther with the same number of calories in increasing your BMI than plant based diets; for example, the Mediterranean Diet that stresses fruits vegetables and seafood.

The researchers noted the average BMI’s of several countries including Greece, France, Finland and Japan and noted the United States with its primarily animal based diet was the “heaviest country” overall. The study suggests that we could eat the same number of calories from different foods and lose weight! That would be great!

However, there may be other factors like physical activity or eating habit differences that may confuse the issue. The results of this study need to be duplicated elsewhere to verify the findings.

We know that the plant based diets are in general much healthier for us than an animal based diet. Think about switching for the multiple benefits plant based diets provide and who knows, maybe you will shave a couple of points off your BMI without cutting calories at all!

Stay Well!


Posted by Larry Catlett, MD, Occupational Medical Consulting