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Three Rivers GP part of groundbreaking diet research

31 March 2017
Gisborne research involving Three Rivers Medical GP Nick Wright reveals weight loss from all-you-can-eat plant-based diet.
vegan food

The whole food plant-based approach shows very promising weight loss results that appear to be sustained over time. People don’t have to worry about going hungry and can still lose weight.

Dr Nicholas Wright

A study published today in Nutrition and Diabetes showed participants lost an average 11.5kg at one year – the largest weight loss of any randomised control trial where participants had no restriction on calories and did not have to exercise. The participants of the BROAD study in Gisborne, New Zealand swapped their standard fare for a low fat, whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet.

Approximately 600 million adults are obese and a further 1.9 billion adults are overweight, resulting in massive health, personal, economic and social costs. Gisborne has the highest rates of obesity and type II diabetes in New Zealand. Researchers decided this made Gisborne perfect for a dietary intervention.

The BROAD Study targeted patients with obesity, or who were overweight and had heart disease or diabetes. The 65 participants were split randomly into two groups. Thirty-three participants ate a whole food plant-based diet, and were compared with a control group of 32. Examples of foods eaten by the diet change group include: potatoes, pasta, beans, bread and spreads, soups, salads, stir fries and rice.

Participants following the whole food plant-based diet received cooking classes and lifestyle change education during the 12-week intervention. Food was not provided, and participants were instructed to eat whenever they were hungry, and until they were full. The diet programme excluded animal foods and refined oils, in favour of unlimited amounts of whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits. .

Gisborne GP and lead author Dr Nicholas Wright says “The whole food plant-based approach shows very promising weight loss results that appear to be sustained over time. People don’t have to worry about going hungry and can still lose weight.”

At 12 months, as well as the weight loss, those who changed their diet decreased their waist circumference by average 9cm and their medication usage by an average 29%.

Two out of four patients with diabetes reduced their dosage or reliance on diabetes medications, including one who no longer required insulin. “We’re starting a second trial to look specifically at the benefits of a plant-based diet for people with type II diabetes.” says Programme director Morgen Smith. Future research is funded by Turanga Health and Eastland Community Trust in Gisborne.

Dr Wright says not only is a plant-based diet great for health, it also reduces environmental impact by using less land and water. During the study, environmentalists James Cameron and Suzy Amis Cameron gave their support to BROAD study participants via a special video message.