According to a recent study by researchers from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine published in Obesity Science & Practice, eating a plant-based diet decreases inflammatory dietary advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) by 79%, compared to a 15% reduction for a diet that contains meat and dairy products. An average weight reduction of 14 pounds and better insulin sensitivity was linked to the drop in AGEs.
“Simply swapping fatty meat and dairy products for a low-fat plant-based diet led to a significant decrease in advanced glycation end-products—inflammatory compounds found to a greater degree in animal products than plants,” says lead study author Hana Kahleova, MD, Ph.D., director of clinical research at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “The decrease in AGEs was also associated with weight loss and improved insulin sensitivity.”
AGEs are compounds formed in the bloodstream when proteins or fats combine with glucose. AGEs cause inflammation and oxidative stress, which may contribute to chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
AGEs may be ingested through food, and animal products contain more AGEs than plant foods. AGEs are created during normal metabolism as well, but at a faster rate when a person has metabolic syndrome — high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance.
For 16 weeks, 244 overweight individuals were randomly allocated to either an intervention group that ate a low-fat plant-based diet or a control group that made no dietary adjustments.
At the beginning and end of the study, body composition was measured and insulin sensitivity was assessed. Dietary AGEs were calculated based on self-reported dietary intake records. A dietary AGEs database was used to estimate dietary AGEs intake.
Dietary AGEs decreased by 79% in the plant-based group, compared to 15% in the control group. About 55% of the reduction of the dietary AGEs in the plant-based group was attributable to the reduction in meat intake, 26% to decreased dairy intake, and 15% to decreased consumption of added fats. The reduction in white meat consumption made the biggest difference in dietary AGEs coming from meat (59%), followed by processed meat (27%).
Body weight decreased by about 14 pounds (6.4 kg) in the plant-based group, compared with about 1 pound (0.5 kg) in the control group, largely due to a reduction in fat mass, notably visceral fat. Insulin sensitivity improved in the intervention group.
The authors say that these findings support prior observations of the favorable effects of low-AGEs diets on weight, body fat, and insulin resistance.