This randomized controlled trial demonstrated a lack of any significant differences in changes in cardiovascular disease risk factors (blood pressure and lipid levels) and weight loss among African Americans randomized to omnivorous or plant-based diets, both emphasizing soul food cuisine.
Cardiovascular disease is associated with a higher mortality rate among African Americans than are other chronic diseases. This randomized controlled trial, published in JAMA Network Open, compared the outcomes of two soul food diets: a low-fat omnivorous diet and a plant-based vegan diet, on lipid levels and body weight changes. In the 2-year food-based intervention the magnitude of weight and lipid level changes in response to food-based interventions was small, and there were no differences across the two groups.
Soul Food Face-Off: Equal Impact on Heart Health and Minimal Weight Loss
No differences were observed for the measured parameters between the two diets. Moreover, the magnitude of overall changes in cardiovascular disease risk factors and weight loss was small. The highest weight loss was recorded at 6 months. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted delivery of the intervention and may have had a potential impact on the study results.
Soul Food Diets: Similar Roots, Comparable Heart Health and Weight Outcomes
The lack of any significant differences between the two soul food diets can be explained by potentially high levels of similarity between them. Both diets originate from the Oldways African Heritage diet. While the vegan diet was associated with complete abstinence from meat, the omnivorous diet focused on a meat-reduced plan of ≤140 g of meat consumption/day. Aside from the difference in meat intake, both diets showed similar rates of decrease for adherence and energy intake.
Influence of COVID-19 on Physical Activity and Diet Interventions
The COVID-19 pandemic played a potential role in diluting the effect of dietary and physical activity interventions, requiring alterations to the interventions and assessments at 12 months and 24 months.
The magnitude of weight and lipid level changes in response to the food-based interventions in this study was small, along with a lack of differences across the two groups.
Turner-McGrievy, G. M., Wilcox, S., Frongillo, E. A., Murphy, E. A., Hutto, B., Wilson, M., Davey, M., Bernhart, J. A., Okpara, N., Bailey, S., & Hu, E. (2023). Effect of a Plant-Based vs Omnivorous Soul Food Diet on Weight and Lipid Levels Among African American Adults: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open, 6(1), e2250626. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.50626