The secret life of vegetarians and how they're not as fat free as you might think

Edited by: Phillip Rhodes, Photographs by: Dennis Galante
Don't Veg Out
It makes sense in theory: Replace cold cuts with celery and watch the fat melt away. But according to British researchers, adopting a vegetarian diet will not help you lose weight.

In a 6-month study of nearly 30 people who switched to vegetarian diets, the researchers found that none of the new herbivores experienced significant weight loss.



The trouble? They were still consuming too many calories. "When people become vegetarian, they seem to simply substitute vegetarian convenience foods for those containing meat," says Allan Hackett, Ph.D., one of the study authors. "And many vegetarian convenience foods are no better, or are even worse, nutritionally, than their meat-containing counterparts."

Stick with steak-the 6-ounce sirloin, not the 20-ounce prime rib.


Clothes Make the Man...Lighter
Trade in the uptight pinstripes and stiff wing tips for your favorite pair of chinos and Merrells.

Wearing comfortable clothing to work may boost your daily calorie burn by 8 percent, according to a recent study from the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse.

Using pedometers, researchers assessed whether the workday activity levels of 53 people in a variety of professions bore any relationship to the clothing they were wearing.



The finding: People took an average of 491 more steps on days when they were casually attired.



"Casual clothing is just more conducive to movement," says lead researcher Katie Zahour, M.S., "and by wearing less-restrictive clothing, people are more likely to take the stairs or walk a message to a coworker." Like your 401(k), this extra activity adds up. Zahour says it could offset the average weight gain of 0.4 to 1.8 pounds that the typical American experiences annually.


Chew on This
If your eyes are the windows to your soul, then your mouth is the portal to your paunch.

Maybe that was the thinking when dental researchers developed a new device that helps people painlessly shed pounds. Called the "DDS system," the plastic appliance fits flush against the roof of the mouth, forcing the wearer to take smaller bites and to chew more slowly. (No, it isn't visible to others.)



When Louisiana State University researchers tested the system on 16 overweight people, they found that the subjects immediately began consuming an average of 659 fewer calories a day.



"Eating slower allows time for the satiety response in the brain to kick in," says D. Walter Cohen, D.D.S., of the University of Pennsylvania school of dentistry. Find a dentist that sells the system ($500) at ddssystem.com.


More Weight-Loss News Briefs
Batter Up
There may yet be hope for healthy fried chicken, now that USDA scientists have developed a better batter for fried foods. Made from long-grain- rice flour, the new batter absorbs 55 percent less oil than conventional flour batter, resulting in substantially fewer calories.

The trick: Rice retains more water during deep-frying than does wheat flour, leaving less room for oil, says researcher Fred Shih, Ph.D. Look for commercial applications within 2 years.

Penalty Box
The University of Virginia Health System recently installed specially modified vending machines that penalize unhealthy choices. Pick a snack in the "red" category-such as candy bars or chips that derive 10 percent or more of their calories from saturated fat-and you pay a 5-cent surcharge. "We're seeing an increased interest in the healthy items," says a hospital spokesman.

Pack-Rat Fat
British researchers have identified a protein called RIP140 that helps control how fat is stored. Mice bred without RIP140 weigh 20 percent less than mice with it.

Next: experiments to block RIP140 in adult animals, then in humans.