Obesity, strongly associated with the risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), is becoming increasingly prevalent. This study was designed to establish first whether systemic arterial compliance (SAC), an index of arterial function, is improved with weight loss and second, whether cardiovascular risk factors that improve with weight loss are reduced equally with lean meat or with an equivalent amount of plant protein in the diet. Thirty-six women, mostly overweight or obese, aged 40+/-9 years, were allocated nonrandomly to a 16-week parallel-design trial of two equienergetic diets designed to lead to weight loss, with one arm of the study emphasizing red meat and the other soybeans as the major protein source. Body weight, waist and hip circumference, and plasma lipids, glucose, insulin, and leptin levels were measured, and SAC was calculated from ultrasound measurement of aortic flow velocity and aortic root driving pressure. Subjects lost weight (9% of body weight in 16 weeks) and showed decreased plasma total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (12% and 14%, P < .0001, respectively), triacylglycerol (17%, P < .05), and leptin (24%, P < .01) concentrations. However, lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)] levels did not change significantly. Mean arterial pressure (MAP) decreased 7% and SAC increased 28% (P < .001 for both). However, only the decrease in arterial pressure correlated significantly with the reduction in the waist to hip ratio (WHR), and the improvement in SAC correlated inversely with the blood pressure reduction (P < .001 for both). Further, weight loss and the metabolic benefits of weight loss occurred equally with the meat-based and plant-based diets. We conclude that moderate weight loss in women leads to a substantial reduction in the cardiovascular risk, including SAC.