Did you know that choosing vegetarian foods is one of the most effective ways we can protect our health? In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Heart Association and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) all agree that there are many health benefits associated with vegetarian eating. According to the USDA, vegetarians, on average, have “lower levels of obesity, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and lower total mortality.”
Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US. The good news is that clinical studies are showing how, in many cases, heart disease can be prevented -- and even reversed -- simply by choosing plant-based foods.
In fact, a few years ago former President Bill Clinton, who has a family history of heart disease and had had two invasive heart surgeries since 2004, chose to drastically revamp his diet in an effort to heal himself. In discussing his transformation to a heart-healthy (mostly) vegan diet in which he lost weight and gained energy, Clinton says: “I decided to pick the diet that I thought would maximize my chances of long-term survival."
The power of choosing plant-based foods is so significant that CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta dedicated an hour-long show to this important topic, “The Last Heart Attack.” Referring to a “food-based prescription” that could save lives, he sums it up by suggesting we should eat “nothing with a mother, nothing with a face,” and he concludes that “with what we know right now, we could see the last heart attack in America.”
There is also strong and growing scientific evidence that a vegetarian diet lowers the risk of developing various types of cancer. Health and nutrition researcher Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of the groundbreaking and best-selling book The China Study found that “no chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein.”
A recent study funded by the National Cancer Institute reported that vegans have lower rates of cancer than both meat-eaters and vegetarians. In an experiment to find an explanation, people were placed on different diets with drops of their blood dripped onto cancer cells that were growing in a petri dish. The results were amazing! Women on a plant-based diet for even just two weeks were found to suppress the growth of three types of breast cancer cells and similar results were found for men and prostate cancer.
Type 2 Diabetes is widely considered preventable, yet, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it accounts for about 90-95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes in the US. And while it was once associated with older age, Type 2 diabetes is now considered a worldwide epidemic that includes increasing numbers of children and young adults being diagnosed with it. According to the American Diabetes Association, the most significant risk factor for children is obesity.
The good news: research is showing that we can prevent and even reverse Type 2 diabetes through a healthy diet and exercise. A 2006 study found that 43% of individuals with type 2 diabetes who followed a low-fat vegan diet for 22 weeks were able to reduce their medications used to manage the disease. Another study found that 21 of 23 patients on oral medications and 13 of 17 patients on insulin were able to get off of their medications after 26 days on a near-vegetarian diet and exercise program.
The research showing the benefits of plant-based foods is so strong that the American Diabetes Association acknowledges that “research supports that following this type of diet can help prevent and manage diabetes,” and that “research on vegan diets has found that carbohydrate and calorie restrictions were not necessary and still promoted weight loss.”
Obesity rates in the US continue to increase at an alarming rate. In fact more than one-third of American adults and almost 17% of youth are classified as “obese.” According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death”.
New research shows that eating vegetarian may be the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off! A recent Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics study included dietary data from five groups: meat-eaters, flexitarians, lacto-ovo vegetarians, and vegans. Data was collected between 2002 and 2007 from 71,751 men and women. Researchers found that participants’ body mass index was highest among meat-eaters and lowest in those following a vegan diet. In fact, the prevalence of obesity among vegetarians ranges from 0-6%.
Are you trying to lose weight? Focus your meals around more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant-based proteins — foods high in fiber with less calories.
Want to learn more about the lastest in nutrition related research? Visit NutritionFacts.org