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Emerging Evidence Shows Benefits of
Plant-Based Diets To Prevent Disease

More evidence emerged showing the benefits of choosing a plant based diet to prevent disease. With the escalating rates of Diabetes, Heart Disease and Cancer, we have to stop and look at what we are putting into our bodies to assuage these terminal conditions. The good news is, we have the ability to prevent the obloquies of these diseases. Not only do we have the ability, we have it in a cheap and easy manner sans surgery and medical intervention.

The ability we have is to choose what we eat. Choosing a plant based diet over an animal based diet, i.e., more fruits and vegetables, less meat, is the choice we need to make if we want to have a say in our health.

Recent large scale studies have shown the myriad of disease affected by choosing a meat based diet

A study by The National Institute of Health in 2009, titled The AARP Diet and Health Study, reported that red meat and dairy products are associated with increased risk of Pancreatic Cancer. By studying 525,000 participants, they also found no association between fats from plant foods and pancreatic cancer.

A study on Type 2 Diabetes using information from the Nurses' Health Study found that substituting saturated and trans fat (i.e. found in meat) with mono or poly unsaturated fat (i.e. found in vegetables, nuts and fish), was associated with less cognitive decline. This study looked at 1,500 people over 70 years old who have Type 2 Diabetes.

A study at a hospital in China reported in the International Journal of Cancer in 2009 looked at fruit and vegetable consumption and breast cancer. A strong inverse association was found between total fruit and vegetable consumption and breast cancer risk. The study looked at both pre and post-menopausal women and showed that breast cancer risk can be decreased by an astronomical 72% if a diet is consumed that is high in vegetable intake.

A review of 87 studies by the AICR, American Institute for Cancer Research suggests that consumption of red meat (beef, lamb and pork) is linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer. The reviews concluded that eating more than 18 ounces of meat a week has a significant impact on raising cancer risk. The AICR's number one recommendation for decreasing cancer risk is to choose mostly plant foods, limit red meat and avoid processed meat.

Heart disease, the leading cause of death in North America, is also linked to an animal based diet. The archives of Internal Medicine reported in June on results of a study looking at low-carbohydrate diets and hyperlipidemia, or high blood fat. The study showed that heart disease risk factors can be reduced when choosing a plant based diet vs. an animal based diet. The study looked at protein sources to determine that a low carbohydrate diet can help lower heart disease risk if the higher protein is from plant sources, not animal sources.

The evidence is clear that choosing a plant based diet is a key factor in preventing disease. Don't worry if you like to eat meat and chicken, all foods can fit. Start by eating them in limited amounts, no more than 6 ounces a day. Progress to meat-free days half of the days of the week. Whatever your strategy, strive to base your overall diet on plant foods and you will decrease your risk of the leading causes of death and you may lose weight while you're at it.

Shari Portnoy, MPH, RD, LD/N is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. She holds degrees in both Nutrition and Public Health and has completed the U.S. Food Laws course at the Michigan State University, Institute of Food Laws. She has been a featured speaker at the American Culinary Federation National Convention and a board member of the American Dietetic Association.

February 11, 2010

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