Category Archives: Health

Covid and plant-based diets

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about following a plant-based diet and COVID. There are some things a plant-based diet can do it and something it can’t.  It turns out that a plant-based diet can significantly reduce the severity of COVID.

In one study, looking at doctors and nurses, a plant-based diet reduced the chance of getting a severe or moderate case by 73%, which we think is saying a lot.  Compare this to those individuals following “low carbohydrate, high protein diets” such as Atkins and others, which are typically high in food that comes from animals, who had an almost 4 times greater risk of moderate-to-severe COVID. Another study showed that among the elderly, those following a non vegetarian diet had 5 times the risk of having a severe case of COVID.

So what’s up with this? We think there are two things at work. A plant-based diet has been shown to reduce inflammation. Part of the damage COVID does is by inciting extreme inflammation. Studies have shown that those following a plant-based diet have a lower baseline level of inflammation. Second,  people with chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, have been shown to have worse outcomes when infected with the COVID virus. People who follow a plant-based diet have, on average, much lower rates of these diseases. Lower levels of baseline inflammation and lower rates of chronic disease combine to give vegetarians and vegans the edge.  

Can a good diet prevent you from getting COVID in the first place? Here the effect of the plant-based diet is much less pronounced. One study showed only a 9% reduction in the risk of getting infected in the first place. Based on the evidence, vaccination is very strongly recommended for the general public.

While 9% isn’t much of a reduction, with a disease as widespread as COVID it can still make a difference in preventing illness. A 73% reduction in the risk of getting a severe or moderate case of COVID makes a huge difference in reducing suffering and saving lives.

Let’s stop the flu

It’s flu season and many are choosing to get the flu vaccine. This choice is generally a good idea but should be made only after consulting your doctor. The vaccine is about 40% effective in preventing you from getting influenza. While getting the vaccine might keep you from getting the flu or lessen the severity it doesn’t stop the disease from occurring in the first place. Wouldn’t it be better to keep the disease from ever happening in the first place than relying on a partially effective vaccine to protect us? We think so and have written an article published in Juniper Online Journal of Public Health. We can actually stop the flu from developing thus preventing many people from getting sick or dying.

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New York City Hospitals serve plant-based meals

All 11 hospitals run by New York City will now serve plant-based meals by default.

The move came after diet-change-focused nonprofit, The Better Food Foundation, partnered with New York City Hospitals and the Mayor’s Office. The foundation aims to aid healthcare organizations in improving health outcomes while cutting carbon emissions, and decreasing food costs.

The hospitals serve three million meals for lunch and dinner each year. While meat options will still be available to those who want them, the hospitals are offering plant-based dishes for every meal.

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Bacteria found in meat

Ground beef

Ground meat is very versatile. We can shape it into burgers, meatballs, and meatloaf. It can be stirred into chili and pasta sauce or stuffed into peppers, lasagna, and tacos. Americans like it so much that in 2021 alone, we purchased more than $13 billion worth of ground beef, turkey, pork, and chicken. But there’s a problem.

While meat increases the risk of many diseases, meat, especially ground meat, also often carries bacteria that can make you sick – or worse!

To assess the current safety of the nation’s ground meat supply, Consumer Reports recently tested 351 packages of ground beef, pork, chicken, and turkey purchased at stores throughout the country. Almost a third of the ground chicken packages they tested contained salmonella. They also found salmonella in a few samples of ground beef, pork, and turkey. To make matters worse, every single strain of salmonella was resistant to at least one antibiotic. We’ve written about the problem of antibiotic resistance developing in farmed animals before. That problem doesn’t seem to have gone away.

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Live longer with plant-based diet

A young adult in the U.S. could add more than a decade to their life expectancy by changing their diet from a typical Western diet to an optimized diet that includes more legumes, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, and less red and processed meat, according to a new study.

Gains are predicted to be larger the earlier the dietary changes are initiated in life. For older people, the anticipated gains to life expectancy from such dietary changes would be smaller but still substantial. The message is clear. You’re never too young to start on a plant-based diet, and you’re never too old to benefit from it.

According to the study, young people starting out at age 20 could, on average, add 10 years to life expectancy for women and 13 years for men. Starting at age 60, it could add 8 years, on average, for women and 9 years, on average, for men. Even 80-year-old women and men could add 3 years, on average, to their life expectancy.

This should come as no surprise. The Journal of the American Medical Association says that diet is the number one risk factor for disease in the United States. Among the 10 leading causes of death (before COVID) are heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, all of which a plant-based diet can help prevent and treat.

According to the study, an optimal diet had substantially higher intake than a typical western diet of whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.  Yet, many doctors treat nutrition as a side issue. Of course, they were offered little to no training in medical school.

Of course, we don’t say that nutrition is the only relevant factor in life expectancy. For instance cigarette smoking has a large impact, along with access to medical care. Nevertheless, the nutritional effect  on health is considerable and offers a wide ranging opportunity for increasing life expectancy.

Avoiding dementia – new research

Dementia is a scary disease, so we all want to do everything we can to avoid it. One recent study showed that vegetarians have a 38% lower risk of dementia. We already knew that part of the reason was that vegetarians have, on average, a much lower prevalence of risk factors such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and lower levels of markers for inflammation such a C-reactive protein, but now new research shows there’s an additional reason.

Investigators found that individuals with the highest blood levels of lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin were less likely to have dementia, even decades later than their peers with lower levels of these phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are nutrients found in plant foods besides vitamins, minerals and fiber, that nourish our bodies and are the focus of a lot of medical research.

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Vegans need a B12 supplement

Vitamin B12

We need to get serious for a moment. While vegetarians and vegans get other vitamins in adequate amounts, taking a vitamin B12 supplement is a must for vegans, since they don’t get any through their diet. And while vegetarians do get some B12 through either dairy or eggs, it may not be enough, especially if their intake is modest or only occasional.

Vitamin B12, like the other B vitamins, is important for metabolism. It helps in the formation of red blood cells, and in the maintenance of the central nervous system, among other important things. The good news is that the body can store it for years, protecting you if you miss taking some now and again. However, if your body runs out of its supplies, because it’s been missing from your diet for a long time or has only been taken occasionally, there’ll be very serious consequences.  Deficiency causes a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia, damage to the spinal cord, brain and peripheral nerves, especially in the arms and legs. The nerve and brain damage can be permanent, and can cause dementia and psychiatric disorders. Low or marginal vitamin B12 status in pregnant women increases the risk for neural tube birth defects.

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Asthma – the latest science

Childhood asthma is a major and growing public health problem worldwide. Adults get asthma too. The western, meat-centered diet may partly explain the “asthma epidemic” in the United States.

Asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood. The prevalence has been increasing at an alarming rate and has more than doubled in the last decade. Over 9 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with asthma. That’s a lot of children. There are few things more upsetting than a sick child.

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Raising vegan kids – what you need to know

There are many benefits to raising your kids on wholesome plant-based foods.  It sets up a child for a lifetime of healthy habits. Many people are surprised to learn that the disease process that causes so many chronic diseases in adults start in childhood. You can help your child prevent many diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and several forms of cancer. At the same time, you are teaching your child to care for the animals and the earth through their food choices.

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Prostate Cancer – you can do something to help yourself!

Man eating salad 2OK, you guys, and the gals who care about them, we need to talk about a disease that’s all too common – prostate cancer! The good news is that there’s something you can do to prevent it, and even help treat it if it’s a mild case in its early stages. Let’s start with prevention first.

The risk of prostate cancer in vegetarians is less than half that of non-vegetarians. While plant-based foods have been shown to decrease the risk of prostate cancer, animal-derived foods increase the risk. Intake of saturated fat and cholesterol found in animal-derived foods are independent risk factors for prostate cancer, contributing further to the higher risk that non-vegetarians have. Read more

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