Category Archives: Health

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.

What is asthma? Asthma is a disease in which your airways narrow and swell and may produce extra mucus and inflammation due to a hyper response to things that don’t really cause infections such as respiratory allergens. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, a whistling sound (wheezing) when you breathe out, and shortness of breath. For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance. For others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.

Studies show that vegetarians have a reduced risk of asthma. Plant foods contain special substances called phytonutrients that can reduce inflammation and act as antioxidants which help give vegetarians an advantage.

Eating meat increases the risk of wheezing, a symptom of asthma, in children. Meat also increases the risk of disturbed sleep from wheezing and the risk of exercise-induced wheezing. Inflammatory compounds found in cooked meat have been found to give rise to a heightened risk of childhood wheeze. These compounds, known as advanced glycation end products, or AGEs for short, are by-products of high temperature cooking, such as grilling, frying, or roasting, with cooked meat being a major dietary source. Milk has also been implicated as increasing the risk of asthma through a different mechanism.

However, you can reduce your risk of getting asthma in the first place by eating more vegetables and whole grains. A study lowered the risk of getting asthma by 42% for those eating more vegetables and 54% for those eating more whole grains, while consuming dairy increased the risk by 93% and intake of cured meats such as salami, pastrami and bacon, was associated with worsening asthma symptoms by 76%.

What if someone already has asthma? One study on people with asthma receiving long term medication, who were placed on a vegan diet for a year, found that in almost all cases medication was able to be withdrawn or drastically reduced. There was a significant decrease in asthma symptoms with 71% of patients reporting improvement at 4 months and 92% after a year.

This is not surprising since asthma may, in part, be an autoimmune disease. People who follow a plant-based diet have lower levels of inflammation, and lower risks of other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

It’s time that every doctor recommended that children avoid animal products, and that their asthmatic patients try a fully plant-based diet. See our professional level article on asthma.

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

Saving Americans trillions!

Let’s save the country trillions of dollars! How you ask? By adopting a vegan diet. Here’s why.

Diet is the number one risk factor for the disease and disability burden in the United States, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. That’s number one! According to cardiologist Dean Ornish, “More than 75% …of the annual U.S. healthcare costs (mostly sick-care costs) are from chronic diseases, which can often be prevented and even reversed by eating a plant-based diet, at a fraction of the costs – and the only side-effects are good ones.”

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Med school teaches vegan!

This is a first. A medical school now requires all of its med students to learn about the health value of a whole food vegan diet. Wayne State University School of Medicine is the first medical school we know of to acknowledge the many health benefits of a vegan diet to prevent and treat disease and then to act upon it. According to the med school, “this is the first exclusively mandatory plant-based nutritional intervention undertaken at a medical institution in the United States.” They go on to say, “The strategy presented here may serve as a model for similar initiatives at a variety of institutions and settings.” Let’s hope other med schools follow their lead.

This long overdue change makes total sense since diet is the number one risk factor for disease and disability in the United States. We’ve long been puzzled at the number of medical schools that say there’s no room in their curriculum for teaching med students how to prevent and treat a wide variety of diseases with a vegan diet.

Wayne State acknowledges that, “Advances in preventive medicine have demonstrated the crucial role of whole-food unprocessed plant-based nutrition in reducing disease burden.” The net result will be the prevention of much patient suffering and many lives lost and that is no small thing.

Here at Vegetarians of Washington, we’ve been playing our part in the effort to help doctors learn how to treat their patients with a plant based diet. We hold an annual medical seminar for doctors where they learn from other doctors how to treat their patients with a plant based diet, we’ve written 29 articles that have been published in mainstream medical journals and now we have even written a textbook for doctors.

We’re excited to see the growing interest in the health benefits of a vegan diet in the medical community.

Vegan diet means less meds for seniors

Seniors who follow a vegan diet need 58% less medicine than others. That’s what a new study shows and it’s good news for older Americans. We all know that seniors generally need more medical care. This translates to more money spent on drugs and a higher risk of side effects.

According to the study’s authors, “Our results show that eating healthy, especially a vegan diet, may be protective in leading to a reduced number of pills taken, either by preventing the development of risk factors and/or cardiovascular disease or by helping on the controlling of such conditions,”

We’ve written before about how a vegan diet reduces the risk of many of the common diseases that seniors get such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney disease, colon cancer and other digestive diseases such as gall stones and diverticulitis.

Polypharmacy (taking several medications at once) is relatively common in older populations. But it comes with potential health risks, researchers say. They point to data showing that individuals who take more than five medications a day carry an 88 percent higher risk of side effects. So, a vegan diet reduces the risk of side effects and adverse drug interactions.

People age 65 and older make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 34 percent of all prescription medication use and 30 percent of all over-the-counter medication use. This translates to a lot of money spent on drugs. But those following a vegan diet can save a lot of money for themselves and if all seniors followed a vegan diet the savings on a national basis would be enormous.

Rheumatoid Arthritis – Veg Diet helps

Rheumatoid-Arthritis handsRheumatoid Arthritis (RA) hurts. Nearly 3 million Americans suffer from it. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect more than just your joints. In some people, the condition also can damage a wide variety of body organs, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels. An autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body’s tissues. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. There are treatments, but many have significant side effects.

Following a plant-based diet can reduce your chances of getting RA. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, comparing those who followed a vegetarian diet to those who ate meat but otherwise followed a healthy lifestyle, showed that those following a vegetarian diet reduced their risk of getting Rheumatoid Arthritis 50%. Read more

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