Category Archives: Health

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

What am I to believe?

man-biting-dog

Man Bites Dog!

Are you confused about nutrition and health? If you are, you’re not alone. We’re flooded nutritional information these days.  Websites, articles in the newspapers, new books being published, scientific studies on the benefits or harm caused by one ingredient or another – it’s hard to keep up with it all, and so much of it seems contradictory or just doesn’t make sense.  Many of us wonder just what to believe!  So we’d like to share with you some pointers to help you sift through the minefield. Read more

Thinking about zinc

Let’s think about zinc! Zinc is an essential mineral that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. According to a new study, low or deficient zinc levels in the body increase the risk of severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in patients who are ill with the coronavirus. However, studies of giving extra zinc to people who are not deficient in zinc have not shown a benefit. So to be very clear, zinc is NOT a substitute for the COVID 19 vaccine.

Frequent intake of zinc in our diets is required to maintain a steady state because the body has no specialized zinc storage system. It is involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism, and also supports normal growth and development. Zinc deficiency is characterized by growth retardation, loss of appetite, and impaired immune function.

Zinc is available from many plant foods and protein increases zinc absorption. Because of this, foods high in both protein and zinc, such as legumes and nuts, are good choices. If a food doesn’t have much protein, it can still be accompanied by one that does in order to enhance absorption.

Now, zinc is a mineral and an important one that we all need. But let’s not overdo it either. Well-planned vegetarian diets can provide adequate amounts of zinc from plant sources. Vegetarians appear to adapt to lower zinc intakes by increased absorption and retention of zinc. Studies show vegetarians have similar serum zinc concentrations to, and no greater risk of zinc deficiency than, non-vegetarians despite differences in zinc intake.

There has been a somewhat misplaced concern that minerals, such as zinc, are not well absorbed in those following a vegetarian diet because of the presence of a substance known as phytate. However, there was little evidence of deficiency commonly occurring in practice. Part of the answer lies in the fact that the bacteria in the intestines of vegetarians are able to degrade almost all the phytate in plant foods, so there really is no worry in that regard.

The RDA for zinc for adults 18 and older are 11mg for men and 8mg for women. Here are some foods that are good sources:

FoodServing SizeAmount of Zinc
Wheat Germ1 ounce3.4 mg
Baked beans, canned, plain or vegetarian½ cup2.9 mg
Pumpkin seeds, dried1 ounce2.2 mg
Tofu½ cup2.0 mg
Cashews, dry roasted1 ounce1.6 mg
Chickpeas, cooked½ cup1.3 mg
Oatmeal, instant, plain, prepared with water1 packet1.1 mg

Reduce your risk of stomach cancer

Medical studies show that a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of stomach cancer while meat increases it.

Cancer is often most easily treated when detected early, but some cancers aren’t easy to catch early. One of them is stomach cancer.  Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, begins when cells in the stomach start to grow out of control. By the time it’s detected it has usually spread to other parts of the body. Treatment is most often ineffective or of limited benefit in these cases.

So when it comes to stomach cancer, prevention is even more critical. What can be done to reduce the risk? It turns out a vegetarian diet can reduce the risk of stomach cancer. For instance, one study showed that vegetarians have a 63% reduced risk of getting stomach cancer. Another study showed that vegetarians had 56% reduction in the risk of dying from stomach cancer.

Results from several studies suggested that a diet rich in vitamin C was particularly protective. Sources of vitamin C include fresh produce, such as green and yellow vegetables and fruit. Several studies have also reported the protective role of allium vegetables, such as onions and garlic, in preventing gastric cancer.

There’s another advantage vegetarians have when it comes to stomach cancer. Most cases of stomach have a bacteria, H.Pylori, as one of the causative factors. However, a vegetarian diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help prevent or suppress infection with H. Pylori.

While a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of getting stomach cancer, processed meat such hot dogs and bacon increase the risk, as does red meat such as steaks and hamburgers. The choice for prevention is clear. Put a healthy vegetarian diet to work to reduce the risk of stomach cancer.

A plant-based diet helps fertility

We want to have children, but we’re vegan! Some people wonder how being vegan will affect their ability to conceive. The good news is that a healthy plant-based diet can actually help fertility.

Let’s start with the men. Meat, especially processed meat, has a detrimental effect on male fertility. The more meat a man eats, the fewer and less active his sperm. To dispel a myth, vegan men have the same testosterone levels as meat eaters. To dispel another myth, consuming soy does not affect testosterone levels in men. Boys raised on soy protein formulas showed no breast growth, no early puberty, no changes in their bones and no other signs of hormonal abnormalities. Vegan men have much less risk factors for erectile dysfunction. Vegetarian men produce 29 million more sperm per milliliter and the sperm are more active compared to meat-eaters, so a veg diet can definitely help with fertility.

Vegan women too have hormone levels comparable to those of meat-eaters. Vegan pregnancy has some advantages too. For instance, pregnant vegan women have a reduced risk of complications such excessive gestational weight gain, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and gallstones. Pregnant women following a well-planned plant-based diet also have a reduced risk of an infant being born with spina bifida, whereas a high meat diet doubles the risk of a baby being born with a cleft palate.

What about those turning to invitro fertilization? It turns out that eating plant protein increases the chance of pregnancy in IVF. Also a Mediterranean diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and olive oil and low in red meat, has been shown to increase the chance of a successful pregnancy, so a healthy plant-based diet can make a big difference.

Many vegan men and women are fertile and give birth to healthy babies. Congratulations to them all!

Raising meat is a threat to produce farmers!

Raising meat poses a threat to crop farmers, their produce and our health!

Even at a distance, raising meat poses a danger to human health. A new report by the FDA highlights the danger of farm animal operations located close to produce growing fields. Bacteria from farm animals that cause food poisoning can travel over to the produce by water, dust in the wind or via the farmworkers. All kinds of produce are vulnerable to bacterial contamination.

Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, is illness caused by eating food contaminated with disease-causing bacteria or the toxins produced by the bacteria. These are intestinal bacteria and originate from the guts of animals, since only animals and humans have intestines. Given the large numbers of animals on a factory farm, and the waste they produce, it’s trouble waiting to happen. Bacteria that can cause food poisoning include Salmonella, Staph and E. Coli.

Read more

Diabetes – Now you can do something about it

Vegan mealPlant foods are powerful medicine for diabetes (Type II or Adult Onset). Medical researchers have discovered that a plant based diet is very effective for both preventing and helping to reverse diabetes and pre-diabetes. In some cases it’s even more powerful than drugs.

It’s a good thing too. America needs strong medicine when it comes to pre-diabetes and diabetes. With 11 percent of people over  the age of 20 having diabetes, plus 23 percent with pre-diabetes, over a third of the country either has diabetes or is on their way to getting it. As if diabetes itself wasn’t bad enough, the complications can be even worse. Diabetes raises the risk of other health problems, ranging from heart disease to kidney damage, to blindness.

But now for the good news. You can reduce your risk of getting diabetes by just taking the following medicines: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts. The more you take, the more protection you can get. For instance, researchers found that those following semi-vegetarian diets, pesco vegetarian, lacto ovo-vegetarian, and vegan diets, reduced their risk of diabetes by 28%, 51%, 61% and 72% respectively. The pattern here is clear: the more plant foods you eat, the more protection you get. Vegetarians also had the best scores for the seven major risk factors for pre-diabetes.

What about if you already have diabetes? Even here plant foods are powerful medicine. In one study, conducted at George Washington University, 46% of diabetics were able to stop or significantly reduce their medications in only 6 months. Even more impressive is how the powerful plant-based diet reduced blood sugar by about 25% more than the usual treatment – the drug metformin combined with the standard American Diabetes Association diet. Washington state physician Gregory Scribner MD, an internist specializing in diabetes, tells his patients, “A switch to a healthy vegetarian diet can reverse many of the complications of diabetes, even in advanced cases, and can often prevent the disease from occurring in the first place.”

It turns out that plant-based diets can even help with some of the most difficult to treat complications, such as the painful peripheral neuropathy that diabetics can get which causes pain in the extremities. For instance, in one study, 81% of those following a low fat, high fiber, vegan diet had very significant improvements in only one month.  These research studies seem to translate well into the community. For instance one man, who attended one of our free Vegetarian Solution classes a couple of years ago, decided to give a vegetarian diet a try to help his diabetes symptoms.  Within a couple of months he was delighted to find his neuropathy pain had abated.  He came back to our next class to learn more and to tell us about how it had helped him.

The message is clear – vegetarian, and especially vegan, diets are powerful medicines when it comes to diabetes. If you’d like to learn more, we’re here to help.  We have classes coming up in January 2015, including a free Vegetarian Solution class, and a full Food for Life Diabetes series of classes, where you can learn more about how a vegetarian diet can help and enjoy delicious cooking demonstrations.  Additionally, our recommended health books page can give you some suggested reading.

See professional level information about Type 2 diabetes

Marked for better health

Several studies have now shown that vegetarians, and especially vegans, have better biomarkers than meat eaters. OK, great, but what the heck is a biomarker?

A biomarker is a chemical substance found in blood, other body fluids, or tissues that is a sign of either disease or health. The good news is that vegetarians and vegans have more of the biomarkers that indicate good health and less of the ones that indicate a disease process.

Studies have shown that vegans and vegetarians have lower levels of biomarkers that indicate inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis than meat eaters. This puts them at a lower risk of getting these diseases.

Even more impressive is a recent study that showed that vegetarians appear to have a healthier biomarker profile than meat-eaters for adults of any age and weight, and is also unaffected by smoking and alcohol consumption. Now this does not mean vegetarians can go out and start smoking and abusing alcohol, but it does show the power of a plant- based diet and that the greater positive health impact of a vegetarian diet can even outweigh the negative effect of smoking and alcohol consumption.

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