Tag Archives: plant based diet

Vegan Diet offers hope for Triple Negative Breast Cancer Patients

breast cancer 2A plant-based diet offers some hope for a hard-to-treat form of breast cancer, when it’s combined with a new treatment currently under investigation.

A vegan diet naturally supplies lower amounts of an amino acid called methionine, which is oversupplied in meat-centered diets, and so it may help slow the growth of tumors in patients who have what is known as “triple-negative breast cancer” cells, according to scientists at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, reporting in the journal Clinical Cancer Research. The reason the vegan diet helps is because it primes the cancer cells to be more easily killed by a targeted antibody treatment, a new form of immunotherapy currently undergoing clinical trials.

Patients with triple negative breast cancer currently have limited treatment options because their tumor cells lack the three receptors — estrogen, progesterone and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2) — commonly targeted in hormone or chemotherapy. “What’s particularly exciting about our findings is that they suggest that a dietary intervention can increase the effectiveness of a targeted cancer therapy. We still have much to learn, but we believe that uncovering the molecular effects of specific nutritional interventions like a low- methionine diet will open up new treatment options for cancer,” says Vincent Cryns, the lead researcher. The hope for immunotherapy responders is that diet, combined with the new treatment, will boost the survival time.

The best part of using a plant-based diet to boost the effectiveness of this breast cancer treatment is that it’s both safe and has no side effects, and in the meantime reduces the risk of other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Important note: if you are undergoing treatment for breast cancer, you should not make dietary changes without consulting your doctor.

Gall Stones – reducing your risk

This disease can really hurt. When severe it can double you over and send you to the emergency room. We’re talking about the pain from gall stones. Well over 25 million Americans have gall stones, 700,000 surgeries are performed every year to remove them, and the price tag for all of this is well over $6 billion dollars a year.

Now for the good news. By following a vegetarian diet, you can cut your risk of getting gall stones by half. It gets even better. If you avoid saturated fat, such as that found in dairy, and skip alcoholic beverages, you can cut your risk even more. Interestingly, adding an ounce or two of tree nuts per day takes it down by another 30%.

Now some people have a different kind of gall stones which just cause occasional grumbles and pains. However, these too can emerge as major pains at any time. So it’s good to know that a vegetarian diet also cuts the risk of this type of pesky stones developing by 50%.

With 1 million new cases every year, this problem is not going away any time soon. But you can help protect yourself by following a plant-based diet, the miracle drug of the 21st century.

See professional level information on Cholelithiasis

Fish Oil and Wishful Thinking

Fish Oil pillsThe waste of money on the false notion that fish oil helps prevent heart disease is staggering. Americans spend $1.2 billion dollars on the stuff despite all the evidence that it does no good. An amazing 10% of Americans use fish oil supplements in the hopes of warding off heart disease, among other things.

We’ll give it to you straight though in doctor speak: “accrual of high-level evidence” indicates “that the supplements lack efficacy across a range of health outcomes for which their use is advocated.”  In plain English the stuff just doesn’t work as hyped. Commenting on the latest study published in Internal Medicine, former American Heart Association president, Robert Eckel, said “Almost all studies of fish oil supplements show no benefit.” 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

Veg Diet = Lower Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure takingYet another study has reconfirmed what we already knew: that a plant-based diet promotes a lower blood pressure than a meat-centered one. The connection between a veg diet and blood pressure is a very strong one. The doctors conducting the study, just published in Internal Medicine, conclude that “controlled trials suggest a robust relationship between consumption of vegetarian diets and lower blood pressure.”

The importance of this finding can hardly be overstated when we stop to consider that about one third of all Americans have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is not harmless because it contributes to a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disorders and other health problems.

Medical researchers think that several factors acting independently account for their results. Vegetarian diets are typically higher in potassium which promotes lower blood pressure, and lower in saturated fats which can actually make the blood “thicker” and therefore harder for the heart to pump. Plant foods also contain substances called phytonutrients, that are neither vitamins or minerals, which can also have a blood pressure lowering effect. Just as important, vegetarian diets, and vegan diets in particular, are also associated with lower rates of obesity which is strongly associated with hypertension or high blood pressure.

Unfortunately, for many people, the only treatment offered has been medication, but that means financial costs and possible side effects. Plant foods are a better choice for most people than pills. Confirming the efficacy of the veg-diet approach, the authors of this study state “Our analysis found that vegetarian diets lower blood pressure very effectively, and the evidence for this is now quite conclusive.” Lead researcher Dr. Y. Yokoyama says “I would encourage physicians to prescribe plant-based diets as a matter of routine, and to rely on medications only when diet changes do not do the job” Nutrition author and award-winning journalist Jean Carper sums it up well when she says that “Food is the breakthrough drug of the twenty-first century.”

New Year’s Resolutions

Girl with bag of fresh foodIf you’re like most people, you’ve made a number of New Year’s resolutions.  Surveys routinely show that eating better tops most people’s lists. Now as you well know, following through on those resolutions can be very challenging. But fortunately Vegetarians of Washington is here to help! Here are a few of our field-tested and time-honored tips for making sustainable changes towards a healthy vegetarian diet.

You’ve probably been eating meat and other animal products most of your life, so don’t try to change your diet all at once. Try making one night a week veggie night and then expand from there. Remember that even small changes can make a big difference when it comes to improving your health, protecting the environment and all the animals who share the planet with us.

At Vegetarians of Washington we love great tasting food and will accept nothing less. Food is there to be enjoyed. So whenever you give up eating any dish, make sure you substitute an even better-tasting one in its place. You don’t want to feel deprived. This is where a good cookbook is absolutely vital.  Allow yourself to experience the pleasure of vegetarian food and enjoy the adventure.

Use the power of love!  Don’t fall in love with any food or dish that doesn’t love you back. Only love to eat foods that can love you back, by nourishing your body, your community, the world and all the other creatures that share it with you.

Look at following the vegetarian way of eating as an expression of your freedom. Some people try to say that vegetarians are not free to eat anything they want. Actually, you are free, and in your freedom you’re making a wise and delicious choice, rather than just follow habit or the customary Standard American Diet (SAD).

Don’t be afraid! Some people worry that if they are even one milligram short of magnesium their arms will fall off. Just relax. Not only is a vegetarian diet safe (and delicious), but it is a lot safer than the diet you left behind. There’s a reason vegetarians, on average, live longer and healthier lives.

Keep it simple. Don’t count milligrams and ounces, and don’t count servings. Just remember to enjoy several helpings  from each main food group—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes—every day, and wash them down with plenty of water. Take a good one-a-day type multivitamin/mineral supplement (make sure it includes vitamins D and B12) every day for nutritional insurance, and enjoy life.

Be diplomatic when interacting with others. Remember that food is a very personal space. Food is what grandma gave you when you came home on a cold winter’s afternoon. Food is what you had at your Sweet 16th birthday party, and food is what you have at anniversary and holiday celebrations. Many people are struggling with food issues. If they allow you to enter into their personal space, please remember to do so gently. Most people are looking for help, not a hard time, when it comes to eating better. Sometimes new vegetarians get very enthusiastic, but few people want to be hit over the head with the tofu. Most people respond to a “proceed at your own pace and do the best you can” approach. 

For more tips on changing your diet, see our latest book, Say No to Meat, for information on how to make changes to your diet, handle dating, families and parties and also on shopping, eating out, cooking at home and all the rest.  It even includes some simple recipes to get you started.  With a little effort, and support from us, this is one resolution you will be able to carry through, and as you notice the many benefits, you’ll have no trouble sticking with your new diet for many years to come.

Interview with a Cardiologist

Dr. Arun Kalyanasundaram (Dr. K) is an interventional cardiologist with practices at Highline Medical Center and Swedish Medical Center.  He moved to Seattle in 2011. He strongly believes in a holistic approach to cardiology – with a particular emphasis on preventive cardiology primarily through diet and lifestyle. He will be speaking and answering questions at our next Monthly Dining Event on October 17th.  We asked him to tell us more about himself and his approach to cardiology.

Tell us something about yourself. Where are you from originally, how long have you been a doctor, and cardiologist, and what brings you to the Northwest?

I have been a doctor now for about 13 years. I am originally from India. I obtained my MPH at the University of Maryland, and then did my residency and fellowship at Geisinger and Cleveland clinics respectively. I chose to move to the Pacific Northwest because it is unique in terms of scenic beauty, cultural diversity and just an overall great place to raise a family.  
 
How long have you been a vegetarian? What got you interested in it to begin with?

In India, a significant portion of people are vegetarians. I have been a vegetarian life-long. Over the last 3-4 years, I embraced an all plant-based diet primarily for health reasons.
 
Have you discovered any other reasons and advantages for being veg along the way?

Absolutely!  Being a vegetarian offers clear health advantages – reducing the chance of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, to name a few. The effects on the human body are almost all positive – truly astounding. There are few things in life that are good for our health, good for the planet and all its beings, with virtually no side effects. 

Do you recommend that your cardiology patients follow a particular diet?

I am convinced that patients with heart disease, especially coronary artery disease, should be on a stringent plant-based diet. I am greatly inspired by the work done by Drs Esselstyn, Ornish, and Barnard to name a few. I have studied their work extensively and my ‘template’ for the diet is based off Dr. Esselstyn’s seminal work.

What reaction do your patients typically have to the suggestion of changing their diet?

Most patients are quite receptive to the idea. Often times, a heart attack serves as a ‘wake-up call’. Several patients of mine have completely transformed their lives. I often use the analogy of a house on fire – opening a clogged vessel in the setting of a heart attack is akin to what the fire brigade does i.e. put out the fire. But then I insist that the onus is on the patient to ensure that the fuel supply feeding the fire is turned off i.e. they make the appropriate lifestyle change.

What advantages to their heart health have you typically observed when a patient switches to a veg diet?
 
I have some patients who have had decreased angina and improved exercise tolerance. I have also seen significantly improved risk factor profiles i.e. lowered blood pressure, lower cholesterol, better control of diabetes, weight loss and a general sense of well-being.

What other health benefits have your patients experienced as a result of changing their diets?

There have been published studies that have shown that a vegetarian diet can prevent and reverse diabetes, reduce the risk of vascular disease and even some kinds of cancers. Personally, I have had patients with improved glycemic control and some that have been able to get away from their diabetic medications. 
 
What is it about a veg diet that you wish the public/patients would understand better?
 
 1) Vegetarian food does not have to be boring or tasteless. 2) It is perfectly possible to have a balanced and nutritious all-plant based diet for any population – specifically it is possible to get enough protein on a plant-based diet.

Are you optimistic for the increasing popularity of veg diets in both the medical and lay community in the future?

Totally. If you look at the vegetarian movement, it has certainly become mainstream – both in terms of the number of people that are vegetarians and the availability of vegetarian food readily. Obesity, rising healthcare costs, and increasing human population make a plant-based diet the way of the future.

« Older Entries Recent Entries »