The Science of Plant-Based Nutrition and Health

Nearly Half of Deaths from Heart Disease, Stroke, Obesity, and Type 2 Diabetes May Be Prevented with Improved Nutrition, According to a New Review Published in Nutrients

Plant-based eating patterns continue to soar in popularity and a group of nutrition researchers outline the science behind this sustainable trend in a review paper, entitled “Cardiometabolic benefits of plant-based diets,” which appears as an online advance in the Aug. 9, 2017, edition of Nutrients.  The review will publish in a future special edition, entitled “The Science of Vegetarian Nutrition and Health.”

The review outlines how a plant-based diet, which is naturally low in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and rich in nutrients, like fiber and antioxidants, could  be one tool, in addition to adopting a healthful lifestyle, used to improve nutrition intake and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

The authors, Hana Kahleova, M.D., Ph.D., Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., and Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C., analyzed clinical research studies and reviews published until May 2017. Their research finds a plant-based diet, built around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, can improve nutrient intake and help manage body weight and glycemic control, improve cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reverse atherosclerosis, or the narrowing of the arteries caused by the accumulation of arterial plaque.

“The future of health care starts on our plates,” says Dr. Kahleova, the lead study author and the director of clinical research at the nonprofit Physicians Committee. “The science clearly shows food is medicine, which is a powerful message for physicians to pass on to their patients and for policymakers to consider as they propose modifications for health care reform and discuss potential amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill.”

To understand the health benefits of a plant-based diet, the researchers analyze its structure:

Fiber

Fiber contributes to bulk in the diet without adding digestible calories, thus leading to satiety and weight loss. Additionally, soluble fiber binds with bile acids in the small intestines, which helps reduce cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar.

Plant-Based Rx: Aim to eat at least 35 grams of dietary fiber a day. The average American consumes 16 grams of dietary fiber each day.

Fats

Plant-based diets are lower in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol. Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can decrease insulin resistance, a risk factor for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Plant-Based Rx: Swap meat and dairy products, oils, and high-fat processed foods for smaller portions of plant staples, like a few avocado slices or a small handful of nuts and seeds, which are rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

Plant Protein

Vegetable proteins reduce the concentrations of blood lipids, reduce the risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease, and may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.

Plant-Based Rx: Legumes, or lentils, beans, and peas, are naturally rich in protein and fiber. Try topping leafy green salads with lentils, black beans, edamame, or chickpeas.

Plant Sterols 

Plant sterols that have a structure similar to that of cholesterol reduce cardiovascular disease risk and mortality, have anti-inflammatory effects, and positively affect coagulation, platelet function and endothelial function, which helps reduce blood clots, increases blood flow, and stabilizes glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Plant-Based Rx: Consume a high intake of antioxidants and micronutrients, including plant sterols, from whole plant foods, like vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, beans, and seeds. A plant-based diet supports cardio-metabolic benefits through several independent mechanisms. The synergistic effect of whole plant foods may be greater than a mere additional effect of eating isolated nutrients.

“To make significant health changes, we have to make significant diet changes,” concludes Dr. Kahleova. “A colorful plant-based diet works well for anyone, whether you’re an athlete looking to boost energy, performance, and recovery by enabling a higher efficiency of blood flow, which equates to oxygen conversion, or if you’re a physician who wants to help patients lose extra weight, lower blood pressure, and improve their cholesterol.”

Dr. Kahleova and the study authors recommend using a plant-based diet as an effective tool to treat and prevent cardiometaoblic disease, which they would like to see promoted through future dietary guidelines and nutrition policy recommendations.

For more information about plant-based eating patterns, visit NutritionMD.org.

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Plant-Based Diets Lower Cholesterol

Vegetarian, especially vegan, diets reduce cholesterol levels, according to a review and meta-analysis authored by Physician Committee researchers and published in Nutrition Reviews. Researchers reviewed 49 observational and intervention studies that compared vegetarian and vegan diets with omnivorous diets and their effects on plasma lipids. Vegetarian diets lowered total cholesterol levels as well as LDL and HDL levels when compared to omnivorous diets. The greatest benefit on lipid levels was seen in those who followed vegan diets. Plant-based diets typically reduce body weight and saturated fat intake, which may benefit cholesterol management. These findings support previous associations of decreased cholesterol levels and vegetarian, especially vegan, diets.

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Barnard Medical Center Is Now Open

Barnard_Medical_CenterFor all the patients who have complained that their doctors know nothing about nutrition, all the medical students who have had nowhere to see plant-based diets in action, all the people following vegan diets who could not find a doctor who understands their choices, all the enlightened but overly busy doctors who have had no time to counsel patients on food choices, and, most of all, all the people suffering with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and weight problems who are taking one prescription after another and have never been able to tackle the cause of their problems, we have opened the Barnard Medical Center. You can download the special Barnard Medical Center excerpt from the winter 2016 issue of Good Medicine to find out more. [Read more…]

Meet Chef Babette Davis from Stuff I Eat

Meet_Chef_Babette-Davis_Stuff-I-Eat

Meet Vegan Pro and Chef Babette Davis! She’s 64 years of age, a mostly raw vegan, restaurant owner of Stuff I Eat in Inglewood, CA, and full of tantalizing life energy. Her goal is the continuation of healthful information to open the eyes of the masses while guiding them to Nutritional Freedom. Especially within inner city communities where the disconnect is the largest. One Love!

New CDC Report on Cancer

10177369_10152120022047817_7972418729420063094_nApplied knowledge is power so understanding the root of a chronic disease and then limiting its factors is the greatest asset you can provide yourself with. Were you aware that roughly 1.5 million new cases of cancer were reported in the United States in 2011, according to the new report, Invasive Cancer Incidence and Survival—United States, 2011, released today by the CDC. The rates of getting cancer were higher among men than women, highest among black people, and varied by state from 374 to 509 per 100,000 people. The most common kinds of cancer are prostate, female breast, lung, and colorectal.

About two of every three people who were diagnosed with cancer lived five years or more after diagnosis. Cancer survivors face many challenges because of their cancer diagnosis and treatment. They can help maintain their health and improve their quality of life by:

-Changing their diet by adding more plants and fruits
-Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke
-Being active and maintaining a healthy weight

Dietary Guidelines for Cancer Prevention

Applying the Precautionary Principle to Nutrition and Cancer

Dietary-Guidelines-for-Cancer-Prevention

Note: Cancer risk factors are calculated from studies cited in the 2014 review. We recognize different studies will yield different results.

Source: Gonzales JF, Barnard ND, Jenkins, DJ, Lanou, AJ, Davis B, Saxe G, Levin S. Applying the Precautionary Principle to Nutrition and Cancer. J Am Coll Nutr. Published online May 28, 2014. doi:10.1080/07315724.2013.866527.

Clear From Present Danger: How One Man Defeated Diabetes

06-10-2011_1807(48).jpgIt took my stepfather, Keith Jones, 10 years to comprehend how his Type 2 diabetes was slowly destroying him. But today, I’m proud to write that Keith has purged many lifelong, negative habits and has dodged the clear and present danger of the disease!

Years accumulate for Keith to get to this much healthier point in his life at age 58. He struggled with alcoholism most of his adulthood, and like many other Americans, he made unhealthy diet choices. Triple-decker cheeseburgers, oily and trans-fatty french fries, ice cream, sodas, alcohol, glazed doughnuts, cookies, pulled pork, fried chicken and queso – what do you think these items have in common, besides being regulars in Keith’s diet and often advertised for their emotional and savory effectiveness? Easy: They reside in a category I call Foods of Mass Destruction. They overtly assist with the degeneration of body organs and function over time, ultimately leading to sickness and disease. [Read more…]

Doctors and Celebrities Guide 21-Day Health Challenge

Alicia Silverstone, Padma Lakshmi, and Dr. Neal Barnard Lead Online 21-Day Vegan Kickstart; Consumers Get Meal Plan, Recipes, Expert Advice

21 Day Weight Loss Kickstart COVER

Millions of people start diets on New Year’s Day, but many of those weight-loss plans won’t be healthy or sustainable. That’s why doctors and dietitians with the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine are teaming up with actress Alicia Silverstone, and NBA champ John Salley to guide the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. The online nutrition program—which goes live August 1 at www.21DayKickstart.org will provide all the support dieters need to try a healthy plant-based diet. The program runs the first day of each month and there is no cost to join. The program launched on Jan. 1, 2010, and has guided more than 250,000 Kickstarters in the United States and throughout the world.

“Losing weight has never been easier,” says PCRM dietitian Susan Levin, M.S., R.D. “There is no need to count calories on a low-fat, vegan diet. Kickstarters can lose about a pound a week and many experience significant health benefits, including lower cholesterol and increased energy.” Kickstarters will receive daily e-mails with recipes and cooking tips, a 21-day meal plan, a free iPhone application, and an online health tracker, which enables participants to monitor their blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol. They’ll also get access to online videos and discussion boards featuring registered dietitians and physicians such as Neal Barnard, M.D., Dean Ornish, M.D., and John McDougall, M.D. [Read more…]