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Say No to Drugs by Saying Yes to More Plants

A study of 15,000 American vegetarians suggests their lower chronic disease rates translate into fewer surgeries (including hysterectomies) and medications (including aspirin, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, antacids, pain-killers, blood pressure medications, laxatives, and insulin).

January 3, 2012 |
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Acknowledgements

Image thanks to Brian Hansen

Transcript

You’ll note in this study of 15,000 American vegetarians, not only did eating vegetarian appear to have a favorable effect on the prevalence of allergies, but several chronic diseases as well. This is what they referring to: After controlling for factors like smoking rates, vegetarians were found to have significantly less coronary artery disease, fewer strokes, less high blood pressure, less diabetes, less diverticulosis, etc. and significantly fewer diseases overall.

They also noted that the non-vegetarians were more likely to have gone in for surgery for things as varied as varicose veins and hemorrhoids, to even more hysterectomies, as well as more likely to be on medications. Those eating meat had about twice the odds of being on aspirin, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, antacids, pain-killers, blood pressure medications, laxatives and insulin.

So if you don’t like taking drugs, you don’t like paying for drugs, we may be able to cut our odds of needing medications in half by choosing to eat vegetarian.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by MaryAnn Allison.

To help out on the site please email <a
href= “mailto:volunteer@nutritionfacts.org” >volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Check out the other videos on chronic diseases and plant-based diets. And there are 1,449 subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them!

For some context see my blog posts: Plant-based Benefits Extend Beyond the Top Killers, Poultry and Penis Cancer, Kiwi Fruit for Irritable Bowel SyndromeTreating Crohn’s Disease With Diet, and  Plant-Based Diets for Fibromyalgia

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Check out the other videos on chronic diseases and plant-based diets. And there are 1,449 subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them!

    For some context see my blog post Plant-based Benefits Extend Beyond the Top Killers,

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/paul3917/ paul3917

    The article you cited Dr. Greger, had an unusual idea of who vegetarians are: those who munch on animals less than once a week. I’m sure the reduction in morbidity would have been even more pronounced if they had studied a cohort of true-blue vegans. One puzzle though, was why the veg group had slightly higher rates of breast lumps and prostrate problems than their meat-chomping peers. Any suggestions of how we can do to avoid those pratfalls? I’ve read indications that adequate iodine can help with the breasts and plant sterols and stanols might help with the prostate. Is this true?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Note that only the “OR’s” (Odds Ratios) with the notation next to them are statistically significant, so none of those conditions listed were found significantly more in those eating plant based diets.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/claudia-r/ claudia r

    As a vegetarian for 20 years and a holistic health coach, I completely agree with the fact that a plant based diet has a host of benefits including those mentioned in this video. That said, would you not also agree that part of the reason vegetarians have fewer surgeries and take fewer drugs is a psychological issue; those who consciously make healthy food decisions are less likely to run to the doctor when something is wrong and are less likely to take prescription meds or have elective surgeries.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/TanTruong/ Tan Truong

      Good point.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/meha/ Meha

    A version with Brazilian Portuguese subtitles to help spread the word, thank you Dr Greger for your authorization:

    http://youtu.be/DAQ5pW_27C0

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      You’re the best! Anyone else with language skills that would care to help translate any of the more than 600 videos now?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/MarkBiddy/ Mark Biddy

    Hi Dr. Greger, can you shed any light on these findings – it seems to not support plant based eating.
    Regards, Mark…keep up the great work!

    High-Fiber Diet No Help for Diverticulosis
    http://www.medpagetoday.com/Gastroenterology/GeneralGastroenterology/30807

    A high-fiber diet afforded no protection against asymptomatic diverticulosis, findings from more than 2,000 colonoscopy exams showed.

    “Our data demonstrated no association between fat, red meat, physical activity, and diverticulosis,” Robert S. Sandler, MD, of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and coauthors wrote in conclusion.

    • Lu

      Not sure, but a comment left at the bottom of the page of the linked report you mention was helpful for me:

      Humorously, I’d like to become famous for the following saying “When you ask the wrong question, you will get the wrong answer.” That is exactly what this study does. The real question is not quartiles of fiber in a a population that has the disease process, but what is the fiber intake of those populations that have no diverticulosis. Epidemiological studies of “pre-technological”(no electricity, gasoline, air-conditioning, grocery stores…)societies demonstrate that while those populations may have volvulus, they have no diverticulosis–due to their very high fiber intake (100-300 grams/day)according to the work of Burkitt (of Burkitt’s lymphoma)or S B Eaton of Emory U. (“Stone-agers in the Fast Lane” Am J of Med 1988). This current article is subject to the statistical errors as eloquently enumerated & discussed most recently by S Shapiro PhD (U of Capetown)regarding the UK “Million Women’s Study”; about the use of postmenopausal hormones, the subsequent development of breast cancer, and the correct statistical approach.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/martin/ Martin

    Searching the Internet for cheap and safe Amla and Triphala, I stumbled upon this product:
    http://www.realphoenixhealthcare.com/servlet/the-529/Divya-Mukta-Vati-for/Detail – (Divya Mukta Vati)
    Could this herbal formula really be a valid treatment for hypertension?
    My wife has been a vegetarian (almost vegan) for about three years now, but her blood pressure remains a bit high and she has to take traditional medication.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      Be sure you are eating a low fat whole foods, plant based diet without free oils or processed food. Also be sure to limit your sodium intake to 1500 or less. If you do this I am confident your wife’s blood pressure will be reduced.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/salt-ok-if-blood-pressure-is-ok/

  • Dharmarules

    Alas, my gene pool have given me two knees that need replacements, my diet is good ( much better since I have found Dr. Greger) but I started to eat correctly later in life and see the results of earlier choices along with my families history of knee problems. Question, six months before my first replacement, what diet areas should I concentrate on, certain foods more than others, any help would be appreciated, thank you, Lynda Whitney

  • JES

    I’ve been vegetarian for 13 years, don’t drink alcohol and still I’m on meds for acid reflux and hypothyroidism. I’m also overweight and I’ve had surgery for anal fissures and polyps. What gives?

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

      The a low fat whole food plant based diet plus vitamin b12 gives you the best shot at achieving ideal body weight and improving acid reflux. Once your body has destroyed it’s ability to make thyroid you are stuck on taking replacement although you want to avoid over and under treatment. Your thyroid medication may need to be adjusted when you change your diet. I would recommend you read two articles in that appeared in Dr. John McDougall’s monthly newsletters. They are … My Stomach’s on Fire.. (February 2002) and Fat Vegan (Dec 2008). The best introduction to long term success at weight loss can be found by viewing Jeff Novick’s DVD… Calorie Density: how to eat more, weigh less etc and Doug Lisle’s presentation available on YouTube… How to Lose weight without losing your mind. This approach should give you the best chance of minimizing problems with anal fissures and polyps. Working with your physicians after getting the best information should serve you well. Good luck.

    • Padma Garvey

      I am a physician who was raised as a strict vegetarian since birth. Everyone in my family are strict vegetarians. However, heart disease, diabetes, etc runs in my family. Three years ago, after my father passed away, I realized that I was 40 pounds overweight. It dawned on me that being a vegetarian was not enough. I could stick a straw in a bottle of olive oil and be a vegan. I made the following changes and saw immediate and steady results in my weight.
      1) no processed foods…if I haven’t made it, I don’t eat it. If I do have to buy something processed..it cannot have more than 5 ingredients in it.
      2) Limit oil….all oil is 120 calories/tablespoon. If you got rid of one tablespoon of oil from your every day diet, you would lose 13 pounds at the end of one year. There is no dish my family of four gets that contains more than one tablespoon of oil. I do not eat anything fried and no oil in my salad dressings.
      3) No animal dairy. Milk makes a baby grow..it makes us grow too
      4) whole grains only. If it is not a whole grain, I do not eat it.
      5) I run 3 to 5 miles 5 times a week, I do yoga, I dance, You have to move

      • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

        Congrats.. points well made. In my diabetic patients it is important for them to realize that type 2 diabetes is a “sugar” processing problem caused by fats in the diet. The science shows that fat causes insulin resistance and turns off the genes that run the mitochondria that burn the sugar. This also partly explains why the same diet works so well with patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome.

  • Lisa Buddhacelli

    I think the difference is more about beliefs than truly giving veggies all the credit for keeping people healthy. I believe that vegetarians are more thoughtful and deliberately make causes for their health benefits and try to avoid ingesting chemicals and getting unnecessary surgeries. I believe that people who consume a great deal of meat show some disregard for their bodies and this reflects in their attitude toward medicine, thinking that pills are magic and that surgeries can cure all, which is not always true.

    • Lisa Buddhacelli

      I rarely used over-the-counter medication (OTCM) throughout my life, so much so that I had to go to my primary care doctor and he had to explain to me about getting some OTCM cold & flu medicine at one point. He acted like I was stupid. But really, it was just because I don’t run to the medicine cabinet constantly to abuse drugs.

  • jankent

    I would love to know if taking Warfarin for 15 years is bad and is it possible to come off this horrid drug.

  • Karin Tzarfaty

    As a vegan animal (and sometimes people:) lover, i can not thank you enough for all that you are!!!!!
    i hope you know how important what you do is and how much strength you give others.. wish you would come lecture in israel soon:)

  • Laurie Hug

    Dr., I have pre-diabetes, and I don’t know if 1 of the symptoms of this disease is random cramping in toes, feet, calves, thighs, waist, back, arms, hands, fingers. I am a vegetarian (almost total vegan). I have been a vegetarian since 1980 (34 years). I also have chronic bladder infection which I control by using cranberry pills. I have always loved to eat desserts, although I have cut back more and more over the years. I have symptoms of diabetes at different times which include blurry vision, dizziness, numbish toes, extreme thirst (I drink usually 3 quarts a day). My urine is at times rank smelling, especially when I don’t drink at least 3 quarts of water. I also have been biting my cheeks and tongue often. I notice waking up with my cheeks between my teeth. Many years ago I had asthma and got on inhalers which gave me thrush in just a few days. I read the book, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water by Dr. Batman?????, and started drinking 5 quarts of water a day for the first week drinking water til my asthma went away. Eventually I drank less and then the normal amount for many years. I got asthma again about maybe a year ago and tried the water thing again, but it didn’t work this time, probably because of pre-diabetes. Doctors don’t know what to think of my cramping. Could the cramping be caused by diabetes or my puffers for asthma? I ask the doctors and they can’t seem to answer. Is the biting of my mouth caused by my asthma puffers? Could you give me some advice, please? Oh, I am a 60 year old white female. My weight is 120 pounds, and I am almost 5 feet in height. Thanks for your time.

    • Thea

      Laurie Hug: I’m sorry to hear about all your troubles.

      I’m not a doctor, so I can’t say whether diabetes is having those effects on your or not. It’s my understanding that diabetes does have all sorts of nasty effects, so it seems possible…

      What I recommend to everyone who has any interest in diabetes is to read the book: “Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes – The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes without Drugs” (Amazon has it.)

      My thought for your situation is that if you adopted the diet that is laid out in the book, you *might* improve on the other problems you are talking about – even if those other problems have nothing to do with diabetes. The diet discussed in the book is generally the best for all-around health, and is consistent with the diet recommended her on NutritionFacts.org. Once people go down that healthy eating path, they tend to see all sorts of health problems clear up. No guarantees, but what would it hurt to try? (Especially if you did the diet changes with your doctor’s oversight.)

      That’s just my 2 cents. I sure hope you are able to get some relief.

    • aballiett

      Laurie – I hope you are feeling better by now. I just wanted to say that I’m your age and I started getting random cramping. I tried a variety of supplements with no effect. (I’m also pre-diabetic.) Finally I took a ‘power pack’ packet of electrolytes and trace minerals. The problem stopped almost immediately. I don’t take the packets daily, but probably should. When the cramping started, I supplemented with calcium and magnesium and potassium with no benefit but the good electrolytes and trace minerals made all the difference in the world!

    • Steven

      Hey Laurie, cramping is often caused by a shortage of magnesium in your body. So if you start magnesium suppletion, the cramps should stop quite soon. Best to take magnesium for some months to fill up body reserves. Best to take a good form like magnesium – glycerofosfate (no Mg oxide). Best to start taking it in the evening, when you have low levels of magnesium you might feel sleepy/very relaxed in the beginning. Of course allways check with your doctor for counter – indications (which are rare).