Plant-Based Benefits Extend Beyond the Top Killers

The Adventist Health Studies offer some of the best science on the impacts of plant-based diets on health and longevity. Based in California, they include both the longest running study of vegetarians in history as well as the largest contingent of vegans. While most of the attention on the benefits of plant-based eating have focused on reduced rates of many of the top killers, such as heart disease, cancer, strokes, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, the Adventist Health Study—started back in 1974—offered insight into how broadly the potential health benefits may extend.

My video-of-the-day Preventing Allergies in Adulthood (a follow-up to Preventing Childhood Allergies last week), presented findings from the Adventist Health Study showing that women eating plant-based diets were found to have a 30% lower chance of reporting chemical allergies, 24% less asthma, 17% less drug and bee-sting allergies, and 15% less hay fever, though men eating plant-based appeared to have lower risk only of chemical and drug allergies. This was cross-sectional data, meaning it was just a slice in time, so we don’t necessarily know which came first. Still, after adjusting for other factors such as smoking, the findings do suggest a favorable effect of a plant-based diet on the prevalence of allergies.

In Say No To Drugs By Saying Yes To More Plants, I presented more findings from the Adventist Health Study. The lower rates of disease found in those eating plant-based diets appear to translate into fewer surgeries (from hysterectomies to varicose veins) and fewer medications. Compared to meat-eating controls, those eating vegetarian had only about half the odds of being on aspirin, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, antacids, pain-killers, blood pressure medications, laxatives, and insulin. So if you’re like most people and don’t like being dependent on drugs, don’t like paying for drugs, and don’t like all the side effects, you may be able to cut your odds of needing medications in half by choosing to eat a more plant-based diet.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

This post was originally featured on One Green Planet


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

14 responses to “Plant-Based Benefits Extend Beyond the Top Killers

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  1. 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. Please consider sharing this short piece with loved ones! And don’t forget, there are 1,500 subjects covered in my videos–please feel free to explore them!

    1. I discovered in the mid ,70,s that I was vulnerable, based on my mother’s heart attract. The surgeon told me that I was a wild card, regarding heart problems. Sure enough I found that my cholesterol was elevated. Going on a near vegan diet was not sufficient to lower my numbers. This was all before the statin revolution. I was reasonably successful with niacin, soluble fiber, and reduced saturated fats.
      In 1987 I went on Lipitor. 13 years later I experienced myothophopy,leg pain and weakness. My doctor brushed it off. Wrong.
      Statin is a dangerous drug whose serious side effects are underreported.
      I am now 70, with 30+ years of deprivation and obsessive eating behavior which kept my lipid numbers in a good range.
      I now cannot tolerate statin
      My options are to go vegan, although I have familial hypercholestremia, or to go the rest of the distance, having done my best for the last 30 years
      Will my next 15 years or so left matter whatever I do?
      What I do know is that the meds will make my life miserable.

    2. I became very weak/tired after three weeks on the plant based diet. I added a steak and in two days I felt better. My partner does not have this trouble ( we ate the same). I want to get back to the diet. Are some people not able to do plant-based diet?

      1. Be sure to have the base of your meals complex carbohydrate based (brown rice, whole wheat, sweet potatoes, beans, quinoa, oats, etc.) for adequate satiety and to keep you from grazing all day. The first few days on a plant based diet may make you feel off, but after a week of eating this way your body will have gotten used to it and you will feel much better. I cite this from personal experience.

      2. Perhaps, you need Vitamin B-12. It makes a world of difference. I followed a book by Neal Barnard, M.D., Foods That Fight Pain. Used his 3 week diet and the pain just disappeared, which kept me on the diet after fracturing my spine.

        Still have not eaten meat or dairy, although I’m still new at this. It’s been almost a year. Vitamin B-12 should be taken with a B-complex at the same time and eaten with vitamin C and B-Complex foods for better absorption. In order to sleep at night, take the Vitamin B-12 with breakfast.

      3. You probably weren’t getting enough calories . Next time eat more calorie dense foods like starches , avocados , nuts ( within reason , says the nutahloic ) and make sure you are getting enough to eat . On a plant based diet you will be eating more volume .Also your body may have just been adjusting. When I went vegan I didn’t feel well for a couple of days about ten days in . This is apparently common . Just ride it out . The benefits are amazing .

    3. Dear Dr.
      I watched you on public television and was very impressed. I’m 66 years old and waa diagnosed with DCIS stage 0. I choose lifestyle changes instead of meds as I have a past history of sarcoidosis. I am from Jamaica where we use a lot of herbs AKA bushes. The only meat I eat is organic chicken. I do not eat diar. I would like to hear your views on herbal teas and their health benefits. Anxiously awaiting your reply

  2. I was raised in a Seventh Day Adventist family and as such I am familiar with a healthy plant-based diet and lifestyle. I also believe that the natural substances found in nature are by far more beneficial for health that processed food. My frustration is the unavailability of good quality plant-based food at affordable prices. Most vegetables and fruits in the supermarket are often so stale by the time they are purchased that they have lost a large proportion of their nutrients; these include the organic alternative, which are also a lot more expensive. Trying to maintain a vegetarian diet is difficult, as I have also been corrupted by the highly processed non-meat products that are widely available on a limited budget.
    I really enjoy your DVDs and the information this new site offers. Thank you!

      1. ok. wow, I have maternal Adventist Heritage . Thanks for all the vital information you’ve been sharing! I’ve lost three members of the maternal side of my family to carcinogenic diseases within 10 months starting with my mother who fought merciless pancreatic cancer from February to June 27th 2011 , then my aunt to cervical cancer in January 29th 2012, followed by my cousin who fought Leukemia up to April 24th. So you can bet I’ve been paying attention to all your Anti-Carcinogenic info (despite the fact that I’m not yet vegan but trying to make the transition. 3 years till I’m 40 so I should look out for prostate , colon and whatever may come , indeed .

  3. Since being on a plant based diet (I made the transition one month ago), I notice some slight nausea, particularly in the 4th week. I eat as much as I want of raw and cooked plant foods, some mono meals and mostly just lots of variety with fruits and vegetables. I’m so happy and clearer, but my stomach feels a little off and so I am not interested in eating as much as I used to. I’m wondering if this is quite normal for new vegans. What are your recommendations? Thank you for all u do. I’m very grateful!

    1. HI Irini. I know we discussed this off-site, but let me write what we covered in hopes this may help someone else in the future.

      Sometimes it takes time for the stomach to adapt. Less raw foods may help. Make sure beans are well-cooked, and other veggies, especially the cruciferous ones. Let me know if the cooked veggies help? Also, tofu, creamy peanut butter, potatoes, are good foods to add as they have a bit less fiber and are easier to tolerate during the transition. That is not to say fiber is bad, your need so much of it! But if bloaty or in pain try a bit less. Some ginger or peppermint tea may help soothe nausea. Check out our videos on ginger and peppermint, search by topics. I bet you’ll find some interesting stuff!

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