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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Linda

A significant convergence of evidence suggests that plant-based diets may help prevent and even reverse some of the top killer diseases in the Western world and in some cases be more effective than medication and surgery. It is the only diet ever proven to reverse the #1 killer of men and women (heart disease) in the majority of patients. A more plant-based diet may also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, certain forms of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and Parkinson’s disease, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, Crohn’s disease, gallstones, kidney stones, diverticulosis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and vaginal infections.

Additionally, plant-based eating may have a beneficial effect on abdominal fat, acne, aging, allergies, asthma, body odor, cellulite, childhood IQ, cognition, dysmenorrhea, eczema, gut flora, fibromyalgia, kidney stones, metabolic syndrome, menstrual breast pain, mood, multiple sclerosis, oral health, rheumatoid arthritis, waist circumference and weight control. Even just small steps toward eating more fruit and vegetables may lengthen lifespan.

Eating meat and other animal products has be associated with a shortened lifespans. Potential mechanisms for the relationship between certain animal products and disease include the saturated fat, trans fats, arachidonic acid, and heme iron. Meat, fish, dairy and eggs may also increase our exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, industrial pollutants including mercury and other toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, advanced glycation end-products (AGE), xenoestrogens in fish and estrogenic carcinogens that are formed when meat is cooked at high temperatures.

Contrary to popular myth, most vegans get more than enough protein. In one study, within a matter of weeks, participants placed on a plant-based diet experienced improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin levels, insulin resistance and C-reactive protein levels (a measure of inflammation).

Ironically, vegans may consume more nutrients than average omnivores while maintaining a lower body weight. Those eating plant-based diets appear to experience enhanced athletic recovery without affecting the benefits of exercise. The arteries of vegans appear healthier than even long-distance endurance athletes and those on low-carb diets.

There are two vitamins, however, that are not made by plants: vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin created by animals—such as ourselves when we are exposed to adequate sun exposure, and vitamin B12, which is made by microbes. There is a serious risk of B12 deficiency if B12 supplements or B12-fortified foods are not consumed on a regular basis. Other nutrients that deserve consideration are calcium, iodine, zinc, and omega 3 fatty acids.

Image Credit: Pixabay. This image has been modified.

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