Say No to Drugs by Saying Yes to More Plants

Say No to Drugs by Saying Yes to More Plants
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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).

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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 nonvegetarians 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, painkillers, 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Brian Hansen / flickr

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 nonvegetarians 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, painkillers, 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Brian Hansen / flickr

Doctor's Note

Check out my other videos on chronic diseases and also my other videos on plant-based diets

For further context, see my associated blog posts: Plant-Based Benefits Extend Beyond the Top KillersPoultry and Penis CancerKiwi Fruit for Irritable Bowel SyndromeTreating Crohn’s Disease With Diet; and Plant-Based Diets for Fibromyalgia.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

33 responses to “Say No to Drugs by Saying Yes to More Plants

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  1. 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?

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. Had this information been available when I was younger, I could have avoided two major surgeries and high blood pressure. No need to sulk now but continuing the path to no meds…

      1. My mother 98 and myself 76 became World Champions in Athletics in World Sr.Games 2013 held in St.George, Utah. I am from India and I want to spread good health knowledge in Punjabi Language. How I can do that, please let me know.

      2. Replying 5 years later …. if you still need someone to translate I would love to help. I’m a Spaniard/Cuban living in Miami, Fl. I just became aware of the unbelievable importance and benefit of living a plant based diet. Translating the videos would help me really retain the information.

        Hope ur having a good day!

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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?

    1. 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.

    2. 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

      1. 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.

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. 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:)

  8. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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!

    3. 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).

  9. This is a very interesting article but to imply the reason for improved outcomes is just down to a vegetarian diet may be perhaps a bit misleading. It may be a confounding factor in some diseases or outcomes and actually be something else that provides the benefit, e.g. exercise. It may be that the vegetarians sampled were generally more aware of health and had less reliance on medicine to treat ailments or they were more likely to exercise more if vegetarian. Further research into which factors are most significant would be required to be certain. Saying that, I am a strong advocate of vegetarianism/vegan and whole food diet, I have not eaten meat for 20+ yrs, however I think a more holistic approach to health will give the best results on overall mental and physical health.

  10. can i increase my bone density with diet and if so what foods would help most ….I have just recently been diagnosed with -2.8 osteoporosis and have stopped my drugs after 4 weeks as didnt like what it said about actenel dr

    1. melmendo: I don’t know if there is a guaranteed way to increase your bone density, but I think the following book would be helpful to give you a fighting chance: “Building Bone Vitality – a revolutionary diet plan to prevent bone loss and reverse osteoporosis” I’ve read the book and think it is excellent, with lots of good science to back it up. As the book says, it’s probably the right kinds of exercise, in addition to diet, that is going to make the most difference.

      If you are interested, this is the book I’m talking about:
      http://www.amazon.com/Building-Bone-Vitality-Revolutionary-Osteoporosis–Without/dp/0071600191/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1432769143&sr=1-1&keywords=building+bone+vitality

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