Why Vegans Should Eat More Plant-Based

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One cannot assume that simply avoiding animal foods will necessarily produce a healthy diet.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In the United States, the #1 risk for death is the American diet, associated with more deaths than any other risk factor––responsible for like half a million mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, and family dying every year, because of what they ate, mostly from cardiovascular disease. That’s where plant-based diets can come in: associated with a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and in fact, lower risk of dying from all causes put together. Progressively increasing the intake of plant foods by reducing the intake of animal foods may enable us to live longer, healthier lives. And it doesn’t take much.

If you look at the largest cohort study on diet and health in history, the NIH-AARP study, they found that replacing just 3 percent of energy from animal protein with plant protein was associated with a 10 percent lower overall mortality in both men and women and cardiovascular disease mortality. Of all the animal protein sources, eggs were the worst. Swapping in 3 percent plant protein for egg protein was associated with twice the benefit, exceeding 20 percent lower mortality in men and women. The researchers concluded that this study provides evidence for public health recommendations regarding dietary modifications in terms of choice of protein sources that may promote health and longevity, and plant protein is preferable.

Now, healthy plant-based diets are associated with lower risk of all-cause mortality, but with an emphasis on healthy. When individuals increase their consumption of plant foods, while decreasing their intake of animal foods, they could be increasing their consumption of less-healthy options: highly-processed plant foods like Coke and Wonder Bread. One cannot assume that simply avoiding animal foods will necessarily produce such a healthy diet.

In order to distinguish between healthful and unhealthful vegan diets, the term whole food, plant-based diet is attributed to Cornell professor emeritus in Nutritional Biochemistry Dr. T. Colin Campbell. If you look at India, for example, you see a decrease in whole plant food content of their diet, along with increasing risk of obesity and noncommunicable chronic diseases. This may help explain why disease rates are on the rise even in a country with a large vegetarian contingent.

This may help explain why healthwise, vegans in the US do better than vegans in the UK. The #1 reason people in the US eat plant-based is health; and so, they eat more plants, more fiber, and vitamin C, only found concentrated in whole plant foods; whereas the #1 reason given in the UK is animal welfare reasons; and so, they may be more likely to just switch over to vegan doughnuts.

You can’t know if vegans really have to eat more plants, though, until you put it to the test. An evaluation of an eight-week whole food plant-based lifestyle modification program in which two dozen were already eating vegetarian or vegan, but not necessarily whole food plant-based. And, after eight weeks, even those who already started out vegetarian or vegan experienced significant weight loss and reductions in cholesterol. They lost ten pounds, and dropped their LDL cholesterol 15 points. So, even a short-term whole food, plant-based dietary intervention may provide significant benefits for non-vegetarians, vegetarians, and vegans alike.

We have a food supply in which “junk” is a food group, willfully engineered to maximize eating for profit, and the industry will happily make all the vegan junk we’re willing to buy. In fact, if you compare the consumption of ultra-processed junk across different eating patterns, vegetarians and vegans were found to be eating the most junk, like potato chips and cookies. Not all plant-based exert the same health effects.

But what about animal foods? These researchers separately scored the quality of different plant-based foods with a plant-based Diet Quality Index, and also various animal foods in an animal-based Diet Quality Index. For example, if you consider processed meats and red meats as unhealthy animal foods, but fish, seafood, dairy, and poultry as healthy animal foods (and you throw eggs in with the unhealthy too, based on the most recent evidence), they found that the higher the quality of plant foods, the longer you live, the lower all-cause mortality. But no independent association was found for the quality of animal foods––meaning they all seemed just as bad in terms of cancer mortality, heart disease mortality, and all-cause mortality.

In light of the expanding global threat of cardiovascular disease, large-scale shifts toward healthy plant-based diets are imperative to ensure future human health. But all plant foods are not created equal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In the United States, the #1 risk for death is the American diet, associated with more deaths than any other risk factor––responsible for like half a million mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, and family dying every year, because of what they ate, mostly from cardiovascular disease. That’s where plant-based diets can come in: associated with a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and in fact, lower risk of dying from all causes put together. Progressively increasing the intake of plant foods by reducing the intake of animal foods may enable us to live longer, healthier lives. And it doesn’t take much.

If you look at the largest cohort study on diet and health in history, the NIH-AARP study, they found that replacing just 3 percent of energy from animal protein with plant protein was associated with a 10 percent lower overall mortality in both men and women and cardiovascular disease mortality. Of all the animal protein sources, eggs were the worst. Swapping in 3 percent plant protein for egg protein was associated with twice the benefit, exceeding 20 percent lower mortality in men and women. The researchers concluded that this study provides evidence for public health recommendations regarding dietary modifications in terms of choice of protein sources that may promote health and longevity, and plant protein is preferable.

Now, healthy plant-based diets are associated with lower risk of all-cause mortality, but with an emphasis on healthy. When individuals increase their consumption of plant foods, while decreasing their intake of animal foods, they could be increasing their consumption of less-healthy options: highly-processed plant foods like Coke and Wonder Bread. One cannot assume that simply avoiding animal foods will necessarily produce such a healthy diet.

In order to distinguish between healthful and unhealthful vegan diets, the term whole food, plant-based diet is attributed to Cornell professor emeritus in Nutritional Biochemistry Dr. T. Colin Campbell. If you look at India, for example, you see a decrease in whole plant food content of their diet, along with increasing risk of obesity and noncommunicable chronic diseases. This may help explain why disease rates are on the rise even in a country with a large vegetarian contingent.

This may help explain why healthwise, vegans in the US do better than vegans in the UK. The #1 reason people in the US eat plant-based is health; and so, they eat more plants, more fiber, and vitamin C, only found concentrated in whole plant foods; whereas the #1 reason given in the UK is animal welfare reasons; and so, they may be more likely to just switch over to vegan doughnuts.

You can’t know if vegans really have to eat more plants, though, until you put it to the test. An evaluation of an eight-week whole food plant-based lifestyle modification program in which two dozen were already eating vegetarian or vegan, but not necessarily whole food plant-based. And, after eight weeks, even those who already started out vegetarian or vegan experienced significant weight loss and reductions in cholesterol. They lost ten pounds, and dropped their LDL cholesterol 15 points. So, even a short-term whole food, plant-based dietary intervention may provide significant benefits for non-vegetarians, vegetarians, and vegans alike.

We have a food supply in which “junk” is a food group, willfully engineered to maximize eating for profit, and the industry will happily make all the vegan junk we’re willing to buy. In fact, if you compare the consumption of ultra-processed junk across different eating patterns, vegetarians and vegans were found to be eating the most junk, like potato chips and cookies. Not all plant-based exert the same health effects.

But what about animal foods? These researchers separately scored the quality of different plant-based foods with a plant-based Diet Quality Index, and also various animal foods in an animal-based Diet Quality Index. For example, if you consider processed meats and red meats as unhealthy animal foods, but fish, seafood, dairy, and poultry as healthy animal foods (and you throw eggs in with the unhealthy too, based on the most recent evidence), they found that the higher the quality of plant foods, the longer you live, the lower all-cause mortality. But no independent association was found for the quality of animal foods––meaning they all seemed just as bad in terms of cancer mortality, heart disease mortality, and all-cause mortality.

In light of the expanding global threat of cardiovascular disease, large-scale shifts toward healthy plant-based diets are imperative to ensure future human health. But all plant foods are not created equal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Doctor's Note

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