New Research Supports Health Claims of Vegan Diet
Richard Gaines, M.D., FAARM, ABAARM
Over the years there have been many claims made about the health benefits of the vegetarian diet, or the more extreme vegan lifestyle. Each has also had its detractors. However, the results of several recent studies seem to back-up the health benefits of being vegan.
The term vegan often connotes a lifestyle that includes aggressive animal rights and environmental activism. That may be true of some vegans, but the one thing from a dietary standpoint that all vegans have in common is food that is entirely devoid of animal products. Vegans, unlike “vegetarians,” are 100% “plant eaters,” and political affiliations aside, there is growing scientific evidence for the health benefits of their diet.
Americans are suffering from obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, in unprecedented numbers. An all plant-based diet has been shown to prevent or reduce all of these conditions. Studies have also shown that vegans and vegetarians have a lower incidence of some cancers, as well as kidney stones, gall stones, constipation, and other gastrointestinal disorders.
There can be many reasons for these and other healthy benefits of a plant-based diet, however generally speaking a diet based on veggies, fruits, nuts, and beans provides the increased fiber and anti-oxidants that are severely lacking in the diets of most Americans. A vegan diet also eliminates processed foods, and their associated chemicals and cancer causing toxins.
There are many myths and misconceptions regarding a vegetarian or vegan diet, mainly that “our systems were designed to eat meat” or that there is a lack of protein in an all plant diet. Neither is true. Our bodies, from our jaw and teeth structure, to our digestive system are actually more closely aligned to other herbivores, and not carnivores of the animal kingdom. As far as protein goes, there are many sources of plant proteins and amino acids such as soy, hemp and other seeds and nuts.
In fact a study published this past March in the Journal Cell Metabolism found, “a low protein diet during middle age likely is beneficial to prevention of cancer, overall mortality and possibly even diabetes,” and “a diet in which plant-based nutrients represent the majority of food intake is likely to maximize health benefits in all age groups.”
While adopting an all plant-lifestyle may still seem controversial to many, and impossible for some –only 2% of Americans identify themselves as vegan, and only 5% “vegetarian” – there is no argument that adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, no matter your age or lifestyle, will have positive health impacts.