Some clichés exist for a good reason. “We are what we eat” is one of them.
We don’t need to reference any data to know this is true. How many times have you indulged in something you probably shouldn’t have, only to wind up sprawled on the couch, sluggish and irritable?
What we eat lays the foundation for our health. Many chronic diseases are directly influenced by diet. When it comes to preventing and even reversing these diseases, nutrition matters. As evidence regarding the health benefits of plant-based diets continues to emerge, more people are giving veganism a try.
Since the choices we make today shape our future health, let’s look at the science.
Chronic Diseases Linked to Diet
It can be tempting to look only at medication when suffering from any kind of health issue. While it’s important to respect the role medication plays in treatment, the value of nutrition should not be overlooked.
Here are some examples of chronic diseases that can be altered with a vegan diet:
Type 2 Diabetes
It’s already been established that plant-based diets are recommended for those diagnosed with diabetes. In the Standards of Care in Diabetes 2018 edition, The American Diabetes Association supports plant-based eating as a healthful eating pattern.
A study by the British Journal of Nutrition revealed that higher plant protein intake is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. In this study, they estimated that replacing even one percent of calories from animal protein with calories from plant protein could decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes by 18%. For people who are unsure about fully committing to a vegan diet, this is great news.
According to a BMJ study, a vegan diet is associated with not only a reduction in some of the known risk factors for type 2
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. The American Heart Association predicts that by 2030, 40.5% of the US population will have cardiovascular disease.
The Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases journal analyzed the effect of a plant-based diet on cardiovascular health. Researchers with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found consistent evidence that plant-based diets can improve and decrease cardiovascular disease risk. The review concluded that a plant-based diet could fully or partially open blocked arteries in up to 91% of patients.
The World Health Organization classified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning there is sufficient evidence that it causes cancer. Presently, the cancers most associated with eating meat are colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate.
Animal protein, unlike plant protein, causes the body to produce higher levels of the hormone IGF-1. Excess production of this hormone is linked to the growth of certain cancers.
Vegan diets may do more than help prevent cancer. A study by Dr. Dean Ornish showed that changes in lifestyle management, including adopting a plant-based diet, may allow patients with prostate cancer to avoid or delay conventional treatment by at least two years. Other studies suggest that a plant-based diet can positively affect survival in breast, colon, prostate, and skin cancer.
We Control What We Eat
According to a 2018 study published in Jama, diseases related to diet are the number one cause of death in the US. The study revealed that dietary risks outweigh even tobacco use. While this is a sobering statistic to read, the empowering message to remember is that we control what we put in our bodies.