There are 3 main reasons to consider being vegan
This article only highlights one reason why people choose a vegan diet – the health reasons. Is a plant based diet healthier?
The other 2 reasons are for sustainability of the environment and humane reasons. If you are struggling with your weight or have heart disease in your family, the health benefits may be enough for you to change your eating habits.
Our society is being saturated with highly processed foods and it’s obvious just by looking around that this is causing more people to be obese. Cardio-metabolic diseases are the leading cause of mortality worldwide and contribute to healthcare and economic burden. This group of diseases refers to heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. It’s frightening that 1 in 4 deaths globally is due to heart disease. Studies show that when combined with exercise and stress management, a low-fat, plant based diet is one of the only dietary patterns to be able to cease atherosclerotic plaque in clinical trials.
This is not cause and effect
Prior to reading anymore I want to be clear that plant-based diets do not guarantee results. This is not a magical diet that will make you immune to disease and weight gain. Most of the data shows that vegan and vegetarian lifestyles can significantly reduce the chances of developing diseases however most of these studies found this was only true in addition to exercise.
It is well researched and proven that 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise at least 5 days a week will reduce risks of cardiovascular disease. Exercise and reduction in cardiovascular disease is cause and effect but being vegan and reduction in cardiovascular disease is more correlation.
It IS correlation
A vegan diet is not cause and effect because there is not enough evidence to prove that a vegan lifestyle alone leads to reduction in disease. Neither the vegan nor vegetarian diet restrict refined sugar, simple carbohydrates, or saturated fats which are all known to be found in processed foods.
By definition, a processed food is a food item that has had a series of mechanical or chemical operations performed on it to change or preserve it. Here is a list of shockingly unhealthy vegan foods. The list includes foods like brownie mix, skinny pop, potato chips, oreo thins, and jell-o.
Keep in mind that usually people who choose a vegan lifestyle are also active and exercise more which is why the evidence shows that vegans are typically at a lower risk. This is an example of correlation.
In summary, eating a plant based diet does not guarantee a longer lifespan however it is correlated with improved quality of life.
Through her research, one well known dietician explained that plant-based diets have been also shown to be helpful in reducing the risk of developing diabetes by 77% of those who are vegan and 54% of those who are vegetarians compared with omnivores. That being said, the studies which reported dramatic reduction in the need for glucose-lowering medication also reported the participants were exercising regularly.
Through my own research and consultation with a friend who is a nurse practitioner specializing in endocrinology, level 1 evidence does not exist yet as there is limited research. The research can validate however that weight loss and exercise will increase insulin sensitivity and therefore contribute to improving symptoms of diabetes. Again, that said, plant-based individuals are usually more thin and exercise frequently. Perhaps it is not necessarily the fact that they are plant-based but it is in general the healthier lifestyle they live which leads to a reduction in diabetes.
A recent meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials and observational studies showed clear benefits of plant-based diets on blood pressure (BP). Given the consistent results between the studies, there is strong evidence associated with blood pressure reduction. Refer to the chart below published by The American Heart Association to understand blood pressure readings. On average, people who sustained a plant based lifestyle saw a 7 mm Hg reduction in systolic BP and a 5 mm Hg reduction diastolic blood pressure. These numbers may seem low but in combination with regular exercise is a promising method of reducing health concerns.
The body, especially the brain require cholesterol for proper functioning. Due to the fact that our body naturally produces cholesterol, we do not require more of it through our diet. Consuming more cholesterol than required causes plaques to form along the artery walls thus contributing to increased chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Dietary cholesterol is found only in animal products including meat, dairy, and eggs. A meat-free diet can lead to a significant reduction in total and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), which corresponded with about a 10% reduced risk of heart disease, according to a meta-analysis of randomized-controlled trials published by the American Heart Association.
Is a plant based diet healthier: more evidence is needed
In summary, it seems like the plant-based lifestyle is catching on to the American people but it is still under researched. Is the plant based diet healthier? Probably and I firmly believe that the correlation between being vegan and exercising regularly is strong and that is why a plant based lifestyle is considered to be superior.
If you have sustained a plant based lifestyle for a period of time, comment below to let us know what health benefits you noticed. If you are vegan do you also exercise regularly? Let us know below!