Exactly How Much Difference A Vegan Diet Can Make
Many have preached the health benefits of a purely plant-based vegan diet for years. Even for the majority of those reading this, and even for those who don’t follow that kind of diet, it comes across as a ‘good thing’. But how many know precisely the kind of difference such a diet can make to one’s life?
For those curious about the answer, look at these results. In a recent test involving 19 nurses, after rigorously following a plant-based diet provided by a doctor:
14 of 19 lowered cholesterol by 18 mg/dl on average, with 6 seeing a drop of between 45 to 60 mg/dl
10 of 19, just over half the subjects, lost weight with an average 4.4 pounds and a range from 1.5 to 9 pounds
6 of the 19, or 30%, felt more energized
8 of the 19, or 41%, felt highly satisfied with their health after the diet versus only 1 before the diet
All that happened in only 21 days. Three weeks. Even better, after the diet was finished the nurses as a whole made a decision to continue to eat more fruit and vegetables as part of their daily consumption. They also cut back on their previous consumption of meat and dairy products.
They also did all this without following any strict rules about portion size or calories. The sole ground rule was to eat vegan, based on lists provided by the medical professionals supervising.
Getting excited now?
These results were reported in the March 2017 issue of the American Journal of Nursing, AJN, in the article “A Plant-based Nutrition Program”.
How We Are Systematically Killing Ourselves with Our Diets
As a so-called civilization with such pride in education, Americans are remarkably stupid about their normal dietary choices.
According to the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the United States, the top 10 foods Americans ate as reported during the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey were:
1. Sweets including Cake, Cookies, Quick Bread, Pies and Pastries
2. Yeast Breads and Rolls
3. Soft Drinks
5. Snack items such as Crackers, Popcorn, Pretzels and Chips
8. Candy, sugars and sugary foods
10. Alcoholic Beverages
Notice the complete lack of vegetables or fruit, other than as put in what the ARS refers to as ‘combination foods’? The lack of fiber and access to vitamins such a diet entails can be devastating. Plus the high carbohydrate count and intake of processed foods such as flour and sugar makes this all even worse.
It is also – both metaphorically and figuratively – just ‘icing on the cake’ that many of the vegetable items included in the above ‘combination foods’ derive from Genetically-modified items such as wheat and corn. Those items, along with their partner pesticides such as ‘likely carcinogen’ glyphosate makes eating much of this even more hazardous to our health.
With this as what people are bringing into their bodies, it is no surprise that over two-thirds of all Americans are overweight or even obese, with their diet also contributing to cancer, diabetes, and other diseases. This ‘normal’ diet also contributes to coronary heart disease, a condition that kills one in four of those living in the United States. More than 73 million Americans – or almost one in four of the 323 million total population – have cholesterol levels beyond recommended limits.
This is despite all the research published to date which shows such a diet can deal with all of that – and even help everyone’s chances in coming down with cancer.
So there is definitely good cause for looking at such a diet.
How the Study Started
The genesis of this particular investigation of plant-based diets started on a personal basis, with nurses already involved at three of George Mason University’s faculty-lead community health clinics.
The trigger was a presentation by Joanne Evans to the group on the subject of plant-based nutrition and the impacts it could have on health. After that presentation, the group made the decision to proceed with a 21-day study to see what it could do for them as a group. It began at the beginning of the fall semester at the University.
What They Ate
To be completely clear on the program, for the purposes of this study the plant-based diet available to the nurses during this study centered on the four food groups of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, with seeds and nuts added to the diet. No Meat, seafood, eggs, or dairy products were allowed. No highly-processed foods such as oils, sugar, and flour were allowed either.
So this was different and stricter from what is known as a vegetarian diet, since that may allow dairy, eggs, and some highly-processed foods to the mix.
The specific diet to be followed was a diet plan called the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart program. It was developed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, an advocacy group which promotes the use of plant-based diets to prevent and manage chronic disease. The diet is available free for all to view and download at: http://www. pcrm. org/ kickstarthome/ mealplan/ week- 1. Weeks 1 is shown on the first page; weeks 2 and 3 are available at a click of the menu, also for free.
For those interested in following this kind of program themselves, a second diet plan called the Mcdougall Program was also recommended.
Ongoing Educational and Discussion Events During the Program
Along with the eating part, something different in this program versus what might be considered a ‘do-it yourself was the ‘ongoing education’ part of the activity.
Featured events included a major kickoff presentation, review of research on the advantages of plant-based diets, review of the research of how so-called normal diets are in fact killing many of us, and both formal and informal discussions about each of the food groups being consumed in the diet.
The program included interactive webinars run by Joanne Evans that focused on the operational parts of the program, open discussions of how the nurses involved in the program were feeling during the trial period, along with both challenges and positives of the ongoing experience.
Another part of the training included a watching “Forks Over Knives”, a documentary readily available through a number of online streaming services. It contains hard data and strong conclusions about the many health benefits of purely plant-based diets.
As a whole, the ongoing educational program helped reinforce what in some cases were difficult shifts to make for many involved. Besides the sense of ‘withdrawal’ from the more addictive types of foods (such as highly-processed and sugar-laden foods), there was also the occasional difficulty of working this new diet into the normal flow of life. This last part was especially present for nurses and their families at home.
As noted above, many of the medical health metrics showed dramatic changes for the nurses in the study.
Major highlights included:
Cholesterol levels dropping from an average level of 203 mg/dl before the program to 185 mg/dl after the three weeks
Weight losses averaging 4.4 pounds per person
Energy went up significantly, with 11% feeling their diet satisfied them in this way before the program, and 44% feeling that way after they concluded the 21-day plan
People therefore not only felt better after the experiment and actually were better on multiple scales. And while three weeks is clearly too short a time to demonstrate the full results many months or years of such a diet might provide, the evidence reported even in that short time was very clear to the participants themselves. Because while just 6% of them felt ‘highly satisfied’ before the program, 44% felt that way after the program.
An improper diet is the leading cause of premature death and chronic illness in many countries. The American diet is especially disease causing and a major reason that Americans spend so much on health care yet are getting sicker.
Diet is also a huge factor in climate change and environment degredation. Many scientists believe that humanity is literally eating itself to probable extinction.
Now is a good time to change your diet and help change the world.
For more information on the importance of a smart diet please read “How a Smart Diet Could Save the World” in the March issue of Trillions magazine.