In recent years, there has been a global pandora’s box of medical research that shines a bright light on the role plant-based diets play in preventing and treating chronic diseases. New study after new study has thrown light on the many health benefits that come with a plant-based diet, especially when compared to fad diets filled with harmful processed meats.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 47.5 million American adults are classified as obese. That’s equivalent to one in three Americans. Additionally, over 125 million adults are overweight. Seventy percent of U.S. adults are either obese or overweight. It’s no wonder that chronic diseases make up such a major portion of healthcare in the country.
These statistics represent a wake-up call to the U.S. government and the medical community, who have largely dismissed the anti-obesity and anti-diabetes effects of plant-based diets, focusing instead on the effects of nutrient-rich processed foods. While the government and medical community were focused on nutrient-rich processed foods, healthcare consumers in general, and plant-based dieters in particular, were focused on the effects of food over calories.
But, as more and more science backed up the health benefits of a plant-based diet, the medical community has started to acknowledge the dangers of too many carbohydrates, too much sugar and too much processed food.
In order to get the government and the medical community to wake up and take note, you don’t need to convince them that plant-based diets are healthy, you just need to show them how much disease they’re preventing by not paying attention.
Obesity-Related Diseases Are Preventable
One of the major causes of obesity is a slow metabolism. When you have a slow metabolism, it takes a longer time for your body to process food, so you store more calories as fat. To put it simply, having a slow metabolism causes you to become overweight.
What’s more, dieting doesn’t work for everyone. Some people are genetically predisposed to store more calories as fat than others. Some are also more susceptible to developing diabetes and liver disorders as a result of poor nutrition. These are all examples of conditions that preventive medicine such as a plant-based diet can help to prevent.
Type 2 Diabetes Can Be Prevented
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), type 2 diabetes affects more than 400 million people globally, with over 30 million in the United States alone. That’s more than 7% of the population. If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from this disease, you know how debilitating it can be. You also know how expensive it is to treat. That’s why preventing type 2 diabetes is one of the major goals in global health.
What’s interesting is that while type 2 diabetes is often seen as a “western disease,” there is now scientific evidence to suggest that it can be prevented and controlled by a plant-based diet. In fact, several studies have shown that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 50%.
Heart Disease, Stroke And Arthritis Can Be Treated
Heart disease, stroke and arthritis are three more diseases that can be prevented or at least managed by a plant-based diet. Let’s examine the connection between these diseases and food in more detail.
Heart disease and stroke are the number one and two causes of death in the United States, according to the CDC. Roughly 550,000 people die annually from these diseases, which is more than all other diseases combined. Heart disease and stroke are also the number one and two causes of disability in the country. That means that one out of every four Americans is either disabled or has a disease that prevents them from working.
There are several reasons why a plant-based diet may reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. First, a plant-based diet avoids excessive meat consumption, which has been directly linked to both conditions. Second, it ensures you get your recommended daily amounts of vitamins, minerals and fiber, all of which contribute to heart health. Vitamin B6 for example, which occurs naturally in tomatoes, was shown in a Clinical Trial to modestly reduce the risk of heart disease. Third and finally, a plant-based diet helps to control cholesterol and saturated fatty acids, which are two factors directly linked to heart disease. Saturated fatty acids increase the cholesterol in your blood, while cholesterol is a factor that contributes to arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
As for arthritis, the Arthritis Foundation states that as of 2016, approximately 52.2 million Americans suffer from some form of arthritis. That’s one in three people. According to the Arthritis Foundation, almost 100 million people worldwide suffer from the painful inflammation of arthritis. One of the major factors that contribute to arthritis is obesity. The more you weigh, the greater your chances of developing arthritis. For instance, the Arthritis Foundation reports that people who are overweight or obese have 4 times the risk of developing arthritis compared to those who are of normal weight.
But it’s not just about weight. There are other factors that contribute to arthritis. For example, stress and depression increase your risk of developing the disease. An unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity also increase your chances of developing arthritis. Just remember that there’s no single cause of arthritis. It’s a disease that affects your whole body, so you have to look at multiple factors to ensure you get better.
Diverticular Disease Can Be Managed
Diverticular disease is a form of colitis that affects your large intestine. It’s been around for centuries and was initially considered to be a “senile” form of the disease. In reality, it’s a controllable condition that mostly affects people who are obese. It’s also referred to as colitis when the inflammation occurs in your large intestine. Diverticula are small pouches that form in your colon as a result of the disease. When this happens, it allows certain bacteria to slowly multiply, causing the area around the pouches to become infected. The resulting diarrhea and abdominal cramps are the hallmark symptoms of diverticular disease. If you experience these symptoms, it’s essential that you see your doctor so that he can diagnose you with the disease and then prescribe you the correct treatment.
Fortunately, there is now scientific evidence that suggests that a plant-based diet can help to prevent and manage diverticular disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists diverticula as one of the conditions that can be prevented by a plant-based diet. Several studies have also shown that a plant-based diet can reduce both the risk and the symptoms of this disease.
Liver Diseases Can Be Treated
The liver is a huge organ that is part of the immune system. Like other organs in your body, it needs good nutrition to function properly. That means it requires vitamins and minerals from food sources (in this case, plants). It also needs fuel to function properly. That’s why it utilizes blood sugar, or glucose, for energy. Finally, the liver produces bilirubin, which returns to the blood whenever it is exposed to light. Too much bilirubin in the blood can cause permanent damage to eyesight.
It’s well-established that diabetes and obesity increase the risk of several types of liver disease. But, fortunately, there is now evidence to suggest that a plant-based diet can help to prevent and manage these diseases. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) by up to 66%. They also cite several studies that show a plant-based diet can modestly improve the quality of life for people with cirrhosis, or advanced liver disease.