Adopting a plant-based diet can have a positive impact on your health, and these 11 doctors say that eating more vegan food could even help you live longer.
Why Doctors Are Going Plant-Based?
Many doctors, dieticians, and other health professionals advocate for a plant-based diet. In part, this is because of the health risks associated with animal products. There is an increasing body of evidence that links meat consumption—particularly that of red and processed meats—with chronic illness.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), eating 50 grams of processed meat per day—four strips of bacon or a single hot dog—can increase the risk of colorectal cancer by up to 18 percent. Diabetes, liver disease, cardiovascular diseases, and colon cancer are all linked to eating meat.
Minh Nguyen, a registered dietician with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), has said that there is “no safe amount” of meat. In stark contrast, nutrient-dense plant-based foods are thought to minimize the risk of—and, according to some experts, cure—certain health conditions.
“At PCRM we advocate a plant-based diet for many conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes,” Nguyen told LIVEKINDLY. “You have to think about what the diet excludes, but also what it incorporates.”
Nguyen added that plant-based foods are rich in dietary fiber, which “can significantly reduce colorectal cancer risk.”
Many government organizations now advocate for plant-based diets for their health and environmental benefits. And the 2019 Canadian nutrition guidelines explicitly recommended a reduction of animal-based foods. Instead of meat and dairy, the Canadian government recommends eating more fresh fruit, vegetables, and other plant-based staples.
Health Canada representative Hasan Hutchinson says that Canada’s new guidelines were focused on citizen’s health. “Regular intake of plant-based foods, so vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and these plant-based proteins can have positive effects on health,” he said.
Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
As PCRM says, eating plant-based foods can drastically reduce the chances of developing certain diseases. Some studies suggest that eating whole, vegan foods can dramatically reduce the risk of diabetes. It can also enable diabetics to effectively manage symptoms, and for some, drastically reduce their medication.
In addition to physical health benefits, eating more plant-based food can also positively impact your mental health. A plant-based diet has been shown to reduce depression and other mental health issues for people with type-2 diabetes. Other studies indicate that eating whole, plant-based, and vegan foods can ease depression and anxiety in general.
A 2015 Nutritional Neuroscience Journal study exploring the difference in mood between participants. 602 subjects—including 283 vegans, 109 vegetarians, and 228 omnivores—had their moods assessed using the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21).
Female vegan participants reported significantly lower average stress scores when compared to non-vegans. And the study also indicated that male vegans experienced a lower average of anxiety. On its website, PCRM also indicates that plant-based foods can improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and low mood.
In addition to direct health benefits, many consumers indicate that their grocery bill goes down after switching. Whole foods such as fruit and vegetables can be cost-effective as well as healthy, and the reduction in the cost of living on a vegan diet can lead to an overall improvement in lifestyle.
Animal agriculture is also a leading cause of climate change. It creates greenhouse gases, pollution, and consumes vast amounts of both land and water. There are also ethical considerations, and eating a primarily plant-based diet minimizes consumer contribution to animal cruelty. Eating more plant-based foods positively impacts personal, global, and animal wellbeing.
Plant-Based Diet and Longevity
According to a study from Harvard Medical School, around a third of early deaths could be prevented with a meat-free diet. Harvard Scientists said that approximately 200,000 lives could be saved each year by cutting out meat and emphasizing plants.
This data was presented at the Unite to Cure Fourth International Vatican Conference in Vatican City in April 2018. The Telegraph reported that the research focused purely on how diet impacts personal health.
“We have just been doing some calculations looking at the question of how much could we reduce mortality shifting towards a healthy, more plant-based diet, not necessarily totally vegan, and our estimates are about one-third of deaths could be prevented,” explained Dr. Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard Medical School.
A 2019 study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, found that consumers with a high intake of fruit and vegetables had more carotenoids—an antioxidant—in their bodies. The research included 840 people following five different diets, including vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, flexitarians, and meat-eaters.
Vegan participants showed the highest level of carotenoids, as well as enterolactone, which may be anti-carcinogenic and protect against cardiovascular disease. Vegans also had the highest quantity of omega-3 fatty acids. In contrast, the results of flexitarian participants were not drastically different from those of meat-eaters.
Higher levels of carotenoids, enterolactone, and omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to reduced inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to a variety of health conditions, including diseases like cancer. Combined with the various other health benefits of a plant-based diet, the study indicates that vegan foods may aid longevity.
11 Doctors Who Advocate For A Plant-Based Diet
These 11 doctors all advocate for plant-based food—for physical, mental, and global health.
1. Dr. Neal Barnard
Dr. Neal Barnard is a board-certified medical doctor, American author, clinical researcher, and the founding president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Barnard has led several research studies focused on the impact of diet on diabetes, body weight, and chronic pain.
2. Dr. Michael Greger
Dr. Michael Greger is a physician, founder of the website NutritionFacts.org, and author of the best-selling book “How Not to Die” (2015) and its cookbook followup, 2019’s “How Not to Diet.” Greger is critical of low-carb diets and maintains that a whole-food, plant-based diet is the best way to prevent, treat, and perhaps reverse chronic illnesses.
3. Dr. Milton Mills
Dr. Milton Mills is a vegan advocate and a member of the National Advisory Board for PCRM. He has also been featured in the popular vegan documentary “What the Health” (2017) and “The Invisible Vegan” (2019), which explores dietary patterns in the African American community.
The vegan doctor featured in a Mercy for Animals video, in which he said: “If you actually look at the way our digestive system is constructed, we have the anatomy and the physiology of a strict plant-eater or herbivore.”
4. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn is an American physician and the author of “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” (2007), which suggests that a low-fat, plant-based diet can prevent and treat heart disease. Esselstyn was featured in the 2011 documentary “Forks Over Knives.”
5. Dr. Kristi Funk
Dr. Kristi Funk is an American breast cancer surgeon, plant-based advocate, and author. She is known for her 2018 book “Breasts: The Owner’s Manual” and her treatment of celebrities Sheryl Crow and Angelina Jolie. Funk says that a healthy plant-based diet and exercise can help minimize the risk of cancer.
6. Dr. Dean Ornish
Dr. Dean Ornish is an American physician, researcher, and author of “Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease” (1990). He is also the president and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute based in California, and he advises the use of diet and lifestyle to prevent and treat heart disease.
7. Dr. Joel Kahn
According to Dr. Kahn, eating a plant-based diet can improve your chances of a long and healthy life. Kahn is a “holistic cardiologist,” author, and vegan diet advocate. He says that plant-based food is “the most powerful source of preventative medicine on the planet.”
8. Dr. Brooke Goldner
Dr. Brooke Goldner is a celebrity doctor and the bestselling author of “Goodbye Autoimmune Disease and Goodbye Lupus” (2015). Goldner says that switching to a plant-based diet helped her reverse her lupus diagnosis, and believes it is an effective way to treat various ongoing and chronic health conditions.
9. Dr. Kim Williams
Dr. Kim Williams is a renowned cardiologist and was President of the American College of Cardiology from 2015-2016. He is a vegan advocate and has firmly asserted his belief that plant-based foods can prevent and reverse heart disease. He once commented: “There are two kinds of cardiologists: vegans and those who haven’t read the data.”
10. Dr. Hana Kahleova
Dr. Hana Kahleova, M.D., Ph.D., is director of clinical research at PCRM. She is the author of “Vegetarian Diet in the Treatment of Diabetes” (2013) and earned studied nutrition and diabetes for her doctorate. Kahleova advocates for plenty of exercise and a whole-foods, plant-based diet for “optimal health and wellness.”
11. Dr. Michelle McMacken
Dr. Michelle McMacken is a board-certified internal physician and assistant professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine. She works with the Plantrician Project, which aims to educate physicians and healthcare providers about vegan health and the benefits of a plant-based diet.
“In just a short time, I’ve seen many patients avoid or decrease medications, prevent diabetes, lose weight, and reduce their cardiovascular risk by moving towards or fully adopting a plant-based diet,” says Dr. McMacken.