More people are becoming aware of the health benefits of a vegan diet. But could plant-based food also prevent premature death?
A vast majority of early death is preventable, according to Dr. Michael Greger. The American physician is the author of “How Not to Die,” which delves into the way diet can influence disease.
Greger promotes the increased consumption of plant-based foods — especially greens, berries, legumes, flaxseeds, and turmeric — to ward off life-threatening diseases.
More research is linking vegan food to improved health, and meat, dairy, and eggs to an increased risk of disease. However, Americans are still eating animal products.
A recent analysis published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that adults in America have not decreased their consumption of processed meat over the past 18 years. This is despite the fact that in 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) classed processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen. The category is used when there is “convincing” evidence that something causes cancer, WHO explains on its website. Tobacco smoking and asbestos are also in this category.
According to researchers, eating 50 grams of processed meat a day — roughly four strips of bacon or one hot dog — increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. Meat consumption has also been linked to diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease. However, plant-based foods can have the opposite effect, even reversing disease in some cases.
In an interview with Fox Business Network, Greger said, “We have tremendous power over our health destiny and longevity. The vast majority of premature death and disability is preventable with a plant-based diet and other healthy lifestyle behaviors.”
A study from late last year found that eating red meat increases the risk of heart disease 1,000 percent more than a vegan diet. Separate research found that adhering to a plant-based diet could lower the risk of cardiovascular problems and early death as effectively as pharmacotherapies.
The ‘Only Diet’ That Reverses Disease
Greger acknowledged that people suffering from health problems do have the “extra motivation” to revamp their diet, however, he pointed out that the “sustaining motivation” comes from “how good you feel when you start eating healthier.”
“All of a sudden you’re feeling better, you’re sleeping better, your digestion is better. And then you have that internal motivation to continue to eat healthier because you feel so much better. But you don’t know how good you feel until you give it a try,” he explained.
The analysis about the unchanging meat-eating habits of Americans highlights “the abject failure of the public health community to warn consumers about the dangers of processed meat,” Greger said. “Bacon, ham, hot dogs, lunch meat, sausage — these are known human carcinogens. We know they cause cancer in people. You know, we try not to smoke around our kids. But why are we sending them to school with a baloney sandwich?”
“Some of our leading killers can be reversed. For example, heart disease, the number one killer of men and women — arteries can be opened, heart disease reversed without drugs, without surgery, just a healthy enough diet centered around whole plant foods,” the doctor continued. “There’s only one diet that’s ever been proven to reverse heart disease in the majority of patients: a plant-based diet.”
He added, “You’d think that’d be the default diet. But instead, unfortunately, just not enough people know about the power they have at the end of their fork.”