Kale by the Pound: Beyoncé Promotes Plant-Based Foods

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How does Beyoncé wake up like that? She loves vegan food! Earlier today, the singer announced her partnership with 22 Days Nutrition’s plant-based home delivery meal service. And it’s not the first time she’s raved about the power of plants. Over the past year, Beyoncé has thrived on multiple vegan challenges and has helped push plant-based diets into the spotlight. On Instagram alone, she’s inspired more than 24 million fans with photos of colorful vegetable stir fries, nutrient-packed leafy green salads, and creative breakfast berry tortillas.

Research shows that when celebrities talk, people listen. By using her platform to show others how easy and appealing it can be to follow a plant-based diet, Beyoncé is helping to spread a message that will save lives.

Around the world, more than 1.4 billion adults are now overweight or obese. Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other lifestyle-related diseases are ravaging our health care system.

Fortunately, plant-based diets can help. Research shows that diets centered on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes have the power to prevent, and sometimes even reverse, serious chronic diseases.  In recent studies, plant-based diets have proven effective at reversing heart disease, boosting brain health, treating type 2 diabetes, reducing migraine pain, and leading to the most weight loss when compared to other diets. Plant-based diets can even help keep energy levels up and stress levels down.

And even if you thought you’d be weak without meat, you’ll be stronger: Studies show that plant-based diets can strengthen your bones and reduce the risk for hip fractures.

Eating a vegan diet rich in vegetables can also keep you looking flawless by making your skin glow and keeping acne at bay.

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With such all-encompassing benefits, it’s no wonder that plant-based diets are taking center stage in 2015. Like Beyoncé, celebrities including Jennifer Lopez and Ariana Grande are raving about the power of plants. Public figures like Sen. Cory Booker are touting the many benefits of vegan diets, while entire cities are challenging themselves to eat plants to get healthier. More and more schools are taking meat off the menu by adopting Meatless Mondays, while MUSE School CA in Calabasas, Calif., is set to become the nation’s first vegan school later this year. Prominent doctors, like Kim Williams, M.D., president-elect of the American College of Cardiology, are now prescribing plants to their patients, while famed chefs are revamping their menus to move vegetables to the center of the plate.

Who runs the world? In 2015, the answer may very well be vegans!

 

We Must Address the Nutritional State of our Union

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Tonight, President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address. It is my hope that the President will lay out a bolder vision for improving America’s health and combating childhood obesity.

A study released this week shows that pizza is the largest source of saturated fat, salt, and calories in children’s diets. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since pizza one of the top sources of saturated fat for America overall—second only to cheese. What is shocking is that pizza is still commonly served in school lunches.

One-third of children are overweight, one-fifth have high cholesterol, and one in three children born since 2000 will develop diabetes at some point in his or her life. Obesity raises the risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and cancer and contributes to lower academic achievement and increased school absences that will make it more difficult for youth to succeed in school and ultimately in their careers.

While the Obama Administration has expressed interest in improving health through a heavy focus on the Let’s Move program, the Physicians Committee is alarmed by the poor state of health of many Americans, the glaring health disparities between people who are economically challenged and those of means, and the continuing poor diet habits in children and the lack of progress in preventing childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic health conditions directly linked to poor diets.

This year, Congress must reauthorize the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act that contains several child nutrition programs set to expire September 30, 2015. In the process, many in Congress are eager to weaken school nutrition standards—in particular, the fruit and vegetable requirement. The losers in this Congressional food fight will be low-income children who rely on these programs and continue to live with or be at risk of chronic health conditions.

We must not only maintain the nutrition standards in school breakfast and lunch as set by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (PL 111-296), but go further to ensure low-income children have access to the most healthful foods by making these changes to all child nutrition programs:

  • Eliminating processed meats, which significantly increase the risk of colon cancer such that the American Institute on Cancer Research found no amount is safe to eat.
  • Requiring the option of a healthful plant-based meal.
  • Encouraging Congress to increase funds to schools and increase the reimbursement for breakfast and lunch to cover the increased cost of labor, school kitchen upgrades, food products, nutrition education for both food service workers and students, and ancillary costs to reinforce a healthier lifestyle in the school environment.

Encouraging healthier eating at an early age instills healthier habits for a lifetime and can be reinforced at school, at work, at home, and in the community. If the Administration is serious about improving the health of our nation, now is the time for action.

It’s not too late to sign our petition: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/lay-out-bold-plan-state-union-address-improving-america%E2%80%99s-health/ffnGXVPM

Nine Plant-Based Studies We Published in 2014

Last year, my colleagues and I published numerous studies investigating the effects of nutrition on health. Our research showed that eating meat is a risk factor for diabetes, while getting away from the “bad” fats in meat and dairy products can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s—or even improve productivity at the office!

To discuss all of the research surrounding the benefits of plant-based diets, we’ll be hosting a tweet chat on Jan. 22. To join in, follow #PlantBasedRx on Twitter or click here: http://twubs.com/PlantBasedRx

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Here are nine of our top studies from 2014:

1. Vegetarian Diets and Blood Pressure: A Meta-Analysis

Vegetarian diets reduce blood pressure. This meta-analysis compares blood pressure from more than 21,000 people around the world and finds study participants who follow a vegetarian diet have lower systolic blood pressure and lower diastolic blood pressure, compared with people who consume an omnivorous diet.

Yokoyama Y, Nishimura K, Barnard ND, et al. Vegetarian diets and blood pressure: a meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174:577-587. 

2. Meat Consumption as a Risk Factor for Type 2 Diabetes

This review showed that consuming meat products is associated with diabetes. Just as overweight, physical inactivity, and high blood pressure are considered risk factors for type 2 diabetes, research shows meat consumption carries similar risks.

Barnard ND, Levin SM, Trapp C. Meat consumption as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Nutrients. 2014;6:897-910.

3. The GEICO Study

Not only can adopting a vegan diet improve cholesterol and weight, but such a dietary change can improve signs of depression and anxiety, and boost productivity at work.

Agarwal U, Mishra S, Xu J, Levin S, Gonzales J, Barnard N. A multicenter randomized controlled trial of a nutrition intervention program in a multiethnic adult population in the corporate setting reduces depression and anxiety and improves quality of life: the GEICO Study. Am J Health Promot. Published ahead of print February 13, 2014.

4. Applying the Precautionary Principle

Research continues to show that plant-based foods reduce the risk of cancer and strengthen the chance of survival after diagnosis. While more research is needed in this area, this publication presents a set of six precautionary principles to reduce the risk of occurrence:

Gonzales JF, Barnard ND, Jenkins DJ, et al. Applying the precautionary principle to nutrition and cancer. J Am Coll Nutr. 2014;33:239-246.

5. Saturated and Trans Fats and Dementia: A Systematic Review

This review, which examined the diets and brain health of almost 20,000 participants, showed that reducing saturated and trans fat intake reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Barnard ND, Bunner AE, Agarwal U. Saturated and trans fats and dementia: a systematic review. Neurobiol Aging. 2014;35:S65-S73.

6. Dietary and Lifestyle Guidelines for the Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease

Leading researchers in the field of brain health developed seven diet and lifestyle guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease prevention that offer practical steps for the public.

Barnard ND, Bush AI, Ceccarelli A, et al. Dietary and lifestyle guidelines for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiol Aging. 2014;35:S74-S78.

7. A New Model for Health Care

I highlighted the benefits of low-fat, plant-based diets when I was the keynote speaker at the Washington Academy of Sciences 2014 Awards Banquet on May 8. I challenged fellow physicians to consider diet and lifestyle changes not as “alternative” therapy, but rather as a conventional approach to chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Barnard ND. A new model for health care. J Wash Acad Sci. 2014;100:23-43.

8. Nutrition Intervention for Migraine: A Randomized Trial

An intervention study conducted at the Physician Committee’s offices showed that a nutritional approach to migraine pain may improve headache intensity and frequency.

Bunner AE, Agarwal U, Gonzales JF, Valente F, Barnard ND. Nutrition intervention for migraine: a randomized crossover trial. J Headache Pain. 2014;15:69.

9. Vegetarian Diets and Glycemic Control in Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

People with diabetes looking for a more powerful treatment should consider a plant-based diet, according to this study by our team of American and Japanese researchers. Combining the results of six prior studies, we found that a plant-based diet significantly improves blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes.

Yokoyama Y, Barnard ND, Levin SM, Watanabe M. Vegetarian diets and glycemic control in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cardiovasc Diagn Ther. 2014;4:373-382.