What Can A Vegetarian Diet Do For Your Patients?

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A new, large scale study out of Japan has found that a vegetarian diet may help people keep their blood pressure low and out of danger zones that put their health at risk.  This claim is reported by a review of 39 studies that included more than 20,000 people.  The finding is that vegetarians had significantly lower blood pressure than those who ate meat.  On average, the reductions seen across the studies were 5 to 7 millimeters of mercury for systolic blood pressure and 2 to 5 mm/Hg for diastolic blood pressure.  What does this mean?  It suggests that cutting meat from your diet could reduce your risk of heart attack by 9 percent, and stroke by 14 percent.

While this benefit of a meat-less diet may seem obvious, it’s interesting to consider some of the other health benefits this could offer.  Traditionally, research into vegetarianism has been focused mainly on potential nutritional deficiencies.  It is only recently that studies are confirming the diet’s benefits.  The American Dietetic Association asserted recently that not only are vegetarian and vegan diets “healthful, nutritionally adequate,” but it “may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”  Harvard University reports that the following diseases may be avoided by a vegetarian diet.

Heart Disease – A study of more than 76,000 participants found that vegetarians are 25% less likely to die of heart disease.  This is especially true when meats are replaced by heart-healthy foods like whole grains, legumes, and nuts (particularly walnuts which are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids).

Cancer – There are many studies that suggest those who eat many fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing certain cancers and there’s evidence that vegetarians have a lower incidence of cancer than non-vegetarians.  Eliminating red meat will eliminate a risk factor for colon cancer.

Type 2 Diabetes – Studies suggest that a predominantly plant-based diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.  One study suggests that the risk of developing the disease for vegetarians is half that of non-vegetarians.

Many are unwilling to try a vegetarian diet because of concerns about osteoporosis.  While lacto-ovo vegetarians consume about the same amount as calcium as meat-eaters, some vegans eat less than the recommended daily dose and see a higher rate of fractures.  As long as someone on a vegetarian diet ensures they are getting enough calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K (two vitamins vital for bone health), he or she would not be especially vulnerable to fractures.

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