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UNREFINED PLANT-BASED DIET

Written by Slawomir (“Slawek”) Gromadzki, MPH

On an average vegetarians have much lower body mass index (BMI) than non-vegetarians. There are numerous studies which clearly demonstrated that the unrefined plant-based diet gives the best results in not only preventing but also treating obesity and other lifestyle-related health problems.

One of them was the study conducted by Prof. Serena Tonstad and her team involving over 50 thousand Seventh-day Adventists. The study was to investigate the effectiveness of vegan, vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets on body weight and prevalence of type 2 diabetes. The results, which were published in 2009, demonstrated that vegan diet was the most effective nutritional approach. It showed the 5-unit BMI difference between vegans and non-vegetarians indicating a great potential of veganism to fight obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In a 1991 study conducted by Prof. Shintani and his colleges, overweight participants were allowed to consume as much as they wanted of unrefined (high in fiber) low-fat, plant-based foods. In just three weeks they lost an average of 7.8 kg (seventeen pounds). The chapter revealing the results of the study states that, “some participants indicated that at times they could not finish their snacks. Weight loss was dramatic during the program, with an average weight loss of 7.8 kg in just 3 weeks. Total serum cholesterol concentrations decreased an average of 14.0%. Serum triglyceride levels as well as systolic and diastolic blood pressures fell significantly. There was a striking decrease in average serum glucose.”

Also the results of the large and long-term EPIC-Oxford study gives clear evidence that vegetarians and especially vegans are very beneficial in terms of avoiding overweight and obesity. The study compared BMI of the participants representing four different diet groups. According to the results vegetarians, and especially vegans had significantly lower BMI than meat eaters. The researchers agreed that the high protein and low fibre intakes among none-vegetarians were the factors most strongly associated with increased BMI.

Adopting an unrefined plant-based diet doesn’t only help us to lose weight, but it is also very effective in fighting an array of ailments, including cancer, cardio-vascular diseases, diabetes, or arthritis. According to Professor Colin Campbell the author of the famous China Study, “the more you substitute plant foods for animal foods, the healthier you are likely to be.” He even considers “veganism to be the ideal diet.”

Unfortunately, even today many people still believe that because vegan diet is deprived of all animal foods (including all dairy), therefore it should be regarded as an extreme nutritional approach. This idea, however, is far from true as there are many reliable scientific documents indicating that the well balanced and unrefined entirely plant-based vegan diet provides human organism with all essential nutrients and is appropriate for all age groups including children. One of such scientific documents was published in June 2003 in the most prestigious scientific paper – Journal of the American Dietetic Association. It stated that, “Well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets are nutritionally adequate and are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence… It is the position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases… Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein as well as higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals. Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass index than non-vegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; vegetarians also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer… Athletes can also meet their protein needs on plant-based diets” (J Am Diet Assoc. 2003; 103: 748-765).

The fact that plant-based diet is nutritionally adequate means that plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, seeds and nuts contain all the essential nutrients. Most dietitians are concerned only about vitamin B12, and although vegans do not suffer from its deficiency more often than meat eaters, yet they are encouraged to use vitamin B12 supplementation. It is needed especially in case of those who still use stimulants, laxatives, and live a stressful lifestyle, as these factors lead to the vitamin B12 deficiency among the followers of any nutritional approaches including vegans, vegetarians, and even none-vegetarians.

I myself have been popularizing the plant-based diet as nutritionally adequate since 1987 after reading the book Counsels on Diet and Foods by Ellen G. White, who over one hundred years ago already warned people against consuming meat and dairy products encouraging them to eat variety of unrefined plant foods. By the way, it is worth to mention that it was her writings which inspired many prominent physicians, dietitians and health promoters such as Dr. John Harvey Kellog, Mayo brothers – founders of the famous Mayo Clinic, Nathan Pritikin, Prof. John A. Sharrfenberg, Prof. Walter Veith, Dr. Agatha Thrash, Dr. John McDougal, Dr. Neil Nedley, Dr. Sang Lee, Dr. Hans Diehl, or the founder of the Hallelujah Diet – Rev. George Malkmus, to popularize a diet which is totally free from all animal products.

In 1896 Ellen White wrote: “There is no safety in eating the flesh of dead animals, and in a short time the milk of the cows will also be excluded from the diet of God’s commandment-keeping people. In a short time it will not be safe to use anything that comes from the animal creation.” And three years later, in 1899, she added: “The light given me is that it will not be very long before we shall have to give up any animal food. Even milk will have to be discarded. Disease is accumulating rapidly.” The above statements are quite incredible when we take into consideration that at that time nobody could even imagine how sick animals would become in the future and that such dangerous risk factors as leukemia virus, deadly prions, or dioxins, would be found not only in meat but even in milk products!

Also the previously mentioned scientific statement according to which well-balanced vegan diet is perfectly safe, provides all essential nutrients and promotes health, is also only an echo of what the same incredible author already wrote at the end of the nineteenth century in the book “Councils on Diet and Foods”: “In grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts are to be found all the food elements that we need. These foods prepared in a simple and natural manner are the most healthful and nourishing and constitute the diet chosen for us by our Creator. They impart a strength and a vigor of intellect that are not afforded by a more complex and stimulating diet. If we will come to the Lord in simplicity of mind, He will teach us how to prepare wholesome food free from the taint of meat”.

No wonder that after reading such statements and comparing them with the modern medical knowledge both founders of the Uchee Pines Institute, Dr. Agatha Thrash and her husband Dr. Calvin Thrash, who used to be atheists, started to study the Bible, got converted and both became dedicated Christians.

In my long experience as a Health Promoter I have personally known many people who used to be obese, suffered from cancer or atherosclerosis, and who were addicted to junk food, yet they gained victory over their bad habits and managed to returned to normal body weight, recovered from cancers, or coronary heart disease as a result of practicing principles described here. For example, I remember certain very obese and sick gentleman who together with his wife participated in my health lectures and as a result decided to switch to a well-balanced plant-based and unrefined diet and practice the other important principles of weight control which are listed in this book. When I saw him again after 6 months he looked so slim and different that I couldn’t recognize him. He said that on the normal-calorie plant based and unrefined diet, without fasting or skipping meals he lost 80 pounds (40 kilos) in 6 months! He also said that as a result of practicing this new diet and lifestyle he recovered from other serious health problems and greatly improved his emotional and physical well-being. Before he always felt tired but now he was brimming with energy and healthy.

The similar nutritional and health principles are getting more and more popular nowadays all over the world. For example, the former US President Bill Clinton has been practicing the same lifestyle and plant-based diet (no meat and dairy products) for some time and as a result he already lost about 50 pounds (25 kilos) and recovered from severe form of coronary heart disease.

Finally, please remember that even strict vegetarianism is not always the same healthy approach as being on unrefined whole food plant-based diet. Unfortunately, there are many individuals who became vegetarians or vegans only to supplement animal foods with plant ones but at the same time they still consume refined sugar, white flour products, refined grains and pasta or even harmful stimulants. In this way they only bring disgrace to true vegetarianism as their health condition is not better or sometimes even worse than that of non-vegetarians.

References

Newby PK, Tucker KL, Wolk A. Risk of overweight and obesity among semivegetarian, lactovegetarian, and vegan women Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jun; 81(6):1267-74.

Berkow SE, Barnard N. Vegetarian diets and weight status. Nutrition Reviews 2006 April; 64(4)175-188.

Spencer EA, Appleby PN, Davey GK, Key TJ Diet and body mass index in 38000 EPIC-Oxford meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans Int J Obes Relat Metab Disorder. 2003 Jun; 27(6):728-34.

Rosell M, Appleby P, Spencer E, Key T. Weight gain over 5 years in 21,966 meateating, fish-eating, vegetarian, and vegan men and women in EPIC-Oxford. Int J Obesity. 2006; 30:1389-1396.

Burke LE, Warziski M, Styn MA, Music E, Hudson AG, Sereika SM. A randomized clinical trial of a standard versus vegetarian diet for weigh loss: the impact of treatment preference Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Jan; 32(1):166-76.

Barnard ND, Scialli AR, Turner-McGrivy G, Lanou AJ, Glass J. The effects of a low-fat, plant-based dietary intervention on body weight, metabolism, and insulin sensitivity Am J Med. 2005 Sep; 118(9): 991-7.

Turner-McGrievy GM, Barnard ND, Scialli AR. A two-year randomized weight loss trial comparing a vegan diet to a more moderate low-fat diet. Obesity. 2007; 15: 2276-2281.

Shintani TT, Hughes CK, Beckham 5, et al. “Obesity and cardiovascular risk intervention through the ad libitum feeding of traditional Hawaiian diet.” Am. elin. Nutr. 53 (1991): 16475-16515.