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Me, Give Up Meat? Vegan Diets Surging in Popularity US News

While I don’t agree with the cons, I do agree that you must plan to be sure you are getting all the nutrients needed. Laura

The Pros (and a Few Cons) of Choosing a Vegan Diet

by Angela Haupt

Former President Bill Clinton had a legendary appetite: Hamburgers and steaks. Barbeque. Chicken enchiladas. But after having two stents inserted in 2010—on top of quadruple bypass surgery six years earlier—he radically changed his diet in the name of saving his health. Now a vegan, the strictest type of vegetarian, he has cut out meat, dairy, eggs, and most oils in favor of a super-low-fat diet that revolves around whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. It appears to be working: He has said he’s dropped more than 20 pounds and has never been healthier. In a televised interview with film producer Harvey Weinstein in June, Clinton explained that he’d decided he wanted to live to be a grandfather. “So I just went all the way. Getting rid of the dairy was great, getting rid of the meat was—I just don’t miss it.”

Vegan diets have lately been surging in popularity, thanks in part to the example of celebrities who are publicly forswearing all animal products (Michelle Pfeiffer, Carrie Underwood, Russell Brand, and Ozzy Osbourne, to name a few others). Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi have announced plans to open a vegan restaurant in Los Angeles. Vegan-centric books have been flying off the shelf, including Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet and The Engine 2 Diet by Texas firefighter and triathlete Rip Esselstyn, son of retired Cleveland Clinic physician Caldwell Esselstyn, whose research on the merits of plant-based eating inspired Bill Clinton. Vegan food trucks are making the rounds, schools are instituting meat-free days, and colleges are opening vegan dining halls.

While many vegans still take the stand because they believe in animal rights, a growing number are swayed by mounting research showing a profound impact on health. “It’s dramatic,” says Neal Barnard, a nutrition researcher and adjunct professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit group that promotes preventive medicine. “We’ve seen people whose chest pain has gone away within weeks, while their weight melts off, blood pressure goes down, and cholesterol plummets.” Barnard’s 2011 book 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart is a three-week introduction to the case for and how-tos of the vegan life. The panel of 22 experts who analyzed 25 diets forU.S. News’s ratings of the best eating plans overall—as well as the best for weight loss, heart health, and diabetes management and prevention—are not universally sold on absolute meatlessness. But without a doubt, the heavily plant-based plans tend to rise to the top of the U.S. News lists.

Exactly how you shape a vegan meal plan is up to you, but you’ll typically aim for six servings of grains from bread and calcium-fortified cereal, for example; five servings of protein-rich foods such as legumes, nuts, peanut butter, chickpeas, tofu, potatoes, and soy milk; and four servings of veggies, two of fruit, and two of healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, and olive oil. (Both of the Esselstyns advocate avoiding all oils, too.) There’s no need to give up dessert, although you’ll be baking without butter or eggs.

It should come as no surprise that becoming a serious vegan is apt to help you lose weight. By loading up on fruits, veggies, and whole grains, vegans tend to feel full on fewer calories, and indeed they tend to weigh less and have a lower body mass index than their meat-eating peers. In a 2006 study coauthored by Barnard, 99 people with type 2 diabetes followed either a vegan diet or a standard diet based on American Diabetes Association guidelines. After 22 weeks, the vegans lost an average of 13 pounds, compared to 9 in the ADA group. Both groups’ control of their blood sugar levels also improved.

The cardiac case. A meatless diet’s power against heart disease also is well documented. “It’s an exceptionally healthy diet, especially when it comes to cardiac health,” says Michael Davidson, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. He notes that cutting way back on saturated fat and eliminating cholesterol is just part of the equation; also key is piling on “cardiac protective” fruits, vegetables, and grains, packed with antioxidants and other phytochemicals that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. The soluble fiber found in plant protein also helps to lower cholesterol. In the 2006 Diabetes Care report, LDL cholesterol dropped 21.2 percent in the vegan group after 22 weeks, compared with 10.7 percent in the group following the meat-allowing guidelines. Triglycerides fell from 140.3 mg/dL to 118.2. In an earlier 12-year study that compared 6,000 vegetarians and vegans with 5,000 meat-eaters, researchers found that vegans had a 57 percent lower risk of ischemic heart disease—reduced heart pumping due to coronary artery disease, which often leads to heart failure—than the meat-eaters. Vegetarians had a 24 percent lower risk.

Read the rest at:  http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2012/07/24/me-give-up-meat-vegan-diets-surging-in-popularity?page=2

3 Steps to Controlling Cholesterol Naturally by Dr. Neil D. Bernard MD.

By Neal D. Barnard, MD Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC Author of the 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart If you have a high cholesterol level, you are no doubt looking for a safe and effective way to bring it down. Medications are one way, but foods have more power than you might have imagined. Carefully chosen, foods can rival the power of prescription drugs. Needless to say, be sure to speak with your doctor before staring any new treatment plan. Cholesterol problems can be dangerous, so you will want to be sure your doctor monitors how you are doing and advises you along the way. Here are three steps for using foods to tackle cholesterol: Step 1: Favor Foods From Plants When I was growing up in North Dakota, my mother cooked up bacon for her children’s breakfasts, lifting the sizzling strips out of the grease with a fork and setting them on a paper towel to drain. Then, she carefully poured the hot grease into a jar to save it. She did not put the jar in the refrigerator; it went straight into the kitchen cupboard. She knew that as bacon grease cools, it turns solid and does not require refrigeration. The next day, she spooned the bacon grease back into the fry pan and fried eggs in it. The fact that bacon grease is solid – as opposed to a liquid oil – is a sign that it is high in saturated fat (sometimes called “bad” fat), because it causes your body to make cholesterol. The big contributors of saturated fat in your diet are meats, dairy products, and eggs. The more you replace these products with plant-based foods, they better off you’ll be. Fish are a bit of a mixed bag. Fish fat contains some omega-3 fats, also called “good fats,” which are healthier in some ways that other animal fats. However, 70 to 85 percent of fish fat is not omega-3. It is a mixture of plain old saturated fat and various other fats that offer no health benefits. Cholesterol Is Not the Same as Fat Fat is the yellow layer under a chicken skin or the white stripes in marbled beef. But cholesterol is not the same as fat. Cholesterol is invisible, hiding mainly in the lean portion of meats, in the membranes that surround each cell in an animal’s body. So a bite of chicken, for example, has fat under the skin and in between the muscle cells, as well as cholesterol lurking in the cell membranes that surround each cell. But if you were to check the cholesterol content of vegetables, fruits, and other foods from plants, their labels would indicate a big zero. So when you set aside animal products, you get a double benefit. You are getting no animal fat and essentially no cholesterol. The result can be a big improvement on your blood cholesterol test. Step 2: Skip Trans Fats If you look at the food label on a pack of potato chips or a snack pastry, you might see the words “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” Also called trans fats, these oils raise cholesterol, just like animal fats. Avoiding them is easy as searching for “partially hydrogenated oil” on the food label. Instead of a snack pastry, how about an apple or an orange? They never have a drop of trans fat. Step 3: Use Special Cholesterol-Lowering Foods For most people, following a plant-based diet and avoiding trans fats lowers cholesterol impressively. But there is one more step you can take. You can choose foods with a special cholesterol-lowering effect. Red Yeast Rice Around 800 AD in China, it was found that red yeast cultivated on rice produces compounds that are good for health. But it was not for another 1200 years that it was discovered that the compound produced in red yeast rice is actually lovastatin – the same compound that is marketed as the cholesterol-lowering prescription drug Mevacor. It reduces cholesterol production in the liver. Although red yeast rice is widely available without a prescription and appears to have fewer side effects compared to statin drugs, it is important to remember that it is, in effect, a natural pharmaceutical that should be used under a physician’s direction. A typical regimen would be 1200 milligrams twice per day.   Oyster Mushrooms Oyster mushrooms contain lovastatin, just as red yeast rice does. But they also contain beta-glucans, which help the body eliminate cholesterol. A typical serving would be about one-half cup. Click here for a Linguine With Seared Oyster Mushrooms recipe. The Power Combo: A Portfolio of Cholesterol-Lowering Foods At the University of Toronto, Dr. David Jenkins discovered that by combining specific foods, you can achieve a cholesterol-lowering effect that compares very favorably with that of medications. In his research, Dr. Jenkins asked a group of patients to avoid animal products and to choose from a “portfolio” of special foods. The result was quick and dramatic. Their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol fell nearly 30 percent in four weeks –essentially the same drop as is seen with cholesterol-lowering drugs.1 Here is the combination that did the trick: Foods Rich in Soluble Fiber Oats, beans, okra, and barley are rich in soluble fiber, which helps your body eliminate cholesterol. How about starting your day with a bowl of old-fashioned oats? If you chose cold oat cereals, top them with soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, or other non-dairy milk. For lunch, have baked beans, black beans, hummus (made from chickpeas), split pea soup, lentil soup, or other varieties. If beans give you a bit of gas, have smaller servings and be sure they are cooked until very soft. Barley is a great addition to soups. Or add it to rice for added flavor. Okra is a southern staple, but it is a healthy addition to any diet in soups, stews, or curries.

Soy Soy products replace cholesterol-laden meats and dairy products, and they have a cholesterol-cutting effect of their own, reducing your liver’s tendency to produce cholesterol. Enjoy a glass of soymilk, an edamame appetizer, or tofu or tempeh in a stir-fry instead of chicken. Almonds and Walnuts These nuts contain natural sterols that reduce cholesterol. You might have about one ounce per day (one small handful). To avoid overdoing it with nuts, use them as a topping for a salad, rather than a snack. Cholesterol-lowering Spreads Instead of butter or margarine, why not choose a spread that blocks the absorption of cholesterol? Benecol light, for example, is made with natural plant stanols that come from pine trees, and it has a significant cholesterol-lowering effect. The idea is to add each of these foods to your routine, to get a powerful cholesterol-lowering effect. You will very likely find that you have more power over your health than you ever imagined. At the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, we have a free 21-Day Kickstart program that will help you try out a healthy plant-based diet. You’ll see it at PCRM.org. Reference 1. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Marchie A, et al. Direct comparison of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods with a statin in hypercholesterolemic participants. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81:380–7. http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/3-steps-controlling-cholesterol-naturally#cmpid_TW_Link

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