To print: Select File and then Print from your browser's menu
Vegetarian Diets in the Limelight… Again! (Part 2)
January 24, 2011
Discussing vegetarian diets can be a lot like discussing politics, I’ve found. There are definitely two camps: those who are ardent supporters of staying away from animal foods as much as possible, and those who insist that humans aren’t meant to subsist on plant foods and that eating animal protein is the way to go. Both sides have valid arguments. Personally, I tend to lean more towards the vegetarian side, in part because I prefer to eat more plant foods and also because there’s research to back up the health claims of vegetarian diets. But, as in most cases, there’s a middle ground.
Last week, I mentioned two studies that supported the merits of a vegetarian diet. There are two additional studies that I wanted to focus on this week.
Low-Carbohydrate Diet and All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality
Results: The researchers found that the people who ate a low-carbohydrate, animal-based diet were slightly (but statistically significantly) more likely to die from cancer and heart disease; in fact, they were 23% more likely to die during the study. Those people who ate a low-carbohydrate, plant-based diet were 20% less likely to die during the study. So, in other words, those on a low-carbohydrate diet fared pretty well… as long as the protein source came mostly from plants, not animals. Walter Willett, one of the study’s authors and the chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health was quoted as saying, “This comes as no big surprise.” Animal-based diets tend to be high in saturated fat and cholesterol, while plant-based diets contain more of the healthful fats that can lower the risk of heart disease.
Another interesting finding from the study: The researchers don’t believe that low-carbohydrate diets are necessarily “bad.” However, they point out that it’s what you replace those carbs with. Ditching the potatoes, bread, and pasta for beef, lamb, and cheese, for example, isn’t exactly the way to go. They feel that the “Eco-Atkins” diet that I mentioned last week, which emphasizes plant protein foods such as soy and nuts, for example, can be quite healthy. Will it help you live longer? That’s yet to be determined.
Vegetarian Diets and Renal Disease
The study mentioned above was small — only nine patients with kidney disease were involved. The patients followed a vegetarian diet or a meat-based diet for one week, and then switched diets 2 to 4 weeks later. Blood and urine tests were done at the end of each diet. Both diets, by the way, had the same amount of protein and phosphorous.
Results: The patients on the vegetarian diet had lower blood phosphorous levels and lost less phosphorous in their urine compared to those on the meat-based diet. The reason may be that the vegetarian diet that they followed included grains. Grains contain a substance called phytate, which is a source of phosphorous but isn’t well absorbed by humans.
This was obviously a very small study, which means a larger one would probably need to be done make concrete recommendations. But the good news is that people with kidney disease who need to limit their phosphorous intake may benefit from more of a plant-based diet. Of course, if you have kidney disease or any other type of medical condition and you’re interested in changing your eating plan, always check with your health-care provider first before doing so, and while you’re at it, meet with a dietitian to make sure that you’re getting the right amount of nutrients.
Not sure if you want to become a vegetarian? That’s OK. But it probably wouldn’t hurt to have a couple of meatless meals during the week. How does black bean soup sound?
Disclaimer of Medical Advice:You understand that the blogs posts and comments to such blog posts (whether posted by us, our agents, bloggers, or by users) do not constitute medical advice or recommendation of any kind and you should not rely on any information contained on such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified health care professionals to meet your individual needs. The opinions and other information contained in the blog posts and comments do not reflect the opinions or positions of the Site Proprietor.