Letter: Vegetarian diet a route to health

Dear Editor,

I want to thank Sandy McColm for writing in to express her sentiment. Actually, she is one of the lucky few who have encountered a physician that promotes a plant-based diet as a possible means to averting surgery.

There is now abundant evidence in the scientific literature on the immense benefits of plant-based diet to, not only minimize risks of chronic diseases, but also to reverse heart disease and diabetes in many cases. American physician, Dr. Neal Barnard who appeared on PBS, has even written books on how to reverse diabetes and on protecting brain health.

Regarding diverticulitis, a study involving 47,000 people found that a vegetarian diet and a high fiber intake were associated with lower risks of hospitalizations and deaths from diverticular disease. Compared to people who ate just one serving of meat per day, vegetarians already had a 35 per cent lower risk, and vegans (who also exclude dairy, eggs, and all animal products) had a 78 per cent lower risk. Whole-food, plant-based diet offer lots of fibre which is completely void in animal products and dairy. Africans in Africa have less than one per cent prevalence of diverticulosis (they eat a plant-based diet with over 70 grams of fiber per day), while over 50 per cent of African Americans in their 50s have diverticulosis.

Therefore, the writer’s surgeon is not recommending a vegan diet because of his personal preference, but is giving the latest advice based on modern nutritional science.

Kaiser Permanente, the largest health-care consortium in the US with over nine million members, advised its 17,000 salaried physicians to recommend plant-based diet as a first line of defense in the treatment of chronic diseases. I am not aware of any Canadian medical association following suit. If Doctors of BC, and provincial as well as federal governments are serious about reigning in escalating health care costs, it would be prudent for them to promote plant-based eating. Health care costs of preventable chronic diseases are born by everyone, even those who do not consume meat and dairy. Is that fair? In some countries, vegetarians are offered lower insurance premiums.

The detrimental health impacts, coupled with the far-reaching environmental impacts of animal agriculture should be reasons enough to persuade anyone, healthy and otherwise, to move towards a plant-based diet if we are to be responsible global citizens. In fact, if elite athletes such as tennis star Serena Williams, ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek, and bodybuilder Robert Cheeke are vegans, there must be something to this plant-based eating. Just ask the elephants and rhinocerous.

I hope that Sandy McColm and her husband will consider moving towards a plant-based diet – it’s never too late to improve one’s health, and you’ll save many animals at the same time, and help the environment.

To learn more about the human and environmental health benefits of a plant-based diet, you can visit www.restoreourplanetdiet.com

Dr. Patricia Tallman, Willoughby

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