Scientific Study: Plant-Based Diet Is The Most Healthy
A study comparing the diets and resulting health of 1475 people, has concluded that, on average, vegans were not only healthier than the omnivores, but that the plant-based diet came out healthiest of all the diet types.
Published in the National Institutes of Health Library in March 2014, the different diets studied were: vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian (reduced meat intake), pesco-vegetarian and omnivorous diets. To estimate the quality of each of the diets, the authors used health models such as the 'US Dietary Guidelines for Americans' or the 'compliance to the Mediterranean Diet', and compared between a large variety of health factors. In the conclusion, the study "indicated consistently the vegan diet as the most healthy one.”
Furthermore it was stated: "The highest Healthy-Eating-Index (HEI-2010) total scores were found for the vegans, and the lowest for omnivores”. What is HEI-2010? Find out more here.
How did the diets compare?
Vegans, on average, ate ~50% more fruit (£4.50’s worth per day to the omnivore’s £3.20) and 25% more greens. While people on an omnivore diet ate similar amount of whole grains, they ate ~50% more refined grains (flours, breads) and much more dairy products (which vegans do not eat). The vegan and vegetarian diets were rated to have a healthier higher intake of fruit and vegetables, a healthier fat intake and lower sodium content, whilst the omnivorous diet resulted in the lowest scores for these components. Getting enough protein is often a concern from those who have not successfully tried a plant-based diet, however this does not appear to be a problem with a little planning to meet those needs.
Does eating meat and dairy increase our chances of becoming overweight?
In the United States and most Western countries, diet-related chronic diseases represent the single largest cause of morbidity and mortality, affecting 50–65% of the adult population. In the diet study mentioned, the authors stated "there was a higher prevalence of overweight and obese subjects amongst the omnivores compared to the other diet groups.” Their "findings were in agreement with published literature, where pesco-vegetarians, vegetarians and especially vegans had lower BMI than meat-eaters.”
What I find interesting is the large amounts of evidence continuing to come out in favor of plant-based diets. Though this study does mention "concerns regarding the completeness of this dietary pattern”, it comes the same year that Kaiser Permanente, America's largest nonprofit health plan, with 8.9 million health plan members, stated in their spring health journal: "Healthy eating may be best achieved with a plant-based diet, which we define as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods.”
There are even doctors claiming that a plant-based diet can help treat heart disease. Michael Greger M.D., of NutritionFacts, argues that “of the top 15 causes of death, a plant based diet can prevent nearly all of them, can help treat more than half of them, and in some cases even reverse the progression of disease, including our top three killers.” While these sound like strong claims, based on the trends we have seen so far, we can’t rule out that as more studies emerge, the mainstream scientific and health community could adopt this view, in time.
Have you benefited from adopting a plant-based diet?