Why Weight Loss and Eating Plants Help to Live Longer and Healthier

Weight loss with plant diet

While it may seem easier said than done, if you want to live a longer and healthier life, you should do two things: eat more plant foods and lose excess weight.

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Two new studies out this week focus on lifestyle changes that can be made to decrease the risk of early mortality. The news comes as no surprise to most. The overall message is to eat a better diet and to make a better effort to lose those extra pounds.

The first study, published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, concludes that daily meat consumption – particularly red and processed meat – is leading to an increased risk of dying from all causes. Physicians at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona analyzed six studies that evaluated the effects of both meat consumption and vegetarian diets.

Utilizing data from more than 500,000 people, those who consumed a more plant-based diet had a 25 to 50% decreased risk of dying from conditions such as cardiovascular disease. Vegetarians in the study had a 3.6-year increase in life expectancy over meat eaters.

Says Dr. Brookshield Laurent DO, assistant professor of family medicine and clinical sciences at New York Institute of Technology, "This data reinforces what we have known for so long -- your diet has great potential to harm or heal."

For more on this, please read "Clear Evidence that Red Meat Kills"

A separate study, published in The BMJ, has found that obesity is also linked to a shorter lifespan, especially those who had a heavy body shape as children and remained overweight into adulthood.

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Data was compiled using participants enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study. Those who were heavy had the highest mortality with a 15-year risk of death being 19.7% in women and 24.1% in men. This, compared to those who were leaner who had an 11.8% and 20.3% mortality rate (respectively) over the same 15 year period.

High BMI’s are associated with an increased risk of premature death, states the research team.

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The Mayo Clinic offers the following tips for reducing meat intake and increasing intake of plants:
• Dedicate at least one day per week to eating “Meatless Meals”. Foods that readily lend themselves to being vegetarian include lasagna, soup, or pasta dishes.
• Limit red meat intake to once a week or a couple of times per month. More often choose chicken, turkey, and fish.
• When your meals do include meat, limit your portion sizes. A serving should be about the size of the palm of your hand.
• It is best to entirely avoid processed meats such as bacon, sausage, etc. Or use these as “garnishes” rather than whole entrees.
• Buy a good quality vegetarian cookbook or look online for fun recipe ideas. Use seasonal fruits and vegetables for cost savings!

Journal References:
Heather Fields, Denise Millstine, Neera Agrwal, Lisa Marks. Is Meat Killing Us? The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 2016; 116 (5): 296 DOI: 10.7556/jaoa.2016.059

Mingyang Song, Frank B Hu, Kana Wu, Aviva Must, Andrew T Chan, Walter C Willett, Edward L Giovannucci. Trajectory of body shape in early and middle life and all cause and cause specific mortality: results from two prospective US cohort studies. BMJ, 2016; i2195 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.i2195

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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