As a vegan movement created uproar on social media platforms, health documentaries, and nutritionist offices, subsequent questions were destined to arise. This unconventional and novel ideology at first received extreme amounts of dismissal in the medical community. However, recent inquiry upon the benefits of such a diet has led to monumental findings that have possibly life–saving effects. Ultimately, medical experts conclude that plant-based diets are the key to decreasing the risk of deadly cancers along with cardiovascular diseases because of their significant reduction of both hypertension and cholesterol.
Cardiovascular disease touches millions. Serving as the leading cause of death in both men and women worldwide, it takes the lives of 17.3 million loved ones per year. In 2011, 1 of every 3 deaths in America was from heart disease (Mozaffarian 1). With these numbers are only growing, scientists are desperately searching for techniques that can slash those statistics. Why not start with what’s on our plates?
The Office of Disease Prevention, a governmentally funded bureau, recommends that over 70% of our daily protein be acquired through animal products like meat and eggs. However, studies following the effects of plant–based diets on this extremely deadly disease speak for themselves. A study dissecting the consequences of vegetarian diets found, “A combined analysis of [studied] cohorts confirmed a result of a 32% higher CHD mortality rate in the nonvegetarians.” (Fraser). If 32% of the deadly heart disease cases were saved last year, over 5.5 million people would still be alive. A number cut short by the fallacies of a ‘healthy diet’. That same study also revealed, “Mortality and incidence rates of coronary disease events are indeed clearly lower in vegetarians.” (Fraser). This finding was groundbreaking, since coronary artery disease (CAD), also known as ischemic heart disease (IHD), is the most common of all the cardiovascular diseases. The overall and most common form of the deadliest global disease can be suppressed simply by altering our diets, yet cold refusal to do so is killing thousands of citizens everyday.
Concurrent findings were uncovered even after adjustment to likely confounding variables. Since lower BMI and smoking tendencies were commonly found among those who consume less meat, scientists were skeptical that these variables were the ones affecting the difference in cardiovascular disease mortality, not meat consumption. The overall and most common form of the deadliest global disease can be suppressed simply by altering our diets, yet cold refusal to do so is killing thousands of citizens everyday.. One study found “The lower risk of death was seen in both lacto-ovo-vegetarians and vegans, [and] the difference in risk persisted after adjustment for BMI, smoking habits, and social class” (Craig). This realization was huge because the consistencies in the data help certify that risk reduction for cardiovascular disease mortality is indeed linked to aspects of a vegetarian/vegan diet itself, rather than outside variables such as BMI.
Conditions associated with heart disease such as hypertension and high cholesterol provided concurrent findings, allowing researchers to dig further into the harmful effects of animal product consumption. Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, can also be traced back to mainly omnivore diets. Following a study of hypertension in plant-based diets, researchers found that vegetarians exhibited less than half the hypertension of omnivores, and vegans exhibited an astonishing ¼th that of omnivores (Le). Those who completely eliminated animal products from their diet decreased their risk for a major contribution to cardiovascular disease by a Le’s whopping 75%, yet, astonishingly, people continue to eat meat. This diet further proved its superiority in a study that highlighted specific foods that contribute to this statistic. It found that:
possible factors in vegetarian diets that could result in lower blood pressure include the collective effect of various beneficial compounds found in plant foods such as potassium, magnesium, antioxidants, dietary fat, and fiber… Fruit and vegetable intake was responsible for about one-half of the blood pressure reduction of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet (Craig).
A diet rich in nutrient-packed, plant-based foods is quite literally the recipe for a healthy heart, and various studies vouch for that.
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol is another known leading contributor to cardiovascular heart disease. Again, this often deadly condition seems to target specifically non-vegetarians. In a widely inclusive study of harmful LDL cholesterol levels across a plethora of diets, one statistic stood out. Researchers found that LDL levels were an average of 44% lower in vegans than in omnivores, an almost ½ cut. (Craig). Through further investigation, dietitians and bodily scientists revealed that this is no coincidence. Vegans consume close to 100% more soluble fiber than omnivores, which “has been repeatedly shown to lower total and LDL cholesterol levels and to reduce risk of coronary heart disease” (Craig). Likewise, “ Plant sterols, found in legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, vegetable oils, and other plant-based foods reduce cholesterol absorption and lower LDL cholesterol levels” (Craig). Not only can plant-based diets fuel the body with essential nutrients, but it’s a disease defense tactic all in one. After seeing the science behind it, it’s no surprise that vegetarians, and especially vegans, experience a substantial risk reduction in high LDL cholesterol, and ultimately, cardiovascular disease.
Predictably, cardiovascular disease and its underlying conditions is not all plant-based diets protect the body from. Many cancers parallel with the findings of the latter. In fact, one report found “vegans experienced modest risks reduction (14%) for all-cancer” (Le). From the most known, to those hidden beneath the headlines, cancer touches all walks of life. However, the elimination of animal-based foods was found to abate such a threatening disease. More specifically, that same report found that non-vegetarians could cut their colon cancer risk in half by acquiring a vegetarian diet (Le). An explanation for this arose when scientists uncovered that meat consumption had a strong and consistent association with developing colorectal cancer, whereas legume consumption was negatively associated with that risk. (Craig). It’s no surprise that by augmenting what we put in our bodies, we can predict what we get out of them.
Breast cancer development, an easily household name, can also be obstructed with dietary changes. One research team found a 48% risk reduction for the cancer in vegetarians (Le). Those who chose to eat meat are also choosing to basically double their changes for the development of breast cancer. Another study uncovered equally as chilling results. In this study, “breast cancer risk increased by 50% to 60% for each additional 100 g/day of meat consumed. (Craig).” Now this statistic speaks for itself. Veganism saves lives. Those so blissfully ignorant to these facts are not only endangering themselves, but their children as well, as researchers found that adolescent dairy intake yields a strong and positive association with later development of breast cancer (Craig). The movement to eliminate animal products from our diets is the first step to protecting the next generation from deadly diseases like breast cancer.
Together, humans have the power to change the challenges the next generations are forced to face. We can denormalize the consumption of dead animals and their self-made products, and in return, decrease the risks for an astronomical number of diseases and conditions. Acknowledgement of presented findings can extend the lives of so many, yet dismissal can equally as easily end them. At any age, change and preventative measures are steps in the right direction. A world with less cancer, less heart disease, less pain, is all just a fork and knife away.