Nearly a decade of extra life — that’s what you get when you move away from eating animal foods and toward a plant-based diet. This is really exciting science for anyone seeking healthy longevity (and who isn’t?)!
According to a recent report on the largest study of vegetarians and vegans to date, those eating plant-based diets appear to have a significantly longer life expectancy. Vegetarians live on average almost eight years longer than the general population, which is similar to the gap between smokers and nonsmokers. This is not surprising, given the reasons most of us are dying. In an online video, “Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death,” Michael Greger, M.D. explores the role a healthy diet can play in preventing, treating, and even reversing the top 15 killers in the United States. Let’s take a closer look at what the good doctor has pulled together…
Heart disease is our leading cause of death. The 35-year follow-up of the Harvard Nurses Health Study was recently published, now the most definitive long-term study on older women’s health. Dietary cholesterol intake — only found in animal foods — was associated with living a significantly shorter life and fiber intake — only found in plant foods — was associated with living a significantly longer life. Consuming the amount of cholesterol found in just a single egg a day may cut a woman’s life short as much as smoking five cigarettes daily for 15 years, whereas eating a daily cup of oatmeal’s worth of fiber appears to extend a woman’s life as much as four hours of jogging a week. (But there’s no reason we can’t do both!)
What if your cholesterol’s normal, though? I hear that a lot. But here’s the thing: having a “normal” cholesterol in a society where it’s “normal” to drop dead of a heart attack is not necessarily a good thing. According to the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Cardiology, “For the build-up of plaque in our arteries to cease, it appears that the serum total cholesterol needs to be lowered to the 150 area. In other words the serum total cholesterol must be lowered to that of the average pure vegetarian.”
More than 20 years ago, Dr. Dean Ornish showed that heart disease could not just be stopped but actually reversed with a vegan diet, arteries opened up without drugs or surgery. Since this lifestyle cure was discovered, hundreds of thousands have died unnecessary deaths. What more does one have to know about a diet that reverses our deadliest disease?
Cancer is killer number two. Ah, the dreaded “C” word — but look at this hopeful science. According to the largest forward-looking study on diet and cancer so far performed, “the incidence of all cancers combined is lower among vegetarians.” The link between meat and cancer is such that even a paper published in the journal Meat Science recently asked, “Should we become vegetarians, or can we make meat safer?” There are a bunch of additives under investigation to suppress the toxic effects the blood-based “heme” iron, for example, which could provide what they called an “acceptable” way to prevent cancer. Why not just reduce meat consumption? The meat science researchers noted that if such public health guidance were adhered to, “Cancer incidence may be reduced, but farmers and [the] meat industry would suffer important economical problems…” Hmmm, so Big Ag chooses profit over health; what a surprise.
After Dr. Ornish’s team showed that the bloodstreams of men eating vegan for a year had nearly eight times the cancer-stopping power, a series of elegant experiments showed that women could boost their defenses against breast cancer after just two weeks on a plant-based diet.