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Many Americans suffer from diseases that lead to a variety of health implications. Some of the top-killing diseases that Americans face include heart disease, hypertension, and type II diabetes.1 Health education on the importance of incorporating a healthy diet into their lifestyle helps with preventing and managing these chronic health problems. One diet that patients can integrate into their lifestyle to decrease the risk of chronic disease is the vegetarian diet.
All vegetarian diets eliminate the consumption of meats.2 But different variations allow individuals to cater the diet to their food and lifestyle preferences.2 For example, a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products, while a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet includes dairy products and eggs.2 The different options allow for individuals to personalize the diet to suit their food and lifestyle preferences, while also allowing them to reap the health benefits.
Studies show promising effects against cardiovascular disease with the consumption of a vegetarian diet. One study of 76,000 individuals across the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany found that vegetarians had a 24% decreased risk of death resulting from coronary heart disease when compared to those who consume meat.2 The study also discovered that the occasional consumption of meat decreased the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 20%.2
Since it can be hard for individuals to adopt a vegetarian diet, advising those at risk to consume less meat can have significant effects on their health. The reduced risk derives from the profile of vegetarian diets that promote increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and a decreased consumption of fat.2 The reduction in fat consumption, especially saturated fats, reduces LDL cholesterol levels, contributing to the development of cardiovascular disease.2 The vegetarian diet can be lower in calories and aid in weight loss and lower BMI.2 A lower BMI is associated with a decreased risk of the development of cardiovascular disease.
Hypertension is the fifth leading cause of death within the United States.1 Vegetarian diets have a significant impact on both diastolic and systolic blood pressure.4 Clinical trials show that the consumption of a vegetarian diet was associated with a -4.8 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure and a -2.2 mmHg reduction in diastolic pressure.4 The decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure may have resulted from the lower BMI that is associated with the consumption of a vegetarian diet.4 Many studies have shown that vegetarians have a BMI 1-2 kg/m2 less than non-vegetarians.4 Reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure can lower the risk of a cardiovascular event.
A vegetarian diet can also help with type II diabetes, the 7th leading cause of death in the United States.5 A recent study revealed that a vegetarian diet can decrease the use of medications in individuals diagnosed with type II diabetes.3 Subjects participating in this study were instructed to follow a vegetarian diet.3 The study found that 40% of the subjects were able to safely reduce their diabetes medication after following a vegetarian diet.3 These results are substantial, especially when compared to the 5% of subjects that safely decreased their diabetes medication after following a standard diabetic diet.3
Cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and type II diabetes continue to impact millions across the nation and remain as America’s top-killers. Clinician and patient education on the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle are essential. A vegetarian diet can help to improve many health parameters, which, in turn, can decrease the risk of developing these deadly diseases.
- “Explore High Blood Pressure in the United States | 2020.” United Health Rankings, 2020, www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/annual/measure/Hypertension/state/ALL.
- McEvoy, Claire T., et al. “Vegetarian Diets, Low-Meat Diets and Health: a Review.” Public Health Nutrition, vol. 15, no. 12, Cambridge University Press, 2012, pp. 2287–94, doi:10.1017/S1368980012000936.
- Pruzansky, Rita. “Vegetarian Diet Offers Benefits for Type 2 diabetes. (Scientific Update).” Vegetarian Journal, vol. 30, no. 4, Vegetarian Resource Group, 2011, p. 24–.
- Yokoyama, Yoko, et al. “Vegetarian Diets and Blood Pressure: A Meta-Analysis.” JAMA
- Internal Medicine, vol. 174, no. 4, American Medical Association, 2014, pp. 577–87, doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.14547. “2021 heart disease and Stroke Statistics Update Fact Sheet.” American Heart Association, 2021, www.heart.org/-/media/phd-files-2/science-news/2/2021-heart-and-stroke-stat-update/2021_heart_disease_and_stroke_statistics_update_fact_sheet_at_a_glance.pdf?la=en