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Reducing Meat Intake May Cut Risk of Metabolic Syndrome

Researchers from Loma Linda University in California investigated the relationship between diet type and prevalence of the Metabolic Syndrome, a condition characterized by the presence of various risk factors (HDL cholesterol, serum triglycerides, blood glucose, blood pressure, and waist circumference). The researchers found that a vegetarian diet pattern was associated with the lowest prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome. Vegetarians were also less likely to have most of the individual risk factors.
Diabetes Care. 2011 May;34:1225-1227. (Rizzo et al.)

Diabetes Markers Improve on Veg Diet

It has been well documented that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is significantly lower in vegetarians as compared to non-vegetarians.  It has also been documented that vegetarian diets can help treat type 2 diabetes.  Scientists at Charles University in Prague hypothesized that vegetarian diets treat type 2 diabetes through a combination of total weight loss, reduction in visceral fat, and reduction in fasting blood glucose.  They conducted a 24-week randomized, open study of 74 patients to compare the effects of two diets – conventional and vegetarian , both with the same number of restricted calories – on insulin resistance, volume of visceral fat and plasma markers of oxidative stress.  The study found that the vegetarian diet had a greater capacity to improve insulin sensitivity as compared to an omnivorous control diet.
Diabetic Medicine.  May 2011; 28:549-559 [Kahleova H et al.]

Creatine Supplementation May Improve Memory in Vegetarians

It has been shown that vegetarians have lower dietary intakes of creatine, and while the body synthesizes creatine, vegetarians have shown lower levels of muscle creatine than omnivores. Researchers from the University of Swansea and the London Ambulance Service conducted an intervention study on 121 college females, 70 of whom were either vegans or vegetarians. The participants were randomly assigned to either take a creatine supplement or a placebo before completing a series of cognition tests. While there was no significant difference in cognitive functioning between vegetarians and omnivores at baseline, the authors found that creatine supplementation improved memory in vegetarians but not in omnivores. Because this is one of the first studies to examine the role of creatine in cognitive functioning, further examination is warranted.
British Journal of Nutrition. 2011 Apr;105(7):1100-1105. (Benton and Donohoe)
 

Going Veg May Improve Phosphate Control for People with Kidney Disease

People suffering from advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD) often must limit the amount of phosphorous that they consume due to the kidneys’ declining ability to filter excess phosphorous from the blood. Many high-phosphorous foods are animal derivatives, including meat and milk.  However, phosphorous is also found in plant foods such as legumes, soy, whole grains, and bran. Researchers from Indiana University tested two different diets — one milk and meat based, and one plant based – on a group of 8 patients with advanced CKD. Although the diets were designed to include equivalent amounts of phosphorous, patients exhibited lower blood phosphorous levels after 7 days of consuming the vegetarian diet. The authors believe that the body’s ability to absorb phosphorous from plant foods is limited. Adopting a plant-based diet, therefore, may help improve phosphate control in CKD.
Clinical Journal of the Am. Soc. of Nephrology. 2011 Feb;6:257-64. (Moe et al.)

Plant Calcium Beneficial to Bone Density

In cultures that do not traditionally consume dairy products, vegetables can be an important source of calcium — while at the same time providing key vitamins and minerals that are also essential to bone health. That’s the finding of Korean researchers at Chung Ang University in Seoul, after studying 144 post-menopausal women with osteoporosis and age-matched controls. In their study, the women with the highest intake of vegetables and plant-based calcium had significantly better bone density.
Nutrition Research. January 2011; 31(1):27-32 (Park et al.)

Vegans and Vegetarians at Greater Risk of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Researchers from the University of Oxford and King’s College London analyzed data from blood samples of 689 men of which 226 were omnivores, 231 were vegetarians, and 232 were vegans. They found that mean serum Vitamin B12 was highest among omnivores and lowest among vegans, while mean serum folate was highest among vegans and lowest among omnivores. 52% of the vegans and 7% of the vegetarians were found to be deficient in vitamin B12. Because vitamin B12 deficiency can result in irreversible neurological damage, vegans and vegetarians should ensure a regular intake of sufficient vitamin B12 from fortified foods and/or supplements.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010 Sep;64(9):933-939. (Gilsing et al.)

Vegetarianism – Key to a Better Mood?

Researchers from Arizona State University examined associations between mood and diet type in the context of polyunsaturated fatty acid intake. Vegetarian diets are usually lower in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), which many believe are positively related to neural function and mental health. However, while the vegetarians in this study did consume fewer long-chain omega-3 fatty acids than the omnivores, they reported better moods overall. These results suggest that vegetarian diets are not likely associated with poor mood or depression due to low intake of omega-3 fatty acids and in fact may be associated with improved mood.
Nutrition Journal. 2010 Jun 1; 9:26. (Beezhold et al.)

Crohn's Disease Prevention with Plant-Based Diet

A two-year clinical trial conducted in Japan set out to determine whether consuming a semi-vegetarian diet has a preventative effect against relapse of Crohn’s disease. The participants included twenty-two adult patients suffering from Crohn’s disease who had achieved clinical remission either during medical stay or through surgery. Of these patients, 16 of them consumed a semi-vegetarian diet (SVD) over the course of two years.  Remission was maintained in 15 of 16 patients in the SVD group (94%) vs two of six in the omnivorous group.  The results of this study suggest that consuming a semi-vegetarian diet may help Crohn’s disease sufferers from experiencing symptoms of relapse. 
World Journal of Gastroenterology 2010 May 28;16(20):2484-95 (Chiba et al.)
 

Vegetarian Diets and Childhood Obesity

Scientists at Loma Linda University conducted a meta-analysis to explore the health effects of vegetarian diets and the potential biological reasons for the protective effects of plant foods as a potential approach for preventing childhood overweight and obesity.  The review of the literature found that vegetarian children tend to have lower BMIs than non-vegetarian children. The authors advocate for food policies that support vegetarian diets and that “reduce the cultural and economic forces that make it difficult to promote plant-based dietary patterns.”
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. May 2010; 91(suppl):1525S–9S. [Sabate J and Wien M]

Vegetarian Diet to Reduce Heart Disease

Heart disease is the primary cause of death in the United States.  The risk factors for heart disease include high BP, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, tobacco use, lack of exercise, and obesity.  Through a review of the literature, scientists at the University of Tennessee evaluated possible links between cardiovascular disease and vegetarian diets.   Research indicates an inverse relationship between fruits, vegetables, and fiber consumption and the risk of heart disease.  Diets low in saturated fat are also associated with decreased risk of heart disease.  Vegetarian diets follow these rules and vegetarians tend to have fewer chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. The authors conclude that a well-planned vegetarian diet with adequate supplementation may be effective for primary prevention of heart disease.
Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.  March 2010; 22:134-139. ([Stitcher MA et al.]

Vegetarians May Have Lower Bone Mineral Density

Researchers from Pham Ngoc Thach University of Medicine in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam compiled data from nine different studies on bone mineral density (BMD) and diet type. While two of the nine showed vegetarians to have significantly lower average BMDs than omnivores, thus putting them at greater risk for osteoporosis, the pooled data showed no significant statistical difference. The results did suggest that vegetarian diets, and especially vegan diets, are associated with a lower BMD; however, the magnitude of the association is clinically insignificant.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009 Oct 1;90:943-50. (Ho-Pham et al.)

Vegetarian, Pescatarian Diets Linked with Decreased Cancer

Combining data from the Oxford Vegetarian Study and the EPIC-Oxford cohort, researchers at the University of Oxford found that the incidence of all cancers combined was lowest among the vegetarians and pescatarians. Specifically, vegetarians were at lower risk for stomach and bladder cancer, as well as cancers of the lymphatic and blood tissues. Pescatarians had the lowest risk of ovarian and prostate cancers. However, the authors note the need for further study, as findings from various studies regarding diet type and cancer incidence have been inconsistent.
British Journal of Cancer. 2009 Jul 7;101:192-197. (Key et al.)

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