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Overall health may be improved by a short term vegan diet

19 November 2014

Western diet, rich in animal-source foods, is considered to be the underlying cause of many chronic diseases such as cell cancers, Type 2 diabetes, autoimmune and cardiovascular disorders.

An article published in the recent issue of Nutrition Journal reports that eating a low-fat vegan diet for a week can reduce the risks of diseases associated with the diets of industrialised societies.   McDougall et al. from a private medical centre in California looked back at the records of 1615 patients (35% male and 65% female, with a median age of 58 years) who participated in a 10-day dietary intervention program between 2002 and 2011. Participants of the study were served buffet-style food which was low in fat (≤ 10% of calories), high in carbohydrate (~80% of calories), contained moderate amounts of sodium (~2g/day), and was based on plants (cereal based products, beans, peas, lentils, fresh fruits, non-starchy vegetable). McDougall and colleagues analysed the measurements of weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and blood lipids and estimation of cardiovascular disease risk at the start and on the 7th day of the study. At the beginning of the dietary intervention most of the participants had some history of disease for example high levels of cholesterol or hypertension and were on at least 1 medication. After 7 days of eating vegan diet the improvements were remarkable, there was significant reduction of total cholesterol (from median 184 mg/dL to 162 mg/dL), weight (from median 84.4 kg to 82.6 kg), blood pressure and blood glucose levels. The participants with the highest values at baseline measurements showed the greatest improvements.  In addition, 86.5 % of people who were initially on blood pressure medication and 90.7 % on diabetes medication either reduced or stopped taking medication during the program.
 
The authors noted that the dramatic improvement in health after only 7 days of dietary change may motivate patients to adhere to the diet. Moreover, they suggest that an intensive week-long education program should be part of the healthcare system as a cost effective and long term effective measure.

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