News Flash – Vegan Diet Helps Combat Diabetes

Diabetes Health proclaimed today that a low-fat vegan diet is good for glucose control in diabetics. They don't actually say much more in the article, but I found it worth remarking that a national publication devoted to one of the most insidious diseases today is advocating veganism as a dietary solution to this disease. In addition to the magazine, the American Association of Diabetes Educators included a session entitled "Practical Resources for Vegan Diet Instruction for Diabetes" in this year's annual meeting.

Diabetes Health just returned from the annual meeting of the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), in Washington, D.C., August 6 through 9, 2008. We joined 3,500 attendees in, as AADE President, Amparo Gonzalez, RN, BSN, CDE, said, "taking on the challenges of delivering diabetes education in today's healthcare environment."

Source: Diabetes Health

The data they site is from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, whose study showed that a low-fat vegan diet can lead to weight loss and decreased blood glucose levels. (If you're interested in the actual data click here and scroll down to the end of the article.)

Hopefully this presages a shift in thinking in the medical industry. Maybe we can move away from pharmaceutical solutions to nutritional education for our physicians, and ourselves.

Now, wouldn't it be nice if the Heart Disease and Cancer groups got on board too. Then we'll have the big three covered!

Americans Are Getting Fatter

Recently, we saw a brief blurb on ABC news that indicated that obesity rates in America, as well as globally, are continuing to rise. It looks like we're on track to have 86% of all adults in America categorized as overweight or obese by 2030 - with related health care costs very close to $1 TRILLION! Well, if you look around you, this is really no surprise. As our lifestyles become even more sedentary, and cheap, high calorie (and often tasty) foods are omnipresent, what else can we expect? Or perhaps it's the 3,747 average calories we're consuming per person (according to New Scientist) -- that will pack on the pounds quickly!

The American mentality of instant gratification is also a huge factor. (And here I get on my soapbox.) We are taught from day one, that if we want something "we deserve it" (thanks to the marketing folks at L'oreal), and have to have it NOW (thanks Target). Whatever happened to saving up for something? Whatever happened to working for things? Whatever happened to anticipation? Why do we need so much stuff? And this goes for food too. Last year, when we were travelling through Sedona, we stopped at Taco Bell for a bean burrito, no cheese (vegan). Their new add campaign was something about a "fourth meal." Sheesh!

But I have an easy weight-loss suggestion for the general population; eat vegan a few meals per week. Notice, I said vegan, not vegetarian. That's because vegetarian often means "a non-meat based dish slathered in cheese." And as good as "real" cheese tastes, it's not likely to be part of a "reducing" diet, at least not in the quantities we typically consume. But overall, vegetables have fewer calories than meat.

Now, I'm not saying that simply eating vegan is the solution. We've found plenty of vegan junk food items out there. It's also fairly easy to eat a "bad" vegan diet. Our personal experience -- we notice we tend to gain a pound or three when Jane is baking more often, or when we're eating a lot of vegan ice cream or snacks. But as we move away from processed foods and eat more plant based whole foods, we consume fewer calories, and that's when the pounds come off, and it feels effortless.

Resources:

Yet Another Reason Not To Eat Meat

Recently, I've been reading a lot about the "natural" human diet. Some people argue we've evolved to be meat eaters, others that we're naturally vegetarians. Obviously, we're pro-vegan here, but the question still rages. Are humans natural omnivores?

A few weeks ago, I bookmarked an article I saw referenced on Vegan.com. It's taken me awhile to get around to reading it, but I'm glad I did. The article, entitled "Mystery of the meat-eaters' molecule" was published in The Telegraph, and postulates that human physiology may not be able to tolerate meat and dairy. The study is being conducted by Ajit Varki, co-director of the Glycobiology Research and Training Center at the University of California, San Diego.

Varki has built up a range of evidence that potentially links Neu5Gc, a so-called sialic acid, to chronic disease. This is because the animal version is absorbed by humans as a result of eating red meat and milk products, and there is evidence that the body views it as an invader.

Professor Varki has determined that we are the only primates who do not produce this molecule, Neu5Gc. Instead, we produce Neu5Ac, a precursor to Neu5Gc. So what does this mean?

This tiny change could potentially explain some of the more unusual differences between humans and apes. Chimpanzees do not seem to suffer from heart disease, cancers, rheumatoid arthritis or bronchial asthma - common conditions in humans.

Professor Varki believes that Neu5Gc elicits an immune reaction that might contribute to a whole spectrum of human-specific diseases.

After testing a range of foods, they found the highest levels of Neu5Gc in red meat: up to 11,600 micrograms could be absorbed from the recommended daily serving of beef, 5,100 from pork and 4,900 from lamb. The level in goat's cheese was 5,500, but fell to around 700 in milk and salmon. Cod, tuna, turkey and duck were in the twenties.

Not only did the foreign sugar show up in the body soon after eating, but tests also revealed that many people carry antibodies that react to Neu5Gc - a protective immune response, but one which could trigger damaging inflammation.

Interestingly, we've been reading more and more about how better health can be achieved by eating vegan, or at least cutting down on meat and dairy products. We've found information showing that rheumatoid arthritis can be improved with a vegan diet, and that non-fat and lo-fat milk can be linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Of course, Varki's studies are still in their preliminary stages. As he stresses:

"we have not proven any link to disease, just suggested that it is something to explore."

I'm looking forward to reading more about his findings. On a lighter note, Kate posted this YouTube video and commented it's one of the funniest she's seen. I agree, so here it is, it may not be the definitive explanation, but hey, it supports my point of view ;).

For further reading:
Dept of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at UCSD
Varki Lab page

Vegan Lifestyle — Romance

For the "romantically active" people in our reading audience... I stumbled across a site which rates condoms, appropriately named, VeganCondoms.com. In addition to discussing whether or not the condoms are vegan, they've also researched if they're cruelty-free or not. Their list is by no means comprehensive, but it's a good starting point if you haven't given this topic any thought.

For those of you not in the know, latex often contains casein, a milk-based protein. In the past, we've written about cheese addiction and the connection to casein. I'm laughing to myself, trying to come up with an appropriate joke about an addiction to these prophylactics! Unfortunately, nothing comes to mind that I'm willing to put in print.

9 Best Foods To Fight Aging

One of the Martha Stewart Magazines, Whole Living, has a list of 10 foods which can help fight aging, nine of those are vegan. So what are these wonder foods? Well, most of them are in our kitchen, and probably yours too:

  1. Healthy Greens -- They contain folate, calcium, and other nutrients that support bone health, protect against cognitive decline, and help prevent age-related eye problems. Diets high in cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli and cabbage, help reduce risk of memory loss and cancer.
  2. Whole Grains -- Rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, whole grains can lower the risk of age-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Because they're digested more slowly than processed grains, they also help prevent high blood sugar and diabetes.
  3. Berries -- Blueberries, blackberries, and cranberries are rich in antioxidant compounds known as anthocyanins, which have been shown to slow the growth of certain cancers as well as improve brain function, muscle tone, and balance.
  4. Olive Oil -- Rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fat, olive oil figures prominently in the Mediterranean diet. It may explain the lower rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and age-related cognitive decline in people who follow this way of eating.
  5. Tomatoes -- Certain red fruits, including tomatoes, contain lycopene, an antioxidant compound that helps maintain youthful skin texture and may reduce the risk of some types of cancer (especially prostate, lung, and stomach cancers) and heart disease.
  6. Nuts -- Varieties such as almonds and walnuts contain a generous helping of healthy fats, vitamins, and protein that benefit cardiovascular and brain health. Nuts are also high in compounds that ease inflammation.
  7. Red Grapes -- Grapes contain an antioxidant called resveratrol, which been shown to extend the lives of lab animals (VB note - we do not support animal testing, please see comments below for some of our readers comments on this). Resveratrol has anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant properties, which may explain why red wine and purple grape juice also help promote heart health.
  8. Fish -- An important part of the Japanese and Mediterranean diets, oily fish provide omega-3 fatty acids that help combat inflammation in the body. People who eat several weekly servings of such fish have a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease and stroke.
  9. Teas -- Of the various types of tea, white and green tea contain the most EGCG, one of the most powerful antioxidants. Numerous studies have linked tea consumption to lower rates of conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.
  10. Herbs and Spices -- Spices such as turmeric and ginger contain anti-inflammatory compounds that might reduce the risk of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. The antioxidant substances in garlic and onions can protect against heart disease and cancer; cinnamon may help lower blood sugar.

Source: Whole Living

There's been a lot of research to support that eating whole foods over processed foods is beneficial to your health. Here's just another example of that. Earlier this month, Lane wrote a post on the 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating as compiled by the New York Times. Further proof that fruits and veggies are the way to go.

Cheers -- Jane

note: post edited 7/23 -- I inadvertently omitted #5 Tomatoes!

On Cheese

I'm slowly making my way through a pile of vegan reading. One of the books I'm reading is called Breaking the Food Seduction by Dr. Neal Barnard. I was shocked by something I read in the book. Apparently the U.S. Department of Agriculture works hand in hand with big business. Maybe I'm naive, but I would have thought that was a conflict of interest.

Anyway, here are two other tidbits which I found noteworthy:

  • The dairy industry weighs heavily on nutrition policies in the United States. The eleven-person panel that drew up the Dairy Guidelines for Americans 2000 -- the blueprint for all federal nutrition programs -- included six members with financial ties to the dairy, meat, and egg industries.
  • Government sponsored programs have managed to boost America's annual cheese consumption from 15 pounds per person in 1975 to 30 pounds in 1999.

Source: Breaking the Food Seduction pages 57-60

Finally, Barnard discusses that cheese is even more problematic for people to give up than other dairy products... Dairy contains a protein, called casein, that breaks apart during digestion to release a whole host of opiates, called casomorphins. Cheese contains much more casein than is found in other dairy products. Barnard suggests this is what makes it more addictive.

If you didn't read it before, we wrote a little more about the addictive nature of dairy back in May.  So to our friends who are considering going vegan, but can't live without cheese... apparently there is a real, physical reason.  We certainly have had a tough time with this one!

Vegetarians Live Longer

The Huffington Post writes today about a study by the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsche Krebsforschungszentrum) which followed 1,904 vegetarians over 21 years.

As vegans, we often hear that our diet could be putting us at risk... we're not getting enough B12, we're not getting enough calcium, and oh yes, what about protein?

Research by a team led by Professor Ibrahim Elmadfa at the University of Vienna found a much better than average intake of Vitamin C, Carotinoides, Folic acid, fiber and unsaturated fats. Where shortcomings may arise is for Vitamin B12, calcium und Vitamin D in a vegan diet. Astoundingly, however, study participants did not suffer from diseases, such as osteoporosis, typically related to inadequate intakes of these micro-nutrients.

Source: The Huffington Post

(Okay, so these researchers don't touch on protein, but we know we can get adequate protein in our diet if we pay enough attention and avoid the "french fry" vegetarian lifestyle. What's that? That is the idea that french fries or other unhealthy food choices are the only options available to us when we go out to eat in omnivore land. Most of the time, you can get a salad or steamed vegetables, at the very least.)

Most impressive of all in the German Cancer Research Center study is this: Vegetarian men had a 50% reduced risk of early death, and vegetarian women a 30% reduced risk.

Mad Cows And Dementia

My mother was recently visiting with a friend. They got around to talking about their kids and she mentioned that Jane and I have been vegan for awhile, and that we've been blogging about our vegan experiences. My mom, who is not vegan by the way (hi mom!), explained veganism to her friend and discussed the cruelty perpetrated on the animals we, as a society, eat. (Go mom!) My mom expressed that it made her sad, to which her friend replied, "I don't care, I like meat." Wow. I know others have talked about experiencing this, but so far, the worst I've heard is, "I don't want to know, I still want to eat meat...."

If the environmental reasons aren't enough, here's a little something I've been reading about which should get those people who like meat to reconsider, at least the beef eaters.

I've been reading Thanking the Monkey and on page 192 Karen Dawn writes

How rampant is mad cow disease? We don't know. A study at Yale found that of forty-six patients clinically diagnosed with Alzheimer's, six were proven to have Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) at autopsy. (Ms. Dawn cites Guy McKahann et al., Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders 1989 - pages 100-109.) Other studies have shown that mad cow prions can cause a disease with a molecular signature indistinguishable from sporadic CJD. Therefore there is no way to determine if the many deaths from CJD misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's are actually linked to mad cow disease. (Ms. Dawn cites Michael Greger, MD, "Could Mad Cow Disease Already Be Kliling Thousands of Americans Every Year?" CommonDreams.org, January 7, 2004.) So we cannot know how widespread mad cow disease is in the United States, or whether humans are infected. It seems that the government is in no rush to help us find out.

Yikes! Then there's always this blurb from the National Institutes of Health page on CJD.

The appearance of the new variant of CJD (nv-CJD or v-CJD) in several younger than average people in Great Britain and France has led to concern that BSE may be transmitted to humans through consumption of contaminated beef. Although laboratory tests have shown a strong similarity between the prions causing BSE and v-CJD, there is no direct proof to support this theory.

Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders (NIH)

The more I read, the happier I am that I'm vegan.

Watermelon Equals Fireworks

We wish all of our US readers a Happy 4th. Today's post might be a little late for this weekend's festivities, but it'll certainly be of value throughout the summer. It turns out that watermelon isn't just a fun summer fruit -- it contains certain chemicals that might help ensure some fireworks in the bedroom.

Apparently watermelons contain citrulline, a chemical which can trigger the body's blood vessels to relax. According to scientists at Texas A&M's Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center, this is similar to the reaction a man has when he takes Viagra.

Found in the flesh and rind of watermelons, citrulline reacts with the body's enzymes when consumed in large quantities and is changed into arginine, an amino acid that benefits the heart and the circulatory and immune systems.

"Arginine boosts nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels, the same basic effect that Viagra has, to treat erectile dysfunction and maybe even prevent it," said Bhimu Patil, a researcher and director of Texas A&M's Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center. "Watermelon may not be as organ-specific as Viagra, but it's a great way to relax blood vessels without any drug side effects." Todd Wehner, who studies watermelon breeding at North Carolina State University, said anyone taking Viagra shouldn't expect the same result from watermelon.

"It sounds like it would be an effect that would be interesting but not a substitute for any medical treatment," Wehner said.

source - Watermelon Yields Viagara Like Effects

Don't look to watermelon to actually replace those little blue pills however, as you probably need about 6 cups of watermelon to ingest enough of the chemical to see any effects. Anyway, it'll be interesting to see who's buying lots of watermelon at the farmer's market this weekend.

57 Health Benefits of Going Vegan

Yes, you read that correctly. According to Alisa Miller over at NursingDegree.com, there are 57 health benefits associated with eating vegan. Actually, she's listed 47 health benefits and 10 other items of potential interest to the vegan eater. None of this information is new, but it certainly bears repeating. Below are my

favorites:

3. Fiber. A diet high in fiber (as vegan eating usually is) leads to healthier bowel movements. High fiber diets help fight against colon cancer.

10. Phytochemicals. Plant-based foods provide phytochemicals, which help to prevent and heal the body from cancer, boost protective enzymes, and work with antioxidants in the body.

11. Protein. That protein is good for your body is no surprise. It may be a surprise to learn that most Americans eat too much protein and in forms such as red meat that are not healthy ways of getting protein. Beans, nuts, peas, lentils, and soy products are all great ways to get the right amount of protein in a vegan diet.

12. Cardiovascular disease. Eating nuts and whole grains, while eliminating dairy products and meat, will improve your cardiovascular health. A British study indicates that a vegan diet reduces the risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Vegan diets go far in preventing heart attack and stroke.

15. Type 2 diabetes. Not only is a vegan diet a weapon against Type 2 diabetes, it is also "easier to follow than the standard diet recommended by the American Diabetic Association."

24. Weight loss. A healthy weight loss is a typical result of a smart vegan diet. Eating vegan eliminates most of the unhealthy foods that tend to cause weight issues.

27. Longer life. Several studies indicate that those following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle live an average of three to six years longer than those who do not.

34. Allergies. Reduction in dairy, meat, and eggs is often tied to alleviation of allergy symptoms. Many vegans report much fewer runny noses and congestion problems.

35. Animal proteins. The average American eats twice as much protein as necessary for a healthy diet and much of that is from red meat. Getting protein from beans and grains is much healthier and reduces the risk for osteoporosis.

38. Mercury. Most of the fish and shellfish consumed has mercury in it. While some fish have less than others, it is almost impossible not to be putting mercury in your body when you eat fish.

40. Animals. Many people begin a vegan diet out of concern for animals. Whether opposed to the conditions of animals intended for food or eating animals in general, going vegan will help your conscience rest easily.

41. Environment. Growing plants takes much fewer resources than growing animals. By eating vegan, you can help reduce the toll on the environment.

45. Global food supply. Feeding grain to animals meant as food sources reduces the amount of food that is available to underdeveloped nations. Many people will go hungry while that same food they could be eating is given to animals raised for slaughter. Eating vegan ensures that you have removed yourself from the participation of this imbalance. (VeganBits note: Sparrow comments on our post Arguing for Vegetarianism, "that I learned in earned in my International Politics class a couple of years back is that world hunger is largely a problem of distribution.")

46. Hormone consumption. Eating animals that have been given hormones to speed growth (a common practice in the meat industry) means those hormones go into your body. Not only can this disrupt the natural balance of your hormones, but some of the hormones given to animals have shown to cause tumor growth in humans.

47. Antibiotics. Antibiotics are frequently given to feed animals, which can lead to bacterial resistance. Many of the antibiotics used to treat human infections are also used in feed animals.

If you're interested in the rest of the list visit NursingDegree.com