by Lee Kurisko, MD
When discussing different diets, the case is made why this diet or that diet is the best way to go. Having said that, there is only one diet that has ever been shown to prevent and even reverse heart disease, the number one killer in the Western world. That diet is a whole food plant-based diet. That being said, such a diet should be considered the gold standard against which all other diets are measured. No other diet has been proven to do so. From the perspective of weight management, only vegans as a group have body mass indices that are in the desirable range. Not the Paleo folks, not those eating the standard American diet, not pescatarians or even vegetarians. Only vegans, as a group, are normal in body weight.
To be clear, being vegan only tells us what a person does not eat. Oreo cookies and Jack Daniels are “vegan” but not necessarily healthy. The important distinction is that for optimal health, one should eat whole food plant based.
Often people wonder about athletic performance on a plant-based diet. Kendrick Farris is the best Olympic weightlifter in the US. Patrik Baboumian holds world records in strongman competitions. Carl Lewis was one of the best track and field athletes ever, a world record holder in the 100-meter dash. All of them are vegan. Despite vegans being a tiny percentage of the population, they have shown that they can be accomplished athletes.
Three large studies have demonstrated that low carb animal-based diets increase cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. Sure, you can lose a bit of weight in the short term, but don’t expect good health in the long term.
My own experience switching to a WFPB diet has been astonishing. I started out on a three day trial expecting that I would gain weight and my blood sugar would skyrocket. Within three days, my weight dropped a couple of pounds and my blood sugar plummeted to the bottom of the normal range, despite eating hundreds of grams of carbs per day. With blood sugar from a disease risk viewpoint, the lower, the better within the normal range.
With such results, I have persisted with it since June. I lost about five pounds. I was lean to start with. Now I am really lean and eat as much as I want. My blood sugars are exemplary. I sleep better. I have better physical endurance. I can work out harder and more often with less soreness. My cat allergy has almost completely gone away. I occasionally had migraine headaches and they are gone. I have had a longstanding problem with dental plaque buildup such that I have been going for dental cleanings every four months. Due to scheduling issues, I have not had my teeth professionally cleaned in eight months and yet, they still feel like they were professionally cleaned yesterday. Even my older male urinary stream has normalized. I expected none of this.
I hereby officially renounce my view that vegetarian diets are bad for you. Better yet embrace a whole food plant based vegan diet. I suspect that you will be shocked at how your health will improve.
Lee Kurisko MD is Chief Medical Officer with MediBid and radiologist with Consulting Radiologists Ltd. based in the Twin Cities. He is Medical Director of Diagnostic Imaging at St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee, Minnesota. He is trained in Family Medicine, Radiology, Neuroradiology and Nutritional and Metabolic Medicine.
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