Nutrition Researcher, Vegan Athletes Promote Healthy Diets to Congress
Members of Congress and their staffs got a lesson in nutrition when PCRM visited the Capitol with healthy vegan food, a leading nutrition researcher, and two vegan athletes. As Congress geared up to debate Sen. Tom Harkin’s Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act, PCRM hosted a congressional briefing and reception on April 27 to educate policy-makers about Congress’ role in helping America get healthy.
T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., a Cornell University researcher and author of the groundbreaking book The China Study, described the lessons learned from more than 40 years of research into the links between diet and disease. His landmark Oxford-Cornell-China Study on Diet and Health showed that plant-based diets explain the low rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in certain areas of rural China.
Those lessons, Dr. Campbell said, should be applied in the United States. “Nutrition, if properly understood, can be a major solution to the medical care cost problem,” Dr. Campbell told the audience. He explained how a low-fat, plant-based diet has been shown to prevent, suspend, or cure a wide range of diseases from diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease.
Also speaking were two vegan athletes at the top of their fields: ultramarathoner Scott Jurek and Ironman triathlete and author Brendan Brazier. Ultramarathons can span more than 100 miles and occur in temperatures ranging from 30 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Jurek has dominated the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run for each of the past seven years. In 2005, just two weeks after winning Western States, Jurek set a course record at the Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathon (24 hours, 36 minutes). Jurek credited his wins to his vegan diet, which allows for faster recovery to restore his body to a higher level of conditioning.
Brazier began experimenting with vegan diets to enhance his athletic performance in 1990. He said that a vegan diet allows him to recover faster and therefore train harder, and it has also improved his mental clarity. On May 6, Brazier won the Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Championships in Toronto and set a new course record of 3:10:52.
But Brazier’s concerns go beyond athletic competition. He said that it is imperative that we have better nutritional choices in schools. “We’ve done a good job educating kids on what foods are healthy and what foods are not,” Brazier said. “But kids are not always given the healthy options and they will always choose the path of least resistance.”
PCRM executive director Mindy Kursban urged members of Congress to support good nutrition through legislative action. One of PCRM’s key areas of concern: Federal food assistance programs such as the Women, Infants, and Children Program need better nutritional standards that not only promote healthy foods, but also eliminate unhealthy foods. Kursban said that the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act, which would update federal nutrition standards and apply them to all food sold on school grounds, is “a good first step in the battle against obesity.” PCRM also urged Congress to expand the USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to cover all 50 states. The program is currently in place in only 14 states and three Indian reservations.