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Our Friends and Supporters Are Simply Sublime

Last Friday, friends and supporters gathered together for an event benefitting the Physicians Committee. Hosted by Nanci Alexander at her award-winning vegan restaurant Sublime in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the event completely sold out with attendees from all over the country. This show of support for the Physicians Committee’s work is truly inspiring.

Sublime owner and event host, Nanci Alexander, and Neal Barnard, M.D.

Sublime owner and event host, Nanci Alexander, and Neal Barnard, M.D.

A special thanks to Nanci for hosting the event—and thank you to everyone who attended. But even if you couldn’t be there, I would still like to express my appreciation for all of the folks who support the Physicians Committee, whether it’s by donation, volunteering, speaking up in support of our campaigns, or through sharing our content on social media. Together we can accomplish big things!

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The room was packed at the Physicians Committee’s benefit at Sublime Restaurant.

The room was packed at the Physicians Committee’s benefit at Sublime Restaurant.

Good Health Isn’t Always Just Luck

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Many people have at least one superstition that influences their behavior or well-being. But finding a heads-up penny from the year you were born won’t increase your longevity or reduce the risk of disease if you’re not eating a healthful diet.

A low-fat, plant-based diet is associated with lower risks of heart disease and diabetes. However, a recent study from the American Institute for Cancer Research shows that fewer than half of Americans know that a diet high in plant-based foods can reduce cancer risk. And despite the mountain of evidence showing a link between red and processed meat and colorectal cancer, only 35 percent of Americans are aware of the risks that come with eating hot dogs and bacon.

Superstitions can be murky, but the science is clear. Here are some studies published within the past three months that link plant-based diets to disease prevention:

Vegetarian Diet Protects Against Colorectal Cancer
Vegetarian Diet Leads to Weight Loss
Whole Grains Protect Against Heart Disease
Vegetarian Diet Reduces the Risk of Heart Attack
Plant-Based Diet Reverses Angina
Plant-Based Diets Lower Risk of Heart Disease in Obese Children
High-Fiber Diets Increase Lifespan

Good health isn’t just dumb luck. Fortunately, we can empower ourselves with the knowledge that we can influence our risk of disease. Just fill your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Foods that Fight Depression

This is a guest post from Ulka Agarwal, M.D.

As a psychiatrist, my patients often ask me if there are dietary changes they can make to improve their depression. Many cannot tolerate antidepressants, don’t benefit from them, or are reluctant to try medications or seek counseling due to stigma. As a result, they miss an average of 19 work days per year, costing employers up to $44 billion dollars a year in lost productivity. Depression can aggravate other chronic illnesses as well, like diabetes and heart disease. We know that plant-based diets prevent and even treat these chronic illnesses, but can they also improve mood? Our recent study published in the March/April issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion demonstrates how a plant-based nutrition program improves not only depression, but anxiety, fatigue, productivity, and other markers of well-being.

This 18-week study analyzes the health benefits of adopting a plant-based vegan diet in a corporate setting. Study participants, GEICO employees who were either overweight or struggling with type 2 diabetes, adopted a low-fat vegan diet, favoring high-fiber, low-glycemic foods. They learned about preventive nutrition and new cooking tips through weekly “lunch and learn” sessions led by a clinician or cooking instructor. They also formed bonds, sharing helpful health tips along the way and connecting with the group on a daily basis through an online forum. Study participants alleviated symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fatigue, and improved their productivity both at work and outside of work, according to the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) and the Work Productivity and Activity Impairment Questionnaire (WPAI):

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They also lost an average of 10 pounds, lowered LDL cholesterol levels by 13 points, and improved blood sugar control, if they had type 2 diabetes. When people improve their physical health they become more physically and socially active and their overall quality of life improves.

How does a plant-based diet improve depression? Depression is related to inflammation in the body and low levels of serotonin. Plant-based foods naturally lower inflammation in the body because they are naturally low in fat and high in antioxidants. High vegetable intake increases the amount of B vitamins in the diet, which have been found to affect mood.

So what are you waiting for? Jump right in with a low-fat, plant-based diet! It’s the best prescription to boost your mood, energy, and productivity, while reducing your risk for chronic illnesses. I know I’ll be prescribing a plant-based diet to all of my patients for their emotional and physical well-being.

To learn more about the study, visit the American Journal of Health Promotion

About Ulka Agarwal, M.D.:

Ulka Agarwal, M.D., is the lead physician and psychiatrist at California State University, East Bay, where she developed and leads a plant-based employee wellness nutrition program.  Dr. Agarwal is the former chief medical officer for the Physicians Committee and a graduate of Dr. Andrew Weil’s Integrative Medicine Fellowship through the University of Arizona.