Category Archives: Plant-Based

Diet Away Erectile Dysfunction

One surprising early sign of life-threatening heart problems is erectile dysfunction. A new study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that screening men with ED for heart disease could help prevent a million heart attacks or strokes over the next 20 years and save billions of dollars. But why let it escalate that far? Vegetables—not Viagra—are the best way to prevent not only ED, but the heart disease it’s linked to.

Of course the first thing that men who are already turning to Viagra, Cialis, and other ED drugs should do is schedule an appointment with their physician. Approximately 44 percent of men with heart disease risk factors—such as ED—are unaware of their risk, according to the study. But if men with ED were screened for heart disease, 5.8 million cases would be identified over 20 years.

Now we know just how costly erectile dysfunction is. The study authors say that even a 20 percent decrease in heart attacks or strokes as a result of screening and treatment could help avoid 1.1 million heart attacks and strokes, saving $21.3 billion over 20 years. And more than 1 million cases of ED would also be treated, saving $9.7 billion. That’s a combined savings of $28.5 billion.

ED is a canary in a coal mine, according to Stephen Kopecky, M.D., who will discuss how ED is an early indicator of heart disease at this summer’s International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine: Cardiovascular Disease. Why? Because—as this new study shows—the blocked arteries that cause ED can eventually stop blood flow to the heart and brain.

About 8.8 million men have heart disease—and 5 million of those have a history of heart attack, according to the American Heart Association. Heart disease killed more than 200,000 men in 2009 and 68,814 died from heart attack. Three million men today are stroke survivors, and in 2009, stroke caused the death of more than 50,000 men, says the American Stroke Association.

But arteries can literally open up again simply by adopting a low-fat, plant-based diet. A study in JAMA found that found that normal sexual function returned in almost one-third of the men who ate less saturated fat and cholesterol (both of which are abundant in animal products) and more fiber (only found in plant foods).

The best way to keep the blood pumping is a plant-based diet.

 

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.

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