Dr. Barnard's Blog

The Physicians Committee

Jay Z Pledges to Go Vegan

December 2, 2013   Dr. Neal Barnard   vegan


Jay Z's pledge to adopt a vegan diet is trending worldwide. And if it seems like everyone is adopting a vegan diet, it’s because they are.  More people are finding it surprisingly easy to follow a plant-based diet. Former president Bill Clinton, former vice president Al Gore, and actress Michelle Pfeiffer continue to ditch meat in favor of nutrient-packed, plant-based foods. Hollywood’s A-list, including actresses Anne Hathaway and Natalie Portman, country singer Carrie Underwood, and tennis champ Serena Williams all tout the health benefits of a vegan diet.

The science is simple: The more plant-based meals we eat, the healthier we’ll be in the long run. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics finds people who follow vegetarian diets have a lower body mass index, lower risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of overall cancer. From a nutritional standpoint, plant-based meals outweigh their meat-heavy counterparts.  A black bean burger has similar protein as a hamburger, but the black bean burger has half the fat and calories, contains zero cholesterol, and packs four times as much fiber.

As plant-based diets continue to surge in popularity, it won’t be long before we see a decline in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease – and that is something Hollywood, scientists, politicians, and hip-hop stars can all advocate for.

You’re in Good Company with a Vegan Thanksgiving

November 27, 2013   Dr. Neal Barnard   vegan


Meat consumption on the decline

With meat consumption falling by about 10 percent in the past eight years, it’s more popular than ever to plan a healthful plant-based Thanksgiving. Celebrities like Mayim Bialik and Ellen DeGeneres are sharing their plans for a vegan meal.  Last year, Turtle Island Foods celebrated the sale of their 3 millionth Tofurky. With skyrocketing diabetes and obesity rates, everyone knows it’s time for a change. So the surge in plant-based popularity isn’t a surprise. And more people are realizing that turkey is not a healthful food. Among other concerns, a single serving of turkey can have up to 80 mg of cholesterol, whereas a vegan diet is naturally cholesterol-free. Plant-based cookbooks like Forks Over Knives and Isa Does It are topping the Amazon Best Seller lists. The Physicians Committee has also prepared several Thanksgiving, Holiday, and Hanukkah menu plans. Even the New York Times is encouraging readers to have a heart-healthy holiday by highlighting over 600 vegetarian and vegan dishes in the 2013 Thanksgiving recipe database. Good health is definitely something to be thankful for, and a delicious plant-based Thanksgiving is the best early holiday gift you can give your loved ones this year.

Prevent Cancer by Banning Bacon and Nixing Nicotine

November 20, 2013   Dr. Neal Barnard   cancer, colorectal cancer, processed meat


The American Cancer Society’s annual Great American Smokeout takes place this week, shifting the public’s focus toward cancer prevention. Cigarettes are an easy target, since their link to cancer is well-publicized, and the vast majority of smokers already want to quit.Prevent Cancer by Banning Bacon and Nixing Nicotine But despite the drop in smoking, cancer rates are still high. So we need to go several steps further. The next culprits are processed meat products, such as bacon, hot dogs, and deli meats. Just as tobacco attacks the lungs, processed meats attack the digestive tract. The World Cancer Research Fund says the link between processed meat and cancer is so strong that it should be avoided completely. The EPIC study results published earlier this year show that eating processed meat is linked with a 44 percent increased risk of death. A recent study from the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that colorectal cancer survivors who consume large amounts of processed meat are at a 29 percent higher risk of death from general causes and a 63 percent higher risk of death from heart disease. While tobacco products have been the object of labeling efforts designed to maximize risk awareness, processed meat products have gone under the radar. Mayor Bloomberg just signed new legislation raising the legal purchasing age of cigarettes from 18 to 21. If he and other politicians truly have their constituents’ health in mind, they will make the same efforts to label and restrict the purchase of hot dogs and other processed meat products. But consumers certainly don’t have to hold out for a new law to can the cigarettes, scrap the bacon, or share a healthful recipe with some friends. Positive change can happen anytime—so start now and help lead the cultural shift towards better health.

“Free Birds” Are All for Going Bird-Free

November 1, 2013   Dr. Neal Barnard   animal products


The movie Free Birds is running wild in theaters all across the country today. The storyline follows Reggie, a turkey trying to save his loved ones by traveling through time to keep turkey off the Thanksgiving table. And that is a good idea, because a poultry-free Thanksgiving can save more than just Reggie, Jake, and Jenny—taking turkey off the menu will also prevent your loved ones from high cholesterol and heart disease this holiday season.Bird-Free Thanksgiving

Turkey is not a healthful food, even before being slathered in butter and lumpy gravy. When your sibling and cousin each grab a drumstick—sans basting or gravy—they’re getting more than 55 percent of their daily maximum cholesterol intake. Thanksgiving is a time when people frequently overindulge, and two drumsticks puts you well into the cholesterol danger zone.

Turkey also contains at least one secret ingredient Grandma didn’t plan on: feces. Nine out of 10 ground turkey products are contaminated with fecal bacteria and E. coli. In addition, 81 percent of turkey meat contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Turkeys are routinely fed arsenic, despite attempts to ban the arsenic-laced feed in favor of consumer safety. With plenty of meatless holiday recipe plans available, make yours a bird-free Thanksgiving.

Blood and Guts on Capitol Hill

October 25, 2013   Dr. Neal Barnard   other


This week on Capitol Hill, the Physicians Committee, a former military doctor, and Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson led a demonstration showcasing the latest groundbreaking military trauma training. Human-based simulators—featuring lifelike skin, anatomically correct organs, breakable bones, and realistic blood flow—are designed to create an accurate and realistic experience, something that an anesthetized pig and or goat simply cannot.

The Cut Suit, worn by an actor, recreates the emotional stressors of a combat experience providing real-time feedback. Seeing a soldier on the ground, writhing in pain and calling out for help, illustrates the difference between working on a “conscious casualty” and an anesthetized animal. Video of the Cut Suit in Action WARNING: THIS VIDEO MAY BE GRAPHIC AND DISTURBING

The scenarios were so realistic that at least two people stood and left the room during the demonstration. Afterward, congressional staffers got up close and personal with the simulators, even participating in several “surgical procedures.” Better training for our soldiers means more lives saved on the field. As these extremely advanced training methods continue to gain congressional support, they will replace animal methods—to everyone’s benefit.


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