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  1. News Release

  2. Aug 20, 2020

Participants Boosted Health, Reduced Risk of Severe COVID-19 Outcomes in Free Plant-Based Nutrition Classes

Next Fight COVID-19 With Food Class Series Starts on Aug. 25

WASHINGTON—A free online nutrition course taught by doctors with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is helping people across the country to lose weight, improve their health, and minimize their risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes. 

Fight COVID-19 With Food is a free eight-week class series, which teaches participants about the power of a plant-based diet to reduce the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems that have been linked to more severe COVID-19 outcomes. In each class, physicians and community partners provide practical tips, meal planning, and interactive Q&A in each class. The inaugural series just wrapped, and a class survey revealed that within eight weeks:

  • 67% of class attendees who had been seeking to lose weight reported weight loss.
  • 53% of those with diabetes reported improvements. 
  • 54% of class attendees with high blood pressure reported improvements.

“A plant-based diet is one of the most powerful tools we have in medicine,” says Vanita Rahman, MD, class instructor and doctor with the Physicians Committee. “Within weeks of making a diet change, class participants saw their blood pressure and blood sugar improve, lost weight, and reported other profound benefits to their health.”

“Staying as healthy as we possibly can is important now more than ever,” says Neal Barnard, MD, class instructor and president of the Physicians Committee. “Whether you live or die from COVID-19 often depends on whether you have heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and other underlying conditions. A plant-based diet can help tackle these conditions, and our goal is to share this lifesaving information with as many people as we can.” 

While everyone is welcome and encouraged to join the classes, the Physicians Committee designed the program to reach communities and cities hardest hit by chronic diseases and COVID-19. The Physicians Committee focused outreach on communities of color, who have long experienced unfair health disadvantages, including being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

“The idea for this program came about when we saw the glaring inequities within our own city, Washington, D.C.,” says Dr. Barnard. “D.C.’s Black residents make up 46% of the population, but an overwhelming 80% of COVID deaths. That’s unacceptable. While there are many factors involved in health disparities, as doctors, we know that a healthy diet can be an important part of the solution. We want to do everything we can to get this free information into the hands of people who need it.”

Throughout the class series, Dr. Rahman and Dr. Barnard presented the science behind a plant-based diet for improved health, while each session also featured special guests. Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams—who once struggled with uncontrolled diabetes and nearly lost his vision—shared the powerful story of how a plant-based diet helped him reclaim his health and reverse his diabetes. Other guests included chefs, dietitians, plant-based restaurateurs, cooking instructors, and other experts who shared their experiences, highlighted local resources, provided recipes, and answered frequently asked questions. 

“I loved the panel and the guests. I loved all the resources. Being new to this transition [to a healthful plant-based diet], it seems like there are so many resources, but they all cost money—money that I don't have right now,” reported one class participant. “I am so very appreciative that this was offered at no charge. This class has probably helped the most and been the most significant thing to keep me on track.”

Starting on Aug. 25, the Physicians Committee will launch the next free eight-week series, which will be led by Dr. Rahman, Dr. Barnard, and Jennifer Paul, MPH. For more information and to sign up for the class, visit PCRM.org/NutritionClass.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.

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