Study: Vegetarian diets HEALTHIER IN EVERY WAY than diets with meat | Neal Barnard, MD | 06/14/11

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Vegetarian diets are not just better for weight management, they are more nutritious than diets that include meat, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. With two out of three Americans needing to lose weight, the message is more urgent than ever.

The new findings are based on a study including 13,292 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Not only were vegetarians slimmer than their meat-eating counterparts, their fiber intake was 24 percent higher and calcium intake was 17 percent higher. Vegetarians also consumed more magnesium, potassium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, and vitamins A, C, and E, and less total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.

The study was accompanied by an editorial concluding that “the benefits of following a plant-based diet can be valuable beyond weight loss goals.” Specifically, the editorial noted, vegetarians have lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and “lower risk for many disease states including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension.”

Power PlateAt PCRM, we have often used vegan diets to help people lose weight or improve diabetes or other health problems. In our 2006 review, 38 of 40 published studies comparing vegetarians and nonvegetarians showed that vegetarians weighed less. We also found that adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet brings a dramatic improvement in nutrition. Cholesterol and saturated fat intake plummet, while fiber, beta-carotene, and important vitamins increase. Using the Harvard School of Public Health’s Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) score, we have found that vegan participants excel in every AHEI category.

So this raises the question: If meat tends to crowd out nutritious vegetables, beans, and whole grains, and increases the risk for disease, why would anyone recommend it? The answer is that they shouldn’t.

When the USDA released its new MyPlate diagram on June 2, it looked very much like PCRM’s Power Plate developed in 2009 in that it included no meat group. However, instead of PCRM’s “legume group,” USDA opted for a “protein” group that includes beans and soy products, as well as meat. While USDA is slowly moving in the right direction, there is no scientific reason to include meat at all. Avoiding animal products is a key step for maximizing good nutrition and good health.

Farmer B, Larson BT, Fulgoni VL, Rainville AJ, Liepa GU. A vegetarian dietary pattern as a nutrient-dense approach to weight management: an analysis of the National health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2004. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111:819-827.

Turner-McGrievy GM, Barnard ND, Cohen J, Jenkins DJA, Gloede L, Green AA. Changes in nutrient intake and dietary quality among participants with type 2 diabetes following a low-fat vegan diet or a conventional diabetes diet for 22 weeks. J Am Dietetic Assoc. 2008;108:1636-1645.

Berkow SE, Barnard NB. Vegetarian diets and weight status. Nutr Rev. 2006;64:175-188.


5 Comments | Leave a comment


Don't bother with a plant based diet...unless you want to lower cholesterol, lose weight, prevent many diseases, and feel younger and more energetic.
I reduced my total cholesterol 99 points (to 113) and my LDL by 80 points (to 59)...and even more important, I have not had any episodes of angina in months. A statin drug helped those numbers but the only difference between before and after was my diet.


Amazing that the FDA is actually finally moving in the right direction!


I don't doubt that "Vegetarian diets HEALTHIER IN EVERY WAY than diets with meat", but is the other side convinced?

In 1989, my friend Greg and I heard John Robbins speak in San Diego. He recently had appeared on Geraldo, and was citing the scientific evidence that the cause of heart disease, cancer, etc. was animal products...and not once did the autopsies blame spinach and tofu!

The evidence supporting veganism has continued to mount since then, but that didn't stop the Atkins craze from a decade ago.

Like the scientific evidence in favor of global warming, the right wing doesn't take medical data supporting veganism, Dr. Milton Mills' anatomical comparisons between humans, carnivores, omnivores, frugivores, and herbivores, The China Study, etc. seriously, either.

They liken it to a scene in Woody Allen's 1973 movie Sleeper, in which a natural foods faddist goes into suspended animation and wakes up 200 years later to find that what he thought would be the wave of the future didn't happen.

Maybe they believe in a six thousand year old universe, too?

They're intolerant of other religions, and even other Christian sects or denominations which differ from their own. They act like they've never encountered a vegetarian before, are unaware of animal rights as a secular moral philsophy, etc.

They think of vegetarianism as following "dietary laws", even though animal issues like fur, circuses, "sport" hunting, vivisection (animal experimentation), etc. have nothing to do with diet, eating, or food.

On the other hand, why then would they be offended by pro-choice vegetarians and vegans (persons valuing animal life over humans in prenatal development) if veg*ism were merely abstaining from certain foods, and not about the animals' right to life?

Volunteering with San Diego Animal Advocates in 1988, by manning a booth or table at Koby's Swap Meet (a local flea market), I met an animal activist who said she first became vegetarian for health reasons.

She explained that she didn't think an occasional piece of meat during the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) would hurt...

...but when she learned about slaughterhouses, factory farms, etc., she said she'll never eat meat again.

Elliot Gang, who wrote for the now-defunct Animals' Agenda, said to myself and Gaverick Matheny of Vegan Action at the World Vegetarian Day festival in San Francisco in 2000:

"Arguing it's wrong to eat meat because it's unhealthy is like saying rape is wrong because you might catch venereal disease."

In each case, the moral reasons are the real reason to abstain. Because we live in a narcissistic society, Americans are won over by the health arguments first.

During the Second World War, when rationing forced England to adopt a vegetarian diet, George Bernard Shaw reassured his countrymen that they need not worry about becoming carbon copies of George Bernard Shaw..

...they can keep their own identities, just as the Maoris did when they gave up cannibalism. And the laborers making a living from cutting the throats of chickens, lambs, calves, pigs, etc. can refine themselves in nobler ways.

Apart from demanding animal issues be given the level of serious moral discussion we now give to issues like racism and abortion, we have many powerful social justice arguments (global hunger, global warming; the energy, environmental, population and water crises) on our side.


I'm not sure whether this will persuade any carnivore to stop eating meat...


Soooo many ways to go veg. The most obvious is for ethics, then environment, hunger, and finally health and intelligence. And you will be in good company, there are people like the great
Thales, Pythagoras, Euclid, Socrates, Plato, Newton, Einstein, Hawking, Euler, Ramanujan, Subramanyam Chandrashekhar, Bose (actually Bose was pesco, but he's the only pesco here), Abdul Kalam, Gandhi, Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Planck, Dirac, Fermi,...

The most wonderful thing I see is that when 1 large community of people turn veg, people from that community are going to be really successful, as shown above.

And by the way, no offense, but I think I saw ads advertising leather shoes on your site. Just get rid of them!!!

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