This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Plant-Based Diet is Good For You (and the Planet)

Today I came across an op-ed by a physician in south Florida extolling the health virtues of a plant-based diet, and I couldn't help but comment on it. Here's his takeaway:
The U.S. cannot prescribe our way to health. It doesn’t work. We have some of the world’s highest rates of chronic disease yet spend the most on medical care. It’s time for the U.S. to take the lead in lifestyle medicine, particularly plant-based diets, in the same way we have become leaders in prescription-based medicine — to the much greater benefit of our patients and our national healthcare budget!
And what is it that we should be doing and why? Dr. Bansal focuses on diabetes, which is closely related to diet, and which he argues could be controlled better if people adopted a largely plant-based diet.
The key is a reasonable amount of naturally-occurring, unprocessed carbohydrates, specifically from a variety of source plant materials. Additionally, plant-sourced foods provide more than enough protein. In fact, research in the U.S. back in the 1960s showed how much protein the average man and woman needs per day: the maximum is around 60 grams for 70-kg men and 50 for 60-kg women[5],[6],[7],[8]. Research also showed that eating a variety of plant-based foods, even exclusively, will supply all 9 essential amino acids (the other 11 made endogenously)[9],[10],[11]. We now eat too much protein (90 grams/day or more) with no benefit and some risk[12],[13],[14]. First, through a series of pathways, excess intake of protein gets indirectly turned to fat and prevents the burning of fat already present. Next, it overtaxes the liver and the kidneys in the processing of excess protein and then secretion and partial reabsorption in the glomerular filtration system. [The numbers are to books and journals referenced in his article.]
This is all about the Blue Zone diet and lifestyle that I blogged about nearly three years ago. About 1/3 of our healthy life expectancy (and longevity) can be attributed to genetics, but the bulk of it relates to life style and diet is a huge part of that. 

The benefit to the planet is that if we decrease the amount of meat we eat, we also lower methane gas emissions into the atmosphere, and we more efficiently grow food for humans, rather than for animals that we intend to kill for dinner. I first blogged about this back in 2013, and most recently mentioned it on Earth Day this year. And it is unlikely that this will be the last time I blog about--it is that important, in my opinion.

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