Over 60% of Americans are overweight and 2 billion people worldwide are suffering from this malnourished, i.e. “over-nourished” condition. A raised body mass index (BMI) is associated with many forms of cancers, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, obstructive sleep apnea, shorter life expectancy, lower quality of life, and cardiovascular disease. Personally, I consider this to be one of the most significant epidemics facing developed countries.
So my question is: what can be done to slow the progress of this growing problem?
New and pioneering research is being done to discover the effect of a whole foods, plant-based diet (WFPB) on weight reduction, cholesterol reduction, medication usage, quality of life and other health markers.
In March 2017, Nature published a randomized, controlled trial using a WFPB diet to see its effect on a variety of conditions. The study took 65 overweight people that had at least one of the following conditions: type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. All of the participants were treated at the same medical practice. The control group was treated with normal care and, while the intervention group was also treated with normal care, it included twice-a-week facilitated meetings, a non-calorie restricting WFPB diet, and a vitamin B12 supplement. The study lasted for six months, and the intervention group had a follow-up six months later to check if the results were sustainable.
This study was unique in that it did not limit the number of calories that the individual was eating. The patients were encouraged not to count calories, but to eat until they were satisfied. The intervention group’s diet was outlined in a traffic light model in which foods that were to be eaten without reservation were low-fat and highlighted in green, and foods they were to avoid were highlighted in red. (See table below.)
During biweekly meetings, intervention group patients were taught about the benefits of a WFPB diet. They attended lectures by guest doctors and participated in discussion times. There was also an emphasis on teaching the participants how to cook so that they would be empowered to continue the changes in their normal lifestyle.
The results were significant. After six months, the control group’s weight/BMI did not change significantly. On the other hand, the intervention group that adhered to a WFPB diet lost an average of 27 pounds (4.4 BMI points)! Zero versus 27 pounds–that’s significant, if not downright incredible.
To top it off, by the study’s end, the control group was taking 8% more medications than at the beginning of the study, while the intervention group was taking 29% fewer medications at the end of the study! The intervention group also showed sustained results six months after the research ended.
Incredible. What a simple solution to a global problem. To think that simple instruction, a mindset shift, and community-based intervention could make such a big difference… It gives me reason to believe that there is hope for change moving forward. Let’s work together to be a part of the change.