Do you want to live a longer, healthier life, and significantly reduce your risk of falling victim to many of the serious health threats facing Australians today? It could be as simple and inexpensive as changing your diet.
Many people are now realising that adopting a vegetarian diet is one of the simplest ways to increase life expectancy, and protect against stroke, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer—some of this country’s top killers. Expensive treatment of these conditions puts enormous pressure on personal budgets as well as the struggling national health care system.
“I don’t understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic, while it is medically conservative to cut people open and put them on cholesterol-lowering drugs for the rest of their lives.”
Heart disease is the number one killer in the western world. While there are many contributors to the disease, the primary factor is a diet high in cholesterol and saturated fats.1 Dairy, egg and meats (including fish and chicken) are generally high in saturated fats and cholesterol. On the other hand, a healthy plant based diet is low in saturated fats and contains no cholesterol at all. The result? Vegetarians are around 50% less likely to suffer from heart disease.2
Obesity & Weight Loss
A balanced vegetarian diet can also be a great way to lose weight. Studies have found vegetarians have a body weight 3% – 20% lower than meat-eaters, and prevalance of obesity amongst vegetarians ranges from 0% – 6%.3
“We are more sure now than ever before that eating processed meat increases your risk of bowel cancer and this is why the World Cancer Research Fund recommends that people avoid eating it. The evidence is that whether you are talking about bacon, ham or pastrami, the safest amount to eat is none at all.”
According to Dr T. Colin Campbell, animal protein is a prime carcinogen in meat and dairy. ‘[H]uman studies also support this carcinogenic effect of animal protein, even at usual levels of consumption. … No chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein.’, says Dr. Campbell.
Dairy has also been linked to cancers such as prostate and breast cancer. As well as containing animal protein, the insulin-like growth factor present in dairy is believed to promote cancer growth.4 Dr Campbell's research has found that Japanese women who follow a more Western diet with larger amounts of meat and dairy are 8 times more likely to suffer from breast cancer than are Japanese women who follow a traditional diet containing no dairy.5
The American Cancer Society’s top two dietary recommendations to prevent cancers are: 1) Choose most of the foods you eat from plant sources; and 2) Limit your intake of high-fat foods, particularly from animal sources.6
A vegetarian diet is also packed full of goodies that fight cancer, such as fibre and phytochemicals.7 Research indicates a vegetarian diet reduces risk of oesophagus, lung, stomach, colo-rectal, prostate, breast and ovarian cancers.7
As with many of the most prevalent health problems in Western society, maintaining a healthy body weight is an important factor to prevent and treat diabetes. A low fat vegetarian diet reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes8 and can reduce the need for self medication for those who have type 2 diabetes.9
Certainly a vegetarian diet has less artery clogging cholesterol and saturated fats than a meat eater's diet, but that's not the only way that it helps. A vegetarian diet tends to be high in complex carbohydrates and dietary fibre, which has a positive effect on the metabolism to help lower blood sugar levels.10
Just as fatty foods, such as meat, egg and dairy can clog arteries and lead to heart attacks, they can also clog the arteries in your brain and lead to strokes. On average vegetarians have a significantly lower blood pressure than meat eaters.11 Research has found that a plant based diet can also reverse astherosclerosis, the hardening of arteries, which often causes heart attacks and strokes.12
Eat Well, Look Great!
On average, those who follow vegetarian diets are leaner and lighter than their meat-eating counterparts. This is not surprising as much of the saturated fats found in a typical western diet comes from animal origin. Many report losing excess kilos, and have greater levels of energy after making the switch.
As is the case with any diet, it is important to consume a wide variety of foods to ensure you gain the nutrients necessary for optimum health, and remember that different life stages have differing nutritional requirements. Click here to find out more about vegetarian nutrition.
Next: for the planet »
 The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat, Compassion in World Farming: http://www.ciwf.org/publications/reports/The_Global_Benefits_of_Eating_Less_Meat.pdf
 Heart disease in British vegetarians, Burr & Butland
 Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
 M. Lippman Science, Vol. 259, January 29, 1993
 The China Studies, Dr T. Colin Campbell
 American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/NWS/content/NWS_1_1x_Varied_Diet_Good_for_Women.asp
 Vegetarian Nutrition, F. Phillips
 Type 2 Diabetes and the Vegetarian Diet, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, D.J. Jenkins et al (2003)
 Low-Fat Vegan Diet May Treat Diabetes, Jennifer Warner, WebMD Medical News, 26 Jul. 2006
 25 ways to lower blood pressure, James Scala, PhD
 The Dietitian's Guide to Vegetarian Diets, Virginia Messina, Reed Mangels & Mark Messina
 The Food Revolution, John Robbins (Boston: Conari Press, 2001)