Is There a Problem?
There is a crisis growing within our society that few are talking about and even fewer are aware. The growing epidemic of obesity and the degenerative lifestyle diseases associated with it (ex. high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.) are now causing many health care professionals to give serious thought and attention to finding a solution. Statistically speaking, it is believed that 67% of Americans are either overweight or obese. Degenerative diseases (and the medications that come with them) seem to now be the norm, whereas once upon a time they were the exception to the rule.
Is There a Solution?
This is causing many to give strong consideration to the vegetarian diet. More and more people are experiencing weight loss, revitalized health, and a vibrant life as a result of adopting a low fat, vegetarian diet. As a result, some are asking what makes the vegetarian diet so beneficial to health, and how can it help with weight loss?
While many ask the question, "What's in the vegetarian diet that makes it so special?", the answer is actually found in what's not in the diet that makes it so special. To answer that question, let us consider a major contributor to many of the degenerative diseases that we see today. In others words, consider what do diseases such as hypertension, diabetes (type II), heart disease, and obesity all have in common? The answer? All of them share the common denominator of a high fat diet being a major contributor. Therefore, an obvious first step to addressing the problem would be to eliminate high fat diets and lifestyles. Now, according to the book, Health Power: Health by Choice Not Chance, by Aileen Ludington, MD and Hans Diehl, DrHSc, MPH, pg. 119, "Animal products are the largest source of fat in the diet...". Not to state the obvious, but what actually makes the vegetarian diet so special, is that it does not contain animal products (at least that is true for "total", or what's commonly known as "vegan" vegetarians). Therefore, upon adopting this eating lifestyle, a major source of fat in the diet is instantly eliminated. This puts one who wants to lose weight, as well as prevent and even reverse degenerative diseases at a great advantage. Additionally, not only is vegetarian food lower in fat, but it's also higher in fiber and richer in many vitamins and minerals which again equates to better health and weight management.
Is There Proof?
Numerous studies have confirmed that people with vegetarian or near-vegetarian traditions have lower rates of heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes than individuals that consume the typical North American diet or what is commonly called the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) diet. In November 1995, the National Geographic's cover and feature story was entitled "The Secrets of Living Longer". National Geographic searched and interviewed individuals within communities or groups that could boast of having the longest life expectancies in the world. Their research concluded that the Okinawans of Japan, The Sardinians of Italy, and the Seventh-day Adventist (a Christian denomination) of Loma Linda, California were all recognized for their long life expectancy and healthy lifestyle practices. It was interesting to note that each of these groups also practice vegetarian or near-vegetarian traditions and lifestyles. They also discovered that vegetarianism often accompanies other healthy lifestyle practices such as no smoking, lower alcohol intakes, family and spiritual emphasis, and community involvement.
Furthermore, those that become informed vegetarians (vegetarians that have not only adopted the diet, but have become educated in vegetarian healthy lifestyle practices) have even a greater likelihood to be at their ideal weights, have lower blood pressures, lower blood cholesterol levels, lower incidences of cancer, better digestion, and a list of other health benefits. Even when compared to health conscious non-vegetarians, vegetarians experience fewer deaths related to degenerative diseases.
In conclusion, when investigating possible solutions to the problem of increasing obesity and health-related degenerative diseases within our society, the answer doesn't lie in increased health care, but in increased preventative health care. The solution won't be found in a health insurance plan, but in a health assurance plan. The answer and solution can be found in the vegetarian diet.