In the United States, fewer than 5 percent of people eat vegetarian diets. However, this number may rise as more research is compiled and doctors begin to prescribe vegetarian diets as a way to boost health. It’s being shown that vegetarian diets are healthy because they limit the occurrences of common, painful and deadly diseases and conditions.
It’s no wonder that many doctors suggest vegetarian diets to aid in weight loss. Long-term vegetarians have a much lower incidence of obesity due to their traditionally high-fiber diets. The high amounts of fiber found in legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables give the feeling of fullness for longer stretches of time than most foods. This prevents many vegetarians from overeating.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, stroke and heart disease are all deadly heart-related problems that vegetarian diets are known to help prevent and treat. Many heart problems are directly related to high-fat, low-fiber diets. Vegetarian diets are typically very low in saturated fats and cholesterol while boosting high amounts of heart-cleansing fiber. The result: fewer heart problems.
Although the causes are not entirely known, the American Dietetic Association reports that those on vegetarian diets experience a lower than average occurrence of colorectal, ovarian and breast cancers. It’s speculated that this is due, in part, to low-fat diets. This may also be due to the fact that most vegetarian diets include higher amounts of fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber and antioxidants, which are thought to reduce the risk of many cancers.
A 2006 study illustrated that a vegan diet can be an effective treatment for diabetes. Dr. Neil Barnard discovered that after 22 weeks on a strict vegan diet, 43 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes were able to reduce their need for diabetic medications. Compare this with the 26 percent of people who find success on the American Diabetes Association diet, and there is reason to take notice. Additionally, long-term vegetarians are at lower risk for developing diabetes in the first place.
It has been speculated that vegetarian diets reduce the risk of developing arthritis. Though few studies have been completed to prove this, there is some promising information available. In 1999, the Ullevaal University Hospital in Oslo performed a study of vegetarian diets as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, the most severe type of arthritis. The study found that many people with rheumatoid arthritis could reduce inflammation and pain as the result of eating a vegetarian diet. The reasons are unknown.