Researchers say that these findings – presented at the Unite to Cure Fourth International Vatican Conference – indicate that people vastly underestimate the power of plant based diets.
“We have just been doing some calculations looking at the question of how much could we reduce mortality shifting towards a healthy, more plant based diet, not necessarily totally vegan, and our estimates are about one third of deaths could be prevented,” lead researcher Dr Walter Willett told delegates.
“That's not even talking about physical activity or not smoking, and that's all deaths, not just cancer deaths. That's probably an underestimate as well as that doesn't take into account the fact that obesity is important and we control for obesity.
“When we start to look at it we see that healthy diet is related to a lower risk of almost everything that we look at. Perhaps not too surprising because everything in the body is connected by the same underlying processes.”
A recent study by the University of Toronto found that following a vegetarian diet had the same impact as medication when it came to cholesterol levels. Researchers recreated a “simian diet” – high in stems, leaves, vines and fruits, favoured by lowland gorillas – in human participants and in just two weeks they noticed a 35 percent dip in cholesterol, the equivalent of taking cholesterol lowering statins.
“That was quite dramatic,” lead researcher Professor David Jenkins said. “We showed that there was no real difference between what we got with the diet and what we got with a statin.”
It might be time to pile your plate with more plants.