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Helen Bennett Harvey promises that no animals were harmed in the making of this blog. Vegging Out is a recipe for a new way of life. Or at least a new way of eating. Pull up a chair. Contact me at:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Name calling

“You’re fat.”
Ouch. That smarts.
And, OK, that’s not exactly what my doctor said. But she did come darn close to it and while I acknowledge I have gained a few pounds in the last year, the words “obese” and “fat” were not ones that I believe apply to me.
Wake up call.
My doctor says those extra pounds are a one-way ticket to: cancer, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (mine right now is actually quite good), heart disease and stroke.
That’s scary talk.
And, believe me; those pounds - no I won't name numbers - are already on their way to coming off, even a few days later. That’s not easy at the New Haven Register, where baking seems to be the pastime of several staffers. (Yes, Ann Dallas and Barbara Douglas, that’s you, and I know you don’t force anyone to eat cake, brownies or, in the case of both of you, the truly best ginger cookies anyone has ever made)
Yet, had I gotten on a scale sooner, there would have been no doctor’s office talk about chubbiness, as I would have caught it sooner.
But there was something else amid all the talk about “fat” that she said that troubles me still. It was that vegetarians – in nations where populations tend toward vegetarianism and meals that mostly eschew meat - tend to have higher rates of the health problems I mentioned above.
Given the stern lecture I had received from her – I am not exaggerating – about watching my weight, I was cowed enough not to offer an argument at the time. (Yes, I tend to be a chicken when it comes to doctors, especially those I really like - not when my children are involved, but definitely when it comes to me)
Yet, the idea that rates of diet-related disease are higher among populations that tend to have a highly vegetable-based diet strikes me as simply wrong.
Consider this:
"Leading health experts agree that going vegetarian is the single-best thing we can do for ourselves and our families. Healthy vegetarian diets support a lifetime of good health and provide protection against numerous diseases, including our country’s three biggest killers: heart disease, cancer, and strokes. The American Dietetic Association states that vegetarians have “lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; … lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer” and that vegetarians are less likely than meat-eaters to be obese.1 Well-planned vegetarian diets provide us with all the nutrients that we need, minus all the saturated fat, cholesterol, and contaminants found in animal flesh, eggs, and dairy products."
That is from: here
That sounds really good to me and - while those health benefits are not why I became a vegetarian – they are a plus.
And while I don’t mean to overwhelm with big quotes from outside sources, here’s another one to consider:
“Based on what is known of the components of plant-based diets and their effects from cohort studies, there is reason to believe that vegetarian diets would have advantages in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. At present there are few data on vegetarian diets in diabetes that do not in addition have weight loss or exercise components. Nevertheless, the use of whole-grain or traditionally processed cereals and legumes has been associated with improved glycemic control in both diabetic and insulin-resistant individuals. Long-term cohort studies have indicated that whole-grain consumption reduces the risk of both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In addition, nuts (e.g., almonds), viscous fibers (e.g., fibers from oats and barley), soy proteins, and plant sterols, which may be part of the vegetarian diet, reduce serum lipids. In combination, these plant food components may have a very significant impact on cardiovascular disease, one of the major complications of diabetes. Furthermore, substituting soy or other vegetable proteins for animal protein may also decrease renal hyper filtration, proteinuria, and renal acid load and in the long term reduce the risk of developing renal disease in type 2 diabetes. The vegetarian diet, therefore, contains a portfolio of natural products and food forms of benefit for both the carbohydrate and lipid abnormalities in diabetes.”
That’s from: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online.

All of that said – and the last one was a mouthful - what’s up with the doctor’s notion that a quick ticket to obesity, and its related health issues, is vegetarianism?
To her credit, she did talk about getting into the rut of white bread, white pasta, white flour and potatoes, and how these foods are like mainlining sugar.
I know the rap of these foods and I try to avoid them. I have even gotten my husband to eat whole grain pasta.
The point of all this? I don’t buy the connection between vegetarianism and ill health. What I do know is that you gain weight when you take in more calories than you expend.
My plan is to stop doing this.
What I have no plans to do is to do it by adding meat back into my diet.


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