Food for Thought: First-ever vegan vs. healthy omnivore study of twins shows significant vegan benefits

Three of the 22 sets of identical twins who participated in the groundbreaking study of vegan vs. a healthy omnivore diet. Credit: Lisa Kim

By Alliance President Terry Gips

A breakthrough new study of twins documents clear health benefits of a vegan diet vs. a healthy omnivore one in only two months, according to CNN. The study found the vegan diet led to lower bad cholesterol, better blood sugar levels, less heart disease and greater weight loss, plus likely a longer, healthier life as indicated by their testing younger on measures of biological versus chronological age.

There was a 10% to 15% drop in LDL cholesterol, a 25% drop in insulin, and a 3% drop in body weight in just eight weeks, all by eating real food without animal products,” said lead study author Christopher Gardner, a research professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center in Palo Alto. A strictly plant-based diet can be higher in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients compared with other dietary patterns, said Gardner. A vegan diet differs from a vegetarian diet in that it eliminates animal flesh, dairy, eggs or other animal-derived ingredients.

“The results of this study confirm the benefit of current dietary guidance to reduce cardiovascular disease risk,” Alice Lichtenstein, director and senior scientist at Tufts University’s Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, told CNN in an email. She was not involved in the study.

I can testify to its benefits in terms of appearance, energy, vitality and health, as I rarely get sick. I’m 72 but most people think I look and act like I’m 60 or younger.

For my first 21 years I ate meat three times a day. When I decided to become a vegetarian 52 years ago for ethical and world hunger reasons, my doctor and family were certain I was harming my health. They insisted on my having blood testing over two years. We were all shocked that my health indicators improved dramatically, just like this study showed in only two months.

The doctor also tested a 21-year-old woman who had gone vegetarian and found similar beneficial results. Consequently, he changed his mind and said a vegetarian diet was actually healthier.

In 1993 I became a vegan and have been living even happier and healthier ever since.

As far as the last part of the article saying the diet felt restricted, I invite anyone to come to my Thanksgiving or for a delicious, healthy lunch or dinner. Or go to one of the great vegan restaurants or try Thai, Vietnamese, Indian or Middle Eastern. If you live in the Twin Cities, try J Selbys, Reverie, Herbivorous Butcher or French Meadow.

We can have vegan gastronomic delights while improving our health, caring for animals, curbing climate change, saving money and protecting ecosystems. Let’s just do it!

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