Vegetarian diet: A wiser choice

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Vegetarian diet: A wiser choice

 Dr. Mukul Chandra, MBBS, MD, RIMS.

While research has failed to conclusively show a link between diet and PD, nevertheless, fiber, nutrients found particularly in plants, and protein, are excellent reasons to choose among the various vegetarian and plant-based eating plans. Animal foods are often high in protein and lack fiber. Plants in general have a high proportion of carbohydrate, with moderate amounts of protein. Plants also contain fiber and many phytochemicals, which animal products do not.

Fiber. A plant-based diet is generally richer in fiber, which can alleviate constipation, and thereby reduce risk for fecal impaction and colorectal cancer. In a pilot study, McIntosh and Holden found that while 21 out of 24 patients reported frequent constipation, analysis of three-day food diaries showed that 18 patients reported intake of fewer than 25 grams of dietary fiber daily. Education in the need for greater fiber intake, and its benefits to health, is necessary for PD patients. Additionally, a high-fiber eating plan may promote bioavailability of levodopa. Astarloa et al. found a correlation between a diet rich in insoluble fiber and plasma levodopa concentration, and postulate that the improvement of constipation may have a positive effect upon levodopa availability (Astarloa et al., 1992). While there is no research as yet on benefits of a vegetarian diet for people with PD, nevertheless, a vegetarian or plant-based diet may have special significance for people with PD.

From :-  Parkinson’s Disease and a Plant based diet.
Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD, Summer 2000.

Adequate nutrition with vegetarian diet:- 

Vegetarians can and are able  to get adequate nutrition from an exclusively vegetarian diet.
If vegetarians consume a variety of foods along with the right amounts of foods from each food group, a veg. diet can meet the recommendations for all nutrients. Those vegetarians that especially focus on including foods that are rich in calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12 to counter a potential deficiency, achieve optimal health.

Of course, the most important part in this equation is EXERCISE. If you keep that element out, no amount of healthy vegetarian food will help you in the long term.

From  :- By.Kanupriya Khanna, Dietitian, www.NutritionVista.com.

Dealing vitamin B12 problem with vegetarian foods:-

The only reliable unfortified sources of vitamin B12 are meat, dairy products and eggs. There has been considerable research into possible plant food sources of B12. Fermented soya products, seaweeds and algae have all been proposed as possible sources of B12. However, analysis of fermented soya products, including tempeh, miso, shoyu and tamari, found no significant B12.

Spirulina, an algae available as a dietary supplement in tablet form, and nori, a seaweed, have both appeared to contain significant amounts of B12 after analysis. However, it is thought that this is due to the presence of compounds structurally similar to B12, known as B12 analogues. These cannot be utilised to satisfy dietary needs. Assay methods used to detect B12 are unable to differentiate between B12 and it’s analogues, Analysis of possible B12 sources may give false positive results due to the presence of these analogues.

Researchers have suggested that supposed B12 supplements such as spirulina may in fact increase the risk of B12 deficiency disease, as the B12 analogues can compete with B12 and inhibit metabolism.

The current nutritional consensus is that no plant foods can be relied on as a safe source of vitamin B12.

Bacteria present in the large intestine are able to synthesise B12. In the past, it has been thought that the B12 produced by these colonic bacteria could be absorbed and utilised by humans. However, the bacteria produce B12 too far down the intestine for absorption to occur, B12 not being absorbed through the colon lining.

Human faeces can contain significant B12. A study has shown that a group of Iranian vegans obtained adequate B12 from unwashed vegetables which had been fertilised with human manure. Faecal contamination of vegetables and other plant foods can make a significant contribution to dietary needs, particularly in areas where hygiene standards may be low. This may be responsible for the lack of aneamia due to B12 deficiency in vegan communities in developing countries.

Vegans are recommended to ensure their diet includes foods fortified with vitamin B12. A range of B12 fortified foods are available. These include yeast extracts, Vecon vegetable stock, veggieburger mixes, textured vegetable protein, soya milks, vegetable and sunflower margarines, and breakfast cereals.

From :- The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom
Registered Office: Parkdale, Dunham Road, Altrincham, Cheshire, England WA14 4QG

Adequate calcium supply with vegetarian diet :-

A study comparing the bone health of 105 post-menopausal vegan Buddhist nuns and 105 non-vegetarian women, matched in every other physical respect, has produced a surprising result. Their bone density was identical.
The study was led by Professor Tuan Nguyen from Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research. He collaborated with Dr Ho-Pham Thuc Lan from the Pham Ngoc Thach Medical University in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
“For the 5% of people in Western countries who choose to be vegetarians, this is very good news,” said Professor Nguyen. “Even vegans, who eat only plant-based foods, appear to have bones as healthy as everyone else.”
“Bone health in vegetarians, particularly vegans, has been a concern for some time, because as a group they tend to have a lower protein and calcium intake than the population at large.”
“In this work we showed that although the vegans studied do indeed have lower protein and calcium intakes, their bone density is virtually identical to that of people who eat a wide variety of foods, including animal protein.”

“The nuns’ calcium intake was very low, only about 370 mg a day, where the recommended level is 1,000 mg. Their protein intake was also very low at around 35 g a day, compared with the non-vegetarian group, which was 65 g.”

Professor Nguyen and Dr Thuc Lan chose to study Buddhist nuns because their faith requires them to observe strict vegan diets all their lives.

People with rheumatoid arthritis could cut their risk of heart attacks and strokes by removing meat, dairy products and gluten from their diets, the Daily Mail reports. A Swedish study has found that a vegan diet reduced levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) and “boosted levels of natural antibodies to fight compounds in the body that are implicated in rheumatoid arthritis,” the newspaper says.

From : –  Vegan Buddhist Nuns Have Same Bone Density As Non-vegetarians  , www. Medicalnewstoday.com  ,
Article Date: 16 Apr 2009.

Less incidence of diseases:-


The story is based on a trial that looked at whether a vegan diet could lower cholesterol and other indicators of cardiovascular disease in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Unlike the suggestions in some of the newspaper headlines, this study did not look at the effect of a vegan diet on the participants’ arthritis directly. The study found that there were reductions in weight and ‘bad’ cholesterol for those on the vegan diet. However, it did not involve enough people or last long enough to look at the effects of the vegan diet on cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks or strokes. Furthermore, the long-term effects of the gluten-free vegan diet are uncertain. Many of the people assigned to the vegan diet did not keep it up for the entire year, and it may be difficult for people used to a non-vegan diet to make such a big change in their eating habits.

Most bad LDL-cholesterol is generated by eating saturated animal fat, so eating more vegetables and less meat is a well-known technique for reducing bad cholesterol and heart attacks. People who stuck to the vegan diet lost weight, but it is not clear whether the gluten-free vegan diet would offer any specific advantages over other healthy diets aimed at weight loss. All individuals who wish to reduce their chances of cardiovascular disease should aim to eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, stop smoking and do an appropriate level of exercise.

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