Chronic diseases and plant-based diet
Role of plant-based diet in chronic diseases
You must have heard the saying “We are what we eat”. This states that our health is directly proportional to the food we eat. Only a healthy body and mind can only work towards realizing your dreams. To have a healthy body, our diet plays an very important role. Owing to the fast paced lifestyle, where we depend largely on artificially stored, flavored and animal-based products, chronic diseases like diabetes , hypertension, obesity, cirrhosis and cardiac diseases like arteriosclerosis etc, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), nephritis (renal diseases) have become more common.
The common risk factor for these chronic diseases is unhealthy food and lifestyle habits. In most cases, an unhealthy diet is the major cause for the occurrence of the chronic diseases. A diet is termed as unhealthy if it lacks or has excess of macronutrients and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Every reaction in the body, whether generated due to physical or emotional activities, generates free ions which can harm the structures of the normally functioning molecules in the body. This oxidation can result in chronic inflammation, which is the main cause of most chronic diseases. Antioxidants are compounds that help to scavenge the free ions and render them harmless. Although, some antioxidants can be produced in the body, it is not sufficient enough to tackle all the oxidative stress or load. Unhealthy diets fail to provide all the antioxidants required by the body. As a result, the oxidative damage occurs, paving way for chronic diseases. This article gives an insight into the effects of plant-based diet in treating the chronic disease.
Plant-based diet in Diabetes:
Plant-based whole food diet emphasizes on legumes, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Various researches show that plant-based diet has a role in preventing the risk of chronic diseases like Type 2 Diabetes etc. It ensures essential nutrients that help you to stay fit and healthy. It controls the blood sugar level in the body. It is evident that plant-based diet benefits in diabetes by reducing diabetes related macro vascular and micro vascular complications. 1
The main reason for development of diabetes is considered to be the dietary choices among the sedentary population. A diet with high calorie content, fast foods, animal fats, highly refined grains and sugar-sweetened beverages can increase diabetes risk. Therefore lifestyle modifications with emphasis on dietary habits are helpful to prevent, treat and in few instances reverse Type 2 diabetes. 1
Plant-based diet in Coronary Artery Diseases (CAD):
Heart diseases are one of the major causes of death throughout the world. Research studies suggest that the reason behind this cause is unhealthy food habits, which if corrected on time can decrease the death rates all over the world. 2
In today’s world, people tend to rely more on pharmacological and surgical interventions rather than natural way to combat diseases. Diet and lifestyle modification is often regarded as difficult to implement. However, these natural interventions not only prevent the risk of diseases but also help in treating and reversing some chronic diseases. As per American Heart Association and American Institute for Cancer Research, a meal is considered healthy for the body when the food in half of the plate ensures fiber, potassium, magnesium, folate, iron and Vitamins A and C. All of these nutrients can be ensured if we switch to plant-based diet. Plant-based diets helps to lower the mortality due to ischemic heart disease, reduces the need of medications and surgical interventions, reduces obesity and lowers the risk for hyperglycemia, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and even in certain cases helps to reverse advanced cardiac disease and type 2 diabetes.2
Plant-based diets have a role in treating atherosclerotic coronary artery disease (CAD). Plant-based diets can increase the endothelial protective factors and reduce the factors that are injurious to endothelial cells. 3
Plant- based diet in Chronic Kidney Diseases:
An ideal diet for patients with chronic kidney diseases (CKD) should be the one that causes a decrease in the disease progression by reducing the risk for kidney failure, uremic toxicity, and proteinuria. It should also help to maintain a good nutritional status and also lowers the risk of secondary complications like cardiovascular complications, hypertension, and bone disease etc. It is evident that proteins from plant-based diet help to regulate blood pressure, proteinuria and glomerular filtration rate and reduces renal tissue damage as compared to proteins from animal based diet. The National Kidney Foundation suggested that plant-based diet as beneficial for patients with CKD.4
In the ecological pyramid of food, the plants are primary producers, and animals are primary consumers, therefore, plants are more nutrient-dense than animals, hence are healthier.
A plant-based diet is now recognized as a healthy alternative to taking medications. This form of lifestyle and dietary modifications usually help the community to win the war against chronic diseases related to the fast paced and demanding lifestyle.
Julieanna Hever and Raymond J Cronise. Plant-based nutrition for healthcare professionals: implementing diet as a primary modality in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017 May; 14(5): 355–368.