As many of you know, I’ve been a lifelong champion of prevention, and how simple habits are the shortest path to extending your healthspan. It goes beyond simply living longer (that’s lifespan). Your healthspan is about living more of your years in good health. To me, it’s a big deal because good health is where we get our energy and vitality to fully enjoy life’s adventures. It’s also where we find strength and resilience—both mental and physical—to overcome life’s challenges.
You’re probably familiar with many of the habits that help you move closer to living more disease-free years. If you’re a regular reader, you can easily see why I’m a big fan of healthy living. Why eating a plant-based diet is not only good for the planet, but also good for your body (and brain). Why restful sleep is important for optimal health (and how to get it). Why managing your stress level is critical, and how enjoying nature walks can help. Why staying active is a magic elixir for optimal health (and how Francesca and I have adapted our routine over the years). The list goes on.
But today, it’s diet that’s on my mind.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading more stories about the creative ways people are working to solve our current diet-environment-health trilemma at the population level.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been thinking about enjoying festive meals with family and friends as the holiday season gets into full swing. We’re gathering in Telluride this year, and Francesca is planning to work her culinary magic with a little help from the other cooks in the family. I’m especially eager to see what our daughters Jenna and Koral are planning to make. Their passion for plant-based eating combined with their commitment to sustainable farming and regenerative food systems is sure to result in some savory meatless dishes.
Or, maybe it’s the growing body of research supporting the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Consider a new study by researchers at Loma Linda University who wanted to see whether dietary habits correlate with the number of medications taken. The short (and exciting) answer is yes.
For this study, the researchers analyzed health information from more than 320 adults, 60 years of age and older, including their dietary habits (vegan, vegetarian or non-vegetarian), health status, body weight, medication use (prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as measured by daily pill intake), and other parameters. Results are published in the October 2021 issue of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
Here’s what they found. Those who ate a non-vegetarian diet took significantly more drugs (3.8 pills per day, on average) than either those who ate a vegan diet (1.5 pills per day, on average) or those who ate a pesco-vegetarian diet with fish (2 pills per day, on average).
In other words, eating a plant-based diet was associated with taking fewer medications. The researchers aren’t sure why, but one reason could be that people who eat a plant-based diet also tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI). A lower BMI, in turn, reduces the risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases, thereby reducing the need for multiple medications.
While more research is needed to confirm this finding, it’s certainly intriguing to me. After all, the prospect of taking fewer medications (and ideally none) could be the nudge that a person needs to add more plant-based foods to their daily plate. And, I can’t think of a better time than now to get started.
Wishing you a happy—and healthy—holiday season from our family to yours.
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