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New data on 10,000 Brits proves health benefits of plant-based diet

New data on 10,000 Brits proves health benefits of plant-based diet

A ‘veganalysis’ by leading UK health check service Medichecks - interrogating the effects of a plant-based diet versus meat-eating in 2020 - has found significant health benefits.

Medichecks has crunched the numbers for a pool of 10,000, cross referencing key biomarkers for both plant-based and omnivorous eaters, finding that:

  • Vegans had a lower blood sugar (HbA1c) count, which means they have lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Vegans showed reduced non-HDL (unhealthy) cholesterol and lower overall cholesterol than meat-eaters – meaning decreased risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Vegans had around a 30% higher blood level of folate compared to those following a non-vegan diet. (Folate is one of the B-vitamins needed to make red and white blood cells and it converts carbohydrates into energy)
  • The marker for liver health (GGT) was 25-30% lower for vegans

Dr Natasha Fernando, a GP and Head of Clinical Excellence at Medichecks explains: “An important finding from this 2020 study is the effect of a plant-based diet in supporting the body’s ability to control blood glucose levels, because this is a determinant for type 2 diabetes. As published recently in The Lancet, diabetics are 40% more likely to have fatal or critical-care COVID[i]. The evidence that switching to plant-based foods can manage or reverse this condition is hugely valuable, particularly as we navigate the peak of this pandemic.”

Dr Fernando added: “Importantly, while the biomarkers we studied showed a plant-based diet optimises health, based on average levels we didn’t find any deficiencies for meat-eater. So a diet that features meat shouldn’t necessarily be considered unhealthy – ensuring a good balance and nutrient dense foods is the key.”

Additional findings from the data include:

  • Ferritin (iron) levels were 30% lower in vegans versus omnivores, while still being within the ‘healthy’ range for both. This can be attributed to haem iron (from meat foods) being more easily absorbed by the body, so those following a plant-based diet need to ensure they are eating sufficient whole grain cereals, nuts and seeds, and dark green vegetables.
  • All of the 10,000 data set showed increased vitamin D levels in 2020, when compared to previous years, which could be a result of more exposure to sunshine during a summer under COVID restrictions, or more people heeding NHS advise to take vitamin D supplements.

Dr Fernando concluded: “At this stage in our fight against COVID, everyone can continue to do their bit not just by following the government guidance, but also by taking personal responsibility to safeguard their health. That means making a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet a priority – that goes both for vegans and meat-eaters. Almost all of the underlying conditions that increase risk factors for coronavirus are preventable and, in many cases, reversible.”

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