05 November 2018


Back at the end of 2009 I retired from my full time position at the Foundation I had built and created a big space in my life. It was clear the Foundation needed to move on from its founder and establish itself in its own right, and as for me, well I was open to whatever came next.

As it happened, I enjoyed some free time, then it became apparent I had what was virtually an aversion to computers. I retired from the Foundation without ever having a computer on my desk and before I left had asked my PA to help me send 3 emails so at least I could say I had actually managed to do that!

But then it occurred to me how useful computers can be and how maybe they could help address one of the big issues that troubled me at the time - How to help people establish and maintain a regular meditation practice?

So I began speaking with friends who were experts around computers - all of whom were rather bemused by my new interest (knowing as they did of my old aversion) - and they were very generous with their time and advice.

This line of enquiry led on to a pivotal meeting with Saurabh Mishra.

Saurabh is an entrepreneur based in Melbourne who has co-founded five e-health business ventures since 2000.

Three of these (eClinic, SamplesPlus and PalCare) were bought by some of the largest healthcare businesses in Australia between 2009-2010, and the fourth (Healthnotes) was bought in 2016 by MedAdvisor, a company listed on the Australian stock exchange.

But along with the world of IT, Saurabh’s real passion is meditation and helping others. His life has been one of seeking meaning and purpose.

So this week, an insight into the life and mind of a person intent on helping others through meditation and apps, along with news of me making a re-appearance at Ruth's next meditation retreat in December, but first

                         Thought for the day

  Integrity is the inner sense of wholeness and strength
  That arises out of our honesty with ourselves;
  It is the ability to make the connections
  And the proper sacrifices
  To find a life that is both moral and spontaneous.

                       John Tarrant - Zen teacher and writer

Saurabh and I have become great friends and it has been an ongoing delight working together.

We have great fun, work hard, engage with some amazing people, and I have learnt heaps about apps and all things IT.

We created a new business, Imageryworks with the intention to make the learning and practice of meditation easier, with a vision of helping bring about a world in which everyone meditates every day.

Our creations - the My Meditation and Meditation Gateway apps are unique teaching and interactive practice tools.

Saurabh was born in India and is a dedicated practitioner of Kriya yoga, an ancient meditation technique. He also volunteers a significant amount of time for a number of not-for-profit organisations including Eastern Palliative Care, TiE Melbourne, Melbourne Hindustani Classical Music Society (he is an accomplished classical singer), and Friends of the Children’s Hospital.

Earlier this year, Saurabh was interviewed by a tech magazine about the new My Meditation app.

1.    Did you have any prior development or coding experience?

I am not a programmer by training. However, having started up 5 software based businesses in the past 18 years, I am quite familiar with the development cycle and methodologies. We engaged a team of developers from Intellection Ltd. in Pune, India to develop the My Meditation app.

2.    What was the most challenging aspect of developing this meditation app?

The most challenging aspect was the app's unique virtual group meditation feature as there were complexities around using many native app features and coordinating across multiple handsets and platforms.

3.    Name a few of your favourite apps and reason you love them.

I frequently travel out of Melbourne, and so the Google Maps, Google Translate and Uber apps are handy indeed. I also find the Microsoft Teams app to be very useful to communicate with colleagues and keep up to date on collaborative projects. One other app I want to mention is a niche one called iTabla Pro for people who learn and perform Indian classical music. It has single-handedly replaced a number of background instruments, and made it possible for students like me to be able to practice anywhere, anytime.

4.    How long have you been working on this app?

Since 2015.

5.    What need of the user did you have in mind when developing this app?

Only a few of those who learn to meditate are able to establish a regular enough practice to truly benefit from it.

6.    In what way do you think your app is better than similar apps on the market? Please describe in detail what innovation you think you bring and what you are proud of in your app.

My Meditation is a comprehensive program for learning highly useful life-skills of relaxation, mindfulness, meditation, contemplation and imagery. It is based on authentic teachings transmitted over an unbroken lineage of thousands of years, and its founders have decades of experience of teaching and practicing these techniques.

Most importantly, it is unique in its emphasis on sustaining practice - with subscribers receiving daily messages of support, explanation and inspirations, able to join weekly virtual group practice sessions, and encouraged to keep track of their practice.

And what is more, it works. People who use this app do meditate much more frequently than before, and report significantly improved satisfaction with their practice.

7.    What are your future plans and expected features of the coming new versions of this app?

We hope to make the virtual group practice sessions more interactive, with participants able to interact with the teacher and with each other before or after the sessions via the app.

We would also like to build bio-feedback features for users to see for themselves, the psycho-physiological changes in their mind and body from their practice.

8.    Assuming new users of your app are reading this, what do you want to ask them to do?

Please sign up and make use of the 10-day free trial to sample the contents, features and benefits of this app. And if you like it, please subscribe!

Please do give us feedback
We are very happy with this new release and feedback from early users has been very positive, however, the app will continue to be upgraded based on feedback and new developments, so please do share with me any questions or feedback - via info@insighthealth.com.au.

Getting started

For iPhone/iPad users
1. If you are viewing this on your device. Tap here 

2. If you are viewing this on your computer, you will need to use your device - iPhone, iPad etc - and go to the App Store. Search for mymeditationapp (all as one word). (Note: Ours is a new app, and you may need to scroll down the list to find it. It is called My Meditation and the title features Imageryworks - our business name. Persevere and you will find it!) Download the app, sign up, and off you go.

For Android users
1. If you are viewing this on your deviceTap here 

2. If you are viewing this on your computer, you will need to use your phone etc and go into Playstore. Search for My Meditation app. Download it, sign up, and off you go.

To visit the related website, go to www.meditationapp.net

Some extra clarity
Some of you may have been using, or heard of the Meditation Gateway app, which is a precursor of the My Meditation app. With very similar features, we made Meditation Gateway app an open platform where any meditation teacher can upload their own material and offer their programs to their students. We are also looking to offer this platform to corporations like Health Insurance funds, who are happier to endorse a multi-teacher platform so their members can have a choice of programs that suit their particular requirements.

Ian Gawler My Meditation App - with all the details of what the app offers



Ruth was expecting Kimberly Poppe to join her from Amsterdam for this retreat, however, Kimberly is unable to make the trip. So Ruth asked me to come out of retirement from leading retreats and fill the space. I have agreed and am really looking forward to this encore.

Definitely a one off, so maybe you would like to join us amidst whatever images of Johnny Farnham or Dame Nellie Melba you may wis this summon :)


COMING SOON - with Ian Gawler

Reconnecting to Ourselves

3rd - 9th December 2018

Yarra Valley Living Centre, Victoria

This is an opportunity to take time out and deeply reconnect with your self through a nourishing and rejuvenating week of meditation and self compassion practices.

Enjoy gentle movement, delicious vegetarian meals made with love, and time and space to relax in a beautiful, natural environment.

Very highly recommended. This will be a wonderful, wonderful week...

Details - Click here

22 October 2018


Want to keep in touch, meditate with me, continue to learn and deepen your meditation, and use my guided exercises via a simple to use App?

All this is now possible with the My Meditation app. It provides both a complete meditation course as well as support for your practice. It has a new, updated version and is working reliably.

This week, a request for you to join me via the app (with details of how to access it further down this post), plus details of what the app offers and how to use it, but first

         Thought for the day

                If the doors of perception were cleansed

                Everything would appear
               As it is …

                          William Blake

The My Meditation app has been named to make it easy. “What meditation app are you using to learn, deepen and support your meditation?” My Meditation App!

The app itself has grown out of several years developing a web based meditation program (Mindbody Mastery), and 3 years of app development with my partner in this venture, Saurabh Mishra.

Earlier research showed that within 3 months, people using this program actually tripled the amount of practice they did, and even more amazingly, they tripled their sense of satisfaction with their practice.

This latest release of the app is comprehensive in the features it offers, and it is working very reliably.

It provides a complete meditation course, as well as a support for your practice.

While you can download all the exercises from day one and simply use the practice functions of the app, there is a complete training offered through the app.

This will be excellent as a meditation review for many of you, but as the course unfolds, it does include a thorough training in contemplation and guided imagery - with the support of guided exercises for those practices as well.

How the teaching component works
The teaching program is structured over an initial period of 8 weeks. Each week you are provided with the appropriate guided exercise to practice for that week, along with a PDF delivered to your email explaining what to do. Also, daily emails are integrated into the program to add extra tips, insights and inspiration.

In the first 8 weeks we cover relaxation, concentration, mindfulness, stillness, contemplation on gratitude and guided imagery. Then the program moves on to consolidate meditation with additional exercises to download, all supported by the daily emails.

Meditate with me - virtually

A new feature we have finally been able to implement (this was the hardest thing for our talented developers to work out how to do) is that twice a week I have set up a group meditation that we can all link to.

I will be practicing with you at home or wherever I happen to be - the joys of an app - and you will receive an automatic reminder and can then join in with me and others wherever you happen to be around the world.

Personally, I find meditating together like this quite inspiring and very helpful for deepening practice, so look forward to continuing this.

Once you have signed up to the app, it is quite easy to opt in.

If you choose, you can also use the app to set up your own separate virtual meditation group with your friends.

Contemplation and Guided Imagery
To be frank, the real aim of the app has been to encourage and support people to develop a daily meditation practice and sustain it. We know from experience that this is not easy, so we have taken a long view to this.

The first year of the program is devoted primarily to all facets of Relaxation, Mindfulness and Meditation. Then, in the second year, we move on to focus for 6 months on Contemplation, followed by 6 months on Guided Imagery. The teachings are quite comprehensive and will hopefully help you expand your understanding and use all of these key practices.

What else can I do with My Meditation app ?

Access a range of useful guided exercises (same content as the earlier Mindbody Mastery program).

Customise your practice sessions - you can combine exercises, add bells to start and finish and include silent times as you choose - a very popular feature. Means you can personally adjust how much silence you want and set the content and length of what you listen to.

Join virtual meditation groups - I have setup virtual group meditation sessions at 8pm AEST for every Tuesday and 12 noon AEST on Wednesdays. If you are in USA or Europe, one of these times should still work well for you. Once you join a group, the app lets you know when the next session is about to start. Then at the allotted time, you just open the app and the tracks I have chosen are broadcast for all to hear, and we meditate together.

Be supported with daily emails that are fully integrated with the program.

There is a mindfulness reminder bell function that you can set for whenever you choose.

Many enjoy this function too - at the times you set the bell will sound on your phone reminding you to pause, check your mindfulness and your state of relaxation too if you choose, recalibrate if necessary, and then go on with your day more mindfully.

Please do give us feedback
We are very happy with this new release and feedback from early users has been very positive, however, the app will continue to be upgraded based on feedback and new developments, so please do share with me any questions or feedback - via info@insighthealth.com.au.

Getting started 

The Cost
Only US$5.99 per month, or alternately you can take 3-month (US$16.99), 12-month (US$43.99) or 36-month (US$109.99) subscriptions that come with substantial discounts. Of course there is a free trial option, but why not dive in???

For iPhone/iPad users 
1. If you are viewing this on your device -  Tap here

2. If you are viewing this on your computer, you will need to use your device - iPhone, iPad etc - and go to the App Store. Search for mymeditationapp (all as one word). (Note: Ours is a new app, and you may need to scroll down the list to find it. It is called My Meditation and the title features Imageryworks - our business name. Persevere and you will find it!) Download the app, sign up, and off you go.

For Android users 
1. if you are viewing this on your device – Tap here

2. If you are viewing this on your computer, you will need to use your phone etc and go into Playstore. Search for My Meditation app. Download it, sign up, and off you go.

To visit the related website, go to www.meditationapp.net

Some extra clarity
Some of you may have been using, or heard of the Meditation Gateway app, which is a precursor of the My Meditation app.

With very similar features, we made Meditation Gateway app an open platform where any meditation teacher can upload their own material and offer their programs to their students.

We are also looking to offer this platform to corporations like Health Insurance funds, who are happier to endorse a multi-teacher platform so their members can have a choice of programs that suit their particular requirements.

The Meditation Gateway app is currently being upgraded to the same new standards as My Meditation, however, it is still a work in progress and will be released in its new format in a few weeks.

My material is also available in the Meditation Gateway app and there it is called Mindbody Mastery. The content is very similar to that on the My Meditation app, so if you are using that already, no need to switch. There are virtual group meditation sessions in this program too.

Thanks to those of you already involved in this new network of app meditators; looking forward to linking with more of you...

Please do consider sharing these details with your friends
We are hoping this app will make it possible to help many people in a very direct way.  The more of us using it, the more momentum we will all gather… You can use this link

THE NEED - a quote…

Historically, the general public has not conceptualized meditation as a quick fix toward anything. It is a skill or state one learns and practices over time to increase one’s awareness, and through this awareness gain insight and understanding into the various subtleties of one’s existence. Training the mind in awareness, non-judgmentalness, and the ability to become completely free of thoughts or other activity are daunting accomplishments. 

While some meditators may feel these tasks are easy, they likely overestimate their own skills due to a lack of awareness of the different degrees to which these tasks can be done or the ability to objectively measure their own progress. Since becoming an expert at simple skills such as swimming, reading, or writing (which can be objectively measured by others) takes a considerable amount of time, it follows that meditation would also take a long period of time to master. 

Comparative Effectiveness Reviews  (No. 124 : Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being) prepared for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.



Reconnecting to Ourselves

3rd - 9th December 2018

Yarra Valley Living Centre, Victoria

This is an opportunity to take time out and deeply reconnect with your self through a nourishing and rejuvenating week of meditation and self compassion practices.

Enjoy gentle movement, delicious vegetarian meals made with love, and time and space to relax in a beautiful, natural environment.

Very highly recommended. This will be a wonderful, wonderful week...

Details - Click here

15 October 2018


Meditation is consistently identified by GPs as one of their most accepted “non-medical” interventions. Therapeutic meditation has widespread acceptance, largely due to what is perceived to be a large body of positive research. Of course, in clinical experience, many doctors have witnessed the wide range benefits flowing into meditator’s lives.

But what interesting new research is there? And what does closer scrutiny using meta-analysis techniques reveal? To counsel people appropriately, meditation teachers and clinicians alike need to know the answers, so this week we ask the hard question… Does meditation and mindfulness really work?

Also, good news with the widely updated and improved version of my meditation app ready for release in a week or two (details will follow on the next blog post), but first

Thought for the day

                  A Black Swan Event 

1. Is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility.
2. It carries an extreme 'impact'. 
3. In spite of its outlier status, 
human nature makes us concoct explanations 
for its occurrence after the fact, 
making it explainable and predictable.

In summary, this is what characterises
a Black Swan Event  - rarity, extreme 'impact', 
and retrospective (though not prospective) predictability. 

A small number of Black Swans explain 
almost everything in our world, 
from the success of ideas and religions, 
to the dynamics of historical events, 
to elements of our own personal lives.

                                               Nassim Taleb

PART 1 Some interesting recent research

1. Mindfulness changes brain structure and improves mental health
Building upon earlier research and following a brief 8 weeks Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training program, researchers identified significant brain changes - cortical thickness increase in the right insula and the somatosensory cortex - coupled with a significant reduction of several psychological markers related to worry, state anxiety, depression and alexithymia.

Taken together, these findings also provide new and plausible neurobiological evidence of a major role of the right insula in mediating the observed psychological changes.

Santarnecchi et al. Interaction between Neuroanatomical and Psychological Changes after Mindfulness-Based Training. PLoS ONE 9(10): e108359. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0108359

2. Meditation is anti-inflammatory
A new and rigorously designed mindfulness study, by the Georgetown University Medical centre, showed that hormonal, inflammatory reactions to stress were reduced after meditation training.

Hoge EA et al. 2018, The effect of mindfulness training on biological acute stress responses in generalised anxiety disorder. Psychiatry Res; 262, 328-332.

3. Meditation improves quality of life for breast cancer survivors

Women who had been treated for breast cancer and were cancer free were taught to meditate and the effects evaluated.

Over time, the group that meditated reported significant decreases in depression, anxiety, perceived stress, and an increase in quality of life, satisfaction with life, post-traumatic growth and quality of sleep.

Significantly, participants had a high attendance rate in the program, which speaks to the likelihood of the applicability of the meditation program on an outpatient basis.

Yun MR et al.  The Effects of Mind Subtraction Meditation on Breast Cancer Survivors' Psychological and Spiritual Well-being and Sleep Quality: A Randomized Controlled Trial in South Korea. Cancer Nurs. 2017 Sep/Oct 40(5); 377-385.

PART 2 The analysis
In scientific circles, one study is a bit like one swallow - it does not a summer make. To analyse a number of studies in the one field, complex, modern techniques use what is called meta-analysis to tease out wider and hopefully more accurate conclusions. While there is increasing criticism of the way in which meta-analyses are conducted, they do remain a “gold-standard” for current researchers.

Given the huge increase in the number of meditation and mindfulness studies, meta-analyses are becoming more possible. Here we reveal 2 specific reviews, and one wider one.

1. Does meditation improve cognitive function in the elderly?

Well this is good news - even if a little cautious!

With so many people worried about loss of mental capacity with aging, and so many actually developing dementia, researchers analysed the scientific literature on meditation and concluded : "There is preliminary evidence that meditation can improve cognitive function."

They then investigated the results of 6 Mindfulness Based Interventions in older people based upon MBSR and MBCT. They reported preliminary positive effects on memory, executive function and processing speed.

However, most reports had a high risk of bias and sample sizes were small. The only study with low risk of bias, large sample size and active control group reported no significant findings.

The conclusion? More research is needed, and while meditation and mindfulness may well be useful for the elderly, maybe it is wise to start meditation at an early age!

Berkl L et al.  Can mindfulness-based interventions influence cognitive functioning in older adults? A review and considerations for future research. Aging Mental Health 2017 Nov : 21 (11):1113-1120. 

2. Does meditation reduce stress and anxiety in college students?
We hear a good deal about meditation and mindfulness providing effective self-help solutions for stress and anxiety. Many studies have focused on the impacts upon students, so how do those studies stack up when researched objectively?

In this analysis of 57 studies, researchers examined anxiety in 40 studies, self-reported stress in 34, physiological stress in 11, and mindfulness in 24.

Thirty-three of 40 and 25 of 34 studies showed significant decreases in anxiety and stress respectively; 22 of 24 showed an increase in mindfulness.

Physiological stress had inconsistent results indicating a need for further research.

Overall, the researchers concluded that mindfulness meditation shows promise in reducing stress and anxiety in college students. Additionally, there are a number of differences in mindfulness interventions including frequency, duration, instructional method, and inclusion of yoga, that need quantitative examination (meta-analysis) to determine which is most effective.

Bamber MD, Kraenzle Scheider J, Mindfulness-based meditation to decrease stress and anxiety in college students: A narrative synthesis of the research. Education Research Review, May 2016; Vol 18, P1-32.  doi:10.1016/j.edurev.2015.12.004

3. Therapeutic meditation - is it effective?

This is the big one! A large group of investigators from Johns Hopkins University’s Evidence-based Practice Center in Baltimore, set out to determine the efficacy of meditation programs in improving stress-related outcomes in a wide range of adults. They used very stringent standards for their investigation.

Remarkably, they were able to examine 18,753 studies! But then they selected only randomized clinical trials with active controls for placebo effects. Next the strength of evidence was graded using risk of bias, precision, directness, and consistency, and then the group determined the magnitude and direction of effect by calculating the relative difference between groups in change from baseline. When possible, meta-analyses were conducted using standardized mean differences to obtain aggregate estimates of effect size with 95% confidence intervals.

Only 47 trials (with 3515 participants) met the criteria to be included in the final analysis. Perhaps saying “only” here is a bit unkind, given the stringent criteria set for this meta-analysis.

What does the meta-analysis show? 

Mindfulness meditation programs had moderate evidence of improved anxiety at 3-6 months,

depression at 8 weeks and at 3-6 months, and pain and low evidence of improved stress/distress and mental health-related quality of life.

The analysis found low evidence of no effect or insufficient evidence of any effect of meditation programs on positive mood, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, and weight.

Significantly, no evidence was found to demonstrate that meditation programs were better than any active treatment (ie, drugs, exercise, and other behavioural therapies).

Conclusions and Relevance
The researchers suggested clinicians should be aware that meditation programs can result in small to moderate reductions of multiple negative dimensions of psychological stress. Thus, clinicians should be prepared to talk with their patients about the role that a meditation program could have in addressing psychological stress. Stronger study designs are needed to determine the effects of meditation programs in improving the positive dimensions of mental health and stress-related behaviour.

It is worth noting most studies only evaluated short-term effects, and there may well be significant differences between different techniques and different times people spend practicing these techniques - see the next article…

Goyal, M et al. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Mar;174(3):357-68. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018.

The JAMA article that is cited above and forms the basis of this article was itself based on a more comprehensive report, one in a series of Comparative Effectiveness Reviews
(No. 124 : Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being) prepared for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

That report makes good reading, part of the conclusion having great relevance to the therapeutic application of meditation and something we are bound to hear more of as meditation is used more widely for its healing potential. A quote from the report…

Historically, the general public has not conceptualized meditation as a quick fix toward anything. It is a skill or state one learns and practices over time to increase one’s awareness, and through this awareness gain insight and understanding into the various subtleties of one’s existence. 

Training the mind in awareness, non-judgmentalness, and the ability to become completely free of thoughts or other activity are daunting accomplishments. 

While some meditators may feel these tasks are easy, they likely overestimate their own skills due to a lack of awareness of the different degrees to which these tasks can be done or the ability to objectively measure their own progress. Since becoming an expert at simple skills such as swimming, reading, or writing (which can be objectively measured by others) takes a considerable amount of time, it follows that meditation would also take a long period of time to master. 

However many of the studies included in this review were short term (e.g., 2.5 hours a week for 8 weeks), and the participants likely did not achieve a level of expertise needed to improve outcomes that depend on a mastery of mental and emotional processes. The short-term nature of the studies, combined with the lack of an adequate way to measure meditation competency, could have significantly contributed to results.

Lots to contemplate in all of this ……

27 September 2018


What contains more protein - soy beans or beef? What about eggs compared to oats? And how much protein do we really need anyway? What happens if we do not get enough; and what about if we get too much?

The answers may surprise you, so this week, all you need to know about protein, plus 5 great tips for boosting your protein levels in a healthy manner if needed, but first

Thought for the day

Enlightenment is real; and each of us, whoever we are, 
Can in the right circumstances 
And with the right training 
Realize the nature of mind and so know in us 
What is deathless and eternally pure. 
This is the promise of all 
The great mystical traditions of the world, 
And it has been fulfilled and is being fulfilled 
In countless thousands of human lives.

The wonder of this promise 
Is that it is something not exotic, 
Not fantastic, not for an elite, but for all of humanity; 
And when we realize it, 
The masters tell us, it is unexpectedly ordinary.
Spiritual truth is not something elaborate and esoteric, 
It is in fact profound common sense. 

When you realize the nature of mind, 
Layers of confusion peel away. 
You do not actually “become” a buddha, 
You simply cease, slowly, to be deluded. 
And being a buddha 
Is not being some omnipotent spiritual superman, 
But becoming at last a true human being.

Sogyal Rinpoche 

Protein levels
So here it is.

Soy beans have about 50% more protein than beef; oats have around 30% more protein than eggs!

Not what you expected? Well, yes - surprising to most, but here are the facts...

Figures from the USDA database in grams of protein per 100 grams of uncooked product - with some processed foods as well

Banana 1.1
Brocolli 2.8
Brown rice 8.9
Wheat 10.7 …  Bread 9.0
Eggs 12.6
Oats 16.9  …  Porridge 2.4
Chickpeas 19.3
Almonds 21.2
Tuna 23.3
Peanuts 25.8
Lentils 26.0
Beef 27.0
Poultry 28.2
Lupins 36.2
Soy beans 39.6 …  Tofu 8.0, Tempeh 19.0

How much protein do we need?
This has been widely debated - and still is to a degree - but the common consensus is that we need less than most people imagine. Earlier recommendations - from the end of the last century - commonly recommended what are now regarded as dangerously high amounts, and for many, these high expectations have stuck.

So currently, the US & Canadian Dietary Reference Intake guidelines recommend women aged 19–70 need to consume 46 grams of protein per day while men aged 19–70 need to consume 56 grams of protein per day.

Official Australian Government recommendations are women aged 19–70 : 46 grams of protein per day;  men aged 19–70 : 64 grams of protein per day.

Special circumstances, higher requirements
As we age we do need more protein, so the Australian protein intake recommendation for people over 70 is - woman 57 grams per day; men 81 grams per day.

Physical activity and exertion as well as enhanced muscular mass increase the need for protein. Requirements are also greater during childhood - for growth and development, during pregnancy or when breastfeeding, or when the body needs to recover from malnutrition, from trauma or after an operation.

How much is eaten?
In the USA, a major study found average protein consumption was around 20% higher than that recommended - for women ages 20 and older consumption was 69.8 grams and for men 98.3 grams per day.

Protein excess has many problems
You may be confused by the high protein diets recommended for weight loss?

Well actually, high protein intake is linked to longer term weight gain, bad breath (which is linked to the metabolic state ketosis the body goes into with high protein intake and produces chemicals that give off an unpleasant fruity smell), constipation for some (due to low fibre), diarrhoea for others (particularly with high dairy or fried food intake), dehydration (the body flushes out excess nitrogen with fluids and water), kidney damage (due to damage from higher excretion levels of waste products and the excess nitrogen found in the amino acids that make up proteins), increased cancer risk (particularly related to hormones, carcinogenic compounds and fats found in meat), heart disease (red meat and full-fat dairy foods as part of a high-protein diet may lead to heart disease due to increases in saturated fat and cholesterol) and finally - and maybe - calcium loss.

What a list! Hence this article to recommend lowering the expectations of how much protein is enough, and encouragement to be content - and confident to eat less!

Protein deficiency
In Australia this is relatively uncommon; elsewhere it has devastating effects linked to malnutrition.

Clinical protein deficiency is usually linked with malnutrition and called Protein-Energy Malnutrition - PEM.

PEM is fairly common in disadvantaged countries in both children and adults and each year causes a staggering 6 million deaths.

In the industrialized world, PEM is far less common and is usually only seen in the ill or the elderly.

Symptoms of PEM are mental retardation and kwashiorkor - that manifests as apathy, diarrhoea, lethargy, failure to grow, flaky skin, fatty liver, and oedema of the belly and legs.

Symptoms of severe protein deficiency include oedema, fatty liver, hair thinning, faded hair color, hair loss (alopecia), brittle nails, redness and flaky skin and depigmentation.

Signs of moderate protein deficiency
Protein is essential for muscle growth and maintenance. Loss of muscle mass is one of the first signs of inadequate protein intake. Even moderate protein insufficiency may cause muscle wasting, especially in elderly people.
Not consuming enough protein may weaken your bones and increase the risk of fractures. 
There may also be a weakening and mild distortion of nails.
Protein not only helps maintain muscle and bone mass, but it’s also essential for body growth. 
Insufficient protein intake may delay or prevent growth in children.
Even marginally low protein intake may impair immune function,impairing your body’s ability to fight infections, such as the common cold.
Although poor appetite is one of the symptoms of severe protein deficiency, the opposite seems to be true for milder forms of deficiency. If you are feeling hungry all the time and have difficulties keeping your calorie intake in check, try adding some good quality protein to every meal.
Five tips for a healthy increase in protein levels - if needed
1. Use almonds - ground coarsely or as butter 
I have oats for breakfast most mornings. As well as containing soluble and insoluble fibre, raw oats are high in protein, but spread out in cooked oats the protein level is rather low — one serving of porridge has around 4 grams. A quarter of a cup of ground almonds contains around 8 grams of extra protein.

A tip - almond butter made by soaking almonds overnight makes almonds easier to digest (excellent for those unwell or anyone wanting the best from their food) and creamy! Two tablespoons of almond butter contains 7 grams of protein. You can use it instead of other spreads or mix it into just about anything.

Soaked and ground almonds go really well in soups; simply ground they can be added to many things.

2. Eat more high-protein green veggies.
A cup of green peas has about 9 grams of protein; a cup of cooked spinach 5 grams, a cup of Brussels sprouts 4 grams of protein.

3. Use more tempeh

Tempeh has over twice the protein content of tofu, is rich in B Vitamins including B12 and being fermented is possibly better all round than tofu.

In my view tempeh needs a little disguising - so be creative and add it to things with good flavours.

Nutritionally, it is a winner.

4. Eat more quinoa - a complete, high protein seed
Quinoa has 8 grams of protein per cup compared to 5gms per cup of brown rice.
Also, unlike many plant-derived foods, quinoa is a complete protein that provides all the essential amino acids.

5. Consider spirulina as a supplement
Spirulina is one of the wonderfoods. It contains a whopping 60% protein in dried form and many other nutrients. It is derived from healthy  blue-green algae and is often used as a survival food. Excellent for convalescing and when a protein boost is needed, but does not contain useable B12 as some think; does have good levels of iron and copper.

A tablespoon of spirulina powder contains 4 grams of protein.

Eat a lower quantity and a higher quality of protein and good health will abound!!!

You Can Conquer Cancer explains in more detail what to eat and why - for those wanting to be really well, prevent disease or recover from cancer.

How much carbohydrate is enough?

and features co-facilitating with the wonderful Kimberly Poppe, a great meditation teacher from the USA currently living and teaching in Amsterdam.

Reconnecting to Ourselves

3rd - 9th December 2018

Yarra Valley Living Centre, Victoria

This is an opportunity to take time out and deeply reconnect with your self through a nourishing and rejuvenating week of meditation and self compassion practices.

Enjoy gentle movement, delicious vegetarian meals made with love, and time and space to relax in a beautiful, natural environment.

Very highly recommended. This will be a wonderful, wonderful week...

Details - Click here

10 September 2018


Last post featuring the research investigating the health impacts of our carbohydrate/protein balance attracted a huge readership. So this time, something more practical - how do we know our carbohydrate intake is OK?

Ten steps you can take to ensure you are getting the right carbohydrates and know when the amount is too much, when might it be inadequate, and what are the consequences.

Also details of Ruth's next meditation retreat in the Yarra Valley - which she will co-facilitate with the wonderful Kimberly Poppe from the 3rd to the 9th of December. What a way to round off the year!, but first

Thought for the day
Consider how common illness is, 
How tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, 
How astonishing, when the lights of health go down, 
The undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, 
What wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to view, 
What precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers 
A little rise of temperature reveals, 
What ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us by the act of sickness, 
How we go down in the pit of death 
And feel the waters of annihilation close above our heads 
And wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence 
Of the angels and the harpers when we have a tooth out 
And come to the surface in the dentist's arm-chair 
And confuse his "Rinse the mouth-rinse the mouth" 
With the greeting of the Deity stooping from the floor of Heaven to welcome us 
- when we think of this, 
As we are so frequently forced to think of it, 
It becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place 
With love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.
Virginia Woolf 

The consequences of a poor carbohydrate balance
In our last post, research highlighted the health benefits of a high carbohydrate, low protein diet for all aspects of health and wellbeing - the are massive. However, those who overdo carbohydrates even the good ones, often experience problems with mood, weight, energy, digestion, immunity and more.

At the other extreme, those who eat very few carbohydrates often suffer significant energy losses and many significant health issues. In reality, however, the main problem seems to be with over-consumption.

How to know what is best for you?

Where is your healthy middle ground?

As with all food questions, theory takes you so far, but the best answers are to be found when we learn how to listen to our own body and have it provide the answers directly.

How to proceed?

A good start is this carbohydrate quiz - record your number of “yes” answers…

1. Do you gain weight easily when your diet includes a lot of healthy carbohydrate such as whole grains, legumes, fresh fruit?
2. Do you feel tired or sleepy shortly after consuming carbohydrates?
3. Do you feel foggy-headed after meals?
4. Do you frequently crave sweets?
5. Do you frequently crave starchy foods?
6. Do you have a difficult time controlling how much sugar or carbohydrate you eat?
7. Does your weight fluctuate easily?
8. Do you have dramatic energy ups and downs throughout the day?
9. Do you feel light-headed or irritable when you are hungry?
10. Do you tend to gain weight in your face and around your abdomen, more so than on your hips and thighs?
11. Do you turn to sweets or carbs when you are feeling anxious, tired, or depressed?

If you answered “yes” to three or more of these questions, you may be eating more carbohydrates than your system can handle or process efficiently.

What to do?

1. Reduce or preferably eliminate sweet and starchy “white” 
and refined foods

If you have not done this already - many who read this will have - do so, and notice the effects.

For many, simply eliminating the “bad” carbohydrates is enough, but if you suspect problems still exist - based on the questionnaire above - here is a suggestion as to how to proceed.

2. Reduce or eliminate all grains for 7 Days
This includes whole grains and legumes, as well as high-sugar fresh fruits. The idea is that over these few days the carbohydrates leave your system fully. And be warned, you may not feel great while doing this; some even get a real detox reaction.

3. Experiment
Now play with adding the carbohydrates back into your diet - slowly. Try one carbohydrate at a time - preferably just one new carbohydrate a day - and notice any effects. Adverse ones are usually easy to spot - you get some of the problems listed above. If so, eliminate that carbohydrate source for another week, then re-test.

5. Adopt a plant-based wholefood diet 
If you are not already on it, the evidence is clear that this is ideal for most, and that it includes a healthy balance of good carbohydrates - the exact balance of which you are fine tuning.

6. Exercise regularly
We know exercise is good for just about every aspect of life, and it is particularly good at supporting good digestion and metabolic function.

Many notice when the exercise regularly their digestion and metabolism flourishes, and in times of no exercise, food problems flourish.

7. Notice the effect of life events on your tolerances - and adjust
Carbohydrate effects, as with other foods people tend to be sensitive to, can be affected significantly by things like stress, sleep, exercise, work demands, relationship events, travel and so on.

Many of us - definitely including myself - notice we can eat some things when all is good in the world, but when under pressure, those same things can wreak havoc. This is something we need to be patient with, to experiment with, observe and respond to.

8. Be prepared to act on your responses! 
Once you experiment and start to notice the impacts of various carbohydrates on your system - and the amounts you eat of them - the trick of course is to follow through.

In my experience, most people need to fall off the wagon an few times, eat the stuff they suspect does not agree with them and suffer the consequences seriously enough before the impetus is finally generated to eat more wisely. Who knows, maybe it is easier for you???

9. Be patient 
It takes time to get all this right and we need to be kind to ourselves in the process. Experimenting means learning from our observations, not getting lost in self-recrimination. With some time and perseverance it is eminently possible to find the individual balance that leaves you feel energetic, calm and craving-free.

10. Enjoy! 

Food is one of life’s pleasures
- as well as a basic necessity.

So seek out enticing recipes; it really is possible to make healthy food delicious and satisfying on all levels!


And remember



and features co-facilitating with the wonderful Kimberly Poppe, a great meditation teacher from the USA currently living and teaching in Amsterdam.

Reconnecting to Ourselves

Yarra Valley Living Centre,  Victoria

This is an opportunity to take time out and deeply re-connect with yourself through a nourishing and rejuvenating week of meditation and self-compassion practice. 
Enjoy gentle movement, delicious vegetarian food made with love, and time and space to relax in a beautiful natural environment.
Very highly recommended - this will be a wonderful, wonderful week

Details here

27 August 2018


Feeling confused? Thirty five years ago it seemed easy. Based on the available evidence, a plant-based wholefood diet made best sense. It was good enough to help me recover from a difficult cancer and stay well.

Since then all manner of diets have been put forward, many by celebrity social media performers.

So this week a long research based post - full of compelling and clear journal articles gathered over the last couple of years - the fresh stuff! Comparing plant-based to meat based diets, and their effects on lifespan, cancer and other major diseases.

Good material to share with those who are unsure; along with relatives, doctors, natural therapists and anyone else interested in the facts, with each reference linked to its source.

Please do share - this is important information!

If you are still in doubt after reading all this… well I do not know what to suggest??? Maybe ask about the clinical evidence. In my experience it supports the research very directly, but first

                Thought for the day

                      We see things as we are,
                      Not as they are

                             Leo Rosten


      The Image  :  Young lady   OR   old woman
                                        Can you see both?

Recently published research 
What follows are journal articles - many from the world's leading journals - examining the effects of dietary carbohydrate and protein levels on general health and serious chronic disease. 
This compilation is by no means exhaustive - this is not a PhD! - however, it is compelling…

Effects on Overall risk of death

1. Low-Carb, Animal-Based Diets Associated with Early Death
People who consume animal-based, low-carbohydrate diets have a shorter life expectancy, compared with those who consume more plant-based sources of protein or fat and compared with those who consume more carbohydrates, according to a new study published in The Lancet.

Researchers combined data from the U.S.-based Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study and seven other multinational prospective studies and found that consuming less than 40% or greater than 70% of one's calories from carbohydrate was associated with a higher risk for dying, compared with consuming between 50 and 55% of calories from carbohydrate.

However, when carbohydrate sources were exchanged for animal-based protein or fat sources (chicken, beef, lamb, pork), the risk for death increased by 18%, compared with an 18% decreased risk for death when those substitutions were plant-based (nuts, whole-grain breads, and vegetables).

Seidelmann SB et al. Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis. Lancet. Published online August 16, 2018.

2. Vegetarian Diets Dramatically Better for the Environment and our Health
Researchers assessed several regional models that incorporated environmental, economic, and health impacts. Diets compared included proportional reduction in animal products, reduced or meat-free diets, and diets based on current health standards.

A shift to a plant-based diet projected reductions in global mortality and greenhouse gases caused by food production by 10% and 70%, respectively, compared with a control scenario set in 2050. A global dietary shift would save an estimated 79 million lives and avoid 5.1 million deaths per year.

Estimates for a completely vegan diet project closer to 129 million lives saved and 8.1 million deaths avoided.

These projections also saw trillions of dollars saved in health care costs by 2050.

Springmann M et al. Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change co-benefits of dietary change. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Published online March 21, 2016.

3. Less Meat, Longer Lives
Red and processed meats increase risk for heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses, according to analysis of six cohort studies.

Consumption of 100 grams of red meat per day increased the risk for stroke and for breast cancer, death from heart disease, colorectal cancer, and advanced prostate cancer by 11, 15, 17, and 19%, respectively.

At 50 grams per day, processed meats increased the risk for several chronic diseases including colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, death from heart disease, and diabetes by 18, 19, 24, and 32%, respectively. Possible mechanisms include high levels of heme iron, cholesterol, saturated fatty acids, nitrates and nitrites, and sodium found in red and processed meat products.

Researchers suggest policies mirror several European initiatives to curb the environmental and human health hazards of rising global meat intake through revised dietary guidelines.
Wolk A. Potential health hazards of eating red meat. J Intern Med. Published online September 6, 2016.

4. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends Vegetarian and vegan diets
It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.

Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage.

Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity. Low intake of saturated fat and high intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds (all rich in fiber and phytochemicals) are characteristics of vegetarian and vegan diets that produce lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and better serum glucose control. These factors contribute to reduction of chronic disease.

Vegans need reliable sources of vitamin B-12, such as fortified foods or supplements.

Melina V, Craig W, Levin S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: vegetarian diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116:1970-1980.

Position Statement

5. Processed and Unprocessed Red Meats Linked to Death from Chronic Disease
Researchers reviewed dietary data from 536,969 participants as part of the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study and tracked meat and iron intakes. Results showed an increased chance of death from conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and kidney disease with increased consumption of red meat and unprocessed and processed meats.

Independently, heme iron (iron from animal sources) and nitrites/nitrates found in processed meats increased mortality rates as well.

Researchers suspect increased sodium, oxidative stress due to heme iron and nitrate/nitrite intake, increased fat intake, and heterocyclic amines from cooked meat as possible mechanisms behind the elevated risk of death.

An accompanying commentary called for immediate revision of global policies to reduce meat consumption.

Etemadi A et al. Mortality from different causes associated with meat, heme iron, nitrates, and nitrites in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study: population based cohort study. BMJ. 2017;357:j1957.

Potter JD. Red and processed meat, and human and planetary health: contemporary meat consumption harms human health and is equally bad for the planet. BMJ. 2017;357:j2190.​

6. Meat etc increases disease risk, Grains and plants reduce it
Avoiding meat, dairy, refined sugar, and processed foods and increasing vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and plant milks will move patients away from a state of disease and toward a state of health, according to an article published in the Permanente Journal.

More than 20 clinicians authored a report that reviewed lifestyle changes that could decrease premature disability and death. They caution that health care professionals should be informing their patients of the root causes of chronic diseases, and that many diseases are not inevitable with age but rather preventable and even reversible with healthy lifestyle interventions, including dietary changes, physical activity, and stress management.

Balzas B et al. Lifestyle Medicine: A Brief Review of Its Dramatic Impact on Health and Survival
Perm J 2018;22:17-025

7. Saturated Fat Increases Risk for Early Death
Researchers continually monitored dietary fat intake and mortality for 83,349 women and 42,884 men from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, respectively. Those who consumed more saturated and trans fats increased their mortality risk from heart disease, cancer, and cognitive diseases when compared to those who consumed more unsaturated fats.
These findings support recommendations to limit foods high in saturated fat, including animal products and vegetable oils, in favor of low-fat, plant-based foods.

Wang DD et al. Association of specific dietary fats with total and cause-specific mortality. JAMA Intern Med. Published online July 5, 2016.

8. Coconut Oil and other Fats Destructive; Plant Based Diet Preventive
A review published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology analyzed the evidence behind recent food trends and myths. Despite egg industry efforts to make dietary cholesterol look safe, it is a clear-cut contributor to higher cholesterol levels, and coconut oil is as bad as animal fat in its effect and cholesterol levels.

Research also shows that consumption of animal protein and saturated fats (found in meat, eggs, and some oils) increases heart disease risk.

Diets focused on green leafy vegetables and plant-based and antioxidant-rich foods, including berries, eggplants, and red cabbage, promote healthful weight and blood pressure levels, reduce inflammation, and lower type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Freeman AM et al. Trending cardiovascular nutrition controversies. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017;69:1172-1187.

10. Saturated Fat Increases Risk for Liver Disease More than Sugar or Unsaturated Fat
Saturated fat intake is more harmful to the liver than sugar or unsaturated fat, according to a new study published in Diabetes Care. Researchers fed 1,000 extra calories a day to 30 overweight participants in the form of saturated fat, unsaturated fat, or simple sugars for three weeks and analyzed their metabolic outcomes.

Intrahepatic triglyceride, a marker of fatty liver disease, increased by 55 percent in the saturated fat group, compared with 15 and 33 percent for the unsaturated fat and simple sugar groups, respectively. The authors caution that markers for heart disease and type 2 diabetes were highest among those in the saturated fat group as well.

Luukkonen PK et al. Saturated fat is more metabolically harmful for the human liver than unsaturated fat or simple sugars. Diabetes Care. 2018;41:1732-1739.

11. Plant base diet reduces mortality and Global Warming
Levels of methane gas in the atmosphere are on the rise, according to data published online in Environmental Research Letters. Recent analyses show an acceleration rate for methane 10 times the rate measured in 2007. The dominant causes for the rise in gas include the farming of cattle and are a concern for climate change mitigation.

The authors state that reductions in methane due to modified policies for agriculture and other industries would ease global warming and increase food security. Transitioning to a plant-based diet could reduce global mortality and greenhouse gases caused by food production by 10 percent and 70 percent, respectively, by 2050.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' official stance on vegetarian diets concludes plant-based diets are more sustainable and less damaging to the environment.

Saunois M et al. The growing role of methane in anthropogenic climate change. Environ Res Lett. 2016;11:120207.

Springmann M et al. Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016;113:4146–4151.

12. Veggies do not Counter-act Meat Risks
Researchers followed 74,645 participants from the Swedish Mammography Cohort and the Cohort of Swedish Men studies and monitored diet and mortality due to heart disease. Those who consumed the highest amounts of red meat increased their risk of dying from heart disease by 29% when compared to those who consumed the least. The risks remained consistent when coupled with various fruit and vegetable intakes.

High fruit and vegetable intake could not prevent meat-related deaths.

Bellavia A, Stilling F, Wolk A. High red meat intake and all-cause cardiovascular and cancer mortality: is the risk modified by fruit and vegetable intake? Am J Clin Nutr. Published online August 24, 2016.

13. Milk Consumption Increases Mortality
Researchers followed milk, fruit, and vegetable consumption for more than 140,000 participants. Those who consumed the most milk and the fewest servings of fruits or vegetables had higher mortality rates. The increase in risk was almost three-fold among the women participants.

The authors suspect increased oxidative stress from components in the milk as the reason behind the elevated mortality risk, while antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables reduce oxidation and mitigate the risk.

Michaƫlsson K et al. Milk, fruit and vegetable, and total antioxidant intakes in relation to mortality rates: cohort studies in women and men. Am J Epidemiol. Published online February 10, 2017.

Effects on Cancer
1. Processed Meat Increases Bowel Cancer Risk; Whole Grains Reduce it
An expert panel reviewed the evidence on dietary habits and risk for colorectal cancer and found strong links between processed and red meat and increased cancer risk. Possible mechanisms include heterocyclic amines as a result of cooking meat at high temperatures and heme iron. Three servings of whole grains per day, which provide dietary fiber and various vitamins and anti-carcinogenic compounds, reduce cancer risk by 17 percent.
World Cancer Research Fund International/American Institute for Cancer Research. American Institute for Cancer Research. Published September 7, 2017.

2. Dairy Decreases Survival from Prostate Cancer
Researchers followed 525 men with recent prostate cancer diagnoses and tracked dairy product consumption and mortality rates. Those who consumed three or more servings of high-fat dairy a day, including butter, increased their risk of death from cancer when compared to those who consumed less dairy. IGF-1 and other hormones specific to dairy may be the mechanisms behind the increased risk. These findings support previous research on dairy consumption and prostate cancer risk.
Downer MK et al. Dairy intake in relation to prostate cancer survival. Int J Cancer. Published online February 10, 2017.

Effects on Heart Disease and Stroke
1. High-Protein Diets Increase Risk for Heart Failure
Researchers followed 2,441 middle-aged men for more than two decades and found that participants who ate the most total protein and dairy protein had a 33 and 49% higher risk of heart failure, respectively, compared with those who ate the least.

Virtanen HEK et al. Intake of different dietary proteins and risk of heart failure in men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Circ Heart Fail. Published online May 29, 2018.

2. Vegan Diets Benefit Heart Health - avoid bi-pass surgery
In a new special issue of the journal entitled "A Plant-Based Diet and Cardiovascular Disease," researchers describe a case study where a 79-year-old man with heart disease refused the commonly recommended bypass and valve replacement surgery and opted to adopt a whole-foods, plant-based diet instead. After two months, his heart failure symptoms had improved; his weight fell into a healthy range; his total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides fell from 201 to 137 mg/dL, 105 to 67 mg/dL, and 112 to 96 mg/dL, respectively. The authors further explore the body of evidence showing such diets are beneficial for heart disease patients.
Choi EY et al. A plant-based diet and heart failure: case report and literature review. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017;14:375-378.

3. Whole-grain carbs reduce heart disease
After adjusting for multiple factors, including weight, exercise, and family history, people who consumed the most saturated fat had an 18 percent increased risk for developing heart disease, compared with those who consumed the least, after approximately 21-26 years of follow-up.

Replacing saturated fat in the diet with healthier foods, including whole-grain carbohydrates, was associated with a reduced risk for heart disease. The authors conclude that current recommendations to avoid saturated fats are necessary to prevent heart disease.

Zong G et al. Intake of individual saturated fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease in US men and women: two prospective longitudinal cohort studies. BMJ. 2016;355:i5796.

4. Meat and Eggs Increase Risk for Stroke
Researchers followed the diets of 11,601 participants and monitored "protein sources" and stroke incidence rates. The highest intakes of red and processed meat products were associated with an increased risk for total stroke by 41 and 24%, respectively, compared with those who consumed the least.

In a subanalysis of stroke type, those who consumed the most red meat had a 47% increased risk for ischemic stroke, compared with those who consumed the least. Those who consumed the most eggs had a 41% increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke, compared with those who consumed the least.

Haring B et al. Association of dietary protein consumption with incident silent cerebral infarcts and stroke: the ARIC study. Stroke. Published online October 29, 2015.

5. Elevated Blood Pressure Linked to Increased Protein Intake
Researchers evaluated the diets of 121 patients with type 2 diabetes. Participants were divided into two groups according to blood pressure. According to a three-day diet analysis, the group with uncontrolled blood pressure consumed more protein and meat than the group with controlled blood pressure. The controlled blood pressure group also consumed a diet higher in carbohydrates.

These findings follow previous studies that show the benefits of plant-based diets on blood pressure.

Mattos CB et al. Increased protein intake is associated with uncontrolled blood pressure by 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring in patients with type 2 diabetes. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;0:1-8.

Yokoyama Y et al. Vegetarian diets and blood pressure: a meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. Published online February 24, 2014.

6. Fried Foods Increase Risk for Heart Disease
Researchers followed the diets of 15,300 doctors for about three years. Those who ate fried foods up to three times a week saw an 18% increased risk for heart disease. The risk increased with the frequency of fried food consumption, with about a 25% increased risk if eaten four to six times a week and up to 68% if eaten seven times or more a week.

This study suggests the most healthful diet should contain high amounts of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains and should limit foods high in saturated fats.

Petrone AB et al. Adherence to healthy lifestyle factors is associated with a lower risk of death among US male physicians with type 2 diabetes. Report presented at: The Epidemiology and Prevention and Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2015; March 4, 2015: Baltimore, MD.

Effects on Diabetes
1. Vegetarian diets lower risk for diabetes 
In a meta-analysis, researchers reviewed 13 studies that compared vegetarian with non-vegetarian diets and diabetes incidence rates. Results showed that those who followed vegetarian diets had less diabetes risk, with a further reduction in those who followed vegan diets.

Researchers attribute the reduced risk to improved insulin sensitivity, lower BMIs, improved HbA1c levels, and increased consumption of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Lee Y, Park K. Adherence to a vegetarian diet and diabetes risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Nutrients. 2017;9:603-614

2. Plant-Based Diets Best for Type 2 Diabetes
Researchers reviewed 13 studies that explored the efficacy and acceptability of plant-based diets as treatment for diabetes. Diabetes patients who followed a plant-based diet improved their insulin sensitivity, reduced their diabetes medications, and lowered their intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol.

Results also showed high acceptance rates and, as a result of decreased meat consumption, lower disease prevalence among those who followed a plant-based diet. Researchers call on clinicians to provide more frequent and standardized nutrition education and support for plant-based diets as diabetes treatment.

Rinaldi S et al. A comprehensive review of the literature supporting recommendations from the Canadian Diabetes Association for the use of a plant-based diet for management of type 2 diabetes. Can J Diabetes. Published online July 28, 2016.

3. Animal Protein Linked to Increased Risk for Type 2 Diabetes
Researchers monitored protein intake from animal and vegetable sources and diabetes incidence rates in more than 200,000 participants. Those who consumed the highest amount of animal protein increased their risk for type 2 diabetes by 13%, compared with those who consumed the least animal protein.

Participants who replaced 5% of their protein intake with vegetable protein, including potatoes, legumes, and grains, decreased their risk for diabetes by 23%.

Malik VS et al. Dietary protein intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in US men and women. Am J Epidemiol. Published online March 28, 2016.

4. Red and Processed Meats Increases Risk for Type 2 Diabetes
Saturated fat, high sodium levels, carcinogens, nitrates, heme iron, and other compounds in red and processed meats may all contribute to decreased insulin sensitivity and other risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

While the study calls for more research on specific mechanisms, the authors suspect some combination of these components may increase risk for disease. Preventive measures suggested include increased exercise and a high-fiber, low-fat diet.

Kim Y et al. A review of potential metabolic etiologies of the observed association between red meat consumption and development of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. 2015;64:768-779.

Effects on Exercise Performance and Work Productivity

1. Ketogenic diet impairs exercise performance
Low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diets cause mild, sub-clinical systemic acidosis. Anaerobic exercise performance is limited by acidosis. This study evaluated the hypothesis that a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet impairs anaerobic exercise performance, as compared to a high-carbohydrate diet.

The conclusions? Short-term low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diets reduce exercise performance in activities that are heavily dependent on anaerobic energy systems. These findings have clear performance implications for athletes, especially for high-intensity, short duration activities and sports.

Wroble KA et al. Low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet impairs anaerobic exercise performance in exercise-trained women and men: a randomized-sequence crossover trial. WJ Sports Medicine Phys Fitness 2018 Apr 4. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.18.08318-4. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Increased Fruit and Vegetable Intake Improves Vitality in Young Adults
Researchers assigned 171 participants (18-25 years old) to one of three groups: a control group, a group that received reminders via text message to consume more fruits and vegetables, and a dietary intervention group with additional daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Those in the dietary intervention group increased their vitality and motivation when compared to groups that consumed fewer fruits and vegetables.

The authors call for more interventions that provide fruits and vegetables, in addition to nutrition education, to improve psychological health across this population.

Conner TS et al. Let them eat fruit! The effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on psychological well-being in young adults: A randomized controlled trial. PLoS One. 2017;12:e0171206.

3. Plant-based Dietary Intervention in the Corporate Setting Improves Productivity
Research finds that a low-fat, plant-based dietary intervention in the corporate setting improves productivity and alleviates symptoms of anxiety and depression. This 18-week study took place in 10 corporate sites of a major U.S. insurance company and included 292 employees, all with a BMI of at least 25 kg/m2 and/or a previous diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

Participants were assigned to either a control or a dietary intervention group, which featured weekly instruction in how to follow a low-fat, high-fiber vegan diet.

Participants in the vegan group experienced significantly less work and non-work related impairment because of health, with significantly reduced feelings of depression, anxiety, and fatigue. The vegan intervention group also reported significant gains in emotional well-being and in daily functioning because of physical health and general health, compared to the control group.

Previous research shows a plant-based diet can improve overall mood even outside the workplace simply by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet.

Agarwal U et al.. A multicenter randomized controlled trial of a nutrition intervention program in a multiethnic adult population in the corporate setting reduces anxiety and improves quality of life: The GEICO Study. Am J Health Promot. 2015; 4:245-254.

White BA, Horwath CC, Conner TS. Many apples a day keep the blues away – daily experiences of negative and positive affect and food consumption in young adults. Br J Health Psychol. Published ahead of print January 24, 2013.

Effects on Eyesight

Fruits and Vegetables Protect Eyesight
Colorful, carotenoid-rich foods, such as carrots and spinach, protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a study published online in JAMA Ophthalmology. Researchers monitored the diets of 102,046 participants. Those who consumed the most carrots, tomatoes, spinach, oranges, and other foods rich in carotenoids, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin, experienced up to 35% lower risk for AMD, compared with those who consumed the least.

Researchers suggest public health policies call for increased consumption of fruits and vegetables to maximize lutein and zeaxanthin consumption for their protective qualities.

Wu J et al. Intakes of lutein, zeaxanthin, and other carotenoids and age-related macular degeneration during 2 decades of prospective follow-up. JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online October 8, 2015.

Effects on Inflammation

1. Vegetarian Diets Reduce Inflammation
Researchers reviewed 18 prior studies, finding that individuals who followed a vegetarian diet for at least two years lowered their serum levels of C-reactive protein, a biomarker of inflammation, compared with those who did not follow a vegetarian diet. Researchers suspect the credit goes to phytosterols and dietary fiber found in the fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Haghighatdoost F et al. Association of vegetarian diet with inflammatory biomarkers: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Public Health Nutr. 2017;1-9.

2. Avoiding Red Meat decreases Inflammation and lessens cancer risks
Women who avoid red meat are more likely to be at a healthier weight and have lower levels of chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Researchers analyzed lifestyle and dietary information in an ethnically diverse group of 275 healthy premenopausal women and collected biomarkers of inflammation linked to cancer incidence.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) cancer prevention guidelines recommend eating a plant-based diet, limiting empty-calorie foods, red meat, and alcohol, avoiding tobacco, and increasing physical activity. Researchers scored participants as low, moderate, or high adherers to WCRF /AICR recommendations and found that those with the lowest scores had an almost two-fold increase in certain inflammatory markers than those who scored at the high end of adherence. Overweight and obese women had substantially higher levels of chronic inflammatory markers than normal weight women, including a five-fold increase in biomarkers associated with cancer risk.

While previous research has established a link to lower cancer mortality with adherence to WCRF /AICR cancer prevention guidelines, this is the first study to analyze the association between these guidelines and inflammatory markers. Women who adhered the most to cancer prevention guidelines not only weighed less, but also consumed significantly more fiber, fruits and vegetables, and less red and processed meat, all of which may decrease inflammation and lower risk of certain cancers.

Morimoto Y et al. Adherence to cancer prevention recommendations and antioxidant and inflammatory status in premenopausal women. Br J Nutr. 2015 Jul 14;114(1):134-43.
Published online June 8, 2015.

3. High-fiber Best for Healthful Aging 
Researchers followed the diets of 1,609 healthy people and monitored incidence rates for cancer, heart disease, depression, and cognitive impairment. Those who consumed the most fiber, especially from grains and fruit, were more likely to remain disease-free later in life, compared with those who consumed the least fiber. Possible mechanisms include fiber's anti-inflammatory properties.

Gopinath B et al. Association between carbohydrate nutrition and successful aging over 10 years. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. Published online June 1, 2016.

Effects on Weight Loss

Meat-Free Diets Best for Weight Loss
Researchers assigned participants to one of five diets, vegan, vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, or omnivorous, for six months as part of the New DIETs study. Those assigned to the completely meat-free diets, vegan and vegetarian groups, lost more weight, compared with those following the pesco-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, and omnivorous diets. Vegetarians and vegans also had high acceptance rates for their assigned diets.

This study suggests that offering a meat-free diet to overweight individuals may be the most effective way to promote weight loss.

Moore WJ et al. Dietary adherence and acceptability of five different diets, including vegan and vegetarian diets, for weight loss: The New DIETs study. Eat Behav. 2015;19:33-38.