16 December 2013

Vegans can run, but what about the science?

How many bananas does a vegan need to eat to run a marathon? What does a vegan breast cancer survivor eat as she and her husband defy belief and expectations and run 366 consecutive marathons around Australia? What does the research say about a non-meat diet?

So this week, an interview with Janette Wakelin-Murray, compelling recent research, an invitation to celebrate the extraordinary, world record breaking endurance feat of Janette and husband Alan at Federation Square on 31st December between 2 - 4 pm (details LINK HERE) – a good lead in to the New Year’s eve fireworks in Melbourne - plus a reminder of the Christmas discounts on all the meditation books, CDs, MP3s and DVD (details LINK HERE), but first, can a world-class athlete get enough protein from a vegetarian diet to compete?

Thought for the day

I’ve found that a person does not need protein from meat to be a successful athlete. 
In fact, my best year of track competition was the first year I ate a vegan diet. 

Carl Lewis - winner of 9 Olympic Gold Medals.
Voted "Sportsman of the Century"
by the International Olympic Committee.
Vegan from the age of 30.

These feet belong to a 64 year old breast cancer survivor who has used them to run
340 consecutive daily marathons!

Janette Wakelin-Murray you are
A STAR!!!!!

Can you believe this? Can you comprehend this?
Janette is close to completing a world record 366 consecutive marathons and she has done it in the running company of her 68 year old husband, Alan.

Before my cancer and leg amputation, I was a decathlon athlete. It remains a regret that I never ran a marathon. Lately I do know a couple of sixty year olds who have run a marathon. Most find it takes ages to recover from just the one.

My sense is that Janette and Alan’s accomplishment is so extraordinary
many people including some in the media
are having trouble computing it.
It is almost too extreme to believe.

And then there is the fact they have done it on all raw, vegan food. No meat, no dairy, no protein boosters, no supplements, no stearoids. Also no sickness, no injuries, no days lost through stiffness or soreness or tiredness. 366 consecutive, daily marathons.

Janette told me “I could not have done this in my 20s. No way in my 40s. In my 50s I ran about 50 and it was very hard, very tiring. But honestly, now in my 60s, this has been relatively easy. No injuries, I feel really good. My health has never been better”.

So what do you eat? “80% fruit, 15% vegetables, 5% nuts and seeds. All organic wherever possible – our energy levels drop noticeably when we can only get the commercial stuff – and all raw of course.” Of Course!

If you are tempted to think anything about this marathon run around Australia qualified as easy,
Here are some of the facts:

Temperatures ranged from freezing to a maximum of 44 in the shade.

They experienced serious tropical downpours that went on for weeks courtesy of Cyclone Oswald. At that point, 9 of Alan’s waterlogged toenails simply fell off, yet no infection, no real discomfort, no stopping.

They rose before 4am each day, began to run at 5. Stopped to eat and rest 3 times during the day, generally finished around 3pm.

Both burnt 5,000 calories each day. Both ate around 20 very ripe bananas, lots of apples, oranges, pineapples – commonly as smoothies or juices that could also include beetroot, carrot and greens and ginger - and a big salad or 2 including a large avocado daily.

Why do it?
Janette again: “I have been a raw vegan for 12 years. In 2001 I was diagnosed with a highly aggressive carcinoma of the breast and told I had 6 months to live. In 6 months I was given a clean bill of health having recovered my own way (see Janette’s book Raw Can Cure Cancer).

I am hoping that this run will prompt people to think more consciously about their lifestyle choices. To think consciously about where meat comes from. To use their heads and to turn the lamb chop on their plates into the lamb jumping for joy in its paddock.

To think more consciously about their health and to make healthier choices about the things they eat, their exercise and particularly their care of self.

What I discovered during my own cancer recovery is that you have to believe in yourself and that what you are doing will work. The most important thing is to learn to love yourself and to care for yourself.”

My thoughts
Anyone who suggests you have to eat meat to perform at a high level in athletics or endurance running is clearly incorrect.

I suspect if you can run 366 marathons consecutively on a vegan diet, that diet should provide enough fuel for most things, including recovering from illness if that is a choice you make.

When people say after changing to a vegetarian or vegan diet, I feel my energy levels have dropped, quite simply they are probably not eating enough. Bananas may make more sense than feeling meat is what is lacking.

Alan and Janette confront the whole notion of supplements. They took none. They have pushed their bodies beyond what most would consider to be extreme limits. They have done this with no injuries, no sickness and a real twinkle of delight and enthusiasm in their eyes. And they are both in their sixties.

What Janette and Alan have accomplished challenges many hard held norms. Will people rethink those norms, or simply marvel at the achievement, quietly dismiss it and go about normal life as if nothing happened?

The challenge is to take in the enormity of what Janette and Alan have accomplished, along with how they did it.

If you want to see Janette and Alan in action, Today Tonight had a nice TV feature on them recently   LINK HERE

Next, as some small tribute to Janette and Alan, and at the risk of a long post, 

here is some recent research that supports the notion of eating less meat.

Red and processed meat linked to early death
Consumption of red and processed meat products is associated with increased risk of death, according to a recent review of nine studies with years of follow-up ranging from 5.5 to 28 years.

Those consuming the most processed meat had a 23 percent increase in mortality risk, while those consuming the most total red meat had a 29 percent increased risk for, compared with those who consumed the least.

Other studies have shown a similar link with red and processed meat products and mortality as well as links to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Larsson SC, Orsini N. Red Meat and processed meat consumption and all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis. Am J Epidemiol. Published ahead of print October 22, 2013.

Diet fuels major rise in depression
Women who consume a diet defined as inflammatory—high in red meat, fish, sodas, and refined grains—have a higher risk for depression, compared with women who consume low amounts of these products.

As part of the 12 year Nurses’ Health Study, researchers analyzed the diets of 43,685 women and found that women who favored inflammatory food products were 41 percent more likely to be depressed.

Lucas M, Chocano-Bedoya P, Shulze MB, et al. Inflammatory dietary pattern and risk of depression among women. Brain Behav Immun. 2013. In press.

Vegetarian Diet Lowers Cholesterol, Weight, and Blood Sugar
A low-fat, high-carbohydrate vegetarian diet lowers cholesterol, blood sugars, and weight, according to a small recent study published. Obese participants with type 2  diabetes and/or hypertension followed a plant-based, high-fiber diet (about 42 grams per day) for one month.

Patients experienced weight loss, lower cholesterol, better blood sugar control, and improved gut flora. Bacteria associated with immunity and anti-inflammation increased while bacteria most associated with conditions such as obesity and inflammatory bowel conditions decreased.

Kim MS, Hwang SS , Park EJ, Bae JW. Strict vegetarian diet improves the risk factors associated with metabolic diseases by modulating gut microbiota and reducing intestinal inflammation. Environ Microbiol Rep. 2013;5:765-775.

How does meat cause colon cancer
Reasons for meat products leading to colorectal cancer are wide-ranging, according to a new review in the journal Nutrition Research. The authors say potential risks include naturally occurring components of meat products such as heme iron and protein as well as generated components such as N-nitroso compounds and heterocyclic amines.

Kim E, Coelho D, Blachier F. Review of the association between meat consumption and risk of colorectal cancer. Nutr Res. 2013;33:983-994.

Vegan diets – natural weight control
People who follow vegan diets weigh less and consume more protective nutrients such as beta-carotene and fiber according to recent research.

71,751 participants enrolled in the Adventist Health Study 2 were tracked for five years. The vegan group (defined as consuming animal products less than one time per month), consumed the most beta-carotene, fiber, potassium, and magnesium, compared with all other dietary groups.

The vegan group had the lowest average body mass index (BMI) and the lowest prevalence of obesity, compared with those following all other dietary patterns. Levels of BMI and rates of obesity went up as animal product intake increased.

Rizzo NS, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Sabate J, Fraser GE. Nutrient profiles of vegetarian and nonvegetarian dietary patterns continuing professional education (CPE) information. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013;113:1610-1619.

Type 2 diabetes: Nutritional therapy safe and effective; more drugs risky 
Commonly prescribed diabetes medications have been linked to higher risks of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, according to recent publications. The drugs include exenatide (Byetta), liraglutide (Victoza), sitagliptin (Januvia), and possibly other similar medications.

Prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes with nutritional measures, especially a plant-based diet and avoidance of meat and dairy products, remains a safe and effective approach. If you are on the drugs, maybe you need to talk again with your doctor.

1. Elashoff M,et al. Gastroenterology. 2011;141:150-156.
2. Butler AE, et al. Diabetes. Published ahead of print March 22, 2013.
3. Singh S,et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173:534-539.

Want babies? Try less processed meat and dairy
Processed meat products may lower sperm quality, according to researchers from Harvard. They analyzed 364 samples of semen from 156 men who were having reproductive difficulties and asked the men to complete a food record.

Those participants with higher intakes of processed meat products (more than one-third of a serving per day) saw more abnormalities in sperm count, size, and shape, compared with men who ate less.

These findings support a recent study that showed similar results between semen quality and dairy products.

Afeiche M. Meat intake and semen parameters among men attending a fertility clinic. Report presented at: American Society for Reproductive Medicine 2013 Annual Meeting; October 14, 2013: Boston, MA.
Afeiche M, Williams PL, Mediola J. Dairy food intake in relation to semen quality and reproductive hormone levels among physically active young men. Hum Reprod. 2013;28:2265-2275.

Vegan breast cancer survivor runs a marathon a day for a whole year

Would you eat like a dog?

To celebrate Christmas, it is a treat for Ruth and myself to be able to offer meditation resources as our Christmas special via our webstore.

All the meditation CDs, along with their corresponding MP3s and my meditation DVD are discounted 20% from now until Christmas Day. The most recent meditation book Meditation – a Complete Guide is discounted 10%, as is the bonus Christmas offer, that great cookbook, Eat Well, Be Well.

Go on-line and take advantage of the discounted CDs, MP3s, DVD and books. CLICK HERE.

Meditation in the Forest : April 11 – 17, 2014
The regular Pre-Easter retreat Ruth and I present is on in the Yarra Valley again. This year as well as providing the opportunity to learn more about relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, and to deepen your experience of same, the particular focus of the retreat will be on contemplation.
For details CLICK HERE


  1. It defies belief! What were they doing in their minds to have such an incredible effect on their bodies..... maybe they don't even know. Really inspiring. Thanks Ian.

  2. No-one can deny the extreme level of achievement but what I wanted to know is whether she had any traditional treatment such as surgery/radiotherapy/chemotherapy/prescribed drug therapy/ to treat her breast cancer alongside her non-traditional treatments. I think this information is really important to know. Could you confirm this please Ian

  3. To the best of my knowledge, Janette had no conventional treatments. I will check with her.

    1. Many thanks for this Ian - that would be great if you could ask and post on here.

    2. She had surgery:


  4. Positive news! It's what the world needs. Thankyou