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.

09 August 2018


Imagine this… You offer a child a marshmallow now, or two if they can wait 15 minutes. What does the child choose? Instant gratification or asserting their willpower? The choice turns out to accurately predict success and happiness years later.

But then the mind is like a muscle, if willpower is not a current strength we can develop it, so this week, more fascinating experiments and how to develop willpower, along with details of the workshops Ruth and I will be combining to present in Brisbane, but first

             Thought for the day

We cannot hope to die peacefully 
If our lives have been full of violence, 
Or if our minds have mostly been agitated 
By emotions like anger, attachment, or fear. 

So if we wish to die well, 
We must learn how to live well: 
Hoping for a peaceful death, 
We must cultivate peace in our mind, 
And in our way of life.

                              HH the Dalai Lama

I grew up in the era of delayed gratification. 
Some of it was not so obviously appealing. Work hard now, enjoy later. Practice restraint. Be disciplined.

Some of it was incredibly useful - like when I wanted to study to be a veterinarian, train to be an athlete, recover from a very difficult cancer.

But then came the 60s and beyond. Go with the flow. Do it now. Do what feels good. Instant gratification. Some of this was very appealing. Being more in the moment. Not putting things off for later.

But consider this…

An extra-ordinary study in New Zealand tracked 1,000 people for 32 years.

From birth, willpower was rated based upon the researchers observations and personally reported self-control and willpower.

The results were very clear.

After accounting for differences in intelligence, race and social class, those with higher self-control – just like those who held out for the two marshmallows later – grew into healthier, happier and wealthier adults.

Those with the lower levels of willpower, on average fared less well academically, had lower paying jobs with few savings, were more likely to have poorer health and be overweight, had more drug or alcohol problems, and had difficulty maintaining stable relationships (many were single parents). They were also nearly four times more likely to have a criminal conviction.

So here is the thing...

Want to have control over what you eat? It takes willpower.

Want to meditate regularly? It takes willpower.

Want to succeed at what you put your mind to? It takes willpower.

What about happiness? Yes, that too requires willpower.

What is willpower?
According to the Oxford dictionary, willpower is one of the key aspects of our mind. Remember the definition? The mind is the seat of perception, thinking, volition and feeling.

Willpower itself can be defined as that force by which we control and manage our thoughts, impulses and emotions and which helps us persevere with difficult tasks. We could say willpower is actually rather like a kind of moral muscle.

Willpower - the good news… and the bad!
The good news is being like a muscle we can train and develop our willpower.

The bad news is we can overdo it!

Let us examine overuse first - just for fun; although some of this may explain some of the difficulties we run into.

Experiments establish that after accomplishing a task that requires us to restrain our impulses (saying no to chocolate, suppressing our emotions while watching a sad movie), we are far more likely to underperform at other willpower-related jobs such as squeezing a handgrip or solving a difficult puzzle.

More than this, health challenges and even things like PMS have been shown to deplete our willpower and weaken our self control.

So this makes a case against multi-tasking, and provides a caution when dealing with illness - focus on discipline where really needed, aim to go more lightly in less significant areas.

Willpower training - the two top tips
My number one tip is to get into the habit of daily training. This is way easier than it might sound. Simply choose something that is not to onerous to do each day and do it as a conscious act of willpower; a conscious way of training your capacity to put your mind to something and do it.

For me it is having a cold shower each morning.

Cold as in turning the cold on after the hot start!


Do it slowly as doing it quickly - from hot to cold - has been shown to place stress on the heart.

Do it slowly and research shows it is a powerful immune system booster.

I have done this each day for decades. It is a simple habit made more powerful for this purpose because even after so many years there is very little pleasure in a cold shower so to do it does take an effort. What would work for you?

Number two tip is to fast from time to time. Fasting teaches the invaluable capacity to go without - something one suspects many children these days would benefit from learning and practising. It also provides the hugely useful capacity to discriminate, particularly when it comes to food. If I am stuck somewhere at a given meal time where there is nothing suitable to eat, it is simple. No need to eat rubbish just for the sake of eating. Simply go without and enjoy!

Other more common tips
Establish good habits and routines that will take the strain off your willpower.

Learn how to draw up an effective to-do list.

Avoid temptation; learn what helps you to resist temptation when it comes.
Willpower is expressed via positive thinking, so use it. Make clear plans, do whatever it takes and choose to enjoy doing it.

A final quote…
People with low willpower use it to get themselves out of crises. 
People with high willpower use it not to get themselves into crises.

          Roy Baumeister
          - author of the excellent book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.

Want more details?

A direct plug for my book that deals with this topic
specifically and in detail

The Mind that Changes Everything


Moffitt TE et al. A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. PNAS 2011, 108 (7) 2693-2698;

Know anyone in or near Brisbane? 
Ruth and I will be presenting on Medicine of the Mind - Friday 24th August 6.45 - 9.30pm, and Health, Healing and Wellbeing – Seeking to use the Power of the Mind - Saturday 25th August  1.30 - 4.30pm; love to see you there, or please tell friends who may be interested.
Click here and use the calendar to find details (via the dates) and make a booking.

Ruth Gawler's 
next meditation retreat - with Julia Broome

Meditation - Pure and Simple

Whether burnt out, dealing with physical or mental issues, this retreat provides a unique opportunity to be led and supported by a doctor well versed in Mind-Body Medicine who has a particular expertise with deep relaxation and healing.

Ruth will focus in this retreat upon the meditation techniques of Dr Ainslie Meares and Ian Gawler. 
The only meditation retreat Ruth is leading in 2018 that will be specifically focussed on meditation's therapeutic healing benefits.  

Combine deep relaxation techniques and mindfulness meditation to release the stress we carry in our bodies in this busy and complex modern world. Ideal for healing, rejuvenation and opening our awareness.

Ruth’s teaching style is one of openness and authenticity, and there will be plenty of opportunity for questions and discussion. Techniques covered in this retreat will be accessible and engaging for both beginners and more experienced meditators. This retreat is well suited to all Health Professionals. Certificates of Attendance for CPD points issued, on request at the end of this retreat.

DATES                                    September - Monday 10th to Friday 14th September 2018
VENUE                                   Yarra Valley Living Centre, Rayner Crt, Yarra Junction, Victoria
ENQUIRIES, BOOKINGS     The Gawler Foundation ClientServices@gawler.org
                                                 and 1300 651 211 - Call Mon-Fri 9-5pm