THE BASICS: Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet – Part 2

Continuing on from the last post, here are some more startling benefits of adopting a plant-based way of life.


Lower the risk of cancer and slow the progression of certain types of cancer

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) states that “It’s never too late to lower your risk”.  A consistent diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains will protect against a range of cancers, including mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, colon, lung, pancreas and prostate.  The huge EPIC prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition found that the incidence of all cancers combined was lower among those eating plant-based diets.  On February 13, 2015, the American Cancer Society published their recommendations that cancer survivors should follow “prudent diets” in order to prolong survival.  Their suggested “prudent diet” is plant-based, high in fruits, vegetables and unrefined grains while at the same time being extremely low in meats, refined grains, and sugars.

(See Sources #50 to 60)


Reduce overall mortality and increase length of life

In 2010 the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for Americans performed a literature review that revealed that plant-based diets are associated with reduced mortality from cardiovascular disease when compared with non-plant-based diets.  Several studies have also documented that excessive consumption of red meat is associated with increased risk of all-cause mortality.  Two aspects of the plant-based diet are thought to be responsible for longevity.  Low meat intake is associated with both a longer lifespan and with healthier and more productive later years. Whole grains as part of the diet have been found to extend life expectancy due to prevention of chronic diseases in the first place (primary prevention) and also to reversing disease that is already present (secondary prevention).

(See Sources #61 to 65)


Protection against cognitive decline

Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment and other types of dementia are examples of cognitive decline.  They appear as alterations in memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes.  It is becoming apparent that what is good for our hearts is also good for our minds.  Clogging of arteries inside the brain with plaque buildup and narrowing is evident on autopsy of a high percentage of those who have died with Alzheimer’s disease.  The same diet that works for cardiovascular disease elsewhere in the body also works in the brain.

Genetics appear to have less of a role in the health of our brains than our diet and lifestyle.  Even if you have the ApoE variant gene that is linked with increased susceptibility to develop Alzheimer’s, expression of the gene can be altered by the food that you eat.  The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease increases as the diet that is being eaten becomes more westernized. In fact the lowest incidence of Alzheimer’s in the world is in rural India where people eat traditional plant-based diets centered on grains and vegetables.  Once again, diet is the parameter than succeeds in clearing out arteries and, in so doing, clears aging brains as well.

(See Sources # 66 to 75)


Enjoy a healthier mood and increased energy

Studies on people who eat plant-based find that they experience less tension, anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue. Even a single carbohydrate-rich meal improves these parameters. Cross-sectional studies from all over the world support the relationship between happiness and fruit and vegetable intake, with people eating seven or eight servings a day reporting both good humour and the highest satisfaction with life.  Often one healthy behaviour goes with another but the happiness/fruit and vegetable association remains significant even after controlling for exercise, smoking, body weight and current health level.  The benefits are not just short-term; the positive mood continued on through the next day too.  Other benefits are increased energy, improved sleep, less confusion and fewer mood disturbances.

(See Sources #76 to 83)




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  1. Key, T.J., Appleby, P.N., Spencer, E.A., Travis, R.C., Roddam, A.W., Allen, N.E. Cancer incidence in vegetarians: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Oxford). Am J Clin Nutr. 2009. May;89(5):1620S-1626S.
  1. Levine, M.E., Suarez, J.A., Brandhorst, S., Balasubramanian, P., Cheng, C.W., Madia, F., Fontana, L., Mirisola, M.G., Guevara- Aguirre, J., Wan, J., Passarino, G., Kennedy, B.K., Wei, M., Cohen, P., Crimmins, E.M., Longo, V.D. Low protein intake is associated with a major reduction in IGF-1, cancer, and overall mortality in the 65 and younger but not older population. Cell Metab. 2014 Mar 4;19(3):407-17.
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  1. Cross, A.J., Leitzmann,M.F., Gail, M.H., Hollenbeck,A.R., Schatzkin, A., Sinha, R. A Prospective study of red and processed meat intake in relation to cancer risk.  Plos Med.  2007  Dec;4(12); 325.
  1. Nöthlings, U., Wilkens, L.R., Murphy, S.P., Hankin, J.H., Henderson, B.E., Kolonel,L.N. Meat and fat intake as risk factors for pancreatic cancer:  the multiethnic cohort study.  J Natl Cancer Inst.  2005 Oct 5; 97(19): 1458 – 1465.
  1. English, D.R., MacInnis, R.J., Hodge, A.M., Hopper, J.L., Haydon, A.M., Giles, G.G. Red meat, chicken and fish consumption and risk of colorectal cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev.  2004 Sep; 12(9): 1509-1514.
  1. Michaud, D.S., Spiegelman, D., et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of bladder cancer in a male prospective cohort. J Natl Cancer Inst.  1999 Apr 7;91(7):605-613.
  1. Davies, N.J., Batehup, L., Thomas, R. The role of diet and physical activity in breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer survivorship:  a review of the literature.  Br J Cancer. 2011 Nov 8; 105 (Suppl 1): S52 – S73.


Mortality and Longevity

  1. Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the dietary guidelines for Americans, 2010: to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Washington, DC: Agriculture Research Service, US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Health and Human Services; 2010 May.
  1. Singh, P.N., Sabaté, J., Fraser, G.E. Does low meat consumption increase life expectancy in humans? Am J Clin Nutr 2003 Sep;78(3 Suppl):526S-532S.
  1. Campbell, T.C., Campbell II, T.M. The China study: the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and the startling implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books; 2006 May 11.
  1. Sinha, R., Cross, A.J., Graubard, B.I., Leitzmann, M.F., Schatzkin, A. Meat intake and mortality: a prospective study of over half a million people. Arch Intern Med 2009 Mar 23;169(6):562-571.
  1. Huang, T., Yang, B., Zheng, J., Li, G., Wahlqvist, M.L., Li, D. Cardiovascular disease mortality and cancer incidence in vegetarians: a meta-analysis and systematic review. Ann Nutr Metab 2012;60(4):233-40.



  1. del la Torre, J.C. Vascular risk factors:  a ticking time bomb to Alzheimer’s disease. Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen.  2013 Sep;28(6):551-559.
  1. Roher, A.E., Tyas, S.L., Maarouf, C.L. et al. Intracranial atherosclerosis as a contributing factor to Alzheimer’s disease dementia.  Alzheimers Dement.  2011 Jul;7(4): 436-444.
  1. Kovacic, J.C., Fuster, V. Atherosclerotic Risk Factors, Vascular Cognitive Impairment, and Alzheimer Disease.  Mt. Sinai J Med.  2012 Nov-Dec;79(6):664 – 673.
  1. Deschaintre, Y., Richard, F., Leys, D., Pasquier, F. Treatment of vascular risk factors is associated with slowerdecline in Alzheimer disease.  Neurology.  2009 Sep 1; 73(9)0:674-680.
  1. Daviglus, M.L., Plassman, B.L., Pirzada, A., Bell,C.C. et al. Risk factors and preventive interventions for Alzheimerdisease: state of the science.  Arch Neurol.  2011 Sep; 68(9):1185 – 1190.
  1. Parletta, N., Milte, C.M., Meyer, B.J. Nutritional modulation of cognitive function and mental health.  J Nutr Biochem. 2013 May;24(5):725-743.
  1. Loef, M., Walach, H. Fruit, vegetables and prevention of cognitive decline or dementia: a systematic review of cohort studies.  J Nutr Health Aging.  2012 Jul;16(7):626-630.
  1. Francis, H., Stevenson, R. The longer-term impacts of Western diet on human cognition and the brain.  Appetite.2013 Apr;63:119-128.
  1. Pugliell, L., Tanzi, R.E., Kovacs, D.M. Alzheimer’s disease: the cholesterol connection. Nat Neurosci.  2003 Apr;6(4):345-351
  1. Petanceska, S.S, DeRose, S. et al. Changes in apolipoprotein E expression in response to dietary and pharmacological modulation of cholesterol. J Mol Neurosci. 2003;20(3):395-406.


Mood and energy

  1. U Agarwal, U., Mishra, S., Xu, J., Levin, S., Gonzales, J., Barnard. N.D. A multicenter randomized controlled trial of a nutrition intervention program in a multiethnic adult population in the corporate setting reduces depression and anxiety and improves quality of life: the GEICO study. Am J Health Promot. 2015 Mar-Apr;29(4):245-54.
  1. Lai, J.S., Hiles, S., Bisquera, A., Hure, A.J., McEvoy, M. A systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary patterns and depression in community-dwelling adults. Am J Clin Nutr.  2014 Jan;99)1):181-197.
  1. Brinkworth, G.D., Buchley, J.D., et al. Long-term effects of a very low-carbohydrate diet and a low-fat diet on mood and cognitive function. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Nov 9;169(20):1873-1880.
  1. Beezhold, B.L., Johnston, C.S. Restriction of meat, fish, and poultry in omnivores improves mood: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Nutr J. 2012 Feb 14;11:9.
  1. Beezhold, C.S., Johnston, C.S., Daigle, D,R.  Vegetarian diets are associated with healthy mood states: a cross-sectional study in Seventh Day Adventist adults.  Nutr J.  2010 Jun 1;9:26.
  1. Conner, T.S., Brookie, K.L., Richardson, A.C., Polak, M.A. On carrots and curiosity: eating fruit and vegetables is associated with greater flourishing in daily life. Br J Health Psychol. 2015 May;20(2):413-427.
  1. Rooney, C., McKinley, M.C., Woodside, J.V. The potential role of fruit and vegetables in aspects of psychological well-being; a review of the literature and future directions.  Proc Nutr Soc.  2013 Nov;72(4):420-432.
  1. Blanchflower, D.G., Oswald, A.J., Stewart-Brown, S. Is Psychological Well-being Linked to the Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables?  NBER Working Paper No. 18469.



Promoting a healthy adventurous lifestyle powered by plants and the strength of scientific evidence.

My name is Debra Harley (BScPhm) and I welcome you to my retirement project, this website. Over the course of a life many lessons are learned, altering deeply-rooted ideas and creating new passions.

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