Population growth has taken on a whole new meaning: A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that nearly a third of the world’s population is overweight and that about 10 percent is obese. A global group of researchers crunched the numbers and found that obesity contributed to 4 million deaths, primarily from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease and cancer, in 2015 alone.
To put it another way, a recent Vox article estimates that obesity now kills more people than do terror attacks, traffic accidents and Alzheimer’s disease combined. Experts predict that it could also someday account for more cancer deaths than smoking.
That is, unless more people go vegan.
Obesity and obesity-related diseases can largely be attributed to the consumption of meat and other animal-based foods. That’s partly why the population of the U.S., where oversized burgers, chicken nuggets and cheese-laden pizzas reign supreme, has an ever-growing girth. According to the study, which spanned 195 countries, America has the most obese adults, at 79.4 million, and the highest percentage of obese children and young adults. So much for treading lightly on the planet.
Hopefully, these findings will prompt more Americans to eat healthy vegan foods. Researchers have pointed out that our eating habits are the primary problem, not our inactivity. It certainly won’t kill us to move a little more, but we really need to eat a lot less.
Obesity has become the new normal in America, and it’s causing a health-care crisis. Despite what many people want to believe, there is no such thing as “fat but fit.” Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. found that overweight people are much more likely to suffer from heart attacks or strokes — even if they’re “metabolically healthy,” meaning that their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels are in the “safe” range.
Double chin up, though! Two new studies show that people can lose weight just by eating plant-based foods. One study of diabetic patients, conducted by researchers with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C., suggests that by eating almost exclusively vegan foods, people can lose twice as much weight as those who follow the typical low-calorie diets recommended for diabetics. After six months, participants who ate almost all vegan foods had also boosted their metabolism and reduced the amount of fat around their muscles, which is significant for those with diabetes.
Another study, carried out by researchers at Spain’sUniversity of Navarra, found that people who eat plant-based foods can almost halve their risk of becoming obese compared with those who eat animal-derived foods.
The study participants — 16,000 healthy adults, who were tracked for an average of 10 years — completed food questionnaires and were scored on the types of food that they ate. Points were awarded to those who ate vegetables, fruits, grains and other plant-based foods and subtracted from those who ate meat, dairy, eggs and other animal-derived foods. Participants who ate the most plant-based foods were the least likely to become obese.
The results of these studies aren’t exactly surprising. Vegan foods tend to be low in fat and calories and high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, which help boost metabolism, so you can burn more calories, making it easier both to shed pounds and to maintain a healthy weight.
So if your heft is weighing heavily on your mind, try this tasty, simple solution: Go vegan.
Heather Moore is a senior writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org. Information about PETA’s funding may be found at www.peta.org/about/numbers.asp.