Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Health Conference Musings: The Big Picture

Last Friday I had the opportunity to attend the Enhancing Health with Plant-Based Nutrition conference, here in Portland.  There were 340 attendees, mostly health care providers, and the speakers included physicians, dietitians, and lifestyle medicine practitioners.  It was a fun day full of evidence-based information about the effects of a whole foods, low fat, plant-based diet on health.  I'll be posting more about specific topics that were covered at the conference, but today I want to highlight the big message that came across with all of the speakers:

A plant-based diet of whole, unprocessed, lower fat foods has been shown to 
prevent and reverse chronic diseases, which are often a result of lifestyle choices.

Chronic diseases are mostly lifestyle diseases.

The speakers reported the latest research on cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disease, cancer, longevity, and Alzheimer's.  The message was similar across all topics.  In most situations, a plant-based diet has been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of these conditions.  There are some on-going studies that are looking at the effects of a plant-based diet on health, if you're interested:
And a study that Brenda Davis, RD, was involved in, looking at the effects of a plant-based diet on diabetes in the Marshall Islands:
I was impressed with the evidenced-based information that was presented.  As a health care provider, it is important that my interventions are supported by solid science-based evidence.  Lucky for us plant-based practitioners, there is a lot of growing evidence supporting the health benefits of a healthy plant-based diet.  I highlight the word healthy, because just like any other eating style, a vegan diet can include a lot of processed junk foods that won't lead to health promotion or disease prevention. 

What is scientifically considered to be a healthy plant-based diet that will promote health and prevent disease?  In a nutshell:

Eat plants, as they are grown.  The less processing, the better.  
This includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices.  

This is the diet that lifestyle medicine practitioners are prescribing to their patients with serious, chronic diseases.  I don't have any serious medical problems, but after the conference I have definitely been reassessing my affinity for vegan junk food and trying to incorporate a higher percentage of the healthy plant-based foods.  Here is what I've been having as a health breakfast the past few days:

oats, chia, flax, coconut, raisins, banana (cooked in water)

Healthy lunch:  kale with tahini sauce, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, nooch

The health conference has piqued my interest in reading more of the research that's being published about plant-based diet and health.  I also met some really cool people who are working to educate the public and health care providers about the latest findings, and I'll be posting about them, too.  So much was covered that I want to address, and I feel like most of the people and/or topics deserve their own post.  

In the meantime, I hope you're having an awesome week.  Happy Fall, by the way.  This is my favorite time of year! 


  1. Sounds like a really great conference! And your meals look delicious!

  2. Your healthy meals look so delicious and wholesome. I do like junk food, but I also really love and appreciate healthy meals. Today I ate a few more treats than necessary (and enjoyed them!), so I'll be sure to eat loads of super fresh veggies tomorrow. :)

  3. I would love to make it a goal to attend next year! Unfortunately, the second year of my dietetics program will have started in September and OR is pretty far from MI... Maybe 2015. I look forward to reading your next post(s) about the people you met/things you learned from the conference!

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