Tag Archives: plant-based

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Science-based dietary recommendations: How much do we really know?

The authors of a key, highly-cited (close to 900 times) paper on bioactive compounds [1], report that numerous bioactive compounds discovered in fruit and vegetables appear to have positive effect on health:

Bioactive compounds are extranutritional constituents that typically occur in small quantities in foods. They are being intensively studied to evaluate their effects on health. The impetus sparking this scientific inquiry was the result of many epidemiologic studies that have shown protective effects of plant-based diets on cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer. Many bioactive compounds have been discovered.”

The authors emphasize that “Much scientific research needs to be conducted before we can begin to make science-based dietary recommendations” and note that the list of bioactive compounds is “ever-expanding“. Nevertheless, they conclude that

On the basis of a large population database, there is sufficient evidence to recommend a diet high in food sources rich in bioactive compounds”.

Interestingly, in another study, reporting the inhibition of colon and breast cancer cell proliferation by fruits and berries [2], we read that there exists “a synergistic effect of vitamin C and other substances” that may play an important role [emphasis mine].

So the compelling questions that emerge are: How many more different compounds and complex synergistic processes that link them exist? What does our lack of knowledge mean, practically speaking, in relation to the desirable concept of ‘sound nutritional advice’? Considering the complexity of the human body, is it possible to fully grasp the complete mechanism of nutrition through the studies performed in artificial laboratory environments?

Notably, the authors of a very recent publication citing [1], which reviews current evidence regarding the relationship between vegetarian eating patterns and cancer risk [3], report that

A vegan diet, aside from its deficit of vitamin B12 activity (readily compensated by supplementation), is typically more micronutrient-dense (per calorie) than the diets favored by omnivores

and

Fears that a vegan diet may be inadequate in protein quality or quantity are unfounded”.

Importantly, the authors emphasize that

a broad body of evidence links specific plant foods such as fruits and vegetables, plant constituents such as fiber, antioxidants and other phytochemicals, and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight to reduced risk of cancer diagnosis and recurrence”.

In conclusion, modern science may only begin to understand the full benefits of plant-based diets. It may take a lot of research to unravel the various pathways that lead to better health through nutrients-rich fresh fruit and veggies. Enough evidence indicates nevertheless that such diets may not only offer superior nutrition, but also reduce the chance of serious diseases through simple and achievable lifestyle choices.

Let us not waste time waiting until science figures it all out.

References:

[1] Kris-Etherton P.M., Hecker K.D., Bonanome A., Coval S.M., Binkoski A.E., Hilpert K.F., Griel A.E., Etherton T.D. Bioactive compounds in foods: Their role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer (2002) American Journal of Medicine, 113 (9 SUPPL. 2)

[2] Olsson M.E., Gustavsson K.-E., Andersson S., Nilsson A., Duan R.-D. Inhibition of cancer cell proliferation in vitro by fruit and berry extracts and correlations with antioxidant levels (2004) Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 52 (24) , pp. 7264-7271.

[3] Nagarathna Purada Kattimani Matada, Mukumbayi Mulumba Philippe, Raju Koneri. Department of Pharmacology, Karnataka College of Pharmacy, Bangalore, Karnataka, IndiaA Study on Plant Based Dietary Patterns and Cancer Risk (2013) Int. J. Pharm. Sci. Rev. Res., 23(2), Nov – Dec 2013; no 45, 265-278.