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Results From 8-Week Whole Food, Plant-Based Study Are a Success

Dr. Thomas Campbell Medical Director of the University of Rochester Weight Management and Lifestyle Center at Highland Hospital and his team recently published in the journal Nutrients, results from their highly successful whole food, plant-based nutrition lifestyle modification program. Below is an excerpt from the published paper, “Evaluation of an Eight-Week Whole-Food Plant-Based Lifestyle Modification Program.” The full article is open access to the public and can be viewed on PubMed.


Poor diet quality is the leading actual cause of death in the United States, accounting for 529,299 deaths in 2016, with the majority of these deaths (83.9%) due to cardiovascular disease [1]. Aside from death, a high body mass index (defined as BMI >22.5) and diet are the second and third leading actual causes of disability after tobacco use [1]. Between 2015 and 2016, the obesity prevalence among adults in the United States was 39.8% [2], the highest prevalence recorded to date. A recently published simulation model predicted that 57.3% of today’s children will be obese by 35 years of age [3]. If this model holds true, the obesity epidemic, accompanied by its serious health consequences and high personal and societal costs, will be with us and worsening for decades to come.

The intervention we designed (T.C., E.C.), implemented (T.C., E.C), and evaluated (E.C., M.F.) is an intensive behavioral group approach utilizing a whole-food, plant-based diet. The dose (number of sessions) and approach (behavioral) of the intervention was influenced by the behavioral interventions for obesity reviewed by the United States Preventative Services Task Force [4]. The term “plant-based diet” can represent a relatively broad spectrum of dietary patterns which share a common feature of being comprised primarily of plants or components of plants. Common variations of dietary patterns containing more plant-based foods compared to typical American consumption include the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, the Mediterranean diet, vegetarian and vegan diets, and a strict whole-food, plant-based diet that excludes entirely animal-based foods and most processed foods. Several of these diets have substantial scientific support of healthfulness. The Mediterranean diet, for example, has extensive support in both observational and intervention research detailing substantial benefit, particularly for cardiovascular disease but also other diseases as well [5].

We chose a whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) nutritional approach that strictly excluded animal-based foods and minimized processed foods, including all edible oils, for the intervention. This iteration of a plant-based diet was chosen based on evidence of the beneficial treatment effect of a low-fat, WFPB diet on a variety of chronic diseases. Interventions consisting of a whole-food, plant-based diet, alone or accompanied by other lifestyle changes, have demonstrated angiographic reversal of atherosclerotic lesions in ischemic heart disease [6][7], reduction in prostate specific antigen levels and less progression to treatment in men with low-grade prostate cancer choosing ‘watchful waiting’ [8], improved glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus [9], and reductions in symptoms and inflammatory markers in rheumatoid arthritis [10][11]. The duration of these interventions ranged from 4 weeks [11] to one or more years (12 months [6][8], 13 months [10], 72 months [9], 5 years [7]). All but one [10] included a group education component. Mean weight loss in these interventions ranged from 3 to 5.76 kg. Improvements in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels were measured in each intervention in which cholesterol was assessed [6][7][8][9].

Our goal for the design and implementation of this intervention was to establish a medically supervised behavioral intervention that would aid participants in weight loss and the reduction of cardiac risk factors by providing the knowledge and skills, peer and clinical support needed for the adoption of a WFPB diet.

Our goal for the design and implementation of this intervention was to establish a medically supervised behavioral intervention that would aid participants in weight loss and the reduction of cardiac risk factors by providing the knowledge and skills, peer and clinical support needed for the adoption of a WFPB diet. In this article, we reviewed the outcomes of this intervention in the form of a program evaluation.


Our findings suggest that a group program in a primary care setting, utilizing an ad libitum whole-food plant-based diet without calorie counting or portion control, mandated exercise or stress management, resulted in short-term benefits, including weight loss and reductions in blood pressure and blood cholesterol in highly motivated participants, including those who were already vegetarian or vegan.

To read the rest of this published paper please visit: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/9/2068/htm


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