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Nutrition Guidelines Around the World All Agree: Plant-Based Foods Help Treat and Prevent Disease

A new study from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine found close alignment among nutrition guidelines from around the world, emphasizing the health benefits of plant-based diets for the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases.


In response to the conflicting dietary guidance in public discourse, a recent study conducted by the American College of Lifestyle Medicine provides clarity on the benefits of plant-based foods for chronic disease prevention and treatment. The study, published in Advances in Nutrition, compared dozens of nutrition and dietary guidelines from around the world and found close alignment on the importance of plant-based food groups.


Dr. Beth Frates, the study's author and clinical assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, notes the confusion created by fad diets and pseudo-expert advice, which can lead to insufficient nutritional education for both patients and physicians. "Clinicians depend on clinical practice guidelines developed from the most current and rigorous medical research to help steer their diagnoses, treatment and management of common chronic diseases," says Frates. "The results of this comprehensive review of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines are important because they can benefit both clinicians and their patients by reducing the variability in dietary and nutrition guidance that often prevents clinicians from providing optimal care."


The investigation reviewed 78 clinical practice guidelines developed by governments, major medical professional societies, and large health stakeholder associations to improve the health of adults with chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The study's primary focus was on dietary patterns, food groups, and food components, as well as macronutrient and micronutrient recommendations.



According to the analysis, almost three-quarters of clinical practice guidelines suggested including or increasing intake of vegetables, which was the most recommended food group for disease prevention and treatment. None of the guidelines recommended excluding or reducing vegetables from a patient's diet. Following vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes were the most commonly recommended foods.


Red meat, processed meat, and refined whole grains were commonly recommended to avoid, and 62 percent of the guidelines recommended excluding, decreasing, or limiting alcohol consumption, while 56 percent instructed patients to limit salt or sodium, and 35 percent suggested avoiding vegetable oil.



Kelly Cara, MS, a doctoral student at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, emphasized the consensus on the health benefits of plant-based foods among nutrition guidelines worldwide. These benefits, Cara said, are critical as rates of obesity and related chronic conditions continue to rise. "Patients look to healthcare professionals for dietary guidance, so it is critical that physicians are fully informed and confident when offering recommendations to patients in order to provide the best outcomes. We hope the results of this study will assist physicians in developing the foundation of knowledge needed to achieve those outcomes."


Overall, the study provides clear evidence for the health benefits of a plant-based diet and supports the importance of dietary guidance for chronic disease prevention and treatment. By aligning dietary recommendations worldwide, physicians can provide consistent and optimal care for their patients.



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