A recent San Francisco Chronicle commentary written by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., and Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., points out that America’s current health care debate focuses almost exclusively on who gets covered and who pays, rather than on curtailing the rising rates of chronic disease. Drs. Campbell and Esselstyn assert that while extending coverage to more people is a good thing, the number one cause and cure of America’s health care crisis is diet–and that a wholesome plant-based diet can prevent and in many cases reverse chronic diseases.
Why then, don’t vegans get discounted health insurance in America?
Meat, eggs, and dairy products are high in saturated fat and cholesterol; consumption of these products contributes to many of the health problems that have sent America’s health care costs skyrocketing. Some of the most common–and expensive–medical conditions, including heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes–are caused or aggravated by eating animal products.
A representative of Premera Blue Cross has said, “The connection between a vegetarian diet and reducing the costs of these high-impact health conditions is clear as a bell.” Health insurance companies in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands offer discounted rates for vegetarians. Shouldn’t U.S. health insurance carriers also “reward” clients who have healthy habits that reduce the risk of chronic diseases?
Vegan foods are cholesterol-free, low in saturated fat, and high in fiber, complex carbohydrates, and phytochemicals, which knock out carcinogens and fight inflammation. Research shows that vegetarians and vegans are far less likely to develop cancer and heart disease than meat-eaters are, and that a vegan diet can help combat obesity and diabetes.
There are lean, disease-free meat-eaters, of course, just as there are heavy vegans with health problems, but studies show that, on average, vegetarians and vegans are at least 10 percent leaner, and live six to 10 years longer, than meat-eaters.
Dr. Campbell says, “Quite simply, the more you substitute plant foods for animal foods, the healthier you are likely to be. … A vegan diet–particularly one that is low in fat–will substantially reduce disease risks. Plus, we’ve seen no disadvantages from veganism. In every respect, vegans appear to enjoy equal or better health in comparison to both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.”
That doesn’t mean that a vegan can sit around and smoke cigarettes all day, of course. We must all make sensible, responsible lifestyle choices in order to be healthy. While the logistics of offering vegans reduced rates may preclude some insurance companies from doing so, such a move might finally convince people that it pays to be vegan.