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A Vegan Diet May Decrease This Health Complication In Older Adults, Study Finds

Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer By Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
Eliza Sullivan is a food writer and SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She studied journalism at Boston University.
Overhead Photo of Vegan Quinoa Bowl with Almonds and Cherry Tomatoes

Veganism seems to be continuously getting more and more popular—this month marks World Vegan Month, kicked off with World Vegan Day on November 1.

People opt to follow a vegan diet for a number of reasons, including the array of potential science-backed health benefits associated with the eating style. In fact, a study recently published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine linked a vegan diet with health in seniors through an interesting metric: polypharmacy.

Another possible perk to veganism.

The research investigated the link between diet and polypharmacy—where a person takes five (or more) prescribed medications—and found a vegan diet reduced the number of pills a person was prescribed by 58% when compared to a non-vegetarian diet.

The study included 328 participants (all aged 60-plus), who answered questionnaires and went in for measurements at the Loma Linda University Drayson Center in Loma Linda, California—which is one of the Blue Zones, as noted by Dan Buettner.

Other factors that affected the prevalence of polypharmacy included age, body mass index (BMI), and presence of preexisting diseases, with BMI having a "significant" impact on the number of prescriptions people had, as well.

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The benefits of eating a vegan diet.

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Previously, plant-based diets have been associated with better heart health. Studies have found skipping meat in a diet can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, plus decrease the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It has also been linked to improvements in blood glucose levels for those with diabetes or prediabetes, and better digestion and gut health. Given how integral all these systems are to overall health, and the fact that they sometimes are associated with medication, it makes sense that the diet and its subsequent health benefits may lead to a lower number of prescriptions.

Of course, a plant-based diet and a vegan diet are not exactly the same: Plant-based refers to eating a lot more plants and focusing on whole foods, but not necessarily cutting out meat entirely—while a vegan diet may include processed foods that are vegan-friendly but never includes animal products. For the most part, however, it seems following either of these diets can have a positive impact on overall health and well-being

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