Dr Hamed Kamali
I graduated from Peninsula Medical School, Devon in 2010. Like every doctor, I graduated wanting to make a difference. I wanted to save lives and prevent suffering. My path led me to work in areas such as anaesthetics, A&E and Intensive Care. I realised that the events that lead to a patient becoming unwell can start very early and is often linked to the lifestyle that we lead, the foods that we eat. That led me to a career in general practice. Before any signs of disease have even begun I want to halt its progression. The evidence of the power of plant-based diet in preventing, treating and even reversing some of our biggest killers is overwhelming. My goal is still the same as it was when I graduated. But now I am very clear that the key to saving lives, to prevent suffering begins on our plates. I’ve been vegan myself since 2015.
A guest blog from plant-based medic, Dr Hamed Kamali
It seems there is loads of confusing information everywhere about vegan diets, and whether they are good or bad. My own philosophy is to eat as much fresh, whole food as possible, with a bit of a cheat now and then with processed meat alternatives if you fancy it! But it’s good to base your choices on sound info, so I’m asking a few experts to share facts to help everyone get their head around the options in plant-based food. Our first guest is Dr Hamed Kamali – a vegan doctor who is also a fitness fanatic like me, so he knows the plant-based score! Over to you Hamed.
“I became a doctor for the same reasons that I became an advocate for a plant-based diet. I believe that the route to living a long and healthy life is not through medical intervention; there is no pill or surgical procedure which can impact your well being like a healthy diet and exercise.
The principles of a plant-based diet hark back to all the fundamentals of a healthy diet that we already knew. Eating whole foods which are high in nutrients will support a healthy lifestyle, help us lose weight and prevent us from developing some of our biggest killers; heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes.
The most common reason my patients change their diet is to lose weight. The lengths that people will go to, to achieve weight loss could include medical interventions such as anti-obesity pills, surgery or crash diets. All of these do work for weight loss but they are not sustainable and not without risk. Importantly, they often lead to people feeling worse!
A whole foods plant-based diet is naturally low in fat and contains no cholesterol. The foods themselves tend to be less calorie dense so you can eat a lot of food for fewer calories. There’s no need for a gastric band or a crash diet when you can fill up with nutrient-rich whole foods and still lose weight!
Get all the good stuff and none of the bad
Do you suffer from fatigue, low mood or poor concentration? Are you worried about deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals? Well, you should be…but not because of a plant-based diet. 6% of people in the UK under 60 are deficient in B12 and in the over 60 population this rises to 20%1. Iron deficiency affects 5% of the UK population and in non-pregnant women, anaemia (low blood count) due to low iron is present in 14% of cases. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are present in all dietary groups and are a result of changes in farming practice and our modern diet. Irrespective of what diet you eat there is a risk of developing a deficiency.
However, a meat-free diet is associated with a higher intake of fibre, vitamins A, C and E, thiamin, folate, riboflavin, calcium, magnesium and potassium but with lower intake of total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol2.
A well planned plant-based diet shouldn’t leave you with any deficiencies especially as only 2 glasses of fortified soya milk a day will provide 80% of recommended daily intake of B12!
But what about protein? People on a plant-based diet get plenty of protein, in fact, on average twice the minimum daily recommended amount of protein3 Not only that, but plant-based foods are good quality sources of protein with complete amino acid profiles4.
Increase your life span and, your health span.
“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand”.
Inherited conditions, gender and age are just some of the things we cannot control. However, we have complete control over the foods we eat which, over time play such a pivotal role in the development of disease. A few plant-based diet facts for you, along with the scientific references:
- A plant-based diet can help prevent, treat or even reverse some of our biggest killers such as heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes5.
- People who eat a plant-based diet have a fraction of the rate of diabetes as those who regularly eat meat. We also know that each step towards a plant-based diet and every reduction in animal product intake reduces risk further6.
- The American heart association acknowledges that eating less meat decreases the risk of: heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type II diabetes and many cancers, however, a plant-based diet can do one better. A whole foods plant-based diet has been shown to even reverse the clogging up of our arteries which leads to heart attack and stroke7.
“Research has shown that every step towards a plant-based diet is beneficial for your health.”
You don’t need to go vegan overnight. Don’t let the pursuit of perfection get in the way of your progress. Research has shown that every step towards a plant-based diet is beneficial for your health. This is not only because of the foods you will be eating but also because of the foods that you will be cutting out.
The latin phrase ‘Pimum non nocere’ is a guiding principle for all doctors. It means – First, do no harm. The first step towards improving your health should be changing your diet, not taking potentially harmful medication.
A well structured plant-based diet can prevent, treat and even reverse some of the diseases which are most likely to shorten our lives or prevent us from living them to the fullest.”
Dr Hamed Kamali
- B. Farmer, B. T. Larson, V. L. Fulgoni III, A. J. Rainville, G. U. Liepa. A vegetarian dietary pattern as a nutrient-dense approach to weight management: An analysis of the national health and nutrition examination survey 1999-2004. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 111(6):819 – 827.
- N Rizzo, K Jaceldo-Siegl, J Sabate, G E Fraser. Nutrient Profiles of Vegetarian and Nonvegetarian Dietary Patterns. Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2013 Dec;113(12):1610–1619.
- McDougall J. Plant Foods Have a Complete Amino Acid Composition. Circulation. 2002 Jun 25;105(25):e197; author reply e197.
- P J Tuso, M H Ismail, B P Ha, C Bartolotto. Nutritional update for physicians: Plant-based diets. Perm J 2013 17(2):61 – 66.
- S Tonstad, K Stewart, K Oda, M Batech, R P Herring, G E Fraser. Vegetarian diets and incidence of diabetes in the Adventist Health Study-2. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2013 Apr;23(4):292-9.
- Esselstyn CB Jr, Gendy G, Doyle J, Golubic M, Roizen MF. A way to reverse CAD? J Fam Pract. 2014 Jul;63(7):356-364b.