Plant-Based Initiatives in the U.S. and Canada

Plant-Based Initiatives in the U.S. and Canada

Spring 2017, Living Well Magazine

In June 2017, The American Medical Association’s House of Delegates passed the resolution for hospitals in the United States to provide plant-based meals that are low in fat, sodium and added sugars, to remove cancer-causing (Group 1, carcinogenic) processed meats from their menus, and to promote healthful, non-sugar sweetened beverages, in a measure to offer health-improving nutrition to their patients, staff and visitors.

The resolution, which was co-sponsored by the Medical Society of the District of Columbia and the American College of Cardiology, was publically commended by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine – a non-profit organization made up of 12,000 medical doctors – for it’s evidence-based proactive approach to prevention, and in some cases reversal, of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer.

In a Physician’s Committee Press Release, dated 21st June, James Loomis, M.D., M.B.A., and medical director of the Barnard Medical Center, commented:

“Hospitals that provide and promote fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans are likely to reduce readmissions, speed recovery times, and measurably improve the long-term health of visitors, patients, and staff.”

Similarly, the Goverment of Canada (Health Canada) recently released an evidence-based draft of their ‘Guiding Principles and Recommendations’ for Healthy Eating, with plant-based wholefoods leading the charge.

In addition to promoting the regular consumption of vegetables, fruit and whole grains, the guidelines also prioritise plant-based sources of protein – such as legumes, nuts and seeds – above animal sources; and warn people about negative health implications of consuming sugary beverages, and processed or prepared foods high in saturated fats, sodium or sugars.

The proposed new ‘principles and recommendations’, which were last updated in 2007, have been the result of a multi-stage, multi-year initiative to reduce the incidences of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer; and to reduce the number of adults (currently 1 in 5) living with chronic diseases, and the number of children (currently 1 in 3) overweight or obese in Canada.

Starting with a thorough analysis of high quality, peer-reviewed, systematic reviews, and reports from leading scientific and government organisations, development of the guidelines also included feedback from stakeholders and Canadians through a series of open consultations, discussion forums and focus groups.

Health Canada declined meeting with representatives from the food and beverage industry, during the development of the guidelines, instead welcoming their participation through the formal open consultations process, stating:

“While the food and beverage industry has a role to play in improving the quality of the foods and beverages they manufacture and promote, we must ensure that the development of dietary guidance is free from conflict of interest.”

The final stage of open consultation – which asked for feedback on the proposed new guidelines – concluded in the middle of August 2017. Between early 2018 and 2019 Canada will begin rolling out the finalised initiatives, including a variety of new tools and approaches to better communicate the healthy eating guidelines to members of the general public, policy makers and health professionals.