A small group of nurses who swapped to a vegan diet that was tailored to their personal situation showed health benefits after just three weeks, claimed the US researchers behind the study.
Their idea was that, by participating in a nutrition educational programme, nurses would improve their knowledge of plant-based nutrition and experience first-hand the benefits of such a diet.
“We miss the point when we give generic advice and suggestions”
Researchers from the department of nursing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, tested the diet on 19 nurse volunteers who worked at community health clinics.
The nurses in the programme achieved metabolic benefits without counting calories, measuring portion sizes, or adhering to strict rules.
They received support through weekly webinars with a nutrition expert, who answered questions about day-to-day challenges, provided advice about nutrient intake and cooking procedures, and offered feedback about how to integrate options for family and friends into every meal.
Participants could also sign up to receive free daily emails with meal-planning advice that provided participants with dietitian-created meal plans, grocery shopping lists, inspirational tips, videos of cooking demos and grocery store tours, and a free iPhone app.
After 21 days, 74%of the nurses – 14 out of 19 – lowered their cholesterol, with a mean average of 0.9mmol/L (18mg/dL), while six lowered their cholesterol by 2.5 to 3.3mmol/L (45 to 60mg/dL).
More than half lost weight, with an average weight loss of 1.9kg (4.4lbs), with a range of 0.8 to 4kg (1.5 to 9lbs).
In addition, 30% reported gaining energy and 41% reported feeling highly satisfied with their health, compared to one nurse who reported doing so before the dietary modification.
After the programme concluded, the nurses self-reported an uptick in fruit and vegetable consumption, while meat and dairy consumption fell.
“Proper nutrition is an important but often overlooked component of preventive care and disease management,” noted the study authors in the American Journal of Nursing.
Vegan diet proves beneficial to health in study of nurses
“Following a plant-based diet in particular has been shown to have dramatic effects on health and well-being in a relatively short period of time,” they said.
The authors concluded that the programme had the potential to “influence a larger nursing audience as participants apply their knowledge and experience to patient care”.
Lead study author Joanne Evans, a nursing consultant who specialises in plant-based nutrition, said: “A plant-based diet provides a healthful template for all patients, but what I find works best is personalising the approach.
“We miss the point when we give generic advice and suggestions,” she said. “I recommend clinicians do a nutritional assessment, learn what the patient eats on a daily basis, find out their food preferences, discover their challenges, and create personalized solutions.”