The American Society for Nutrition held their annual meeting in Boston this past weekend (June 9-11). One of the biggest headlines to come of this meeting was from a presentation by Maximino Alfredo Mejia, DrPH, who is an associate professor at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan. Dr Mejia presented that certain diet and lifestyle changes can completely lower blood pressure without medications with the help of an 18-day intensive program (NEWSTART Program). This NEWSTART Lifestyle Program is an acronym for nutrition, exercise, water, sunshine, temperance, air, rest, and trust in the divine power. Each time the program has been studied, the program was followed for 18 days for the study. The program called for a vegan diet, daily outside walks, substantial quantities of water, adequate sleep and optional spiritual activities. While the study is yet to be published, a press release state that participants lowered blood pressure without blood pressure medications by an average of 14%. Their blood pressure is now within a normal range, below 120 mmHg.
This diet is not brand new. In 2004, researchers in Maryland studied this lifestyle program (NEWSTART) and its impact on diabetes and weight (Henry & Kalynovskyl, 2004). The nutrition pattern being followed in a low-fat (10-15% of total calories), high-fiber, vegan diet. The diet however does include healthy fats such as olives, nuts, and avocados. There were over 300 participants in the program when it was first studied, but only 311 replied to the survey, of which only 20 had obesity and diabetes. On average, for those with diabetes, blood sugar improved by 20% (from 150 mg/dL to 120 mg/ dL) in 3 months, and 40% of the group was taken off of diabetes medication. Total cholesterol also dropped 20% (from 201 mg/dL to 161 mg/dL). There was a significant weight loss of 8-9% body weight in just 3 months (an average of 21 lbs) (Henry & Kalynovskyl, 2004). While the changes of transitioning to a vegan diet, spending time exercising outside, and building faith in a divine power can be big life changes, the science proves that their implementation in worthwhile for your health.
While intensive programs like these show promising results in a short amount of time, they do not sawnser whether or not those results are maintained with this challenge-type programs. With the help of a dietitian or nutrition coach, people tend to be more successful at adapting these quick fix challenges into long term habits that lead to long term results. Long term results from following the NEWSTART program recommendations are yet to be published. Questions to consider are: would a larger group of people studied show the same results as this relatively small subset? Is this a lifestyle that can be followed long term and keep the results of lower blood pressure, improved blood sugar control, and lower body weights? Anybody can do anything for 18 days. The question is: Do you have the tools to help you to be able to do it for a lifetime?
Henry, B., & Kalynovskyl, S. (2004). Reversing Diabetes and Obesity Naturally: A NEWSTART Lifestyle Program. The Diabetes Educator, 30(1), 48-59.