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The Latest on Telemedicine and Plant-Based Diets

The Latest on Telemedicine and Plant-Based Diets

The popularity of both are rising, but are they really better for you?

Q: When my daughter came down with pink eye, I downloaded the Cleveland Clinic’s Express Care app and, wow! We got to see a doctor online; he diagnosed Sasha’s problem and called in a prescription to our pharmacy. So, who else is doing this and what other conditions can I use this for? — Holly W., Warrensville Hts., OH

A: It’s pretty great, isn’t it? Every day, more and more people are getting comfortable with telemedicine. Now you can see a doctor in the privacy of your own home on your phone, tablet or laptop. Video consults run between $0 and $100 or more depending on your insurance. Besides Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic (Express Care is used by Ohioans and people from 46 other states and several foreign countries), Dr. Oz’s New York-Presbyterian has the NYP OnDemand app for NY state residents to access New York-Presbyterian, Columbia Doctors and Weill Cornell Medicine. And new programs and applications across the country pop up every day.

You can use telemedicine for non-life threatening illnesses that range from conjunctivitis (pink eye) and respiratory issues to minor cuts and burns or stomach upsets. Also, Dr. Mike was one of the first to use telemedicine for smoking cessation, diet and exercise.

Another impressive development is happening in Washington State. Veteran suicides happen at a rate of 20 a day, and 14 of those are never seen by the VA. The Cohen Veterans Network of clinics (they have seven around the country providing outpatient mental healthcare to veterans and military families) will soon offer low- or no-cost telehealth mental health services across Washington state and then in Florida and California—very needed and smart! Telemedicine is also a huge benefit for folks in rural communities who have a difficult time getting to a doctor or accessing a specialist. Folks can find a telemedicine service by contacting their insurance company (some have their own service) and local medical centers.

Q: There’s a guy in my office who is vegetarian, but, and this is a big but, he’s overweight and doesn’t move around very well. I thought I might try being vegetarian, but what’s up with that? — Joannie D., Gainesville, FL

A: Chances are your co-worker isn’t eating high-quality vegetarian food and is lacking essential nutrients. Being a vegetarian is no guarantee that you’ll eat healthfully—after all, you could live on boxed mac ‘n’ cheese and fries and still claim to be a veg-head! Interestingly, a study from Harvard’s T. H. Chang School of Public Health tracked more than 125,000 adults over a four-year period and found eating unhealthy plant-based foods, like fries, refined grains or sugary juices, cancels out a plant-based diet’s benefits and puts you at an even higher risk of health problems, starting with significant weight gain.

That sounds like your co-worker to us. But don’t let his poor choices put you off a plant-based diet that’s filled with colorful, unprocessed, low-saturated-fat foods. A new Dutch study of more than 6,000 people found those who ate more plant-based protein (plants contain great protein—especially when you eat a variety of colors and lots of whole grains, nuts and legumes) had a lower risk of developing coronary artery disease. Another new Brazilian study of more than 4,500 people also found that a plant-based protein diet provided more arterial protection than an animal-based protein diet. The same study showed that not only were diets rich in high-quality, plant-based foods associated with less weight gain, but better plant choices also lowered a person’s risk of premature death by 30 percent.

There are heart-stopping, cancer-promoting, highly processed “vegetarian” foods out there, from canned soups with refined grains to microwavable dinners that are full of preservatives, salt, added sugars and trans fats. So stick with fresh, unprocessed foods and healthy oils like EVOO. (If you sneak animal protein, stick with skinless poultry and fish like salmon and ocean trout.)

Medically reviewed in April 2020.

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