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Health & Exercise Forum

Vegetarianism & One Doctor's Attempt at Being a Healthy Role-Model: Part 1 of 3

Dec 2, 2013

Vegetarianism & One Doctor's Attempt to Be Healthy Role-Model: Part 1 of 3

by Luana J Hossain, MS3, TCMC, and Paul J Mackarey, PT, DHSc, OCS

This column is written in celebration of Dr. Jennifer Sidari’s life. Dr. Sidari, a native of Pittston, was a member of the first class to graduate from The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) and truly represented everything that is good about TCMC and NEPA. Dr. Sidari passed away unexpectedly in May of 2013. She was bright, strong, genuine, energetic and compassionate. She was a breath of fresh air and lit up any room she entered; her positive spirit was contagious. Her classmate, Luana Hossain and I spent many hours with her, collaborating on ideas, projects, drafts, and columns for the Healthcare Journalism Club at TCMC. Her presence is deeply missed by our group and everyone who knew her.

Healthy Role Model

Dr. Sidari, as described by her classmates, was an amazing friend with an infectious smile. She was an inspiring colleague who embarked on new undertakings with a sparkle in her eye and unwavering enthusiasm. Her spirit for adventure was boundless and she loved a challenge. One day in her third year of medical school, she excitedly proclaimed that she was going to be vegan after watching a documentary about the benefits of avoiding animal products. In order to help promote a healthy diet and lifestyle in her patients, she felt the need to experience the trials and tribulations of such a way of life firsthand. However, Dr. Sidari also valued balance, understanding, and kindness. She would have been pleased with any attempt to improve one’s life and lifestyle. Thus, while she chose a vegan lifestyle, it will be the purpose of this series of columns to educate the public about all forms of vegetarianism and inspire our readers to make just one healthy change in her honor.

“Why vegan?”

Vegetarianism is truly a lifestyle, not just a diet fad. For vegans, without proper education and preparation, cutting out meat, cheese and dairy might lead to eating a lot of pasta and potatoes. Deciding to pursue produce, nuts, seeds and grains for nourishment instead of a just a meatless diet means wiping the menu board clean and establishing an entirely new and different approach to food. And, while this worked for someone with Dr. Jen’s determination and discipline, it may not be the best choice for all. A simple vegetarian diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts and fish without any red meat is appropriate for some. For others, a well-balanced Mediterranean diet, consisting of fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and fish, with limited amounts of red meat and red wine is best.  Limiting meat consumption to one day a week is an admirable first step.

But the cheese…“Vegan? Really?” “Yup,” she replied pushing away the cheese and crackers arranged temptingly on the paper plate. “It’s not that bad, the only thing I really crave is cheese.” Jen’s gaze lingered on the cheese cubes for just a moment more and I could almost hear her appetite screaming, Eat it!, but her determination won, as it usually did. Instead, she delved into the rationale for becoming vegan.

The primary motive for Dr. Jennifer Sidari’s journey into veganism, the strictest form of vegetarianism, relates to her study of medicine:

The documentary, Forks Over Knives, set the wheels in motion. Led by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the Cleveland Clinic and Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional scientist at Cornell University, the film investigated the possible health effects of eating animal protein, including a potential link with cancer and heart disease. The pair’s research seemed to suggest that there was a link between animal protein and disease.

The American Heart Association showed in 2010 that red meat, specifically, contributes to increased heart disease risk. The American Journal of Gastroenterology included a 2012 study that found an increase in inflammatory bowel disease, like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, in those who had a diet high in saturated fats, meat, and several other dietary lipids.

Health is a common reason people choose a meat-free diet. Former President Bill Clinton adopted a vegan diet to improve his heart health on his doctor’s advice after a heart procedure in 2010, preceded by quadruple bypass coronary artery surgery in 2004.

Additional reasons to make the diet change include animal welfare, religious indications, environmental burden of supporting livestock and large crops, and even taste preference.

For more information about the benefits of a vegetarian diet:

Next week the history and different types of vegetarianism

Guest Columnist, Luana Hossain, 3rd Year Medical Student, TCMC,:

Embarking on her third year as a medical student at The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) on Pine Street in Scranton, Luana aims to practice obstetrics and gynecology in an urban underserved region. She is the youngest of three girls and, though born in Switzerland, she has lived on both coasts of the US. Luana received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science and Anthropology from the University of Virginia, where she was also the section editor of the university paper’s Health and Science section. She is currently the president of TCMC’s Healthcare in Journalism Club and one of four class officers. When she needs a break from studying, Luana loves to do anything outdoors, travel, and cook for her friends. She grew up speaking German and English, and picked up Spanish and some French along the way as well.

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.

Read “Health & Exercise Forum” – Next Monday read Part 2 of 3 on Vegetarianism- One doctor’s attempt at...  This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: