BY LENKA J. ZAJIC
Inspired by her own positive experiences going raw, Zajic went on to obtain a Masters in Vegan and Live Food Nutrition from the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Arizona, where she conducted an in-depth 500-participant survey of raw foodists. The study’s findings showed that people who followed an 80 to 90% raw foods diet for 2 years reported marked improvements in immunity, digestion, allergies, weight moderation, chronic illness, and mental, and emotional well-being.
Says Zajic, “There seems to be no question that, at least initially, eating a raw foods diet can reduce or cure many health complaints.”
The purpose of this study was to examine the dietary practices, attitudes, and experiences of U.S. and international individuals who have been practicing the raw foods diet for at least two years. The hope was to identify any significant positive and negative trends existing within this segment of the population, thereby furthering the understanding and refinement of the diet for both raw foods leaders and educators as well as for the general public and providing the impetus to conduct more detailed and specific scientific research in areas of concern and/or lack of knowledge regarding the live foods diet.
The study designed was a descriptive survey, using a self-administered, predominantly on-line questionnaire. The primary areas of interest were: respondents’ personal information, their first introduction to and subsequent journey on a raw foods diet, diet and eating habits, overall physical health, weight fluctuations, women’s issues, mental/emotional/spiritual health, and exercise and physical activity. Analysis was text-based and simple descriptive survey statistics were calculated.
In brief, the survey was begun by 864 self-reported two-year plus raw-foodists of various ages and nationalities. For three and a half months, the survey was open to the public on-line. Hard copies were also available and collected. Ultimately, the survey was completed by over 525 people. Results showed consistent improvement in virtually all areas examined, most notably in immunity, elimination, allergies, over or underweight, chronic illness, and mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
The following are the primary improvements observed in the categories of “Personal Information”, “Diet and Eating Habits”, “Weight”, “Overall Physical Health”, “Exercise/Physical Activity”, “Women’s Issues”, and “Mental/Emotional/Spiritual Health” of the Living Examples Survey:
Out of the 864 respondents who began the survey, 66.2% were female and 33.8% were male. Therefore, there were roughly twice as many female respondents as there were male. Although there are other factors that may have contributed to the higher percentage of female respondents, it is relatively safe to conclude that there exist a larger number of female raw-foodists than male. These observations have been confirmed by both long-term live foods teachers Gabriel Cousens, M.D. and David Wolfe.
Diet and Eating Habits
With regards to eating habits, the frequency of overeating among respondents shows a definite and significant decrease since they adopted a live foods diet. Those who reported NEVER overeating increased in number from 7% before live foods to 34% after live foods, and those who reported overeating only once or twice per week increased from 35% to 54%. This may possibly be attributed to the high nutritional and water content of living foods as well an increased visual and taste stimulation provided by fresh living foods. Also, there seems to have been an overall decrease in the number of respondents reporting eating disorders before and after adopting a live foods diet, with the percentage of respondents reporting NO eating disorder on a live foods diet rising from 61% to 82%.
In terms of dieting and weight changes, the percentage of respondents who reported NEVER dieting since transitioning to a live foods diet rose from 44.4% to 71.6%. The number that reported dieting “very often” before live foods dropped from 24.7% to 12.4% after live foods. 82.5% of respondents lost weight after switching to a live foods diet. 75% of those not already at their ideal weight reported reaching it after transitioning to a live foods diet. 56% reported re-gaining some of that weight, although most of those people (57%) only regained 25% or less of the weight they initially lost. This seems to have occurred primarily within the first two years on a live foods diet (89%). Of the 4% of respondents who gained weight after transitioning to live foods, 57% remained at that higher weight. Most (62%) of those that re-lost weight they initially gained on live foods lost 25% or less. This weight gain seems to have occurred primarily within the first 6 months (65%). Overall, 82% of respondents who were not at their ideal weight before live foods reported being closer to their optimal weight since transitioning to a live foods diet.
Overall Physical Health
The survey results indicate a definite decrease in the overall amount of sleep needed by respondents since transitioning to a live foods diet. Those who reported needing over 8 hours sleep/night dropped from 59% to 19% Those who need 6-8 hours sleep/night rose from 36% from 64% and those who now need even fewer hours (6 or less) sleep/night rose from 6% to 16%. There was also a significant improvement in sleep quality among respondents with the percentage of those who reported no insomnia rising from 40% to 59% since transitioning to live foods.
Respondents reported improvement in all skin conditions surveyed, namely eczema, skin eruptions, dryness, oiliness, and susceptibility to sunburns. An overall improvement was seen in all aspects of hair health, such as increased strength/thickness and luster, and decreased thinness/weakness, oiliness, dryness, dullness, and dandruff. There was an overall improvement in nail health, such as increased strength and decreased brittleness, chipping, ridges, and fungus. The number of respondents experiencing body odor after adopting a live foods diet decreased sharply, with the number reporting no body odor whatsoever rising from 12% to 52%! There was also a significant increase in respondents who reported never or rarely having bad breath – from 32% to 83%! There was a moderate decrease in the number of respondents who reported perspiring easily after transitioning to a live foods diet – down from 51% to 41%.
Results show slightly higher numbers of respondents reporting a “good” or “excellent” sense of sight (from 56% to 69%), touch (from 84% – 97%), and hearing (from 77% to 88%) on a live foods diet, and significantly higher numbers reporting a “good” or “excellent” sense of smell (from 68% to 93%) and taste (from 68% to 97%) on a live foods diet.
Almost half of respondents did not know their resting heart rate before and after live foods but among those who knew that information, the percentage with resting heart rates between 60-70 bpm or less rose from 26% to 42%, and the percentage of those with resting heart rates higher than 70 bpm dropped from 19% to 9%. Again, about half of respondents did not know their blood pressure before and after live foods, but among those who did, there seems to have been a move towards normalization of blood pressure at 140/74 or less. Of the 81% of respondents who were aware of their cholesterol levels before and after live foods, there was a 24% increase in those who reported having normal cholesterol levels on live foods. With regards to circulation, 62% of respondents reported poor circulation before live foods and only 29% reported it after live foods, a decrease of 53%! This indicates the significant benefit of a live foods diet in this important area.
The number of respondents who reported having NO post-meal symptoms rose from 8% before live foods to 46% after live foods. Each of the nine post-meal symptoms surveyed showed a significant reduction on a live foods diet, especially bloating, indigestion, and fatigue/weakness. Results show a significantly decreased number of respondents (from 79% before live foods to 51% after live foods) who felt their appetite was “strong” or “excessive”.
Elimination appears to improve dramatically on a live foods diet, as indicated by the number of respondents who reported two or more bowel movements per day increasing from 25% to 78%! The number of respondents experiencing constipation decreased sharply from 73% to 30%, hemorrhoids from 33% to 18%, bladder/kidney infections from 23% to 7%, and foul-smelling stool from 57% to 23%. The percentage of people reporting diarrhea, however, remained about the same before and on a live foods diet. Laxative usage seems to decrease on a live foods diet, with the number of respondents who indicated they never use them increasing from 68% to 81%. Of interest here is that the percentage of respondents taking enemas rose from 26% to 63% on a live foods diet. The percentage of respondents who reported using over-the-counter laxative products dropped from 36% to 2%.
Immunity to colds, flu’s, and infections showed a tremendous improvement on a live foods diet, with 53% of respondents reporting getting sick easily before live foods and only 3% after live foods, a dramatic decrease of 93.4%!
Exercise and Physical Activity
The survey results show a dramatic increase in energy levels among respondents since transitioning to live foods, specifically from 31% to 88% in those who reported having “good” or “excellent” energy levels! Cardiovascular endurance improved for 67% of respondents on a live foods diet versus worsening or staying the same. Flexibility improved for 73%, and muscular strength for 58%. Again, these improvements were largely attributed to the change in diet (88%) and the natural by-product of that change in diet, “physical health” (54%). Arthritis/joint problems, muscle stiffness, back/neck pain, sciatica, and muscle cramping all showed improvement on a live foods diet. The number of respondents who selected “not applicable” (i.e. did not experience any of these conditions), rose by 88%! Respondents seem to be exercising more on a live foods diet than they did previously. 67% indicated they do so “every other day” or “daily” versus 46% before live foods. Furthermore, they report feeling “good” or “uplifted/invigorated” after exercise in larger numbers (89% versus 56%).
Interesting to note is that the percentage of respondents describing the condition of their teeth as “good” or “excellent” rose from 51% to 68%, with most attributing it to diet (43.5%) and oral hygiene practices (23.6%). Tooth sensitivity also seems to decrease on a live foods diet, indicated by a drop from 73% to 52% in the number of respondents who experience it “sometimes” or “often”. There was a drop from 49% to 25% in the number of respondents who reported receding, inflamed, or bleeding gums.
A live foods diet may have a significant effect on the rate of addiction. There was a 62% increase (from 44% to 75%) in the number of respondents who felt they were “addiction-free” on a live foods diet! There were decreases in all specific areas of addiction surveyed (alcohol, smoking, eating, drugs, sex, and other).
A live foods diet seems to be significantly responsible for a sharp decrease in medication use. Results show a marked reduction in virtually all categories surveyed. Most significant were the reduced numbers of respondents reporting the use of antacids (from 20.3% to 1.3%), antibiotics (from 31.6% to 0.6%), antidepressants (from 15.1% to 6.9%), anti-fungals (from 9.6% to 0.6%), aspirin/ibuprofen (from 34.9% to 5%), recreational drugs (from 20.9% to 11.3%), and tylenol/acetaminophen (from 18.7% to 3.8%). One category that actually showed increased use among respondents after transitioning to a live foods diet was thyroid medication, which rose from 8.5% to 14.5%.
Results show a substantial decrease in the number of respondents reporting allergies on a live foods diet in all categories surveyed (food, animal, grasses/trees/pollen, dust/mites/mold, chemical, other). Overall, 52.5% (from 40% to 61%) more respondents reported being allergy-free after switching to a live foods diet.
There was a decrease in the number of respondents reporting chronic illness on a live foods diet in all categories surveyed with the exception of thyroid disorders which showed a slight increase (however, the small number of respondents for that category makes it difficult to draw any firm conclusions). Most notable was the increase by 68% in the number of respondents reporting NO chronic illness “after live foods”. Also of great significance was the reduction in the number of respondents reporting chronic fatigue (from 16% to 3.6%), candida (from 21% to 5%), depression (from 27% to 7%), anxiety (from 22% to 8%), weak immune system (from 17% to 0.2%), hypoglycemia (from 15% to 2.6%), fibromyalgia (from 5.6% to 1.5%), osteoarthritis (from 4.8% to 2.8%), and cancer (from 2.7% to 0.4%). Asthma, skin disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, heart conditions, and migraines/sinus headaches also showed improvement.
Results indicate a normalization of sexual drive on a live foods diet, with those reporting “high” or “excessive” sex drive dropping from 29% to 26% and those reporting a “moderate” sex drive rising from 43% to 48%.
It is interesting to note that there was a substantial decrease indicated in stress levels among respondents on a live foods diet. Those reporting “a lot” of stress in life after transitioning to live foods dropped from 56% to 20%.
Women’s menstrual cycles showed improvement on a live foods diet. In terms of comfort, the percentage of respondents describing their cycles as “alright” to “very comfortable” rose from 27% before live foods to 53% after live foods. Most attributed this improvement to their change in diet (72.3%). All cycle-related symptoms showed dramatic improvement on a live foods diet, including PMS in general, cycle-related depression, moodiness/irritability, bloating/water retention, nausea, headaches, tender/swollen breasts, cravings for sweets, low backache, heavy flow, cramps, and irregular periods, and there was a definite reduction in the use of pain relievers. Furthermore, there seem to have been reductions in yeast infections, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids.
Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Health
One of the most dramatic and encouraging areas of improvement observed among respondents was that of “Mental/Emotional/Spiritual Health.” Here, 68% of respondents felt they had developed intellectually “quite a bit” or “tremendously” since transitioning to live foods. 81% felt they had developed emotionally “quite a bit” or “tremendously”, and 77% felt they had developed spiritually “quite a bit” or “tremendously”. Overall, the vast majority of respondents (87.5%) reported an improved mental/emotional/spiritual state after transitioning to a live foods diet, and, most attributed this primarily to their change in diet (88.2%), followed closely by spiritual/energetic healing (50.5%) and self-inquiry (50.3%). The percentage of respondents reporting a “good” or “excellent” mental/emotional/spiritual state after transitioning to a live foods diet rose in all categories surveyed including: general sense of well-being (36% to 91%), enthusiasm/optimism (43% to 91%), patience/tolerance (29% to 84%), self-sufficiency (54% to 88%), openness to change/flexibility (53% to 89%), non-attachment(32% to 77%), memory/focus/clarity (36% to 82%), creativity (48% to 82%), efficiency/multi-tasking (53% to 82%), relationships (37% to 80%), occupational satisfaction (34% to 71%), faith/hope (47% to 85%), passion (for anything) (53% to 88%), intuition (52% to 91%), compassion/love (55% to 90%), social comfort (36% to 77%), comfort being alone (61% to 89%), depth of meditation (28% to 68%), spiritual desire and interest (50% to 85%), quietness of mind (25% to 74%), non-causal contentment (30% to 80%), non-causal peace (32% to 80%), and non-causal joy (31% to 79%). There was an increase from 32% to 51% in the number of respondents who felt they were experiencing ecstatic bliss “sometimes” on a live foods diet versus before, and an increase from 6% to 31% in those reported feeling ecstatic bliss “often/always”!!
Based on these results, it was concluded that people who have been on a raw foods diet for two years or more experienced and generally continue to experience significant improvements on many physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels. There appear to be very few, if any, consistent negative effects or areas of serious concern that can be identified from this preliminary study.
Further research needs to be done to investigate in detail each of the general areas examined in this study as well as: 1) the impact of a raw foods diet on women’s weight and hormones in the long-term; 2) the impact of a raw foods diet on thyroid levels in the short and long terms; 3) perceived and actual nutritional deficiencies as a result of a long-term raw foods diet and their effect on the rate of re-adoption of cooked and/or animal foods and, in general; 4) the frequency of sustained satisfaction with and benefit from a raw foods diet among long-term practitioners (i.e. 3 years more).
A Raw Foods Diet has been agreed to be and defined as consisting of at least 80-100% living (fresh, unheated over 115ºF, unprocessed, unadulterated) foods by the International Living Foods Summit held at The Hippocrates Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida on January 14th, 2006. Leaders and experts from 8 countries convened at this historic summit to establish scientifically based standards for optimum health.
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