NAU researchers looking for participants for study on plant-based, nutrient-dense diet

USDA picture of produce

By Heidi Toth
NAU Communications

Public health researchers at Northern Arizona University are looking for participants for a nationwide study on the health benefits of plant-rich, nutrient-dense diet.

Jay Sutliffe, associate professor of nutrition and foods, is the principal investigator for the Nutritarian Women’s Health Study, with nurse practitioner Wendy Wetzel as the co-PI and administrative assistant Julia Scheid. They are working in concert with Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a physician and adjunct professor in the Department of Health Sciences; Fuhrman created the Nutritarian diet, which is the basis for the study. It focuses on plants, beans and lots of raw foods and discourages animal proteins like meat, cheese and butter as well as processed foods.

The researchers aim to study thousands of women throughout the United States for years to track the health effects, which they hypothesize will include lower rates of diseases like diabetes, heart disease and many cancers, especially breast cancer, as well as an overall improved quality of life.

“We know from prior research that moving to a diet that is plant rich, low in fat, high in nutrients and full of fiber will help a lot of these conditions,” Wetzel said.

This nationwide study is based on a series of smaller studies conducted with employees at NAU and Northern Arizona Healthcare, all of which showed the diet offered health benefits for the participants as well as greater work productivity (fewer sick days) and lower health care costs, to the tune of more than $200,000 in one year across a single worksite.

“Consistently what we’re finding is people feel better, their lipids normalize, they lose weight, they lose inches, although we do not focus on weight, calories or macronutrients,” Sutliffe said.

Any woman who is a U.S. resident, at least 18 years old and willing to consume a dietary portfolio of health-promoting and disease-preventing foods is encouraged to join this study. can participate. Those who are interested should go to the Nutritarian Women’s Health Study’s website and click on the 30-day trial (which takes about 45 minutes). There are a few videos to watch and more information about the diet, as well as access to an electronic copy of Fuhrman’s book, “Super Immunity.” To join the full study, women complete a second consent form and a diet and medical history. All information is confidential and secure.

They have about 2,200 women nationwide and would like at least 5,000 participants.

Researchers are asking participants to adhere as closely as they can to the Nutritarian diet, which they break down with the acronym GBOMBS+T. Sutliffe said participants should aim for a GBOMBS+T a day. It stands for:

  • Green, leafy vegetables
  • Beans or other legumes, like lentils
  • Onions (raw)
  • Mushrooms, but just a small amount
  • Berries
  • Seeds or nuts (preferably raw)
  • Tomatoes

Focusing on these foods should provide that return on investment in terms of increased energy, improved sleep, improved mood and overall quality of life, improved anthropometric measurements and better health that study participants are working toward, Sutliffe said.

“It’s a portfolio of nutrients and foods that give you a spectrum of protection,” he said.

The study does not require participants to strictly adhere to the diet. Rather, it asks them to keep track of how closely they’re following the diet—which could be to the letter or not at all—and follows up with data like blood pressure, weight and other measurements that are indicators of a person’s health. The idea is to see the differences in health outcomes that can be linked to diet.

They do, however, want to see people become progressively more adherent to the dietary recommendations, Sutliffe said.

For more information or to enroll, visit the Nutritarian Women’s Health Study’s website.

NAU Communications