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Vegan Studies 101: Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C., & Kathy Freston Host Plant-Based Nutrition Lecture

May 4, 2017 from 6:00pm - 7:30pm

On Thursday, May 4, Santa Barbara residents will have the chance to sit in on Professor Renan Larue’s Introduction to Vegan Studies course at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), which will be taught by nutrition researcher Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C., and wellness expert Kathy Freston.

Dr. Barnard and Freston will discuss the health benefits of a plant-based vegan diet and attendees will have the option to sample the university’s plant-based dishes. Renan Larue, Ph.D., assistant professor of French literature and the founder of the vegan studies course at UCSB, hopes members of the community will attend. He is moving the evening talk to Harold Frank Hall, which can accommodate 200 people.

At a time when rates for chronic disease, unseasonable temperatures, and questions surrounding ethics are at the forefront of national debates, students and members of the community will have a chance to learn about potential solutions and engage in a philosophical debate about all three.

“The most popular topics this semester surround ethics and politics,” says Dr. Larue. “Dr. Barnard and Kathy Freston’s lecture will fit right in as we discuss potential solutions for health, taking individuals, corporations, and the American health care system into consideration.”

While Dr. Barnard and Freston specialize in personal health prescriptions, showing people how to test-drive and adopt a plant-based vegan diet to reach optimal health outcomes, they will address the public health benefits of building meals around what they call the new four food groups: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, or lentils, beans, and peas.

A nutrient-packed, plant-based vegan diet is associated with a healthy body weight, lower blood pressure, stable blood sugar, and improvements in cholesterol. These changes result in a reduced risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even certain forms of cancer.

Participants in Dr. Barnard’s workplace wellness studies at GEICO, the insurance company, reported gains in productivity and alleviated symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fatigue after following a vegan diet. Others note improvements with headaches, migraines, and joint pain.

“These studies provide a scientific basis for why so many people, including athletes, adopt what I like to call a ‘pro-plant’ vegan diet,” says Dr. Barnard.  “On Thursday, we’ll discuss one of my favorite topics, cheese, and cover everything from hormones to agricultural production.”

The University of Oxford predicts a plant-based diet, if adopted worldwide, could save 8.1 million lives each year and $1 billion in annual health care spending, based on population projections for 2050. It could also reduce 70 percent of food-related emissions.

By then, Dr. Larue hopes all of the University of California schools will have a vegan studies program. He’s on track to introduce a vegan studies minor at UCSB in 2018. His first Introduction to Vegan Studies lecture started in 2016 and is at full capacity for the 2017 semester. He hopes the community, UCSB, and the consortium of state universities will welcome the idea as veganism gains popularity in mainstream culture, particularly in California.

“We have known since the time of Hippocrates that food and health are inextricably linked," says Anju Goel, M.D., M.P.H., a board-certified internist with 10 years of experience working in public health in California. "A poor diet is one of the leading but also one of the most modifiable causes of death among Americans. A plant-based diet has the power to both prevent and reverse some of our most serious health problems, including overweight and obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.”

More than 60 percent of adults in Santa Barbara County that responded to a recent survey struggle with excess weight. A poor diet, physical inactivity, and tobacco use contribute to chronic disease, specifically heart disease, stroke, cancer, lung disease, and type 2 diabetes. Chronic disease accounts for 50 percent of deaths nationwide and in Santa Barbara County.

Santa Barbara residents want to get healthy. Healthy eating habits are the largest health priority for households and the second-largest health priority for individuals, following exercise, according to a 2016 community health survey of 3,000 residents.

To attend the May 4 lecture, please email Kay Sommer at [email protected] To request an interview with Dr. Neal Barnard or Professor Renan Larue, please contact Jessica Frost at 202-527-7342 or [email protected]


The Physicians Committee, founded by Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C., is a nonprofit organization of physicians, scientists, and concerned citizens working together for compassionate and effective medical practice, research, and health promotion.

Dr. Barnard is the president and founder of the nonprofit Physicians Committee. His 18th book,The

Cheese Trap, follows two New York Times bestsellers and his fourth PBS special, The Energy Weight Loss Solution.


Event Details

  • Organizer/Sponsor: Nonprofit General
  • Starts: May 4, 2017 6:00pm - 7:30pm
  • Price: Free
  • Location: Harold Frank Hall 1104, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA