Doctor’s Tip: What’s the evidence that supports a plant-based diet as being the healthiest?
There are many diets out there, such as the Paleo diet, the Keto diet, the South Beach Diet, the Adkins diet, and others. Most diets have been shown to result in short-term weight loss. However, a plant-based, unprocessed food diet with no salt, sugar or added oil is the only diet that has been proven to result in short- and long-term weight loss; to improve longevity; and to prevent and in many cases reverse most of the chronic diseases that sicken and eventually kill people on a Western diet — obesity, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes, diabetes, inflammatory and auto-immune diseases, dementia, osteoporosis, and many types of cancer.
Following is just some of the evidence:
These are studies that look at large groups of people, see what they eat, what diseases they get, and what they die from.
(1) When missionaries went to Africa over 100 years ago, they found that the Africans on their traditional plant-based diet did not have these chronic diseases that people on a Western diet suffer and die from. It wasn’t genetics, because when these people eat the American diet they have the same problems the rest of us have.
(2) The China Study, the largest epidemiologic study ever done, found that the people in China who were too poor to afford to eat animal protein didn’t have these chronic diseases.
(3) Norway has a high rate of heart disease due to its high meat and dairy intake. During World War II, the occupying Nazis kept animal products for their own soldiers, and the heart disease rate in the Norwegians plummeted. After the War the Norwegians started eating animal products again and two years later their heart disease rate was up where it had been before the war.
(4) Autopsies on young soldiers killed in the Korean and Vietnam wars revealed atherosclerosis in essentially all the American kids but none in the oriental kids. (5) The Blue Zones are five areas of the world where people live particularly long lives, with good quality of life. The common threads are frequent low-level activity, and diets that are primarily plant-based with daily legumes.
(1) If the blood of meat-eaters is dripped on cancer cells, they propagate. If blood of vegans is dripped on cancer cells they die.
(2) For vascular health, it’s important that you eat things that make the endothelial lining of your arteries produce nitric oxide, which makes them dilate. Scientists hook people up to monitors in the lab and feed them animal products, oil, salt or sugar, and their arteries constrict. They feed the subjects kale and their arteries dilate.
(1) The human genome was developed over about 20 million years, as we gradually evolved from tree-dwelling plant eaters. By the time some humans became hunter-gatherers, our genome was essentially developed.
(2) Humans have the jaw and gastrointestinal structure of herbivores, not carnivores.
Reversal of heart disease and prostate cancer
(1) Dean Ornish, M.D. proved over 30 years ago that heart disease can be reversed with a plant-based, whole food diet with no salt, sugar or added oil.
(2) Subsequently, Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D. confirmed Dr. Ornish’s work.
(3) More recently, Dr. Ornish proved that early prostate cancer can be reversed with this diet.
There are tens of thousands of additional studies showing the link between animal products and the diseases Americans suffer and die from. There are also numerous studies showing the power of plant-based food to prevent and reverse disease.
A respected source for this information is Dr. Michael Greger, who has a nonprofit with no ties to the pharmaceutical, food or supplement industries. He and his staff review all the tens of thousands of English language scientific papers that come out every year on nutrition, and he presents the important information to the public via his book “How Not to Die,” and his website nutritionfacts.org (you can subscribe to it and/or search various subjects).
Unfortunately, medical education is very traditional and is influenced by the pharmaceutical and food industries. Therefore, most providers aren’t aware of the power of food (I wasn’t either until about 10 years ago when I read “The China Study” on the advice of a nurse-practitioner friend), although this deficit in medical education is slowly changing.
Next week’s column is about how best to transition to this diet.
Retired physician Greg Feinsinger, M.D., is author of new book “Enjoy Optimal Health, 98 Health Tips From a Family Doctor,” available on Amazon and in local bookstores. Profits go towards an endowment to the University of Colorado School of Medicine to add prevention and nutrition to the curriculum. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention, diabetes reversal, nutrition, and other health issues. Call 379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his column, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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“The single greatest predictor of a healthy gut microbiome is the diversity of plants in one’s diet,” Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, MSCI, in “Fiber Fueled.”