Doctor’s Tip: How to help your child avoid the chronic diseases that afflict so many American adults
Last week’s column discussed how eating fruit and vegetables can improve your child’s immunity, thus preventing acute illnesses such as colds and ear infections. Today’s column is about how the same diet can prevent your child from eventually suffering from diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Many years ago a statistician figured out that a Happy Meal at McDonald’s causes the same adverse health effects in a child as smoking two cigarettes. No parent would offer their child cigarettes, but many let their children eat unhealthy food.
Most American adults die from heart attacks and strokes, and the number 2 killer is cancer. Type 2 diabetes is becoming more prevalent as obesity increases in America, leading to complications such as vision loss, cardiovascular disease, kidney failure and nerve problems.
The first signs of heart disease are streaks of fat in the endothelium — the delicate organ that lines the inside of our arteries. Fatty streaks have been observed in newborns of mothers with very high cholesterol, and in infants and toddlers who are on an animal-based diet. In the Korean and Vietnam wars, autopsies were done on young soldiers killed in battle — the American soldiers had hardening of the arteries, but the Asian soldiers didn’t. This was due to differences in diet, not genetics, because when Koreans and Vietnamese come to the U.S. and eat the S.A.D. (standard American diet), they get heart disease just like the rest of us. So as Dr. Esselstyn (“Forks Over Knives” documentary, author of the book “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”) says, heart disease is a food-borne illness, that doesn’t occur in people who are plant-based all their lives.
Cancer is the second most common cause of death in adults on a Western diet, and it often starts years before people are diagnosed with it. We have trillions of cells in our bodies, some of which are always mutating. Plants have micronutrients that improve our immunity and kill off these abnormal cells, preventing cancer down the road. According to Joel Fuhrman, M.D., in his book “Disease-Proof Your Child,” there is a strong link between lack of fruit and vegetables (along with eating meat and dairy products, refined food and sugar) and “later-life cancers.” There is also a link between industrial pollutants such as pesticides and later-life cancer. In this regard it is important to know that meat has 14 times and dairy 5.5 times the toxins of plants, at the bottom of the food chain.
Type 1 diabetes that usually starts in childhood is an autoimmune disease, which is less common in people who are plant-based. The more common type 2 diabetes is related to obesity, and is now seen in overweight children (it used to be called “adult onset diabetes”). Kids who eat lots of fruit and veggies are much less apt to be overweight and to have type 2 diabetes.
According to Dr. Fuhrman, “American children … eat less than 2 percent of their diet from natural plant foods such as fruits and vegetables.” This does not bode well for their future health. Next week’s column will be about how to get children to eat their veggies.
Dr. Feinsinger, who retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and any other medical concerns. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.