Think about this: From the 1930s to 1950s doctors heavily promoted cigarettes as a healthy activity, a treatment to relax and even a useful mechanism with which to open our lungs for improved breathing.
Today we know this “good health” advice is ridiculous. In years to come, we will likely look back and say the same thing about doctors promoting animal-based foods. Unfortunately, most doctors do not have expertise in the healing properties of food.
This is not always our doctors’ fault. There is very little focus on preventive care throughout medical school and training. As cardiologist Joel Kahn, MD, relates, “During the 1980s when I completed medical school and cardiology fellowship, there was no discussion about nutrition and health in the halls of academic medical centers.”
Though the medical world has mostly focused on diagnosing disease and treating with technology and drugs, some doctors have devoted careers to understanding the relationship between health and food. Their conclusions: our “evolution” to an omnivore diet coincides with our rise in disease.
“The greatest medical discovery of the last 20 years is the understanding that our Western diseases are largely lifestyle-related,” Denis Burkitt, MD, said in 1992. But what’s exciting? “They must be preventable and potentially reversible.” And there’s good evidence he is right.
Famed doctor and author Dean Ornish, MD, convincingly proved that a plant-based whole food diet coupled with exercise and stress management could reverse the atherosclerotic plaques and indolent prostate cancer.
And renowned doctor Neal Bernard, MD, has demonstrated that a diet devoid of animal products is very effective in reversing diabetes. Of his diabetic patients, 71 percent were off their oral medications within four weeks and with normal sugar levels.
Ornish and Bernard are in good company. As the following doctors attest, the answers to our leading health woes are not at the bottom of a pill bottle, but at the end of our fork.
Reversing Heart Disease with Plant-based Foods
“We were born with clean, flexible arteries, and they should stay that way throughout our lives. The arteries of most Americans, however, are clogged with cholesterol, fats and calcium. The cause of coronary artery heart disease is no longer a mystery. We know that cultures whether by heritage or tradition that consume plant-based nutrition have virtually no cardiovascular disease. Atherosclerosis only became more apparent in Japan and China with the import of the rich Western diet laced with meat, eggs and dairy products.
“Atherosclerosis-related diseases are not a ‘natural’ way to go, and individuals with established coronary artery disease who completely transition to plant-based foods can halt and reverse their diseases.”—Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD.
Where Disease and Eating Habits Intersect
“The statistics are convincing. Cardiovascular disease and cancers of the breast, prostate, colon, and lungs are now claiming every third and fourth American life, respectively. In the early 1900s fewer than ten percent of deaths in the United States were attributed to cardiovascular disease. Now it is the number one killer. And consider this: In spite of newer and refined forms of insulin and bioengineered medications, diabetes has gone up 700 percent since World War II.
“What can help explain these changes? In the 1900s, Americans got 70 percent of their protein from plant foods. Today, they get 70 percent of their protein from animal products that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fat and devoid of fiber.”—Dr. Hans Diehl.
Diet Has the Power to Address the Root Cause of Illness
“Because I suffered from hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and pre-diabetes (I have a long family history of Type-2 diabetes and coronary heart disease), I decided to try this lifestyle approach and became a vegetarian. Although I was told being vegan would be most effective, I decided to try being vegetarian first and my experiment worked. Within a few months my blood pressure and glucose levels were well within the normal range. I no longer required my diuretic for hypertension and my dose of Lipitor had been cut by more than half. Excited by my success, I decided to take the full plunge and see what would happen to my numbers if I became a complete vegan. On a vegan diet I was able to get off all medication, including Lipitor!”—Dexter Shurney, MD, MBA, MPH
Physician, Heal Thyself, Eliminate Animal Products from Your Diet
“I did not know that my diet high in animal products deprived my body of antioxidants, vitamins, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, enzymes, minerals, essential fatty acids, fiber and many other important ingredients that are only found in plants. My animal-based diet was inflammatory and acid forming—deteriorating my body, causing rapid aging and an array of diseases. I started to gain weight and feel tired and fatigued. My mood started to change. My brain was foggy and my body felt heavier and heavier. More importantly, I didn’t even know it was not normal to feel that way. After getting bigger and sicker every day for two to three years, I finally decided this was not how I wanted to treat my body and my mind.
“As I changed my diet, my weight started to normalize, my energy increased, my fatigue and depressed mood improved, and my heartburn and stomach problems disappeared. I felt much lighter and better physically and emotionally after I changed to a plant-based diet. Thousands of scientific studies prove that the best and the most health-promoting diet is plant-based and devoid of animal products.
“The majority of the diseases afflicting human societies today can be cured by a shift to a plant-based diet. As a gastroenterologist whose first line of theory for her patients is a plant-based diet, I experience and observe this transformation every single day. Illnesses can potentially completely heal or improve significantly with a change of diet. The power of our own healing is in our hands.”—Zarin Azar, MD, Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist
Plant-based Diets Deter Atherosclerosis
“Many patients with atherosclerosis are surprised at the bulk of their plaque, which can be seen and felt without magnification. When enough arteries are blocked, ulcers and gangrene occur in the toes and feet and are the leading cause of leg amputation. Complications of arterial disease are the most common reasons for the estimated 65,000 leg amputations performed in the U.S. each year. Studies have evidenced that a plant-based diet is associated with lower rates of atherosclerotic disease.
“Plant-based diets demonstrate lower serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels, decreased incidence of cardiovascular events, and even reversal of arterial atherosclerosis. In general, vegetarians have lower incidence of atherosclerosis, cardiac events and all-cause mortality.
“A cross-cultural large trial, the Cornell China Study, showed how rural Chinese had a fraction of the death rate from heart disease compared to Americans. American men had almost 17 times the death rate from atherosclerotic heart disease and American women had 5.5 times higher mortality from the same cause. The average Chinese dietary fat intake was less than half as a proportion of diet, fiber intake was three times as high and animal protein intake was comparatively very low at less than 10 per cent of that in the U.S. diet, and vegetable intake was much higher. The rates of atherosclerotic disease were positively associated with meat intake and sodium intake, but decreased in relation to consumption of green vegetables and plasma levels of monounsaturated fatty acids.
“Although the project did not set out to study vegans or plant-based diets, the conclusion was that a plant-based diet is the most preferable way to avoid atherosclerosis.”—Kristofer M. Charlton-Ouw, MD, FACS, Vascular Surgeon
Convinced Yet? What’s on Your Plate
“Doctors are trained that it is a waste of time to talk about nutrition, but I can assure you that it is not a waste of time. The only time I have ever been able to decrease insulin dosages in diabetics or stop blood pressure pills in patients with high blood pressure, it has been because the patient has modified his or her diet to be plant-based.”—Mary Went, MD
Thrive, Health and Wellness, Shushana Castle, vol. 26, 14–16.
“Meat consumption has conclusively been linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and a host of other chronic and deadly diseases. God’s people should dispense with flesh foods. Those who are seeking to become pure and holy cannot continue to use as food anything that has so harmful an effect on soul and body.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 386.