What has happened to us? Despite the most advanced medical technology in the world, we are sicker than ever by nearly every measure.Two out of every three of us are overweight. Cases of diabetes are exploding, especially amongst our younger population.
About half of us are taking at least one prescription drug. Major medical operations have become routine, helping to drive health care costs to astronomical levels.Heart disease, cancer and stroke are the country’s three leading causes of death, even though billions are spent each year to “battle” these very conditions. Millions suffer from a host of other degenerative diseases.
Could it be there’s a single solution to all of these problems? A solution so comprehensive but so utterly straightforward, that it’s mind-boggling that more of us haven’t taken it seriously?
-Forks Over Knives, a documentary that explores the evidence of "food as medicine", coming March 11, 2011-
If you received this post via email, Click Here to get to the web version & all the links.
For my 1/29/11 updated post about the film when I saw it at a "Big Screen" sneak preview--click here
I can say this wholeheartedly. When this movie comes out this summer, make sure you see it.
My whole view of what constitutes a healthy diet turned upside-down two years ago when Dr. T. Colin Campbell presented a lecture on "Can Medical Practice Tolerate Nutritional Intervention?" at the major medical center where I work. To read "T. Colin Campbell Pays a Visit: Does This Mean I Have to Become a Vegan?"
Four months later I just happened upon a NPR-affiliate's interview with Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn about the prevention and reversal of heart disease. Click here to read: "Yes, You Can Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, But Are You Up for the Challenge? Let Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Convince You"
Their evidence speaks for itself. A whole-foods plant-based diet can prevent, and often undo all the damage that our "too-rich diets of affluence" have caused: obesity, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, many cancers, hypertension, strokes, and osteoporosis.
Campbell & Esselstyn were both born in the early 1930's. They both grew up on farms. Eating beef and drinking milk was what they knew. But by the 1980's both men, one a Cornell University research scientist and the chair of the division of Nutritional Sciences, and the other, a Cleveland Clinic surgeon, had turned their backs on their past, and were advocating a whole-food plant-based diet.
For Campbell--getting enough animal protein--enough milk and meat was important to good health. Back then he believed milk was nature's most perfect food. In fact, his original research was on the optimal feed for animals. But, he's a scientist--so in spite of his background and his original biases, when all the evidence started pointing in the direction of animal protein as the cause of many of our chronic diseases, he set out to investigate--first to the Philippines to find out why so many children there were mysteriously being diagnosed with liver cancer, then by conducting numerous laboratory studies on the effects of animal protein on cancer, and finally traveling to China, to conduct the largest "living human laboratory" epidemiologic study ever designed.
Campbell's conclusion: There is not one single mechanism in a plant-based diet that is responsible for its health promoting effects. It's not about individual nutrients. It's the 100,000 chemicals from plant foods that work together synergistically that bring about good health. Good nutrition supported by exercise, water, and sunshine is greater than the sum of its parts. It's a biological symphony.
-T. Colin Campbell, from Forks Over Knives-
"People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease...People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease. These results could not be ignored."
"I know of nothing else in medicine that can come close to what a plant-based diet can do."
"I can say this with a great deal of confidence. Our national authorities are simply excluding this concept of nutrition from the debate in order to protect the status quo. If everyone would do this, we'd cut health care costs by 70-85%."
"The major message from the China Study--is the only message--a plant-food-based diet, mainly cereal grains, vegetables & fruit, and very little animal food, is always associated with lower mortality of certain cancers, stroke, and coronary heart disease."
--Dr.Junshi Chen, Senior Research Professor, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Beijing, China, and co-investigator of the "China Study" with Dr. T. Colin Campbell-
For Esselstyn--trained as a surgeon, and trained to treat disease by cutting it out--he chose to specialize in breast cancer surgery. But in the 1980's he was "increasingly disillusioned by what he was not doing-- never curing the underlying disease, never doing anything to help prevent it in the next unsuspecting victim".
That led him to delve into the research of populations with low incidences of breast & prostate cancer--and then on to populations with low incidences of heart disease--and then noticing the dramatic rise and fall of heart disease in war-time Norway when the Germans commandeered all of Norway's beef & dairy cattle for their own troops. He connected the dots--to the inescapable conclusion that animal protein was disease-causing, while plant protein was not. The result turned into the initiation of the longest-running study (over 20 years) of heart disease reversal based on a diet devoid of animal protein--just beans, legumes, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit--hold the oil, please.
"Some people think the "diet" is extreme. Half a million people a year will have their chests opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn onto their coronary artery. Some people would call that extreme."
"The elephant in the room when we talk about stents and bypass surgery--those procedures don't protect from new heart attacks. Stents & bypasses are used to treat large arterial blockages. Yet according to many research studies only a small percentage of heart attacks are caused by the largest build-up of plaque. The rest are caused by the more numerous newer blockages that are far more inflamed and much more likely to rupture than the larger older, more stable plaques. So this is why those procedures don't treat the disease. They are treating the symptoms."
--Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn--
Why do I personally find the work and message of Campbell and Esselstyn so compelling?
- They have the scientific evidence. Campbell came to his conclusions from the scientific research route. Esselstyn came to his conclusions from the clinical research route.
- They are both in their mid-seventies, and they are no longer beholden to any academic, medical, or governmental institutions--nor are they concerned about damaging their reputations--they are free to speak the truth. They aren't motivated by financial gain, or fame. They are unassuming, approachable, and motivated only by wanting to share what they have learned. They don't have to do this!
- Bottom line: These two (and their families) are poster children for a plant-based diet. At 77 & 76 Campbell & Esselstyn are both slim, healthy, with stick straight posture, brimming with vitality, articulate, with busy writing, speaking, teaching, & research schedules. Campbell still runs--not walks--he runs. Esselstyn, at 76, swims a mile a day, lifts weights, and bikes 3 days a week. Ann Esselstyn, also in her 70's, practices yoga, weight trains, and runs. I don't know about you--but to me, that says it all.
If you don't have the time to read Dr. T. Colin Campbell's The China Study and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn's Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, do yourself a huge favor & go see this film. For me, Forks Over Knives did what these books could not.
- You'll get a chance to hear Dr. Esselstyn's heart-disease-study patients tell their stories--how their lives were given back to them in a way that surgery and drugs could not.
- You'll travel to China with Dr. T. Colin Campbell and his Chinese colleague Dr. Junshi Chen and you'll be able to really understand the depth, breadth, detail, and eye-opening evidence of their work in China--Diet, Life-Style, and Mortality in China: A Study of the Characteristics of 65 Chinese Counties. Cancer & heart disease are diseases of lifestyle, not genetics.
- You'll clearly understand how the China Study, together with Campbell's work in the lab, and in the Philippines brought this former farm-boy to the inescapable conclusion: animal protein above 5% of calories can turn on cancer cells. Plant-protein will not.
- You'll understand how U.S. government policies affect the foods we eat, the Food Pyramid recommendations, the subsidies our farmers receive, the food that is fed to our school children and to the military. And you'll get an insider's look into how these policies are shaped by business and farm financial interests--not our health interests.
- You'll meet 2 people with serious health issues, who aren't exactly the "picture of health" in spite of conventional pharmaceutical-based medical care. And you'll see how they turn their lives around on a whole-foods plant-based diet.
- Even Lee Fulkerson, the writer & director of the film, finds out that he isn't immune to the damage caused by his fast-food over-caffeinated diet. Overweight, hypertensive, tired, with elevated cholesterol, and a dangerously high CRP score (a marker for inflammation), these conditions vanish after just 13 weeks on a plant-based diet.
- You'll meet Dr. Ruth Heidrich, a triathlete who is now in her mid-70's. At 47 years old she was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer that had metastasized to her bones and one lung. She thought she had a healthy diet: lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, chicken, fish, and low-fat dairy. Instead of conventional therapy she chose to participate in a research study based on a no-added-oil vegan diet. Her only changes were cutting out dairy, chicken, and fish. Constipation, dandruff, depression, and arthritis became history--along with the breast cancer. She went on to compete in multiple Ironman Triathalons (winning a gold medal in her age group) and marathons, and in 1999 she was named one of the "10 Fittest Women in North America". Now in her mid-70's she's still vegan, still swimming, running, biking, and weight-training and looks fantastic. She has a family history of osteoporosis--but without any medications her bone density continues to increase. Read more here.
Yep, I know this sounds like snake-oil, but let the evidence speak for itself. Two years ago I made the switch over to plant-based and now it's just part of my routine. I can't see any reason to go back.
The Real-Time Health Turn-Around of Lee Fulkerson, Joey of Tampa, and SanDera of Cleveland
To be honest, I'm a skeptic at heart. I never fall for magical transformations with pills, supplements, or diets. I need to see the scientific evidence. And I need to understand the mechanism behind how something works.
But, for me, absolutely nothing beats the triple punch of: scientific evidence, understanding the mechanism of action, and seeing a real person's successful transformation.Meet Lee Fulkerson, the writer and director of Forks Over Knives
- On a typical morning he'll drink 2 Red Bulls, 18 ounces of Coke, and a breakfast of fast food. Not a morning person, he relies on caffeine before he can even think.
- He's overweight, over-caffeinated, and often fatigued.
- Blood pressure of 142/82, weight of 231 pounds, cholesterol of 241, and LDL of 157, resting pulse of 92, and a CRP (measure of inflammation) of 6--which puts him in the high risk category.
- Soon after ditching the caffeine, and learning to eat whole plant-based food, Lee starts to eat more often, feel much better, lose weight, have more energy, and he actually starts getting up earlier.
- After 13 weeks on the plant-based diet take a look at Lee's numbers:
Weight: 211 pounds (was 231 pounds)
Blood Pressure: 112/70 (was 142/82)
Resting heart rate: 60 (was 92)
Total Cholesterol: 154 (was 241)
LDL: 80 (was 157)
CRP (marker of inflammation) 2.8 (was 6)
He's not on any medications, and his health risks are now significantly reduced--just by changing his diet.Meet Joey, owner of a landscape company in Tampa, FL
- He describes himself as, "Living to Eat"
- In 2004 his cholesterol is dangerously high at 320
- His blood sugar was a hazardous 480, making him a type-2 diabetic and a prime candidate for a heart attack or a stroke.
- He was put on multiple medications--9 pills, 2 injections. His daily regimen was 2 pills for the diabetes, 1 for cholesterol, 1 for high blood pressure, and twice a day injections of Byetta for the diabetes. He's spending $150-200 a month on medications after insurance.
- Four years after being on these medications he continues to be overweight, feels tired all the time, and hates being on all these pills. He complains of low energy, ringing in the ears, sinus problems, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughs, indigestion, reflux, loose stools, diarrhea, bloating, and has trouble losing weight. A total of 27 medical concerns.
- He meets with Drs. Matthew Lederman and Alona Pulde who teach him how to shop and prepare plant-based meals. Their joint goals are: Get off all medications, sleep better at night, stop feeling tired all the time, stop feeling rundown, lose weight, and reverse the medical diseases that can be reversed.
- After only 8 weeks of switching to plant-based eating, Joey is off all of his medications, feeling more energetic, and he has started to run. He's feeling good all the time! At the start of his diet, his weight was 220. 8 weeks later, it's down to the 180-185 range--which makes him lighter than he was 20 years earlier.
- After 22 weeks on the plant-based diet take a look at Joey's numbers:
Weight: he's lost an additional 28 pounds--his before and after pictures are nothing short of amazing
Medical complaints: 26 out of his 27 medical complaints are gone
CRP: down to normal
Blood sugar: they are down, and continue to come down daily
Cholesterol: in the normal range, and less than when he was on medication
Blood Pressure: it's now normal, and even on medication it was elevated
He's off all of his medications, his numbers continue to improve. He looks almost unrecognizable from a mere 22 weeks ago. He feels energetic, and in control of his health.Meet SanDera, a mother of 5 in her 30's who works for a diabetes out-patient clinic.
- In October 2008 she was stricken with a strange illness. She suddenly couldn't talk, had cold sweats, and fatigue. Diagnosis: hypertension and type-2 diabetes.
- She was treated with expensive prescription drugs--but she continued to eat the foods she knew she shouldn't eat.
- She was referred to Dr. Esselstyn who educated her about the relationship of diet to diabetes, and coached her towards a plant-based diet. After years of eating fatty foods (like KFC, fries, biscuits, & more) the switch to plant-based was not an easy journey for her.
- The diet had an almost immediate effect on her health. Her blood sugar immediately dropped.
- Two months into the diet, the effects were dramatic. Her blood pressure was great. Her blood sugars were in the 80s & 70s. When it dropped into the 60s she became alarmed, and visited her diabetes educator who told her, "That's wonderful. It's a normal blood sugar. It means your pancreas is working."
- Ironically, SanDera works at an outpatient facility for diabetics, but the treatment that worked for her was outside the established medical system.
- Her sluggishness disappeared. She felt in control, and felt she was now finally tasting & enjoying the fruits and vegetables she was eating. She was able to eat to fullness, bring down her blood sugar, and still lose weight. After 8 weeks she was down 30 pounds.
- When she approached her primary care physician about stopping her meds, she asked SanDera, "What is that doctor trying to do? Take you off your medication?" SanDera said, "Yeah. I'm hoping that's the goal."
- After 20 weeks on the plant-based diet SanDera had lost 45 pounds. She had reversed her diabetes. She was off her medication, she had lots of energy, and most importantly of all--she felt in control of her health.
Forks over Knives Trailer (click here if you don't see the video)
For more information on this upcoming documentary go the Forks Over Knives website
Keep an eye out for Forks Over Knives opening this summer. It's sure to stir up some controversy.
"The greatest gift that you could possibly give to your family--you can make them aware of this incredible power to avoid life's most painful events. You just don't have to have those kinds of events."
-Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn-