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Preventable Health Challenges
When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use.
When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.
Research continues to mount that many of the major health challenges facing society can be prevented and reversed through adopting a plant-based diet. The evidence indicates that the overconsumption of the saturated fat and cholesterol in animal products leads to serious health problems, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, gout, kidney stones, and certain forms of cancer.
According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes, are responsible for 63 percent of deaths worldwide—double the number of deaths from infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria), maternal and perinatal conditions, and nutritional deficiencies combined. The principal known causes of premature death from NCDs are tobacco use, poor diet, physical inactivity, and harmful alcohol consumption. NCDs can be prevented.
They affect not only high-income countries, but middle- and low-income countries as well. By 2020, NCDs are expected to account for seven of every ten deaths in the world; however, in the United States, they already do. These projections suggest that NCDs and the death, illness, and disability they cause will soon dominate health-care costs and are causing public health officials, governments, and multinational institutions to rethink how they approach this growing global challenge.
The WHO recommends that health practitioners, policymakers, community members, and industry leaders must work together in a multilateral fashion to create comprehensive solutions to this growing challenge. The real change must come through education and expansion of access to whole plant foods so that individuals may choose to gain control of their own health.
According to the International Data Corporation’s 2014 paper on chronic disease burden, “Health behavior is one of the most important determinants of health, and at the same time it is the one that people can influence. It has been suggested that healthy lifestyle practices, such as healthy diet, regular exercise, control of weight, smoking, sleep and stress management, and moderate use of alcohol, would prevent 90% of type 2 diabetes, 80% of coronary heart disease, and 70% of stroke.”
Stated otherwise: Much of the current “health-care crisis” can actually be easily addressed by making a shift toward a vegan diet. And the solution affects not just our health but the worldwide economy, as well. You may not realize the connection between the pothole on your street and what people are eating for dinner. But when you contemplate all of the financial resources that are directed toward treating preventable diseases, and consider the impact that redirecting those resources toward social services, education, infrastructure, and so forth—would have on society, you will see that the connection is not so farfetched.
When exploring the following list, please keep in mind the cost of treating these challenges, both in terms of human suffering, as well as the social cost of preventable medical bills.
Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, refers to a variety of health ailments that include coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, infections of the heart, abnormalities with the heart muscle, and congenital heart defects. With heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, and/or chest pains can ensue.
Historically, populations that consume a whole food, plant-based diet have a significantly lower proportion of people suffering from heart disease. At one time, only kings and queens suffered from heart disease, gout, and other diseases of dietary excess. Today, that privilege of dying from heart disease has spread to everyone eating the standard American diet (SAD). It has increased since 1985—and simultaneously the standard American diet tends even further toward high fat, high salt, high sugar, and high levels of MSG and aspartame.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
• Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. People of all ages and backgrounds can get the condition.
• About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
• Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people annually.
• Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.
• High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (49%) have at least one of these three risk factors.
The CDC diet recommendation is: Eat a healthy diet that is low in salt; low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol; and rich in fresh fruits and vegetables.
It is becoming increasingly clear that lifestyle changes can prevent or reverse many instances of heart disease. Regular blood pressure checks are important to monitor for hypertension, as well as diabetes and cholesterol checks.
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. from the Cleveland Clinic, who wrote the book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure, has had immense success treating heart disease with diet and lifestyle changes. His early research showed that certain cultures in the world do not suffer from heart troubles, and thereby he studies those diets: of rural Chinese, of Papua New Guinea highlanders, of central Africans, and of Indians from Mexico.
He believes that prevention and reversal of heart disease lies in the consumption of a whole food, plant-based diet devoid of any processed oils whatsoever. Dr. Esselstyn is well known for saying that such a diet is not in any way “extreme” when compared to the procedure of cutting open the body so as to work on the heart. He says that by following this diet, the consumer will be “heart attack proof,” and cites never having to count calories again as one of the benefits of the regimen.
His patients have seen wide rates of success: sharp drops in cholesterol as well as widening of the arteries and thereby recovery from heart disease. He believes heart disease is fully preventable and purely a result of the standard American diet (see page 25).
Dr. Dean Ornish, another pioneer in the cardiological medical world, undertook clinical research that proved even severe heart disease could be reversed not with drugs or surgery but with lifestyle changes, such as diet, exercise, and wellness habits. Dr. Ornish posits that emotional stress, depression, anxiety, low levels of exercise, and eating a diet with too many stimulants and too much saturated fat and cholesterol gang up on the heart in harmful ways.
Following his Spectrum program has resulted in numerous reductions and reversals of heart disease. This holistic lifestyle and wellness program rounds out a diet low in fat and high in unprocessed plant-based foods, regular exercise, stress management, and peer support. The name “Spectrum” refers to the individual choice of how involved the lifestyle changes need to be, personalizing one’s needs, preferences, and genetics.
I was diagnosed with nonischemic cardiomyopathy in 2008. I was told that due to my inability to tolerate the drug regimen that I was probably looking at a heart transplant. My heart was three times its normal size and my ability to pump blood was down from a normal 61% to 9%. I was immediately implanted with a pacemaker to await the transplant.
With the pacemaker, I could now tolerate the drugs, all 8 of them. I was constantly fatigued. I still could not walk more than a block. In addition, I went from 117 pounds to 130 in less than six months. I knew I couldn’t keep going this way. My doctors were not offering me any other options. Consequently, after reading Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live I decided that a vegan diet was the way to go.
I changed my diet and my life at the same time. It took me two years to get off all my medications, the transplant was completely off the table, I lost fifteen pounds, and I now dance three times a week with no fatigue. I am also 63 years old. My doctors just couldn’t believe the change. They had never seen such a turnaround for a heart condition as severe as mine. I now teach vegan cooking classes and coach whenever possible.
—R.C, Seattle, Washington
A person with diabetes has excessive glucose in the blood. To convert glucose into energy in the cells, the body uses insulin made in the pancreas and released into the bloodstream. In the case of a diabetic, the glucose or blood sugar overpowers the amount of insulin. Symptoms include excessive thirst and urination, fatigue, blurred vision, high blood pressure, infections, and the presence of ketones in the urine, a result of there not being enough insulin in the blood.
According to the Centers for Disease Control:
• Almost 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes.
• 86 million Americans have prediabetes.
• 1.7 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year.
It has been shown that a low-fat, plant-based diet improves insulin presence, reduces blood sugar, and helps with weight loss. Weight loss is very effective in preventing the onset of diabetes, as the relationship between overweight and type 2 diabetes is direct. Besides diet, physical activity in the form of regular exercise is a good diabetes counter. Additionally, consuming more plants and plant-based foods may give you more energy and a feeling of lightness—which can help motivate you for physical fitness.
Dr. Gabriel Cousens is an award-winning author of several books and a pioneer in the plant-based medical community. His book There Is a Cure for Diabetes: The Tree of Life 21-Day + Program, details the success of this three-week program at the Tree of Life Center in Arizona. In the program, which relies on green juice fasting and a 100 percent organic, nutrient-dense, vegan, low-glycemic, low-insulin-scoring diet—“a cuisine that is sustainable for the duration of one’s life, and prepared and eaten with love,” he writes in his book. Dr. Cousens has released diabetes patients from medications and insulin shots within four days, and rendered the patient to a nondiabetic state by two weeks.
In a study of 110 participants who participated in this program:
• 28% of IDDM type 2 diabetics reversed their diabetes after 3 weeks with no insulin and a fasting blood sugar (FBS) of less than 100.
• 60% of the NIDDM type 2 diabetics were off all oral medications after 3 weeks with an FBS of less than 100.
• 100% of prediabetics healed.
Dr. Neal Barnard is a physician and clinical researcher with the George Washington School of Medicine, who led the groundbreaking research on treating diabetes naturally that has been published in many leading journals. In Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes Without Drugs, he demonstrates that a low-fat vegan diet improves glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in randomized clinical trials in individuals with type 2 diabetes. The studies also show that by adopting this diet—free of all animal products and added vegetable oils—individuals can lower their cholesterol, reduce their blood pressure, and lose weight without deprivation.
The book explains how the diet actually alters what goes on in an individual’s cells. Rather than just compensating for malfunctioning insulin, like other treatment plans, Dr. Barnard’s program helps repair how the body uses insulin. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reports that his program was found to be three times more effective than the American Diabetes Association’s dietary guidelines at controlling blood sugar.
I am a 66-year-old retired firefighter. Three years ago, in a routine annual checkup with my family doctor, the diabetes test showed that I had a result of 11.6—certified diabetes. My doctor insisted I go on diabetes medication immediately. I was shocked to receive this news as I was in excellent physical condition and not overweight. I was leaving for a trip and needed to take some time to process this news. A close friend gave me a copy of T. Colin Campbell’s book The China Study. [Note: For more on The China Study, see pages 12–13] It was perfect timing.
I now understood why I had become diabetic and I immediately adopted a whole food, plant-based diet. When I returned to Canada three months later I went back to my doctor, who was pleased to tell me that the medication must have worked because my blood test was now 5.6. I told him I never took the pills and had not even picked up the prescription. Instead I had been strictly following a whole food, plant-based diet. He simply could not believe it. I am so happy I read The China Study and took this optimal road to health.
—G.T., Toronto, Canada
THE EXPERTS SPEAK
The Plant-Powered Dietitian, Sharon Palmer, RDN
Since I published my first book, The Plant-Powered Diet, I have heard from so many people about their successes related to taking on a plant-based diet. One of my most favorite, inspiring stories came from Randy in Oklahoma, which I shared in my book. Here’s his story in his own words:
At the age of 55, I was changing my granddaughter’s diaper and I thought, “If I remain diabetic I’m going to lose ten or twelve years of my grandbaby’s life.” Being from Oklahoma, deciding to become a vegan was a stretch. I imagine I doubled that demographic. It’s remarkable: After thirteen days my type 2 diabetes reversed—my doctor was astounded. I started with losing weight, then my doctor took me off all diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure meds and my energy skyrocketed. I started hiking six miles—I felt like it, because it didn’t hurt anymore due to all the anti-inflammatory foods I was eating. I lost 41 pounds in 14 weeks—I went from a size 40 waist to 28 or 30. Before I had never eaten cauliflower, cabbage or kale. My vegetables were limited to beans, corn and fried potatoes. Now the list of vegetables I eat is lengthy. I use lots of spices to flavor them. Moving to a plant-based diet has been the most intelligent and healthy thing I have ever done. I am planning to walk all the way across the U. S. as a testament to my new lifestyle.
Cholesterol helps the body build healthy cells and make hormones. It has a purpose in the body, yet it is not needed in the diet at all; the body, in a healthy metabolic state, is able to make all of the cholesterol it needs.
There are different types of cholesterol. The most well known are LDL, which is artery-clogging, and HDL, which helps remove fats from the bloodstream by escorting them to the liver for removal. A routine blood test will show your total cholesterol number, currently recommended to be under 200, and LDL recommended to be under 130, though some health professionals would agree that having these numbers even lower is actually healthier. The recommended ratio of total to HDL is 3.5 to 1. The different types of cholesterol each have specific biochemical functions that balance each other out when they exist in proper proportions. Since there is no essential need for exogenous cholesterol, the excess amounts taken into the body by eating certain foods can tip the body’s cholesterol balance into the disorder known as hyperlipidemia, or high cholesterol. The resulting fatty deposits can become inflamed and clog arteries, keeping adequate blood from flowing to the heart, which can increase heart attack and stroke risk. One danger is that high cholesterol is symptomless.
The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association released new assessment guidelines for cardiac risk in 2013, which look at lifestyle risk factors as well; however, the first-line treatment protocol remains statin drugs.
• 73-5 million adults (31-7%) in the United States have high low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
• Fewer than 1 out of every 3 adults (29.5%) with high LDL cholesterol has the condition under control.
• Less than half (48.1%) of adults with high LDL cholesterol are getting treatment to lower their levels.
• People with high total cholesterol have approximately twice the risk for heart disease as people with ideal levels.
• Nearly 31 million adult Americans have a total cholesterol level greater than 240 mg/dL.
High cholesterol is sometimes linked to genetics, but also is largely preventable and/or treatable through diet and exercise, with or without medication. A common correlation is often found between high cholesterol and an unhealthy and inactive lifestyle, and mainly the result of a diet overstocked with animal products. Trans fats, commonly found in many packaged snacks, can play a role in the cholesterol picture, and should be avoided. A shift to a whole food, plant-based diet can bring about large and swift cholesterol point drops, given that plant foods have little to no cholesterol. Cholesterol has continued to be a very prominent topic in nutrition. There is a lot of confusing information out there. The popularity of statin drugs as well as paleo and other diet trends that promote animal fats as a healthy source of nutrients are major contributors to all this confusion.
The oxidation of LDL cholesterol leads to plaque formation that damages blood vessels. This oxidation can be prevented by naturally occurring antioxidants found in high concentrations in plant foods. Plant foods are also high in soluble fiber and healthy polyunsaturated fats, which help to lower cholesterol by allowing the body to properly metabolize cholesterol for use instead of storing it where it can cause damage. So, a plant-based diet has many well-known powerful benefits to cholesterol regulation, along with exercise and an overall wellness plan. Many people experience a dramatic reduction in their LDL cholesterol levels within several weeks of adopting a plant-based diet. This is particularly profound when you consider that cholesterol-lowering medication is one of the most highly prescribed medications!
My journey toward eating plant-based began by accident. It was a simple routine annual visit with my doctor that shook me to my core. The results showed my cholesterol was nearing 200. Which for a woman of color is basically a glaring neon sign for a death sentence. My doctor ordered another test with a visit from me in two weeks, which also included me going to see a cardiologist. This was serious and I was scared. Really scared.
By the end of the week, I’d learned that my body would be best served by following a vegan diet. Yet, I delayed the complete change for a few weeks to learn the basics. Once I felt comfortable, I changed my diet to vegan and my cholesterol went down within a month or two to 150. My body naturally regulated my weight, even though I was not overweight. I did a little yoga, Zumba, and mostly walked.
As time went on, I eagerly dove into the vegan lifestyle without looking back. I did not feel limited in any way. There are a multitude of vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, and fruits that heal the body naturally from within. It has been almost 12 years now. I deeply believe that food is medicine in balance.
—J.W., Orlando, FL
Cancer is defined as uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. This faulty response develops when the body’s normal control mechanism stops working. Old cells do not die and instead grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells. The extra cells may form a mass of tissue, called a tumor. Some cancers, such as leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, don’t form tumors.
THE EXPERTS SPEAK
Michael Greger, MD
A plant-based diet may also help in averting and/or slowing certain cancers (such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer, and colon cancer). This is in part because plant foods contain antiaging, anticancer antioxidants (on average 64 times more than animal foods), fiber, and phytochemicals, which in some cases can even help repair DNA damage. Even two weeks on a plant-based diet appears to dramatically improve cancer defenses.
The blood of those on plant-based diets is more effective at killing cancer cells than those who eat a standard diet even if they exercise strenuously. But WHY? What secret weapons do plants possess against cancer? There are several ways plants help us prevent and fight cancer. Angiogenesis inhibitors (natural chemicals that starve tumors) in plant foods may help prevent cancerous tumors from connecting to a blood supply. Additionally, restriction of a certain amino acid, called methionine, is best achieved through a plant-based diet, as it starves human tumors of the amino acid necessary for their growth—all while potentially extending our life span.
Another explanation about why cancer rates are lower among those eating plant-based diets may be because of lower levels of IGF-1 (insulin-Like growth factor-1), a cancer-promoting growth hormone, and increased levels of the IGF-1 binding protein due to a reduction of animal protein intake. Your pituitary gland naturally elevates IGF-1 levels when you’re a kid so you grow, and then those levels come back down as a young adult. Should your levels stay a bit too high as an adult, though, there’s this constant message to your cells to grow, grow, grow, divide, don’t die, keep going, keep growing. And so not surprisingly, the more IGF-1 you have in your bloodstream, the higher your risk for cancer. More IGF-1, more prostate cancer; more IGF-1, more breast cancer.1
Of course it’s not the original tumor that tends to kill you, it’s the metastases. IGF-1 is a growth factor—it helps things grow—so, it helps cancer cells break off from the main tumor, migrate into surrounding tissues, and invade the bloodstream. What do you think helps breast cancer get into the bone? IGF-1. And the liver? IGF-1. Lung, brain, lymph nodes? IGF-1. It helps transform normal cells into cancer cells in the first place, then helps them survive, proliferate, self-renew, grow, migrate, invade, stabilize into new tumors, and even helps hook up the blood supply to the new tumor. IGF-1 is a growth hormone that makes things grow—that’s what it does. But too much growth when we’re all grown up can mean cancer.
#1 Best Books for Vegans of 2016
"Healing the Vegan Way is more than just an amazing cookbook. It's an invaluable guide for anyone in search of the way to optimum health through a plant-based diet. A must-read!!"Marco Borges, plant-based advocate and New York Times bestselling author, founder of 22 Days Nutrition program
If you're interested in how eating plants can heal your body and nourish your spirit, look no further. Mark Reinfeld is a superb guide on the journey. His recipes are fabulous and his wisdom reliable.”John Robbins, author of Diet For A New America, President of the Food Revolution Network
"Healing the Vegan Way is a rich document that goes clearly beyond a cookbook. It is a thorough scientific resource with excellent documentations surrounding great recipes."Hans A. Diehl, DrHSc, MPH, CNS, FACN Clinical Professor of Preventive Medicine, School of Medicine, Loma Linda University
Founder, CHIP and Lifestyle Medicine Institute
"This guy can seriously cook. Went to a conference where Mark made all the meals, and incredible does not begin to describe the culinary experience. If the whole world had Mark as their chef, I would be out of business. His new recipe book is beautiful and practical."Dr. Garth Davis, author of Proteinaholic
"No one I know can make [culinary] magic happen better than Mark Reinfeld. In Healing the Vegan Way, Mark presents principles for creating a delicious menu that will help heal all the tissues and organs of the bodywhile also bringing delight to the tongue and palate. Bon appétit!"Michael Klaper, M.D.
"Healing the Vegan Way is a wonderfully written resource for anyone interested in the countless health benefits of a plant-based diet. Mark Reinfeld combines comprehensive expert testimonies with an extensive array of delicious, easy-to-prepare recipes that will impress everyone at the table."Neal Barnard, MD
When plant foods are incorporated into healthy recipes and diets, they can play a critical role in treating and even reversing the common diseases we face today. Healing the Vegan Way is a valuable, practical guide that shows us the way to enjoy optimal health.” John Westerdahl, PhD, MPH, RD; Chair, Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Milwaukee Shepherd Express, 8/30/16
Healing the Vegan Way underlies the recipes with a message, and in this case, the title says it all. The selling point for [Mark Reinfeld's] whole-food, plant-based dietary agenda is the recipes themselves.”
- On Sale
- Jul 12, 2016
- Page Count
- 416 pages
- Da Capo Lifelong Books