Whilst it is not something that many of us will want to pay a lot of attention to, I had the opportunity to give this question some thought via the most poignant and persuasive video I think I have ever seen. If this doesn’t give us a compelling reason to look after ourselves, I don’t know what will. The video is here if you would like to watch it, but to summarise, it shows a fit and healthy senior man on one side of the screen, and a sick, weak and totally dependent senior man on the other. Whilst many might write the differences off to genetics, I beg to differ, since diet and lifestyle have the biggest impact on how we might thrive, or otherwise, as we age.
Here is my take on the 5 major benefits that a plant-based diet gives us, and the science behind this: a very brief summary of the excellent presentations that I was privileged to attend in New York, and some excerpts from chapter 1 of my latest book, The Whole Body Solution, which is available on 3rd February 2014.
Heart disease prevention and reversal
In 1928, the incidence of heart attack in an average sized town was 1 per year. Today, it is 4000 per day. The current medical intervention of pills and surgical procedures means that a cure will almost invariably remain elusive: only 10% of heart attack patients have their lives extended as a result of bypass surgery. After 1 year, there is a 75% occlusion of the grafted vessel, because people do not change their lifestyle. Frighteningly, atherosclerosis (“furring up” of the arteries) begins in childhood. Today, people need to adopt a healthy diet after the age of 10 not just to prevent heart and arterial disease, but to reverse the disease that they already have. By the age of 45, the average person on a standard Western diet has a 60% occlusion of their arteries from atherosclerotic plaque. Smoking makes this considerably worse. Statins are now supposed to be the answer to our prayers, but their benefit is negligible. In a study of over 65,000 people for a period of 4 years, LDL cholesterol was marginally reduced, but this had no effect on all-cause mortality. We must look to diet and lifestyle for the answers. Studies on 7th day Adventists in the USA indicate that if they eat a vegan diet, their rates of death from heart disease are 1/3 that of Adventists who eat a meat and dairy-based diet.
William Castelli, MD, director of the Framingham Heart Study (the longest-running clinical study in medical history), is quoted as saying of the heart disease epidemic, ‘If Americans adopted a vegetarian diet, the whole thing would disappear’. From this, I would go further to state that dairy products can be just as detrimental to heart health, since they contain high levels of fat, cholesterol and protein. We know that cholesterol is not the only factor involved in heart disease, and in fact C-reactive protein (CRP) and homocysteine levels are now considered to be much more accurate determinants of cardiac risk. Indeed, those on a vegan diet as opposed to a vegetarian one fare better in parameters for heart health, and many research papers now indicate that vegetarianism is insufficient to protect against the major disease processes, and that it only prolongs life expectancy by a somewhat disappointing five years more than an omnivorous approach. Lacto-ovo vegetarianism is no longer the prescription for health that was once believed.
Cancer prevention and reversal
It’s no wonder that we have such chronic problems in relation to diet and degraded health, when we consider the following: last year, McDonalds spent $800,000,000 on advertising their dreadful, disease-causing food, whilst the budget for the National Cancer Institute’s fruit and vegetable campaign was just $1,000,000. The priorities are somewhat skewed in favour of eating for illness and mortality. In relation to cancer, a recent study indicated that all types of cancer combined are lower in vegetarians than meat-eaters. We also know that vegan diets provide the best protection of all, since a major cause of tumour formation is the presence of high levels of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) in dairy products, which stimulate all stages of initiation and perpetuation of the cancer process. There’s more about this in my CD The Real Truth about Food, available here. Vegan diets slash the rate of prostate cancer, and after 2 weeks on a vegan diet, breast cancer cells almost disappeared completely when the subject’s blood was dropped onto a cell culture. Levels of IGF-1 plummet on a vegan diet, and the effects are seen within as little as 14 days. Vegetarians don’t have significantly lower levels of IGF-1 than meat eaters. It is only a vegan diet that produces these results.
Type 2 diabetes prevention and reversal
Diabetes rates are doubling every 15 years. In fact, I even read recently that stock exchange investors are being encouraged to buy shares in a Danish company that holds the greatest proportion of market sales of insulin, to profit from the worldwide escalation in rates of this disease. With soaring obesity rates comes escalation in diabetes – those with a BMI (body mass index) greater than 40 have a sevenfold increase in the incidence of diabetes, a sixfold increase in hypertension and a fivefold increase in heart disease.
Diabetes can be effectively reversed very quickly by using a low fat, vegan diet. Studies on guests at the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida, and the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Centre in Arizona, indicate that a living foods vegan diet reverses type 2 diabetes in as little as 3 weeks. But the insulin manufacturers and their shareholders won’t thank you for spreading that particular message.
Obesity prevention and reversal
This is the same, fundamentally, as diabetes prevention and reversal. Vegans have the lowest BMI of any dietary group. Comparing vegetarians to meat eaters, a Swedish study published in the June 2005 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and involving 55,459 middle-aged healthy women, concluded that the non-meat-eating women weighed significantly less than the meat eaters, and had a lower BMI. The study, entitled “Risk of overweight and obesity among semi-vegetarian, lactovegetarian and vegan women” (Am J Clin Nutr. June 2005, 81 (6), 1267-1274), was not a weight loss study, and 25% of the non-meat-eaters were overweight, but this compared with 40% of the meat-eaters; again, a statistically significant measurement. The researchers found that vegetarians were two-thirds less likely than meat-eaters to be obese.
The medical option for stroke prevention is the use of the anticoagulant (and effective rat poison) warfarin, or aspirin. Neither of these methods is without adverse effects, and warfarin, particularly, is counterproductive; patients are told not to eat a lot of leafy green vegetables since this interferes with, and counteracts, the warfarin treatment. If the patients were encouraged to eat a plant based diet with particular emphasis on the leafy greens, and added some garlic, the risk of stroke would largely disappear. Sadly, no one seems to be telling them to do this.
In respect of all of the above “big 5” causes of degenerative disease and death in the modern world, the benefits of a vegan diet are evident regardless of whether the food is raw or cooked. The most important aspect of the living foods regime comes into play when one considers the speed of reversal of these conditions. When we consider reversal of atherosclerosis, a plant-based diet can eliminate the disease in two years, but adopting a living foods plant based diet, with supplementary enzymes and whole food antioxidants, as I describe in The Whole Body Solution, can reverse it in as little as 3-4 months. Which would you prefer?