Welcome back to my weekly blog post! Today, I am summarizing the Food as Medicine Part. 1 – Part. 3 recommendations on how to eat to live long and why we are not doing it. Please enjoy reading:
If you look at four of the major dietary quality scoring systems, which have all been associated with extending lifespan and lowering heart disease and cancer mortality, they all share only four things in common: more fruit, more vegetables, more whole grains, and more nuts and beans. They are all built on a common core of diets rich in plant foods, whereas opposite food patterns, rich in animal foods and poor in plant-based foods (in other words, the Western diet), are associated with higher risks. So, we need to optimize the food environment to support whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and plant-based sources of protein.
Taking the diet quality indexes to their logical conclusion, the most plant-based diet would be the most healthy diet. But again, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We now have evidence that simple advice to increase the consumption of plant-derived foods with reductions in the consumption of foods from animal sources confers a survival advantage.
And boy do we need it. Let me end with a thought experiment. Imagine yourself a smoker in the 1950s. The average per capita cigarette consumption was about 4,000 cigarettes a year. Think about that. In the 1950s, the average American smoked a half a pack a day.
The media was telling you to smoke and famous athletes agreed. Even Santa Claus cared enough about your throat to want you to smoke. I mean, you want “to keep fit”, and “stay slender”, so you make sure to smoke and eat hot dogs to keep trim, and lots of sugar to stay slim and trim, a lot less fattening than that apple, I mean?? “Though apples do connote goodness and freshness”, reads one internal tobacco industry memo, which brings up many possibilities for making youth-oriented cigarettes. Shameless!
In addition to staying fit and slender and soothing your throat, “for digestion’s sake”, you smoke. I mean, “No curative power is claimed for Phillip Morris— but, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So, better safe than sorry, and smoke. After all, popular, handsome John Wayne smoked them—until he got lung cancer and died. Even the paleo folks were smoking, and so were the doctors.
This is not to say there wasn’t controversy within the medical profession. Yes, some doctors smoked Camels, but other physicians preferred Luckies; so, there was some disagreement. Eminent doctors, on high and impartial medical authority, call for Phillip Morris. Even the specialists could not agree which cigarette was better for your throat; so, best to stick to the science, and more scientists smoke this brand.
What was the government saying? Smoke Luckies. I mean who wouldn’t want to give their throat a vacation. Not a single case of throat irritation. How could your nose and throat be adversely affected— when cigarettes are “just as pure as the water you drink.”
And if you do get irritated, no problem; your doctor can write you a prescription for cigarettes. This is an ad from the Journal of the American Medical Association. After all, “Don’t smoke is advice hard for patients” to swallow. Reminds me of the recent survey of doctors that found the #1 reason doctors don’t prescribe heart-healthy diets today was their perception that patients fear being deprived of all the junk they’re eating. After all, Philip Morris reminded us, we want to keep our patients happy, and “to make a radical change in habit…may do harm.” You’re a doctor; you don’t want to harm your patients.
What did the American Medical Association have to say for itself? Like most other medical journals, they accepted tobacco ads. Now, some of the science did leak out, causing a dip from about 11 cigarettes a day per person down to 10, but those who got scared could always choose “the cigarette that takes the fear out of smoking,” or even better, choose the cigarette that “gives you the greatest health protection.”
When famed surgeon Michael DeBakey was asked why his studies published back in the 30s linking smoking and lung cancer were ignored, he had to remind people about what it was like back then. Makes me wonder what’s served at the Dietary Guidelines Committee meeting breakfast buffets to this day.
So, back to our thought experiment. If you’re a smoker in the 50’s in the know, what do you do? With access to the science, you realize that the best available balance of evidence suggests that your smoking habit is probably not good for you. So, do you change your smoking habits or do you wait? If you wait until your physician tells you, between puffs, to quit, you could have cancer by then. If you wait until the powers that be officially recognize it, like the Surgeon General did in the subsequent decade, you could be dead by then.
It took 25 years for the Surgeon General’s report to come out. It took more than 7,000 studies and the deaths of countless smokers before the first Surgeon General’s report against smoking was finally released in the 1960’s. You’d think maybe after the first 6,000 studies, maybe they could have given people a little heads up or something? It was a powerful industry. One wonders how many people are currently suffering needlessly from dietary diseases. Maybe we should have stopped smoking after the 700th study like this.
Now, fast forward 55 years. There’s a new Adventist study out of California, the Adventist Health Study 2, warning America about the risks of something else they may be putting in their mouth. And it’s not just one study; according to the latest review, the total sum of evidence suggests that mortality from all causes put together, and many of our dreaded diseases—ischemic heart disease, and circulatory and cerebrovascular diseases like stroke—were significantly lower in those eating meat-free diets, in addition to less cancer and diabetes.
So, instead of going along with America’s smoking habits in the 50s, imagine you or someone you know going along with America’s eating habits today. What do you do? With access to the science, you realize that the best available balance of evidence suggests that your eating habits are probably not good for you. So, do you change your eating habits or do you wait? If you wait until your physician tells you, between bites, to change your diet, it may be too late.
Today, the food industry uses the same tobacco industry tactics: supplying misinformation and twisting the science.
The same scientists-for-hire paid to downplay the risks of secondhand smoke and toxic chemicals are the same hired by the National Confectioners Association to downplay the risks of candy, and the same hired by the meat industry to downplay the risks of meat.
Consumption of animal products and processed foods cause at least 14 million deaths around the world each year. 14 million deaths. 14 million people dead every year. This is not a failure of individual willpower, says the Director-General of the World Health Organization. This is a failure of political will to take on big business, which is a formidable opposition. Few governments are willing to prioritize health over big business. As we learned from experience with the tobacco industry, a powerful corporation can sell the public just about anything.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the tobacco experience, wrote one district judge, it’s how powerful profits can be a motivator, even at the cost of millions of lives and unspeakable suffering.
How many more people have to die, before the CDC encourages people not to wait for open heart surgery to eat healthy, as well? How long’s that going to take, though?
We know a whole food plant-based diet has been proven to reverse our #1 killer, and protect against type 2 diabetes and cancer. So how has this knowledge affected medical education? It hasn’t. Despite the neglect of nutrition in medical education, the public considers physicians to be among the most trusted sources, but if doctors don’t know what they’re talking about, they could actually be contributing to diet-related diseases. To stem the surging tide of chronic illness in the United States, physicians need to become part of the solution. But we don’t have to wait for that to happen. No longer do patients have to be patient. We have to take personal responsibility for our own health and for our family’s health. We can’t wait until society catches up with the science, because it’s a matter of life and death.
As a Health Coach, I am mentoring my clients to create and maintain long-term lifestyle changes to enhance their overall quality of life. In addition to supporting clients with specific goals, I empower my clients to choose health-promoting behaviors that work for them. I raise awareness and offer support as clients move in their own bio-individual ways toward the greater health they want for themselves. My coaching hopefully leads to long-term behavior change, but only because I help my clients do the meaningful work that forms a strong foundation.
How can I help you? Are there any changes you wish for yourself? Is your health the best it could be? You can book your free consultation with me now: