Notes from PBNHC 9-15
Over 3½ days the Plant-Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference featured 15 speakers, a cooking demo and a discussion panel. There were about 600 people attending, most of which were doctors or other medical professionals. The conference was organized to provide doctors with the latest information on treating patients with a plant-based diet. My notes below capture a small fraction of the scientific information presented. In summary, more is known each year about the causes of disease, and the more we learn, the more we find that the consumption of animal products is linked to disease creation and the more the consumption of whole plants is linked to health.
Throughout the conference, Rich and I met many people that not only understood the benefits to health of a plant-based diet but were taking steps to share this information with others. Over and over we heard that these efforts were largely labors of love, done weekends and evenings, much like our situation holding NuSci workshops. Like us, many doctors, nurses, dietitians, and health coaches wanted to be able to spend more time, even making a career out of helping people achieve outstanding health results by switching to a plant-based diet. Experts estimate that we would save over $2 trillion per year in healthcare costs in this country if everyone switched to a plant-based diet, yet it is challenging to get paid to help people through this transition. The last event of the conference was a panel consisting of Jimmy H. Conway, MD, J. Ted Crawford, DO, Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, Kumara Sidhartha, MD, MPH, and Salvatore Lacagnina, DO who shared what they were doing to promote a plant-based diet and how they were getting paid to do it. At NuSci we will be carefully considering what we heard and trying to figure a way that we can fund a significant expansion of our activities and our message of hope and health.
To your long life and health,
John Tanner, PhD
Director, NuSci, The Nutrition Science Foundation
Kim Williams, MD led off the program. There is a lot of excitement about the fact that Dr. Williams, a plant-based diet advocate, was just elected president of the American College of Cardiology. Hopefully he can make a lasting impact on the cardiology profession. Dr. Williams reported the sobering statistic that every 1 minute 23 seconds someone dies of heart disease in the US. Research shows that not only in the U.S. but around the world including Finland, Russia, and Japan, heart disease deaths follow a diet of animal products and fats. Dr. William’s conclusion: Meat kills you. Processed meat kills you faster. As to why he himself doesn’t eat meat, “I don’t mind dying,” he says, “I just don’t want it to be my fault.”
Dean Ornish, MD began research 38 years ago that showed that a plant based diet halted or reversed heart disease. His studies concluded that the benefit you receive is linked to how much dietary change you make, not how old or sick you are. Dr. Ornish talked about the benefit of a plant-based diet in controlling cancer. A 2005 study showed a reduction of prostate cancer through lifestyle changes. Gene expression of 501 genes for cancer were positively affected in 30 days by lifestyle changes alone. Lifestyle changes increased length of telomeres which are linked to longevity. In addition to eating a plant-based diet, Dr. Ornish recommends stress reduction, exercise and social support. Although it took him 16 years, Dr. Ornish has succeeded in getting Medicare/Medicaid to pay for his heart disease reversal program through educating the patient about a plant-based diet.
T. Colin Campbell, PhD, the author of the landmark book, The China Study, shared with us what little attention nutrition is getting from the federal government. Of the 28 institutes in the National Institute of Health (NIH), not one is for nutrition. Dr. Campbell noted that cancer is reversible by nutrition. Each nutrient acts by countless mechanisms and can affect gene expression – that is, which of our genes are activated and which are dormant. He also concluded that animal and plant-based proteins act differently, with animal proteins promoting multiple diseases, while plant proteins do not. He quoted a study from 1968 that showed dramatic increase in cancer death from casein, the main protein in milk. His own studies confirmed that casein increased cancer growth rate in all stages of cancer development. Dr. Campbell warns that we aren’t going to get healthy be eating dietary supplements. Nutrient supplementation is not nutrition and doesn't work. Studies show supplements often increase disease.
Scott Stoll, MD is one of the founders of the conference. He stated that eating animal products causes vascular disease (disease of the blood vessels) which in turn causes disk degeneration, impotence, peripheral vascular disease, retinopathy, peripheral neuropathy, and dementia. Doctors want to diagnose and treat each of these separately but all these have the same root cause and the same cure - a plant based diet. Sadly many doctors lead patients into a downward spiral of more and larger doses of medication that don't cure the disease and lead to greater illness. Food often cures these problems starting within a couple hours. Dr. Stoll recommends a plant-based diet because he is a doctor whose goal is to help the patient never have to come back and see him again.
William Li, MD discussed angiogenesis, the way our body creates our system of arteries, veins, and capillaries. Our blood vessels could circle the earth twice. When we are healthy, we have a balanced system that grows and shrinks blood vessels as appropriate. We have many cancerous cells in us, but there are only a small percentage of them that can hijack the blood vessel growing apparatus which allows the cancer to grow. Angiogenesis also plays a role in destabilizing plaque in artery disease. Laboratory tools were developed to track angiogenesis for drug evaluation. These same tools were then used to evaluate the angiogenesis effects of nutrients. Many plant foods were found to have powerful beneficial results in the same range as medications. Our microbiome also effects angiogenesis.
Corey Howard, MD discussed the gut microbiome – the set of bacteria that we have in our stomachs and intestines. Our bodies are made up of about 37 trillion human cells. In addition, we have about 100 trillion bacteria in and on our bodies. Within our DNA, we have about 20,000 genes. Only 300 of these genes code for protein creation. The other 21,700 serve to regulate the 300 protein genes. Microbiomes vary by country because of dietary differences. Everyone's microbiome is unique to them. Bacteria provide metabolic functions, protective functions, and structural and histological functions. There is a large connection between the gut and brain. The nutrients required for a healthy microbiome cannot be found in a hunk of meat. You need to eat plants. Eating soluble fiber (vegetables) results in a tighter binding between adjacent gut lining cells thus reducing leaky gut. Good bacteria have ways to kill bad bacteria. Bacteria within your mucus communicate with each other to coordinate. Animal products contain a wide range of damaging bacteria. Complex activity results in increase in inflammation and fat storage. Damage to the microbiome results in dozens of different negative effects including diabetes, heart disease, and weight gain. Antibiotics affect the microbiome forever. Probiotics can help regenerate a healthy microbiome, but we do not yet have the knowledge to cure specific diseases with probiotics. Some fermented foods (e.g. fermented cabbage, natto) can create valuable nutrients not found in unfermented products. “”””Most medications are evil. They affect many gut interactions. E.g. statin drugs kill a beneficial gut bacteria.
Brooke Goldner, MD was diagnosed with lupus at age 16 and nearly died from it. Her disease lasted until age 28 when she cured it with a plant based diet. She now helps patients cure lupus and other diseases by getting them to switch from inflammatory animal foods, processed foods and oils to healing plant foods and water. She says that milk is so dangerous that if you are going to hand your kid a glass of milk you might as well hand them a cigarette as well. A patient had lupus and sought out a dietary solution. The patient went on a Paleo diet which caused kidney failure and nearly killed the patient. The patient then found Dr. Goldner, and switched to a plant based diet. Inflammation was dramatically down in 10 days. Lupus was eliminated soon after.
Brie Turner-McGrievy, PhD studies different diets. One study compared results from people on omnivorous, semi-vegetarian, pesco vegetarian, vegetarian, and vegan diets. Results: each diet with less animal products has greater weight loss, with vegan being best. She also found that more top athletes are learning of the benefit of a plant-based diet. She found that a greater percentage of marathon runners are vegan than the general population and an even greater percentage of ultramarathon runners are vegan.
Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., MD author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease states that for people who eat the standard American diet, even at age 17 the beginning of heart disease is ubiquitous. Endothelial cells that line the arteries create nitric oxide which protects the arteries. We often are told that our HDL is the good cholesterol. But research shows that eating animal products converts HDL from being anti-inflammatory to inflammatory. So if you are eating animal products, don’t assume that that high HDL blood test is a good thing. Dr. Esselstyn started a small study in 1985 where he took 18 "walking dead" very sick heart patients and put them on a whole-plant no-oil diet. Heart disease was halted or reversed. His later study of 200 people showed 99% less heart events in the plant-based group. He also has documented three case studies that show the reversal of artery occlusion in neck, chest and leg through a plant based diet after complete failure of traditional medical treatments. A plant based diet can annihilate heart disease and other diseases.
Craig McDougall, MD, is the son of John McDougall who authored The Starch Solution. The younger McDougall is now in his own medical practice, guiding patients to a plant-based diet through a 12 week program that includes medical care, education, and social support. Craig has worked with his father to compile and publish results from McDougall 10 day live in sessions. Patients show significant improvement in that time and strong compliance months and years after. In a plant based diet more fruits and vegetables lead to higher weight loss. Higher starch leads to higher energy and satiety. The McDougalls document an average of a 30 point drop in cholesterol in 7 days.
Michael Turpin, a former healthcare executive focused on the economics and politics of our healthcare.
Healthcare is 16% of the GDP. Big troubles are ahead as Medicare is $50 trillion underfunded and we are consuming 3 times the level of health care than are covered by the premiums collected. Consumerism as a force to control health care only goes so far. Mr. Turpin says you are only a healthcare consumer until you are on your back and then you are a patient. A major cost increase coming soon is the 2018 planned "Cadillac Tax" on employers with higher price employee health benefit packages. The effectiveness of employee health education is limited because 65% of catastrophic healthcare claims were not from employees but for employee dependents. The law allows for insurance companies to charge 30% more for premiums for unhealthy practices as well as 20% more for smokers. Thus higher premiums could be used in the future to incent plant-based eating.
Alan Goldhamer, DC supports medically supervised water fasting at his TrueNorth Health Center. He points out that adults live only a few years longer than they did in 1900. (Our increased life expectancy from birth is increased mostly by reduced infant mortality.) What should matter most to us though is healthy life expectancy. Unfortunately in this country we have an average of about 7 years of debility before we die. Sugar and fat promote dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure sensation in the brain, which is why we have trouble resisting these temptations. But they lead to higher blood pressure (BP) and each point increase in BP results in 1% increase in heart disease deaths. Water fasting reduces BP on average of 37 points and thus reduces heart disease deaths by 37%. Fasting followed by a plant based diet doesn't cure obesity, lymphoma, blood pressure, etc. It only manages these diseases to eliminate their effects. If the patient doesn't continue to comply with the diet, the diseases will return. Without water fasting first, it takes about one month to adapt to a low salt diet and three months to adapt to a low fat diet. Water fasting accelerates these changes dramatically.
Chad Sarno demonstrated cooking techniques and discussed strategies for making the most plant-based meals in the least amount of time.
Michael Greger, MD, is author of nutritionfacts.org, which contains written and video summaries of nutrition studies. One study found that colon cancer was linked not with lack of fiber but with animal food consumption. Eating animal protein increased cancer by 4 times. One study stated that the chicken wing you are holding is as dangerous as a cigarette. Another study showed that rheumatoid Arthritis is reduced by shifting to a plant based diet. The same result held for osteoarthritis. Sometimes doctors think that people won’t stick to a plant-based diet, but a study found that people stick with a plant based diet because they feel better. We used to think that blood pressure of 120/80 was good enough. Research shows that lowering BP to 110/70 is best. In one case study, a diabetic for 20 years reversed the disease in 16 days on a plant based diet. The top 17 sources of glycotoxins are meat. The neurotoxin BMAA is created by aquatic bacteria and we consume it in fish. A study recently associated BMAA with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. This linkage can explain why ALS is on the rise. Milk consumption is associated with greater bone breakage rates, cancer and heart disease. It took 25 years from solid anti-smoking research before the surgeon general’s report condemned cigarettes. A plant-based diet is the equivalent of not smoking. The science is solid, but it may take a while (and many more deaths) before animal products are generally recognized as harmful.
Micaela Karlsen, PhD Candidate and Kathy Pollard, MS discussed issues in achieving behavioral change of switching to a plant-based diet. They noted that most of us make over 200 food decisions per day. A constant need to make decisions can lead to decision fatigue. We need an environment where there is not a constant need to make good food decisions. Willpower is a limited resource especially when you are hungry, sleepy or exhausted, so those are conditions where it is especially important to avoid tempting unhealthy food. Habits are impulsive behavior patterns that do not require conscious thought. Habits can be a problem or a benefit to dieting. Intentional behavior can build good habits.
Hans Diehl, DrHSc, creator of the Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP) quoted Denis Burkitt, MD who studied disease throughout the world as saying “The concept that Western diseases are lifestyle-related and therefore potentially preventable and reversible is the most important medical discovery of the twentieth century.” Salvatore Lacagnina, DO described his successes in switching patients to a plant-based diet using the CHIP program. In addition to the CHIP direct participants, he found that people who improve themselves often report collateral improvement among other people close to them.