Every year the CDC (Center for Disease Control) creates a list documenting the leading causes of death in the United States. For many years now, the number one killer in the United States is heart disease, followed by cancer, respiratory, stroke, accidents, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Though these diseases seem unrelated, these all fall under the banner of lifestyle diseases– meaning that they can be prevented by making healthier choices in our lives. No one demonstrates this better than Dr. Michael Greger, MD, the writer and researcher behind Nutrition Facts.org. Dr. Greger lectures across the country about how eating a plant-based diet can help treat, prevent, and cure most of these diseases. Yep, you read that correctly– treat, prevent AND CURE.
How does Dr. Greger know that plant foods are the saving grace to heal our heart disease, cancers, diabetes, and more? He reads all the medical journals and industry research from the year so that we don’t have to, and shares it with us non-medical folks in a fact-based, non-preachy way. His website is loaded with information about health topics from acai berries to zoonotic diseases, and everything in between– including death! The following are some really amazing points I noted during Dr. Greger’s recent lecture here in Hawaii, The Role of Diet in Treating, Preventing, and Reversing the 15 leading causes of Death.
Research demonstrates that the most protective factor against heart disease is fiber, which is only found in plant foods. The factor most correlated with heart disease is cholesterol, which is only found in animal foods. Be sure to get plenty of fiber (from vegetables, fruits, whole grains; nuts are also very protective against heart disease.).
A single meal of animal products can paralyze our arteries, cutting their ability to function properly. Each meal featuring animal foods leads to temporary inflammation, but if every meal contains animal foods we face chronic inflammation which can damage our cardiovascular system, but also our lungs and brains. This seems to be related to what’s known as endotoxins. These are bacteria found in animal products that cannot be removed from cooking or during our digestive process– it’s actually the dead bacteria that trigger the reaction; furthermore, saturated fats (found mostly in animal foods) increase the absorption of these endotoxins.
Multiple studies and long-term research as shown that the incidence of cancer decreases with vegan or vegetarian diet. Chicken and poultry consumption is related to a higher incidence of cancer (up to three times the risk).
Studies have shown that a plant-based diet can kick some cancer butt! Even the blood of most carnivorous can fight cancer; but blood from those eating a vegan diet can suppress cancer 80% better than that of a meat eater. Even after just two weeks of plant-based eating, breast cancer and prostate cancer cell growth rates decrease rapidly. It seems like we can actually reprogram cancer cell death by improving our diet.
Respiratory disease and emphysema can also be improved by simply adding a few servings of veggies to our diet.
Even Alzheimer’s disease, which affects 4 million Americans each year can be helped by reducing meat intake. Research shows that meat eaters have 2-3 times the risk of Alzheimer’s than those eating a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Diabetes, which affects millions in our country, can be prevented, treated and cured with plant-based diet. Even after adjusting for weight, research shows that the risk for diabetes was still decreased. One of the protective factors seems to be Propinate, which is a compound produced by good bacteria in gut. This is found in plants only and seems to have an overall anti-obesity effect. Eating vegetarian foods feeds our little friends with fiber, which keeps us slimmer and decreases our risk for diabetes.
Image Credit: Vegetable heart photo via Shutterstock.