People are becoming ill and contracting diseases at alarming rates. Half of us take at least one prescription medication every day, have high blood pressure and have one or more chronic health conditions. One-third of us have dangerously high cholesterol levels. It is now estimated that one-third of the U.S. adult population is obese, with two-thirds of adults qualifying as “overweight.”
What is happening? Is the cause for these problems lying beneath our very noses – and on our dinner plates? Could it really be that simple and obvious to prevent and/or reverse many of the chronic conditions Americans face including heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s?
Let’s take a closer look at today’s most prevalent chronic diseases, and then try to connect the dots to arrive at some logical solutions and conclusions.
A Brief Overview of Chronic Diseases
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular disease is the #1 leading cause of death in the U.S. Approximately half of all Americans develop heart disease. And to a great extent, heart disease is caused by unbalanced diets and lack of physical exercise (and is therefore preventable).
Heart disease is a condition created by abnormal blood lipid (fat) levels. This is caused by a diet high in cholesterol and saturated fats (found in animal products) and trans fats (found in hydrogenated oils used in processed foods like cakes, cookies and fast food).
“The role of diet is crucial in the development and prevention of cardiovascular disease. Diet is one of the key things you can change that will impact all other cardiovascular risk factors.”
World Heart Federation
Saturated fat and trans fat intake levels then determine unhealthy cholesterol levels. Doctors consider anything higher than 150 mg/dL as unsafe. As the arteries build up and thicken with cholesterol and other waxy substances, blood flow to all areas of the body is compromised and a heart attack is very likely as this condition worsens. Cholesterol and saturated fat also clog the arteries to the brain. And this can lead to a stroke, which is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S.
According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer “is the name given to a collection of related diseases. In all types of cancer, some of the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues. Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body.”
Cancer is the second highest cause of death in Americans; according to WHO, up to 40% of all cancers are preventable. And the American Cancer Society estimates that one-third of all cancers can be attributed to nutritional factors. Throw in other lifestyle factors such as smoking and lack of exercise, and that associated risk increases to as high as 85%.
“Colon and breast cancer are the two most deadly cancers in the U.S. Of all cancers, colon cancer is the most directly related to food choices.”
Vegan — The New Ethics of Eating
The most common cancers today are breast cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, prostate cancer, colon and rectum cancer, bladder cancer, melanoma of the skin, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, thyroid cancer, kidney and renal pelvis cancer, leukemia, endometrial cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Approximately 40% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetimes.
“Nutrients from animal-based foods increased tumor development, while nutrients from plant-based foods decreased tumor development.”
The China Study
Our bodies are constantly fighting off cancer cells. The strength of our immune systems determines how successful our bodies are in killing and stopping those cancer cells from multiplying.
According to the Diabetes Research Institute, in the last decade the number of Americans living with diabetes has increased nearly 50% to 30 million. Worldwide, approximately 400 million people suffer from diabetes. It is a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure and stroke.
Diabetes is the result of our body’s lack or misuse of insulin. No matter what type of diabetes (1 or 2), it develops due to too much glucose in the blood. Normally when food is consumed, the body turns it into sugars or glucose and the pancreas releases insulin that then opens cells and uses the glucose as energy.
“If you have diabetes, you are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of mortality for people with diabetes. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy diet will improve your diabetes status.”
World Heart Federation
When diabetes is present, this system does not work properly. In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks its own pancreas. In type 2 diabetes, the body is only able to produce some of its own insulin. Type 1 diabetes typically appears during childhood or adolescence, while type 2 diabetes (which is more common) can develop at any age.
Osteoporosis is a disease that occurs when bones become weak in the body to the point of breakage. Millions of Americans have osteoporosis due to low bone density, whether they realize it yet or not.
A common myth is that people (especially women) must consume massive quantities of calcium in order to stave off osteoporosis. And the most popularly advertised source of calcium is dairy products. But medical professionals and scientists now know that osteoporosis can also occur due to the intake of too much calcium. With the proper diet and exercise, supplements are unnecessary. You can obtain adequate amounts of calcium from diet alone. And those dairy products actually raise the acid level in human blood, causing calcium loss. Too much protein can also cause calcium and other important nutrients to excrete from the body.
“Those counties that use the most cow’s milk and its products also have the highest fracture rates and the worst bone health.”
The China Study
According to the World Heart Federation, there are 400 million adults worldwide who are obese and one billion who are overweight. Worldwide, nearly 20 million children under the age of five years are overweight. More than one-third of American adults and approximately 20% of children have obesity.
“The latter half of the 20th century saw major changes to all our diets and how we live. We moved from plant-based diets to high-fat, energy-dense animal-based diets while at the same time becoming physically inactive. Many developing countries face the strange situation of having the problems of under nutrition and obesity at the same time.”
World Heart Federation
Obesity is the fastest growing disease in America. It is now considered the second leading cause of preventable deaths, as it causes conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Obesity has also been linked to arthritis, gout, gallbladder disease, hypertension, asthma, and kidney failure.
According to the National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s disease “is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.”
An estimated 5 million Americans now have Alzheimer’s, which is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia among older adults.
“The symptoms and pathology of Alzheimer’s closely resembles that of Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (CJD) and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow Disease, both caused by infectious prion proteins.”
Scientists don’t yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease in most people — but it is not considered a “normal” part of aging. The breakdown of connections made between damaged brain cells and eventual brain cell death causes Alzheimer’s. Before the turn of the 20th century, there is no evidence of anything resembling Alzheimer’s disease, so it is considered a relatively new disease / condition.
What’s Really Going On Here?
So if we stop and try to connect the dots, can we see a pattern? Is there a common denominator present when we examine these diseases and the increasing occurrence of them as a whole? Why are so many people gaining weight, which in turn causes so many other diseases and issues? Why are so many people without a weight problem also contracting heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes?
Could the common connection possibly be as simple as what we eat every day? Do we need to look at the foods on our plates?
Again, it seems like the elephant in the room, doesn’t it? The “experts” rarely if ever discuss the SAD (Standard American Diet) and environmental factors. But scientists / researchers now believe these are the two main culprits behind chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and even Alzheimer’s.
Finding a “Cure” or Treatment for a Disease (Throwing Parts at the Problem) vs. PREVENTION
So hey, if you have a problem, you can just take a pill for it, right? Never mind that the pill you take for one issue can create a handful of other serious issues for you — and so it becomes a vicious circle. Before you know it, you’re taking a dozen different prescription medications every day. But do you really feel any better? Have you really lowered your risk of succumbing to one of the chronic diseases mentioned in this article?
“The only way to win your personal war on cancer is to strengthen your immune system by changing your diet. Plant foods are the only foods that strengthen the immune system and contain cancer-fighting nutrients.”
Is this our fate? Are we destined and doomed to die from one or more of these largely preventable diseases? Can we believe what many medical professionals tell us? Are heart disease, many cancers, diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer’s actually genetic, an inherited fate that is somehow out of our control? Must we resign ourselves to eventually becoming ill / contracting one of these serious life-threatening diseases? Or believe that if we keep consuming all of those dairy products, we won’t suffer from Osteoporosis? Are we to hand over all of our trust, logic and reason to the very industries that only exist and thrive financially when we’re sick?
Connecting the Dots
Perhaps it’s time to take back our power — to make our health a number one priority that WE must address, maintain and monitor. It isn’t natural and it doesn’t have to be inevitable. Perhaps the answer doesn’t come in the shape of a pill or other dangerous treatment or procedure. If we end up in a hospital, but can pick up a phone and order a bacon cheeseburger from the ICU while recovering from a heart attack or stroke, there is indeed something very wrong with this picture…
How a Plant-Based Diet Fits into the Equation
Maybe it makes more sense to focus on the cause of the problem and to prevent the issue from occurring in the first place. We don’t have to wait until we’re getting rushed to the ER in an ambulance. We can take the steps necessary to prevent it from happening in the first place. And just because Uncle Stan or our father died from heart disease, that doesn’t mean we are doomed to repeat history.
Heart Disease and Animal Products
Enter the plant-based diet. It provides all of the nutrients your body needs, while at the same time staving off all of the chronic (preventable) diseases such as heart disease, cancer (especially breast and colon), type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, and even possibly Alzheimer’s.
“This link between animal products and heart disease is now very well documented. It’s no surprise that half of all Americans develop heart disease, because the typical U.S. diet puts almost everyone at risk. I don’t understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic, while it’s medically conservative to cut people open or put them on powerful cholesterol-lowering drugs for the rest of their lives.”
Dean Ornish, M.D.
It’s Not Too Late
And if you just can’t stand the thought of giving up those steaks and pork chops until the 11th hour — guess what the doctor will more than likely suggest you do once your cholesterol levels become high and you are facing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity or another disease? Yes, your doctor will most likely recommend that you cut back on animal products. Your doctor will probably suggest that you instead consume more whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruit and other plant-based sources of protein and nutrition.
“Fortunately, more and more of us are every day realizing we can choose a way of life, and a way of eating, that frees us to our highest health potential and leads us to a far more fulfilling experience of our bodies and our lives.We can break out of the habits that tell us to conform and stay put, and say No to the lies of industries that profit from our pain.”
John Robbins, The Food Revolution
So it seems too good to be true. But all along you’ve had the solution to chronic disease prevention and optimal health in front of you all of the time, hidden in plain sight: a plant-based vegan (or mainly vegan) diet.
“If you ask your doctors what you should be eating to fight arthritis, menstrual cramps or cancer, they won’t have a clue. But they will know what drugs to prescribe. But drugs only treat symptoms. Cholesterol-lowering drugs treat a symptom of a bad eating habit. Treating the cause of high cholesterol means eliminating cholesterol from your diet.”
But it IS true. By adopting a plant-based diet, you can lower your risk of contracting life-threatening diseases, and in some cases completely reverse the diseases you now may be experiencing.
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Sources for this Article
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, http://www.pcrm.org
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and Thomas M. Campbell II, M.D.
Eating by Mike Anderson
The Food Revolution by John Robbins
Vegan – The New Ethics of Eating by Erik Marcus
Dr. Dean Ornish, https://www.ornish.com
Organic Consumers Association, http://www.organicconsumers.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.nccd.cdc.gov
World Health Organization (WHO), http://www.who.int/en/
World Heart Federation, http://www.world-heart-federation.org/
New York Times – Advice from a Vegan Cardiologist
National Cancer Institute, http://www.cancer.gov
National Institutes of Health, http://www.nih.gov
Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.org
Diabetes Research Institute, http://www.diabetesresearch.org
National Institute on Aging, https://www.nia.nih.gov
Idaho Department of Food Science and Toxicology, http://extoxnet.orst.edu