Sunday, August 22, 2010

Am I a Zealot when it comes to a Whole Foods Plant Based Eating Style?

I have been accused of being a "zealot," in a religious sense, as  I try to provide information about healthy eating.  At first, I resented the label because I viewed it as an angry criticism.  As I thought about it, I began to embrace the label.  I am not "religious" in the way most people would define the word.  I am, however, passionate about the powerful impact that a whole foods plant based eating style on our health and well-being.  My passion has a strong scientific basis and much peer reviewed research support.  There is also an article of faith since science can never prove something 100%.  
The other day I lead a discussion with our local men’s club titled, Preventing and Reversing America's #1 Killer - Is Heart Disease a Paper Tiger?  At the conclusion of the discussion, the moderator asked me for concluding remarks.  I said that our men's club should commit itself to helping improve the health of it's members. Promoting good health should be part of our Mission.  I told them about my career in the health field, how I had deep respect for physicians, but that I was trying very hard to take charge of my own health and only use the health system (the business of medicine, as Dr. John McDougall puts it) when there was no other choice.  I said that rigorous attention to what we eat, moderate exercise and other lifestyle changes had the power to make the last part of our lives (club members are all over 55) immeasurably happier and possibly free of debilitating chronic disease.  I told them I had devoted my retirement and the rest of my life to helping willing people make this difficult transition.   
They politely clapped and my passionate words even surprised me.  In a sense, I guess, I am preaching.  I guess I do have a calling.
George Malkmus, founder of Hallelujah Acres, has merged his vegan approach with religion.  For those who are religious, the marriage makes sense. Eating mainly plants is gentle on the earth, kind to the animals with whom we share the earth, and kind and gentle on our bodies.  Buddhism?  Removing animal foods, processed foods and salty foods from our diets makes digestion easier consuming less of our energy, and freeing up that energy for other aspects of living. Eating mainly plant foods also aids the body's natural healing processes, as George discovered.  He claims his colon cancer was reversed by a whole foods plant based diet. 
I am not sure about cancer reversal.  But, Ruth Heidrich, a marathon runner, had metastasized breast cancer at age 48.  Dr. McDougall convinced her to forego conventional cancer treatment and adopt a whole foods plant based diet.  She is now 74, and one of the leading senior ironman triathletes in the world. She has followed this way of eating for 26 years and is a ‘Missionary’ like me.   
Dean Ornish, M.D., has done research (1) showing that a low fat, plant based diet can shrink the size of prostate tumors. Should we substitute a plant based diet for conventional cancer treatment.  I don't know, and Ruth Heidrich doesn't know.  Does such a way of eating have a powerful positive positive affect on our health?  No question.  It's a "religious" conviction  of mine.
My mother and father were not religious, and there were few other Jewish families in my hometown of Bath, NY.  My girlfriends were mostly Catholic, and I used to impress them by attending Mass with them. My motives were suspect,  but maybe some of it stuck. 
1. Ornish D, Weidner G, Fair WR, et al. Intensive lifestyle changes may affect the progression of prostate cancer. Journal of Urology. 2005; 174(3): 1065-70

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