The Next Big Thing In Medicine: Part 2
Last time we discovered that ‘non-communicable’ diseases are the challenge facing modern medicine. We explained that many of these are caused by our modern food choices, and discovered that what most of us are eating nowadays is very different to what our closest ancestors, the chimps and bonobos eat, as it is to what the longest living and healthiest peoples in the world eat – which is almost entirely whole foods from plants.
Let’s have another look at those non-communicable diseases. The WHO lists the top 10 causes of death in high-income countries (in order) as: ischaemic heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, lung cancers, chronic obstructive lung disease, lung infections, cancers of the lower gut, diabetes, kidney disease, and breast cancer. All but one of these (lung infections) is non-communicable.
Close to 9 million deaths are caused by ischaemic heart disease each year. In fact, in New Zealand and other first-world countries, it’s responsible for more than twice the rate of deaths than the next leading cause (stroke). What if we had something that could eradicate that? That would truly be a game changer for medicine, and have an impact similar to the three huge developments (hand washing and sanitation, vaccination, and antibiotics) in modern medicine so far.
We can already all but eradicate ischaemic heart disease with a plant-based diet! An event rate as low as 0.6% in people who already have advanced cardiovascular disease has been achieved with this simple but incredibly effective way of eating. So it’s likely we could cut the number of people dying by 99%, saving 8.7 million lives a year. A plant-based diet can actually reverse the blockages in our arteries.
Even better news is that a plant-based way of eating should also all but eliminate stroke. How about dementia? It will decrease this substantially. We can also expect huge improvements in cancers of the lower gut, kidney disease, and breast cancer. Surprisingly, even the rate of lung cancer will decrease with a plant-based diet.
How about diabetes? Almost all cases are ‘Type 2’ diabetes. Guess what? A plant-based diet also prevents and can reverse most cases, so we could expect to almost eliminate this as well. For Type 1, blood sugar control is better so insulin requirements are reduced by about a third. Even conventional medical textbooks note that milk consumption appears linked to Type 1 diabetes in some cases.
So you can really start to get an appreciation of the impact that a plant-based diet would have if adopted en masse.
But wait, there’s more: how about infectious diseases, like those lung infections that were 6th on the list? Well, the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic that killed 50-100 million people is believed to have started in birds and pigs kept for eating. And you’ll likely recall that the most recent influenza scares have been bird flu and swine flu as well. In New Zealand, most antibiotics are actually given to livestock, and US factory farmers are notorious for this, so eating plants instead is a good way to combat antibiotic resistance. If this wasn’t enough already, it also appears that a plant-based diet improves our immunity to infection.
Impressive. Already well and truly the ‘Next Big Thing’, I’m sure you’ll agree. But wait there’s still more. There’s a lot more causes of illness out there than just that ‘top ten’ list from earlier. What if a plant-based way of eating could help with these too?
It does! In fact it seems like just about every common illness that we see as doctors has had reports of dramatic improvements and often remission, with just the simple change of eating whole foods from plants. There are simply too many to go into detail about here, but to give you an idea, here’s a list of those that came to mind:
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Impressed yet? There’s literally nothing else in medicine that has the potential to change our quality and quantity of life to the extent that a plant-based diet can. And it’s unlikely that we’ll ever discover another change that’s so effective for so many people.
Next time in the final part we’ll discuss reasons you’ll want to make the transition to a whole foods plant-based way of eating even if you don’t have any of the health issues we’ve talked about already…
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