History of the Plant-Based Diet
In December 2013, I watched a documentary entitled Forks Over Knives. This movie follows the lives of five people with different medical issues and tracks their progress after they adopt a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet, a dietary regime that contains no animal products, and contains food that is either unprocessed or minimally processed. The health results for each of these individuals are quite dramatic. This documentary had such a profound effect on me that I adopted a plant-based diet the very next day and have never looked back.
As a massage therapist, I cannot, and do not advise in the area of nutrition. I am not suggesting that you need to change your diet. What I am saying is that there is a tremendous amount of scientific evidence supporting plant-based eating, and reducing processed food in one’s diet. For example, there is clear evidence that plant-based nutrition is beneficial for the management and prevention of many conditions that I see on a daily basis such as fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, depression, joint health, pain, muscle soreness, athletic recovery, athletic performance, and muscle fatigue. Most of this evidence suggests that the more that we incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into our diet, the more health benefits we can expect to see.
As you scroll through the timeline it should become apparent that there is now a massive body of evidence that has been built up over decades supporting the concept of a diet based primarily on food from the plant kingdom. This article is an attempt to highlight significant events in the history of plant-based diets, to stroll through the trail of evidence that brought the WFPB movement to where it is today, and also to highlight some of the significant figures in the movement.
Time Machine (Some people call it an an Index 🙂 )
Evaluating the Evidence
Beginning of timeline
Take me to 1900
Take me to 1930
Take me to 1940
Take me to 1960
Take me to 1970
Take me to 1980
Take me to 1990
Take me to 2000
Take me to 2010
Take me to 2014
This article is not a definitive work, but rather, a work in progress (currently around 20,000 words). I have tried to avoid excessive depth, but have provided hundreds of links and citations which allow you to explore any topic of interest further and to examine the evidence behind the information provided. If you are reading this and want to see an important individual, or study, or piece of information added or modified, then please email me, and I will gladly entertain your suggestion.
Disclaimer – This site does not offer medical advice. I have nothing to sell, nor nothing to gain personally from disseminating information on this topic. Furthermore, my site has no pop-ups, no advertising and no sponsorship; however, like all writers, I do have internal biases or beliefs that permeate throughout my life and my writing. Three that I am aware of are:
- I have a passion for optimum health and wellness
- I believe in respecting and protecting our planet’s many ecosystems for future generations
- I am opposed to killing of any sentient being
Adopting a whole food, plant-based diet has allowed me to move toward all three of these beliefs simultaneously, not requiring me to sacrifice one conviction for another. Eating a WFPB diet is the single most important change I have ever made in my life to bring my actions in accordance with my beliefs. While nutrition is an incredibly complicated subject that science has yet to untangle, eating whole plant foods as the basis of one’s diet appears to be a remarkably simple yet powerful strategy for achieving optimum health and wellness.
The term ‘whole food, plant-based’ is a recent one, coined by T. Colin Campbell, referring to the scientific approach to understanding and adopting a plant-based diet, as opposed to an ethical or religious approach, typically coined as ‘veganism’. Campbell describes the evolution of the term here.((History of the Term ‘Whole Food, Plant-Based’ by T. Colin Campbell PhD))
Our Hunter-Gatherer History
Humans have been consuming meat as some portion of their diet a long as history has been recorded, and well before then. The earliest evidence for hunting technology in the form of hafted spear points currently dates back to our hominid ancestors about 500,000 years ago.((J Wilkins, BJ Schoville, KS Brown, M Chazan. Evidence for early hafted hunting technology. Science 338, 942-946.)) Humans clearly have a long history of consuming animal flesh– there is no denying this fact. While meat has been a portion of the diet of most human cultures and tribes, it is only within the last century or so that meat and meat products have come to occupy such a large percentage of our diet. Despite our recorded history of consuming animal flesh as a portion of our diet, animal flesh is not a dietary requirement. We are not carnivores. But even though we are considered omnivores, we definitely don’t need meat in our diet to survive. Given our physiology, dentition, jaw design, alimentary tract, running speed, lack of claws, and several other traits seen in omnivores, our current diet definitely makes us an oddity of nature. The chart below seems to suggest that we are perhaps best adapted morphologically and physiologically to a diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Looking at the picture and the info above, it is clear that we are not carnivores, but even as omnivores we are a true oddity.((WC Roberts. Twenty questions on atherosclerosis Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2000 Apr; 13(2): 139–143.)) Here is a link to an interesting exploration of our classification as omnivores.((Vegan Biologist- Humans are Not Herbivores)) It was undoubtedly the development and evolution of the human brain that allowed us to become hunters. Most other parts of our anatomy do not make for a good predator. Our forebearers likely came to eat meat as opportunistic meat eaters, scrounging on either dead carcasses or eating insects or animals that were easy to capture. The taming of fire would have allowed them to ingest animal flesh with less risk. It would also have improved the taste of such foods, making animal flesh even more appealing.
Having evolved in tropical regions, plant-based foods would have been available year-round. It wasn’t until our ancestors left the tropics that we encountered the issue of seasonality and its affect on plant-based food availability, forcing us to endure winters with little food. Certainly animal flesh would have been even more appealing at this point. Early humans didn’t have grocery stores with a year round supply of a large variety of food or refrigeration to store food that they found, so, most of the human diet was opportunistic gathering and hunting. For most of our history, people did not have the opportunity of choosing an exclusive plant-based diet, or exclusive animal-based diet. We ate what we could find or hunt in those days.
While there has been a popular narrative from the Paleo diet crowd concerning our hunter-gatherer past, it appears that many hunter-gatherer societies got the bulk of their calories from gathering as opposed to hunting. The modern ‘Paleo’ movement has constructed a narrative that is not based in fact, but in myth. Science writer Ferris Jabr has this to say in his Scientific American article((Scientific American-How to Really Eat Like a Hunter-Gatherer: Why the Paleo Diet Is Half-Baked)) about the ‘Paleo’ diet: “What we can say for certain is that in the Palaeolithic, the human diet varied immensely by geography, season and opportunity.” In Other words, there was no ‘one’ Paleo diet.
“What we can say for certain is that in the Palaeolithic, the human diet varied immensely by geography, season and opportunity.” – Ferris Jabr
What we have learned from scientific investigation of the Palaeolithic period as far as diet is concerned is that humans are incredibly adaptable. We can survive on almost any food source. If one’s goal is to prove that humans ate such and such, you can likely look at the fossil records and postulate that a certain a group of individuals survived on a certain food source. However, the issue isn’t what we can eat, but rather, which diet leads to optimum health. Let’s move forward and briefly look at our agrarian history.
Our agricultural history began independently in different parts of the globe. At least 11 separate regions of the Old and New World were involved as independent centres of origin. Some of the earliest known domestication of animals was of pigs – domesticated in Mesopotamia around 13,000 BC. Eventual domestication of animals by many cultures made meat, eggs and dairy readily available in our diet.
During this period of human history we no longer needed to hunt and gather because we ate what we farmed. However, in temperate areas of the globe, fruits and vegetables were seasonal. On the other hand, animals were potentially available for harvest twelve months a year. This provided clear survival advantages. As well, there is no denying that meat and animal products (especially the fat contained therein), added to the taste of many foods and added variety to our palate. Fat came not just from the meat, but also from the milk, (a.k.a. dairy products) of these animals. (Incidentally, today the primary source of saturated fat in our diet is from dairy, not meat.)((Harvard T Chan School of Public Health- Top Food Sources of Saturated Fat in the US))
Once humans mastered agriculture, the bulk of their calories were typically obtained from starches, not meat. As Dr. John McDougall states in his 2009 newsletter: “The most important evidence supporting my claim that the natural human diet is based on starches is a simple observation that you can easily validate for yourself: All large populations of trim, healthy people, throughout verifiable human history, have obtained the bulk of their calories from starch. Examples of once thriving people include Japanese, Chinese, and other Asians eating sweet potatoes, buckwheat, and/or rice, Incas in South America eating potatoes, Mayans and Aztecs in Central America eating corn, and Egyptians in the Middle East eating wheat. There have been only a few small isolated populations of primitive people, such as the Arctic Eskimos, living at the extremes of the environment, who have eaten otherwise. Therefore, scientific documentation of what people have eaten over the past thirteen thousand years convincingly supports my claim.”
Evaluating the Recent Evidence
While humans adapted to eating animal flesh and animal-based foods to expand their geographic range on the planet, modern science is actually finding that as we eat more plant-based foods in our diet, we see the less heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other diseases. Put another way, the less animal products and processed foods we eat, the healthier and more trim we tend to be. The science has been accumulating for about a century, and at this point there is so much evidence that it is hard to deny the benefits of what your mother told you right from a very young age– “Eat your vegetables!” 🙂
By the twentieth century, the concept and practice of clinical trials was developed and refined. These trials fall into one of two categories: observational, or interventional.((MS Thiese. Observational and interventional study design types; an overview. Biochem Med (Zagreb). 2014 Jun; 24(2): 199–210. PMCID: PMC4083571)) There are many different types these trials, and some sit higher on the hierarchy of evidence than other, but there has been a steady assemblage of evidence over the years, and the quality of the trials has also increased.
There is now a massive amount of evidence supporting the health benefits of a diet based around whole plant foods versus the Standard American Diet. Below is a timeline of the emergence of evidence supporting plant-based diets. As you might expect, the quality of the evidence improves with time. I have included a few low-fat and low-protein studies as well, since a whole food, plant-based diet ends up being around 80% carbohydrates, 10% protein, and 10% fat, which means it is (by definition) a low fat diet.
*Note that from a research perspective, this is considered to be a very low fat diet. A diet typically needs to get down to around 10% fat to see reversal of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis etc. While studies in the 15% – 30% dietary fat range can induce weight loss, they do not typically yield ‘disease-reversal’ results.
Timeline of Plant-based Diets
1550 BC – Egyptian papyrus prescribed a plant-based near-fat-free diet of wheat, grapes, honey, and berries for what was almost certainly diabetes (“too great emptying of urine”). When the rich diet of the wealthy caused ill health, they were put on a ‘peasant’s diet’, to correct their health.
300 BC – 400 AD – Roman Gladiators ate a mostly vegan diet. Historic sources and ancient texts report that gladiators had their own diet, comprising of beans and grains, and they have been referred to as ‘hordearii’, or ‘barley eaters’ and modern spectroscopy analyses have now verified these historic claims of a vegan diet consisting of barley, boiled beans, oatmeal, and dried fruit.
To verify these historical records researchers examined bones from a second-century gladiator cemetery uncovered in 1933 in the Roman city of Ephesos (modern-day Turkey). Using spectroscopy, isotopes were investigated in the collagen of the bones. The results showed that gladiators ate a mostly vegetarian diet, consisting of largely of grain. In addition to radiospectroscopy, researchers also looked at the ratio of strontium to calcium in the bone mineral. Levels of strontium indicate the amount of vegetable matter consumed over a lifetime, and the higher the levels the more likely that the diet is devoid of meat.
These men had harsh training regimes with hours of physically exhausting tasks, and ultimately fought to the death. But because the life and death battles of these strong men provided entertainment for the masses, they received good medical care, massage, and a diet that promoted health, not dietary excess. This is likely one reason why these men were fed a plant-based diet.
It is interesting to note that thousands of years before nutrition became a scientific discipline, there was recognition of the healing power of plants. This quote from a Roman statesman around 200 BC refers to recognized healing powers of cabbage, even with cancer.
Interestingly enough, modern science has found this same family of plants, the cruciferous((Murillo G, Mehta RG. Cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention. Nutr Cancer. 2001;41(1-2):17-28.)) family, along with the allium((Sengupta A, Ghosh S, Bhattacharjee S. Allium vegetables in cancer prevention: an overview.Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2004 Jul-Sep;5(3):237-45.)) family have natural anti-carcinogenic properties.
Middle Ages to 20th Century – Vegetarianism and Veganism– Before 1847, the word vegan was not in use. Before then, the word ‘vegetarian’ essentially referred to a 100% plant-based diet. There have been many vegetarians throughout history; people who were choosing a plant-based diet for ethical reasons. Some prominent historical figures included Pythagoras, Siddhartha Gautama (aka Buddha), Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Thomas More, Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, Voltaire, Gandhi, George Bernard Shaw, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Franz Kafka, Nikola Tesla, Vincent Van Gogh, and Albert Einstein to name only a few. Making an ethical stand on this subject is an entirely valid stance; however, ethical veganism is the not the topic of this article. To view a detailed history of veganism, check out John Davis’ excellent collection of essays, World Veganism – past, present, and future. It is a very substantial, eight megabyte document. As well, check out Emily Moran Barwick’s video series, beginning with Vegans In Ancient Times | The History of Veganism Part One.
1785 marks the beginning of an organized attempt to develop nutrition as a scientific discipline. Before this time, any dietary recommendations (governmental or otherwise) were based on anecdotal observations. For anyone interested in this period of nutritional history, I recommend reading Kenneth Carpenter’s 2003 paper, A Short History of Nutritional Science: Part 1 (1785–1885).
1847- Nutritional scientist Justus Freiherr von Liebig was a German chemist who made major contributions to agricultural and biological chemistry, and was considered the founder of organic chemistry. Liebig drew upon his work in plant nutrition and plant and animal metabolism to develop a theory of nutrition, which had significant implications for cookery. He published a widely read book entitled Animal Chemistry or Organic Chemistry in its Application to Physiology and Pathology. In it he argued that because his analyses of muscles failed to show the presence of any fat or carbohydrate, the energy needed for their contraction must come from an explosive breakdown of the protein molecules themselves, resulting in the production and excretion of urea. Protein, in his opinion was therefore the only true nutrient, providing both the machinery of the body and the fuel for its work.
While this theory turned out to be entirely incorrect, and despite the fact that science has now shown that it is almost impossible to design a diet deficient in protein, the protein fiasco ((D S McLaren. The great protein fiasco. Lancet. 1974 Jul 13;2(7872):93-6.)) continues to this very day. The public is still convinced that if protein is essential, then more must be even better. The stubbornness of the myth of protein being the foundation of a diet likely dates back to primitive human experience with eating flesh, so is well beyond the scope of this article.
Von Leibig was an intelligent man who helped advance nutritional science, but unfortunately protein’s importance continues to be overestimated by the public in general to our peril, since there are many other nutrients of concern for Americans (e.g. 98% of Americans are potassium deficient((ME Cogswell, Z Zhang, AL Carriquiry et al. Sodium and potassium intakes among US adults: NHANES 2003-2008. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Aug 1)) and 97% of Americans don’t eat enough fibre).((What we Eat in America, NHANES 2005-2006. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center. Food Surveys Research Group.))
19th Century – Establishment of a vegetarian fruit colony in Oranienburg (now Brandenburg). As well, a lebensreform co-operative is also established in Germany. Lebensreform (“life reform”) was a social movement in late 19th-century and early 20th-century Germany and Switzerland that practiced a back-to-nature lifestyle. Among many other things, this movement emphasized a raw, organic diet and alternative medicine. In 1899, Berlin had a whopping 20 vegetarian restaurants!!
1904- Russell Henry Chittenden publishes paper suggesting that minimum protein intake could be lowered by almost two thirds. Chittenden was a respected physiological chemist who conducted pioneering research in the biochemistry of digestion and nutrition. He published a total of 144 scientific papers, including a text on nutrition with special reference to protein requirements (Chittenden, 1904). This text refocused attention on the minimal protein requirement while resting or exercising, and influenced future research in nutrition and exercise physiology.
In the early nineteenth century, when scientists identified protein as being more or less equivalent to the flesh of the animals, it was heralded as the treasured nutrient. In the late nineteenth century, after studying labourers who consumed approximately 3100 kcal (13 MJ) daily, German physiologists Carl Voit and Max Rubner maintained that protein intake should be either 118 g per day (Voit) or 127 g per day (Rubner). The American chemist Wilbur O. Atwater recommended a protein intake similar to Rubner’s. Recommendations for protein intake were even higher for soldiers doing hard physical labor (Voit 145 g; Rubner 165 g; Atwater 150 g). In contrast, Chittenden’s experiments contradicted these figures because they showed that no debilitation occurred in normal and athletic young men (including himself) subsisting on low protein diets.
Chittenden’s data included daily dietary and urine histories to determine nitrogen excretion (protein utilization). In a year-long study, athletic men in excellent health on a low protein diet (less than 1 g per kg daily) suffered no deterioration of health or ability to perform arduous physical tasks. Chittenden’s data proved that, even without a large protein intake, individuals could maintain their health and fitness. Chittenden summarized his findings:
“In presenting the results of the experiments, herein described, the writer has refrained from entering into lengthy discussions, preferring to allow the results mainly to speak for themselves. They are certainly sufficiently convincing and need no superabundance of words to give them value; indeed, such merit as the book possesses is to be found in the large number of consecutive results, which admit of no contradiction and need no argument to enhance their value. The results are presented as scientific facts, and the conclusions they justify are self-evident.” ((McDougall Newsletter Vol. 8, No. 2)) -Harold Chittenden
We can see here that someone with a strong scientific mind has already learned in the late 1800s that protein, while important, doesn’t need as prominent a place in the diet and others had suggested. T. Colin Campbell offers a some perspective on our attitudes toward animal flesh and protein and as well as a brief history of Chittenden’s experiment here.((T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies- Muscling Out the Meat Myth))
1907 – On September 24, 1907, the New York Times published an article entitled “Cancer Increasing among Meat Eaters,” which described a seven-year epidemiological study showing that meat-eaters were at high cancer risk, compared with those choosing other staples.
Focusing on immigrants who had abandoned traditional, largely planted-based diets in favour of meatier fare in the U.S., the lead researcher said: “There cannot be the slightest question that the great increase in cancer among the foreign-born over the prevalence of that disease in their native countries is due to the increased consumption of animal foods….” This seven-year epidemiological study found that meat-eating immigrants (Germans, Irish, and Scandinavians) living in Chicago had higher rates of cancer than did Italians and Chinese who continued to eat their traditional low meat diet.
“There cannot be the slightest question that the great increase in cancer among the foreign-born over the prevalence of that disease in their native countries is due to the increased consumption of animal foods….”
1914- The concept that plant protein was inferior to animal protein arose from studies performed on rodents in 1914.(( T B Osborne, L B Mendel. Amino-acids in nutrition and growth. Abtlerhdden: Zeitschr. f. phvsiol. Chem., Ixxvii, p. 27, 1912.)) This study found that infant rats don’t grow as well on plants as on meat. But it should be noted that infant rats don’t grow as well on human breast milk either. Rat milk has ten times more protein than human milk, because rats grow about ten times faster than human infants. However, the idea of plant proteins being inferior took root, and has been hard to dispel. It is true that some plant proteins are lower in certain essential amino acids when compared to animal proteins, however, as longevity experts are quick to point out, these amino acids are the same ones that we want to restrict for increased longevity and healthspan.((H Mirzaei, JA Suarez, VD Longo. Protein and Amino Acid Restriction, Aging and Disease: from yeast to humans. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Nov; 25(11): 558–566. doi: 10.1016/j.tem.2014.07.002)) In other words, a plant-based diet naturally restricts amino acids that are associated with decreased lifespan. (See the 2016 entry for Ray Cronise)
Viewed another way, this method of classifying proteins as inferior or superior is all relative to the ratio of amino acids in the human body. The further the ratio is from a human ratio, the more ‘inferior’ it is. This logic, when applied to diet, suggests that the best protein would be human flesh (i.e. cannibalism!!). These so-called ‘superior proteins’ do increase growth rates, but once we reach sexual maturity we do not want to increase our growth rate. This only increases chance of developing and feeding existing cancers. Furthermore, these ‘superior proteins are associated with health concerns such as kidney problems, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer risk, gall bladder problems, gout, osteoporosis, constipation and loss of energy. While the concept of superior versus inferior as a method of classifying proteins still exists today, the term is extremely misleading.
1934 – H.P. Himsworth’s seminal study, Dietetic factors determining the glucose tolerance and senility to insulin of healthy men,((H.P. Himsworth, Dietetic factors determining the glucose tolerance and senility to insulin of healthy men. Journal of Physiology. 1934 Mar 29; 81(1): 29–48.)) established the link between dietary fat and type 2 diabetes (The Clinical Science 1934; 2, 67-94). In this study they had young, healthy people and split them up into two groups; half on a fat-rich diet, and half on a carb-rich diet. Within just two days, the glucose intolerance skyrocketed in the fat group. This same finding concerning fat’s role in insulin resistance has been repeated in many other studies over the years. We now know that intramyocellular lipids decrease insulin sensitivity. Sugar may exacerbate type 2 diabetes, but this is, in fact, a disease of fat— not sugar. Sadly, to this day there are still people (even medical doctors) who think that diabetes is caused by sugar in the diet, leading to poor management of this highly treatable condition.
1939 – Walter Kempner establishes the Rice Diet Program begins at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Kempner’s low fat, low sodium, low protein diet saves the lives of hundreds of people with malignant hypertension, achieves weight normalization is virtually all participants, and surprisingly reverses diabetes and heart disease in hundreds of other patients.
Above are two photos of one of Kempner’s patient’s retina, spaced 13 months apart. These show how the Rice Diet stopped the bleeding (hemorrhages) and leaking (exudates) from blood vessels in this patient. This evidence served as a dramatic demonstration of the body’s ability to heal given the supportive environment of a healthy diet.
1946 – Walter Kempner publishes his first paper((W Kempner. Some Effects of the Rice Diet Treatment of Kidney Disease and Hypertension. Bull N Y Acad Med. 1946 Jul; 22(7): 358–370. PMCID: PMC1871537)) on the effects of the rice diet on malignant hypertension. Kempner continues to publish studies for the next 30 years on the benefits of this simple plant-based diet on coronary artery disease, heart and kidney failure, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, and obesity.
1948 – Framingham Heart Study,((SS Mahmood, DL Levy, RS Vasan, TJ Wang. The Framingham Heart Study and the Epidemiology of Cardiovascular Diseases: A Historical Perspective. Lancet. 2014 Mar 15; 383(9921): 999–1008. PMCID: PMC4159698)) founded by the National Heart Institute (now known as the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute or NHLBI) – embarked on an ambitious project in health research. At the time, little was known about the general causes of heart disease and stroke, but the death rates for CVD had been increasing steadily since the beginning of the century and had become an American epidemic. The objective of the Framingham Heart Study was to identify the common factors or characteristics that contribute to CVD by following its development over a long period of time in a large group of participants who had not yet developed overt symptoms of CVD or suffered a heart attack or stroke.
The researchers recruited 5,209 men and women between the ages of 30 and 62 from the town of Framingham, Massachusetts. Since 1948, the subjects have continued to return to the study every two years for a detailed medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests, and in 1971, the Study enrolled a second generation – 5,124 of the original participants’ adult children and their spouses – to participate in similar examinations.
In 1994 the need to establish a new study reflecting a more diverse community of Framingham was recognized, and the first Omni cohort of the Framingham Heart Study was enrolled. In April 2002 the Study entered a new phase, the enrollment of a third generation of participants, the grandchildren of the Original Cohort. In 2003, a second group of Omni participants was enrolled. Dr. William Castelli, who served as director of the Framingham Heart Study for thirty years said this about the data, “Vegetarians have the best diet. They have the lowest rates of coronary disease of any group in the country … they have a fraction of our heart attack rate, and they have only 40 percent of our cancer rate.”
Dr. Castelli observed that he has never seen a heart attack occur in anyone whose total blood cholesterol level was below 150. Leading clinician, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (who has a proven track record of heart disease reversal), along with lifetime researcher T. Colin Campbell (author of The China Study) agree that 150 is the target number for total cholesterol to achieve bullet-proof protection from a heart attack, and to prevent coronary artery disease. This number is achievable for most people eating a 100% plant-based, whole food diet. This is a highly significant finding, because heart disease is the number one killer of Americans.
“Vegetarians have the best diet. They have the lowest rates of coronary disease of any group in the country … they have a fraction of our heart attack rate, and they have only 40 percent of our cancer rate.” – Dr. William Castelli – Director of the Framingham Heart Study
1949 – Roy Swank begins study of 180 Multiple Sclerosis patients at Montreal Neurological Institute in Quebec, Canada. Swank has surprising success with patients who are adherent to his dietary recommendations which were low fat and mostly plant based. Any animal products consumed had to be extremely low fat. The patients who did best in this study kept dietary fat at 10% or less. Swank followed this group of people for 50 years. Within one year, adherent participants experience few flare-ups.
1951- Mortality From Circulatory Diseases In Norway 1940-1945((A Str, RA Jensen. Mortality from Circulatory Diseases in Norway 1940-1945. The Lancet, Volume 257, No. 6647, p126–129, 20 January 1951)) is published in The Lancet. Looking at the graph (below) from this study, you can see the dramatic effects that animal food restriction had on an entire population. In 1939, the Nazis occupied Norway and confiscated all of its livestock, forcing the Norwegians to effectively live off a plant-based diet for the duration of World War II. This diet reversed the death rate from heart disease. When the war ended in 1945, livestock returned and meat and dairy was added back into the Norwegian diet, and heart disease rates rebounded. This same phenomenon was observed in other occupied countries as well. This was correlational data, so it doesn’t prove that animal food was the cause, but when you consider that this same phenomenon was observed on other occupied countries, and you look at data from interventional trials that followed by Ornish and Esselstyn, it is quite evident what was happening- Heart disease is more affected much more by diet than by stress, and animal products seem to be involved.
1960 – Present – Adventist Health Studies((https://publichealth.llu.edu/adventist-health-studies))- The Seventh Day Adventists are an interesting and fruitful group to study. Adventists, due in part to their unique dietary habits, have a lower risk than other Americans of heart disease, several cancers, hypertension, arthritis, and diabetes. On the whole they are non-drinkers and non-smokers, but their dietary habits vary from strict vegans to ovo-lacto vegetarians to pescetarians, to occasional meat eaters to omnivores. Another interesting fact about this group is that there is a high concentration of Adventists in Loma Linda California, one of five Blue Zones in the world. Blue Zones are areas where we see exceptionally long-lived humans. This fact, along with their wide variety of dietary habits, provides a special opportunity for careful research to answer a host of scientific questions about how diet (and other health habits) affect longevity and may change the risk of suffering from many chronic diseases.
To date there have been three Adventist Health Studies. Two early studies on Adventist health involving 24,000 and 34,000 Californian Adventists have been directed from Loma Linda University. These have been among the first large-scale epidemiological studies to raise scientific awareness of the close relationship between diet and health. In 2013, early findings from the ongoing Adventist Health Study-2((S Tonstad, K Stewart, K Oda, M Batech, RP Herring, GE Fraser. Vegetarian diets and incidence of diabetes in the Adventist Health Study-2. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2013 Apr;23(4):292-9. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2011.07.004)) (AHS-2) were released. This is a health research study of 96,000 Seventh-day Adventists in the U.S. and Canada. One clear trend emerging from these studies is that as animal food product consumption decreases, so does chronic disease. These findings mirror results from The China Study. This table from AHS-2 below illustrates the dramatic effect meat, egg, and dairy consumption has on body weight, blood sugar values and blood pressure.
You can see that vegans are the only group that is not overweight (BMI less than 25). As people eat more animal products in their diet, we see that their weight increases. With blood sugar values, the meat eaters were assigned and arbitrary value of “1”. You can see step-wise improvements in blood sugar regulation as people eat less animal products, with vegans having the best values. The same holds for blood pressure. You see a full 75% improvement in these values among vegans.
California Adventists live years longer than non-Adventist Californians: 7.3 years longer for men, 4.4 years for women. Adventist Health Studies have shown that five simple behaviors can increase lifespan by about two years each, for a total of 10 years:
- eating a plant-based diet
- never smoking
- consuming nuts several times per week
- exercising regularly
- maintaining a normal weight
Here is a sampling of finding from the Adventist health Studies to date:
- Adventist males in California appear to have a 40 percent reduction in cancer risk; for women the reduction is about 25 percent. While few Adventists smoke, much of this risk reduction appears to be related to factors other than tobacco.
- Consuming meat appears to increase the risk of commonly occurring cancers. On the other hand, eating fruits, tomatoes, and legumes (including soy) appears to be protective. Even in less common cancers that are better known for being related to smoking and alcohol, diet may play a significant role in reducing risk.
- Non-vegetarian Adventists have about an 85 % higher risk of developing colon cancer than their vegetarian counterparts.
- Meat-eating Adventists had more than double the bladder cancer risk of vegetarians.
- Eating legumes, dried fruit and possibly even vegetarian meat substitutes may offer some protection against pancreatic cancer.
- When it comes to heart attacks, blood lipids, diabetes and high blood pressure, vegetarians have the clear advantage and vegans fare even better.
- The average Adventist woman eating a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet weighs 19 pounds less than a non-vegetarian. A vegan woman weighs 34 pounds less than a meat eater.
- Vegetarian men weigh 16 pounds less than meat-eaters, and vegan men weigh 32 fewer pounds.
- Adventist men who eat meat are twice as likely to die of a heart attack, than their vegetarian peers. The difference is even more pronounced in women.
- Eating small quantities of nuts at least five times per week cut heart attack risk in half.
- People who eat whole-grain bread are roughly 50 percent less likely to have a heart attack than those who choose white bread.
As you can see, there is a clear trend emerging from these studies, and they have added to the growing mountain of evidence supporting a plant-based diet.
1965 – Researchers in India((TV Madhavan, S Gopalan. Effect of dietary protein on aflatoxin liver injury in weanling rats. Arch Pathol. 1965 Aug;80:123-6.)) find the major protein in milk (casein) to be a potent carcinogen. These researchers showed that decreasing protein (casein) intake from the usual level of consumption of 20% to 5% completely prevented the carcinogenic effect of casein. While this study was on rats, it was the first clinical experiment connecting dietary animal protein to cancer in mammals, and the first hint that animal protein could be carcinogenic in humans. .
1965 – Hegstead Equation is calculated.((Hegsted DM, McGandy RB, Myers ML, Stare FJ. Quantitative effects of dietary fat on serum cholesterol in man. Am J Clin Nutr. 1965 Nov;17(5):281-95.))
According to this famous equation, researchers can predict individual changes in serum cholesterol, based on changes in saturated fat consumption in one’s diet. This equation was calculated using metabolic ward experiments, where people’s food intake was strictly controlled, as opposed observational studies where people self-report. These metabolic ward experiments established a clear link between dietary fat and blood cholesterol levels, identifying one of the underlying mechanisms of success of the low fat, plant-based diet that many people such as Ornish, Esselstyn and Bernard use with their patients. There have been modern attempts to throw mud at this equation by the Siri-Tarino and Chowdhury in their meta-analyses. However these authors had a clear agenda, seeking to discredit the modern low-fat movement, and they went about this by intentionally looking at cross-sectional studies, instead of intervention studies. In other words, they set up this scenario, knowing it would fail to find a connection between dietary fat and serum cholesterol. This attempt at obfuscation is well explained in this video from Nutritionfacts.org, and in this review by John McDougall.
1971 – Diet for a Small Planet is published. This bestselling book, by Frances Moore Lappé, is the first major book to note the environmental impact of meat production as wasteful and a contributor to global food scarcity. Lappé argued for environmental vegetarianism, which means choosing a sustainable diet; one that is best, not only for our bodies, for the earth as well. The book has sold over three million copies and was groundbreaking for arguing that world hunger is not caused by a lack of food, but by ineffective food policy. In addition to information on meat production and its impact on hunger, the book featured simple rules for a healthy diet and hundreds of meat-free recipes.
1975- The February ‘75 issue of Vogue magazine published an article stating that plant proteins were incomplete and that we should eat “complementary proteins” together. WRONG!! Proteins are made up of amino acids, and all essential amino acids originate from plants (and microbes). All plant proteins have all essential amino acids. The only truly “incomplete” protein in the food supply is gelatin, which is missing the amino acid tryptophan. So, the only protein source that you couldn’t live on is Jell-O. By 1994 the myth that plant proteins are incomplete was dismissed by the nutrition community. ((V R Young, P L Pellett. Plant proteins in relation to human protein and amino acid nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994 May;59(5 Suppl):1203S-1212S.)) Still today there are still people hanging on to this incorrect notion, and as they say, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Furthermore, “it turns out our body maintains pools of free amino acids that it can use to do all the complementing for us,((H N Munro. CHAPTER 34 – Free Amino Acid Pools and Their Role in Regulation. Mammalian Protein Metabolism. 1970. 299–386.)) not to mention the massive protein recycling program our body has. Some 90 grams of protein are dumped into the digestive tract every day from our own body to get broken back down and reassembled, and so our body can mix and match amino acids to whatever proportions we need, whatever we eat, making it practically impossible to even design a diet of whole plant foods that’s sufficient in calories, but deficient in protein.”((McDougall Newsletter April 2007. Vol. 6. No. 4))
1975 – Dramatic results begin to appear from a population-wide dietary intervention in North Karelia, a province of Finland identified at having the highest known rates heart attack rates in the world. In 1972 The Finnish Minster of Health at the time recognized the severity of this problem and appointed Pekka Puska, a 27-year old physician with a master’s degree in social sciences to lead a pilot project in the region to tackle the issue. In the ensuing decades, Puska pioneered a strategy that dramatically lowered male cardiovascular mortality in a population of 170,000 Finns . Their diet at the beginning of the intervention was high in pork and diary, with butter in almost every meal. Vegetable consumption was low and more than half of all men smoked. Programs were developed to change mindsets of residents to replace butter with oil, meat with vegetables, to reduce salt consumption, and stop smoking. The mortality rate of coronary heart disease in the middle-aged male population in North Karelia has reduced by about 73 percent. Life expectancy for men rose by seven years, and for women, six years.((P Puska, J Tuomilehto, J Salonen, L Neittaanmäki, J Maki, J Virtamo, A Nissinen, K Koskela, T Takalo. Changes in coronary risk factors during comprehensive five-year community programme to control cardiovascular diseases (North Karelia project). Br Med J. 1979 Nov 10; 2(6199): 1173–1178.)) This example stands as one of the most successful, population-wide interventions ever performed and the dietary and lifestyle changes took hold producing consistent long-term results.
1976 – Nathan Pritikin establishes the Pritikin Longevity Center. Pritikin’s 26-day program not only improved heart health, but also Type 2 diabetes. During the 26-day session, the patients were served and taught to prepare the Pritikin high-complex-carbohydrate, high-fiber, low-fat diet. The diet consisted of unprocessed natural food with no supplements. Less than 10% of the total calories were obtained from fat, 13% from protein, and the remainder from carbohydrate (90% complex—whole wheat grain, rice and bread, beans, peas and other vegetables, and fresh fruit). Protein was derived primarily from vegetable sources, except for non-fat milk, which was served daily, and small amounts of fish or fowl, of which 85 g/wk were provided. Patients who started out overweight had their calories restricted, but everyone else could eat as much as they wanted (ad libitum). As well, all the patients were encouraged to go on short walks each day. The success stories from this center led to their story being run on the news program 60 Minutes, raising the profile of plant-based eating higher in American consciousness than ever before.
The earliest PubMed-able record of Pritikin’s success with diabetics came in 1976, with this study: Beneficial effects of a high carbohydrate, high fiber diet on hyperglycemic diabetic men.((T G Kiehm, J W Anderson, and K Ward. Beneficial effects of a high carbohydrate, high fiber diet on hyperglycemic diabetic men. Am J Clin Nutr 1976 29: 8 895-9)) Then in 1982 he published Response of non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients to an intensive program of diet and exercise.((RJ Barnard, L Lattimore, RG Holly, S Cherny, N Pritikin. Response of non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients to an intensive program of diet and exercise. Diabetes Care. 1982 Jul-Aug;5(4):370-4.)) Here is his 1983 follow-up study: Long-term use of a high-complex-carbohydrate, high-fiber, low-fat diet and exercise in the treatment of NIDDM patients.((RJ Barnard, MR Massey, SC Cherny, LT O’Brien, N Pritikin. Long-Term Use of a High-Complex-Carbohydrate, High-Fiber, Low-Fat Diet and Exercise in the Treatment of NIDDM Patients. Diabetes Care 1983 May; 6(3): 268-273. https://doi.org/10.2337/diacare.6.3.268)) On the whole, most patients in these studies saw dramatic improvements in blood sugar with 90% getting off their oral medications, 76% getting off their insulin injections, and an additional 12% saw their injections halved.
James Barnard, who’s served as Research Director at the Pritikin Center, published over 100 studies on the Pritikin Program. Here is a taste of this research.
- Prostate Cancer Protection((R J Barnard, N Kobayashi and W J Aronso. Effect of diet and exercise intervention on the growth of prostate epithelial cells. Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases (2008) 11, 362–366; doi:10.1038/pcan.2008.6))
- Reduced LDL Oxidation and Improved HDL((CM. Beard, RJ Barnard, DC Robbins, JM. Ordovas, EJ. Schaefer. Effects of Diet and Exercise on Qualitative and Quantitative Measures of LDL and Its Susceptibility to Oxidation. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 1996;16:201-207. https://doi.org/10.1161/01.ATV.16.2.201))
- Breast Cancer Protection((RJ Barnard, JH Hong, M Liva, TH. Ngo. Effect of a Low-Fat, High-Fiber Diet and Exercise Intervention on Breast Cancer Risk Factors and Tumor Cell Growth & Apoptosis. Department of Physiological Science, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 9009))
- Colon Cancer Protection((BS Reddy, A Engle, B Simi, LT O’Brien, RJ Barnard, N Pritikin, EL Wynder. Effect of low-fat, high-carbohydrate, high-fiber diet on fecal bile acids and neutral sterols. Preventative Medicine. Volume 17, Issue 4, July 1988, Pages 432-439.))
- Heart Disease((CK Roberts, D Won, S Pruthi, S Kurtovic, RK Sindhu, ND Vaziri, RJ Barnard. Effect of a short-term diet and exercise intervention on oxidative stress, inflammation, MMP-9, and monocyte chemotactic activity in men with metabolic syndrome factors. Journal of Applied Physiology Published 1 May 2006 Vol. 100 no. 5, 1657-1665 DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01292.2005.))
- Diabetes((RJ Barnard, T Jung T, SB Inkeles. Diet and exercise in the treatment of NIDDM. The need for early emphasis. Diabetes Care. 1994 Dec;17(12):1469-72.))
- Improved Health Markers in Persons over 70 Years of Age((F Weber, RJ Barnard, D Roy. Effects of a High-complex-carbohydrate, Low-fat Diet and Daily Exercise on Individuals 70 Years of Age and Older. Journal of Gerontology. Volume 38, Issue 2. pp. 155-161.))
- Improvement of Multiple Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Children((CK Roberts, A Izadpanah, SS Angadi, RJ Barnard. Effects of an intensive short-term diet and exercise intervention: comparison between normal-weight and obese children. American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology Published 1 September 2013 Vol. 305 no. 5, R552-R557 DOI: 10.1152/ajpregu.00131.2013.))
- Marked Improvement of Factors Associated with Heart Disease in Overweight Children((CK Roberts, AK Chen, RJ Barnard. Effect of a short-term diet and exercise intervention in youth on atherosclerotic risk factors. Atherosclerosis. Volume 191, Issue 1, March 2007, Pages 98–106))
Pritikin wrote a three-volume opus compiling his theories, dotted with hundreds of scientific references about every major condition of the time: atherosclerosis, angina, high blood pressure, gout, arthritis, gallstones, kidney stones, diabetes, lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, as well as hearing and vision diseases. He was convinced they were all, essentially, manifestations of a huge mistake called “What Americans Typically Eat.”
1977- The McGovern Report,((Dietary Goals for the United States. Prepared by the Staff of the Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. United States Senate February 1977. ))- A big win for industry, and a big loss for unbiased nutritional advice. The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs was a committee of the United States Senate that operated between 1968 and 1977. It was sometimes referred to as the McGovern committee, after its chairperson, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota.
This committee released the first Dietary Guidelines in the United States, in January 1977. After years of consultation with experts, the committee made its recommendations. The recommendations called for decreased salt, fat and sugar consumption. As well, meat and other animal products were named as dietary foods that Americans needed to reduce due to the rise in chronic diseases in America. Quoting from the press conference:
“The simple fact is that our diets have changed radically within the last 50 years, with great and often very harmful effects on our health. These dietary changes represent as great a threat to public health as smoking.” “The diet of the American people has become increasingly rich–rich in meat, [and] other sources of saturated fat and cholesterol, and in sugar.” Most all of the health problems underlying the leading causes of death in the United States could be modified by improvements in diet – ischemic heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and hypertension are the diseases that kill us. They are epidemic in our population.” “The public wants some guidance – wants to know the truth – and hopefully today we can lay the cornerstone for the building of better health for all Americans, through better nutrition.”
What happened next was somewhat politically predictable. The meat, milk and egg producers were VERY upset, as was the International Sugar Research Foundation and the Salt Institute. The National Dairy Council, along with other lobby groups recommended the dietary goals be withdrawn and reformulated to have the endorsement of the food industry. (Yes, re-read that last line in case you missed the obvious conflict of interest with health guidelines needing food industry endorsement.) The president of the American National Cattlemen’s Association industry threatened that “if these ‘Dietary Goals’ are moved forward and promoted in the present form…entire sectors of the food industry (meat, dairy, egg, sugar, and others) may be so severely damaged that when it is realized that the ‘Dietary Goals’ are ill-advised, as surely [they] will be, production recovery may be out of reach.”
By the end of the year, a revised version was released, but that wasn’t enough for the meat industry, though. They wanted the whole Committee on Nutrition eliminated completely, and its functions turned over to the Agriculture Committee. The Senate Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs got disbanded, and placed within the Senate committee on Agriculture. From that day forth, dietary guidelines in the US have been made by a committee and an agency (US Department of Agriculture) that has the dual (conflicting) mandates of protecting the multi-billion dollar agricultural industries as well as making dietary health recommendations. It is correct to say that industry won that round, and Americans lost. Since 1977, the American diet has clearly gone downhill. Obesity and diabetes are at epidemic proportions now with 68.8 percent((https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/overweight-obesity-statistics.aspx)) of US adults now considered to be overweight or obese.
Looking at the pie chart above, generated from USDA statistics, you can see and infer many things. This is not really the fault of nutritional advice per se, but it is clear that since the time of the McGovern Report Americans have moved in the wrong direction with their diet. Overall calories have increased by almost 25%; dairy, meat and eggs have increased; added sugars, fats, and oils have all increased; and processed grains have increased. What has not increased is fruit and vegetable consumption, coming in at a paltry 8% of dietary calories. One lesson to be learned from the McGovern Report is that the food industry is a powerful force to be reckoned with. Science, evidence, and truth are not enough to battle their power. When it comes to government food policies, agricultural policies and dietary guidelines, politics is the name of the game. However, with groundswell movements, politics can change. This is what was lacking in 1977, and is still (sadly) lacking now. However, as you will see further down the timeline, environmental issues can also affect food policies.
1979 – Denis Parsons Burkitt publishes internationally best-selling book, ‘Don’t Forget Fibre in Your Diet – to Help Avoid Many of Our Commonest Diseases’. Despite the loss of an eye in a childhood accident, Burkitt became a surgeon and a Presbyterian missionary, working as a surgeon in Africa from 1946 to 1964. His whole food, plant-based contributions came from a passion for plotting diseases on maps and a relish for detective work carried out as a distraction from the operating room. Burkitt plotted maps that pointed to vast differences in the kinds of diseases affecting poor Africans and the affluent in the Western world. In trying to explain the differences, Dr. Burkitt turned to observations made earlier by others. In lectures in New York City and elsewhere, Dr. Burkitt criticized the modern habit of eating carbohydrate sugars and starches in refined form, stripped of their bulky, chewy coverings. And he pointed to dangers of eating white flour. Here is a quote concerning Burkitt’s observations, “In Africa, treating people who live largely off the land on vegetables they grow, I hardly ever saw cases of many of the most common diseases in the United States and England, including coronary heart disease, adult-onset diabetes, varicose veins, obesity, diverticulitis, appendicitis, gallstones, dental cavities, hemorrhoids, hiatus hernias, and constipation. In 20 years of surgery in Africa, I had to remove exactly one gallstone.” Here is a short video about Burkitt’s dietary observations by Dr. Greger at Nutritionfacts.org.
“In Africa, treating people who live largely off the land on vegetables they grow, I hardly ever saw cases of many of the most common diseases in the United States and England, including coronary heart disease, adult-onset diabetes, varicose veins, obesity, diverticulitis, appendicitis, gallstones, dental cavities, hemorrhoids, hiatus hernias, and constipation. In 20 years of surgery in Africa, I had to remove exactly one gallstone.” – Dr. Denis Burkitt
What Burkitt noticed was that the most common disease in developed nations were almost absent in underdeveloped nations, and this wasn’t due to the shorter lifespan of the people in these nations. These were age-matched statistics. On the basis of his convictions, he launched a worldwide crusade to change the diet in developed countries by recommending that Westerners return to a more basic, less refined diet that is rich in fibre (an essential nutrient that is not present in animal foods).
Dr. John McDougall states in his tribute to Burkitt that, “An enormous body of scientific research has validated Dr. Burkitt’s ideas, and the list of dietary diseases has expanded to include strokes, hypertension, osteoporosis, breast and prostate cancers, and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.”
The Lancet, an international medical journal published in London, said in its obituary to Burkitt: “thanks largely to Burkitt, the science of nutrition was galvanized into new life and people’s eating habits all over the Western world changed drastically.”
1982 – T. Colin Campbell repeats Madhavanès 1965 study. He determines over the course of several trials that researchers can turn cancer on and off by in rats switching from diet of 20% protein (triggers tumour growth) to 5% protein (arrests tumour development). This study implicated the role of casein, an animal protein found in milk, as a promoter of tumour development (i.e. carcinogen). ((BS Appleton, TC Campbell. Inhibition of aflatoxin-initiated preneoplastic liver lesions by low dietary protein. Nutr Cancer. 1982;3(4):200-6.)) ((BS Appleton, TC Campbell. Effect of high and low dietary protein on the dosing and postdosing periods of aflatoxin B1-induced hepatic preneoplastic lesion development in the rat. Cancer Res. 1983 May;43(5):2150-4.)) ((DA Schulsinger, MM Root, TC Campbell. Effect of dietary protein quality on development of aflatoxin B1-induced hepatic preneoplastic lesions. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1989 Aug 16;81(16):1241-5.))
1984- TrueNorth Health Center is founded by Alan Goldhamer, D.C. This facility uses an integrative medicine approach they established offers participants the opportunity to obtain evaluation and treatment for a wide variety of problems. The staff at includes medical doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors, naturopaths, psychologists, research scientists, and other health professionals. The Center is now the largest facility in the world that specializes in medically supervised water-only fasting. As well, a whole food, plant-based diet is promoted for achieving optimum health. The center has also employed many leaders in the plant-based field as Doug Lisle, Ph.D. (author of The Pleasure Trap) Michael Klaper, M.D. , Anthony Lim, M.D., J.D. Jeff Novick, R.D. and Ramses Bravo: executive chef & cooking instructor to name a few.
1985 – Neal Barnard forms the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)- The Physicians Committee combines the clout and expertise of more than 12,000 physicians with the dedicated actions of 150,000 members across the United States and around the world. It is a non-profit research, advocacy, and educational organization based in Washington, D.C. PCRM promotes a plant-based diet for health, alternatives to animal research, and encourages higher standards of ethics and effectiveness in research. Its primary activities include outreach and education about nutrition for the public as well as public school programs, and education of healthcare professionals, ending the use of animals in medical school curricula; and advocating for legislative changes on the local and national levels. PCRM has brought forward a number of lawsuits over matters such as secrecy and conflict of interest of advisory board member in the food guidelines committee, deceptiveness of food guidelines, as well as a suit against promotion of the food pyramid as a balanced approach to nutrition, which eventually led to MyPlate((https://www.choosemyplate.gov/)) as a replacement. The public has benefited greatly from PCRM’s legal advocacy.
1985 – Caldwell Esselstyn begins his first heart disease trial((CB Esselstyn. In cholesterol lowering, moderation kills. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine 2000 Aug;67(8):560-4.)) of 24 severely ill individuals, all with established coronary artery disease. Most of these individuals had exhausted their medical options and were in effect ‘abandoned’ by the medical establishment. Esselstyn put them all on a strict plant-based diet, allowing no nuts, or oils. They ate no oils, fish, meat, or dairy products (except skim milk and non-fat cheese and yogurt). The patients also took cholesterol-lowering medication as necessary to maintain their total serum cholesterol below 150 mg/dL. At the 12-year mark of this study, 18 patients had adhered to the diet and medications, bringing their mean cholesterol level from 237 mg/dL at baseline to 137 mg/dL at 5 years. None experienced any coronary events; in contrast, these 18 had had 29 events in the 8 years before the study. None underwent any interventions. All 11 of those who underwent angiography at 5 years had no additional stenosis, and 8 had regression. *When Esselstyn learned of T. Colin Campbell’s work, he removed all animal products from his subjects’ diets.
1985 – Nathan Pritikin dies, but an autopsy that he requested was performed. In 1958, Pritikin was diagnosed with serious heart disease, after which he developed his regime of low fat, whole plant food diet. Pritikin was certain that he had healed his own condition, but wanted the world to see the condition of his arteries upon death. The results were published in a New England Journal of Medicine article called “Nathan Pritikin’s heart.” Here is an excerpt from the report: “The epicardium was smooth, and no scars were visible. The endocardium and all valves were normal. … The coronary arteries were soft and pliable … there were no raised plaques and no compromise of the lumens. No clots were present. … No infarcts of any size, or other finding referable to vascular disease, were present in any organ.” The report concluded, “In a man 69 years old, the near absence of atherosclerosis and the complete absence of its effects are remarkable.”((Nathan Pritikin’s Heart. N Engl J Med 1985; 313:52July 4, 1985DOI: 10.1056/NEJM198507043130119))
“The epicardium was smooth, and no scars were visible. The endocardium and all valves were normal. … The coronary arteries were soft and pliable … there were no raised plaques and no compromise of the lumens. No clots were present. … No infarcts of any size, or other finding referable to vascular disease, were present in any organ.” The report concluded, “In a man 69 years old, the near absence of atherosclerosis and the complete absence of its effects are remarkable.”
This was the first verified clinical indication that a whole food, plant-based diet could actually reverse heart disease in humans. Pritikin had tremendous patient success, but this autopsy provided one more piece of evidence, and this is the stuff of science. One story is simply an anecdote, but when this is added to Pritikin Institute studies and studies that would follow, we end up with a virtual mountain of evidence. Other cardiac pioneers that followed such as Ornish and Esselstyn used Pritikin’s success as a guide to treating heart disease through a dietary regimen.
1986 – John McDougall is invited by the administration of the Seventh Day Adventist St. Helena Hospital in Napa Valley, California to run the McDougall Program as their lifestyle residential program. The program runs until 2002. Between 1999 and 2001, McDougall also ran a similar program in Minneapolis, Minnesota for Blue Cross Blue Shield. During this three-year period, with three different groups of their employees, he was able to show the same health benefits they were getting at St. Helena Hospital: weight loss, reduction in cholesterol, blood pressure, and sugars; relief of indigestion, constipation, arthritis, etc. He was able to document a 44% reduction in healthcare costs for each of the three groups based on the insurance company’s own claims data.
1987 – John Robbins publishes Diet for a New America, an exposé on connections between diet, health, animal cruelty, and environmentalism. This book looked not only at the science supporting a plant-based diet, but also pointed to the many other negative outcomes of large-scale animal agriculture. John Robbins is the son of Baskin-Robbins co-founder Irv Robbins. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1969, and received a Master’s Degree from Antioch College, in 1976. Rather than following the ice-cream parlor legacy of his father, he left the company to seek a more principled life. His high Baskin-Robbins profile helped to raise awareness around the issues that he has raised. Robbins advocates a plant-based diet for ethical, environmental and health reasons. He expanded on these ideas in his 2001 book, The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World and his 2006 book, Healthy at 100.
1990 – Dean Ornish’s landmark Lifestyle Heart Trial((D Ornish, SE Brown, LW Scherwitz, JH Billings et al. Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? The Lifestyle Heart Trial. Lancet. 1990 Jul 21;336(8708):129-33.)) is published, establishing, using quantitative coronary angiography that heart disease could be reversed through lifestyle changes, following a mostly plant-based diet, along with exercise, and stress management.
In subsequent years Dean Ornish and his colleagues broke new ground with their research showing that genes are not your fate. They found that lifestyle choices could turn on or off more than 500 genes((https://www.ornish.com/proven-program/the-research/)) affecting our health. Now new research in the emerging field of epigenetics is finding that a healthy diet may not only change your genes and improve your health, but these choices will set up your children and grandchildren to have healthier lives.
For more than 35 years, Dean Ornish, M.D.® and his colleagues at the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute (PMRI) in collaboration with the University of California, San Francisco and other leading academic institutions, have conducted a series of research studies showing that changes in diet and lifestyle can make a powerful difference in our health and well-being, how quickly these changes may occur, and how dynamic these mechanisms can be. Dr. Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease® is the first integrative lifestyle program for reversing heart disease and other chronic conditions that Medicare is covering under the specially created category of ‘Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation’.
1990 – The China-Cornell-Oxford Project((https://web.archive.org/web/20090307165623/http://nutrition.cornell.edu/CHINAPROJECT/results.html)) is published. This massive epidemiological study looked at 6,500 total adults and their families in 130 villages within 65 counties in China from 1983-1984. A subsequent follow-up study followed these same people and added 20 new counties in mainland China and Taiwan, and 20 additional families per county, thus yielding 10,200 total adults and their families to the data pool. This study yielded over 8000 statistically significant correlations between lifestyle, diet and disease. ‘Significant’ correlation means that these correlations have a 95% confidence interval. Many of the findings from the study actually had a 99% confidence interval, which means that if you repeat these same studies, you would have a chance of finding the same result 99 times out of 100. The China Study also revealed a substantial number of correlations that were 99.9% significant (999 out of 1000 odds that the finding is valid). All in all, the team gathered data on 367 variables, and then compared each variable to every other variable. At the time, the NY Times hailed the China Study as the Grand Prix of epidemiology.
1991 – Roy Swank publishes his 34-year findings((Swank RL. Multiple sclerosis: fat-oil relationship. Nutrition. 1991 Sep-Oct;7(5):368-76.)) following his original group of 180 patients with multiple sclerosis at Montreal Neurological Institute. Patients had to keep detailed food logs. They also travelled to a Montreal clinic once every two weeks to get their MS assessed and answer questions about their eating habits. By the 34-year mark, 81 people had passed away, and believe it or not, that was actually pretty promising. Swank noted that when he first started studying MS, most patients were expected to end up bedridden or wheelchair-bound within a decade or two, and the assumption was that “all would be dead within 35 years.” Because of the detailed food logs, he was able to see who was eating the lowest fat. Of those who didn’t exceed 20 grams per day (70 people), only 31% died over the course of the study. But of those who ate more than 20 grams of saturated fat per day (74 people), 80% had perished. A graph of the breakdown of fat consumption can be seen below.
You can see here that unless people got down to a very low fat diet, their survival odds were greatly diminished. It is worth noting that in most modern fat studies, a low fat diet is considered to be 20 – 30 grams per day, which is might be low fat by modern standards, but certainly is not low fat. To see consistent health benefits and/or disease reversal with cardiac, diabetes, hypertension or MS, one has to get down to the 10% fat range. Researchers term this a “very low fat” diet. Interestingly enough, this is the same percentage of fat consumption on a typical whole food, plant-based diet.
The above graph (with lighthearted commentary by Denise Minger) shows how quickly patient flare-ups diminished after adopting this diet. Additionally, Swank noted`:
“Patients on our low-fat diet have been remarkably free of bacterial and viral infections, ‘colds and flu’ occur rarely, and recovering from urinary and other bacterial infections has been rapid when appropriately treated.”
So, you can see that there are multiple benefits to eating a diet with 10% fat.
1997 – Harvard Nurses Study((Feskanich D, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA. Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study. Am J Public Health. 1997 Jun;87(6):992-7.)) following 77761 women over 12 years finds that milk is not protective of fractures. Milk drinking women had higher fracture rates than non-milk-drinkers. Researchers in this study stated, “We found no evidence that higher intakes of milk or calcium from food sources reduce fracture incidence. Women who drank two or more glasses of milk per day had relative risks of 1.45 for hip fracture (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.87, 2.43) and 1.05 for forearm fracture (95% CI = 0.88, 1.25) when compared with women consuming one glass or less per week. Likewise, higher intakes of total dietary calcium or calcium from dairy foods were not associated with decreased risk of hip or forearm fracture.”
“We found no evidence that higher intakes of milk or calcium from food sources reduce fracture incidence. Women who drank two or more glasses of milk per day had relative risks of 1.45 for hip fracture (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.87, 2.43) and 1.05 for forearm fracture (95% CI = 0.88, 1.25) when compared with women consuming one glass or less per week. Likewise, higher intakes of total dietary calcium or calcium from dairy foods were not associated with decreased risk of hip or forearm fracture.”
Subsequent studies((V Matkovic, P K Goel, N E Badenshop-Stevens, J D Landoll, B Li, J Z Ilich, M Skugor, L A Nagode, S L Mobley, E J Ha, T N Hangartner, A Clairmont. Calcium supplementation and bone mineral density in females from childhood to young adulthood: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;81(1):175-88.)) ((H A Bischoff-Ferrari, B Dawson-Hughes, J A Baron, J A Kanis, E J Orav, H B Staehelin, D P Kiel, P Burckhardt, J Henschkowski, D Spiegleman, R Li, J B Wong, D Feskanich, W C Willett. Milk intake and risk of hip fracture in men and women: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. J Bone Miner Res. 2011 Apr;26(4):833-9. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.279.)) ((D Feskanich, H A Bischoff-Ferrari, A L Frazier, W C Willet. Milk consumption during teenage years and risk of hip fractures in older adults. JAMA Pediatr. 2014 Jan;168(1):54-60.)) ((D Feskanich, W C Willett. Early-Life Milk and Late-Life Fracture Reply. JAMA Pediatr. 2014;168(7):683-684.)) ((K Michaelsson, A Wolk, S Langenskiold, S Basu, Warensjo Lemming, H Melhus, L Byberg. Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies. BMJ. 2014 Oct 28;349:g6015.)) ((L A Batey, C K Welt, F Rohr, A Wessel, V Anastasoaie, H A Feldman, C Y Guo, E Rubio-Gozalbo, G Berry, C M Gordon. Skeletal health in adult patients with classic galactosemia. Osteoporos Int. 2013 Feb;24(2):501-9.)) ((CM Schooling. Milk and mortality. BMJ 2014; 349.)) have also shown either no relationship, or a negative relationship between milk consumption and stronger bones. The dairy industry no longer uses the ‘strong bones’ strategy in its advertisements.
1990s – Thirteen States pass food libel laws. An important part of any story covering the growing awareness of plant-based diets is not complete without covering the powerful response from the industries threatened by any change in consumer buying habits. These are multi billion-dollar industries, and it should come as no surprise that they have fought back against this information becoming disseminated in any way possible. One of these ways is was by lobbying for food libel legislation. These laws are so strong and so problematic that even the fiercest critics of large corporations are afraid of speaking out about the potential harms of their practices. Here is one cogent example- For years, Barbara Kowalcyk urged members of Congress to pass a law that would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture the power to shut down meat-processing plants at the center of bacterial outbreaks. But Kowalcyk, whose 2-year-old son Kevin was killed by a strand of E. coli after eating a cheeseburger, wouldn’t criticize the industry on-camera when interviewed for the 2009 Oscar-nominated documentary “Food, Inc.”, citing strong food libel laws.
Many of the food-disparagement laws establish a lower standard for civil liability and allow for punitive damages and attorney’s fees for plaintiffs alone, regardless of the case’s outcome. These laws vary significantly from state to state, but food libel laws typically allow a food manufacturer or processor to sue a person or group who makes disparaging comments about their food products. In some states these laws also establish different standards of proof than are used in traditional American libel lawsuits, including the practice of placing the burden of proof on the party being sued. All copies of the environmental book, Green Illusions (above), sold in the United States were self-censored due to food libel laws that enable the food industry to sue journalists and authors who criticize their products, even if the claims are backed by science.
2000 – A major nail is struck in the coffin of the low-carb debate with this study.((R. M. Fleming, L. B. Boyd. The effect of high-protein diets on coronary blood flow. Angiology 2000 51(10):817 – 826.)) Dr. Richard Fleming, an accomplished nuclear cardiologist, enrolled 26 people into a comprehensive study of the effects of diet on cardiac function using the latest in nuclear imaging technology (SPECT scans), enabling him to actually directly measure the blood flow within the coronary arteries. In this study, 16 people ate a vegetarian diet, and 10 ate a low carb (Atkins-like) diet. One year later, those sticking to the vegetarian diet showed a reversal of their heart disease as expected. They had 20% less atherosclerotic plaque in their arteries at the end of the year than at the beginning. Those adopting a low-carb diet had 40 to 50% more artery clogging at the end of the year. This is the only study ever done that has measured actual blood flow to the heart muscles of people eating low carb diets, and it is not good news for the low carb and Paleo crowd.
Other studies((Noto, A. Goto, T. Tsujimoto, M. Noda. Low-carbohydrate diets and all-cause mortality: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. PLoS ONE 2013 8(1):e55030.)) ((Merino, R. Kones, R. Ferré, N. Plana, J. Girona, G. Aragonés, D. Ibarretxe, M. Heras, L. Masana. Negative effect of a low-carbohydrate, high-protein, high-fat diet on small peripheral artery reactivity in patients with increased cardiovascular risk. Br. J. Nutr. 2013 109(7):1241 – 1247.)) ((R. M. Fleming, K. Ketchum, D. M. Fleming, R. Gaede. Treating hyperlipidemia in the elderly. Angiology 1995 46(12):1075 – 1083.)) ((M. Fleming, L. B. Boyd. The effect of high-protein diets on coronary blood flow. Angiology 2000 51(10):817 – 826.)) ((L. Santos, S. S. Esteves, A. da Costa Pereira, W. S. Yancy Jr, J. P. L. Nunes. Systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials of the effects of low carbohydrate diets on cardiovascular risk factors. Obes Rev 2012 13(11):1048 – 1066.)) ((Schwingshackl, G. Hoffmann. Low-carbohydrate diets impair flow-mediated dilatation: Evidence from a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br. J. Nutr. 2013 110(5):969 – 970.)) ((M. Fleming. Reversing heart disease in the new millennium–the Fleming unified theory. Angiology 2000 51(8):617 – 629.)) since have consistently found that low carb diets impair arterial function, as evidenced by a decrease in flow-mediated dilation. A 2012 meta-analysis((Merino J, Kones R, Ferré R, Plana N, Girona J, Aragonés G, Ibarretxe D, Heras M, Masana L. Negative effect of a low-carbohydrate, high-protein, high-fat diet on small peripheral artery reactivity in patients with increased cardiovascular risk. Br J Nutr. 2013 Apr 14;109(7):1241-7. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512003091.)) found that a dietary pattern characterized by high protein and fat, but low carbohydrate was associated with poorer peripheral artery function. Considering that the number one cause of death in the US is heart disease, these types of diets are outright dangerous. As Ornish and Esselstyn have proven, there is only one diet to date that has been proven to reverse heart disease, and this is a low fat diet centered on whole plant food.
In the years that follow, T. Colin Campbell and Michael Greger provide mountains of evidence disputing claims from the low carb/paleo camp in their books on this subject. Greger’s 2004 book, Carbophobia – The Scary Truth about America’s Low Carb Craze (along with pages and pages and pages of citations) is available free online at AtkinsExposed.org. T. Colin Campbell’s 2014 book, The Low Carb Fraud also thoroughly covers the dangers of meat-centric diets. What both of these authors show is that there is little evidence to back up claims coming from the low carb/paleo crowd. You can lose weight on these diets, but what the evidence indicates is that many health indicators, especially cardiovascular health, worsen on these diets. With cardiovascular disease being the leading killer in America, a low carb diet is like playing Russian Roulette with your life, and your families lives.
2000 – William C. Roberts MD, Editor in Chief of the American Journal of Cardiology, state, “Because humans get atherosclerosis, and atherosclerosis is a disease only of herbivores, humans also must be herbivores.”((William C. Roberts, MD. Twenty questions on atherosclerosis. Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2000 Apr; 13(2): 139–143. PMCID: PMC1312295))
“Because humans get atherosclerosis, and atherosclerosis is a disease only of herbivores, humans also must be herbivores.” – William C. Roberts MD, Editor in Chief of the American Journal of Cardiology
Dr. William C. Roberts has five decades of experience in the field of cardiology, has written over 1300 scientific publications, a dozen cardiology textbooks, and has been editor in chief of the American Journal of Cardiology for a quarter of a century. He is arguably the most highly regarded cardiologist in the world today.
Early 21st Century – Our understanding of the human microbiome begins to expand. Growing knowledge of our microbiome has created a paradigm shift in our understanding of the human body. Much of what we have learned about the this topic supports a plant-centered approach to nutrition.
Researchers begin to understand that fibre is not an inert substance that simply passes through the colon. It is actually the primary food for the ‘good’ bacteria in our gut. Furthermore, we can quickly change population numbers and type in our gut with our diet. This whole complicated phenomenon is explained in a series of videos at Nutritionfacts.org, beginning with this one.
2001 – PCRM Launches Food for Life Nutrition Certification Program. The original program was meant to help cancer survivors take advantage of the healing power of foods. Since then, the program has grown to include classes focused on diabetes, children’s health, and healthy weight management. Designed by physicians, nutrition experts, and registered dietitians, each of the eight different curricula includes information about how certain foods and nutrients work to promote health and fight disease.
2002 – The McDougall Program moves to the Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa, California. The program featuring whole food, plant-based diet favouring starches as a staple continues to grow over the next several years, with their web site receiving 7 to 8 million hits a month. The McDougall, MD TV show is distributed worldwide. Dr. McDougall’s ‘Right Foods’ can be found in nearly 4000 stores. Their newsletter goes out to 30,000 people monthly. They offer 10-day medical live-in programs, 5-day programs, Advanced Study Weekends, Celebrity Chef Weekends, and Adventure Trips. John McDougall continues to publish studies on program participants.((McDougall J, Thomas LE, McDougall C, Moloney G, Saul B, Finnell JS, Richardson K, Petersen KM. Effects of 7 days on an ad libitum low-fat vegan diet: the McDougall Program cohort. Nutrition Journal 2014 13:99. DOI: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-99))
2002 – Researchers confirm in 2002 ((Vlassara H, Cai W, Crandall J, Goldberg T, Oberstein R, Dardaine V, Peppa M, Rayfield EJ. Inflammatory mediators are induced by dietary glycotoxins, a major risk factor for diabetic angiopathy. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Nov 26;99(24):15596-601.)) that meat consumption increases the incidence of type 2 diabetes. A 2013 meta-analysis((Feskens EJ, Sluik D, van Woudenbergh GJ. Meat consumption, diabetes, and its complications. Curr Diab Rep. 2013 Apr;13(2):298-306. doi: 10.1007/s11892-013-0365-0.)) of all the cohorts looking at meat and diabetes found significantly higher risk associated with total meat consumption, and especially processed meat—particularly poultry. The 2013 EPIC-InterAct study((InterAct Consortium, Bendinelli B, Palli D, Masala G et. al. Association between dietary meat consumption and incident type 2 diabetes: the EPIC-InterAct study. Diabetologia. 2013 Jan;56(1):47-59. doi: 10.1007/s00125-012-2718-7. Epub 2012 Sep 16.)) of 17,000 people, followed for about a dozen years found an 8% increase in risk for every 50 grams of daily meat consumption. By this time it was clear that meat is a definite risk factor for type 2 diabetes. To answer the question ‘why?’, watch this video.
2003 – The most prestigious scientific body in the United States, the National Academies of Science, concluded that the only safe intake of trans fats is zero. In their report condemning trans fats, they couldn’t even assign a Tolerable Upper Daily Limit of intake because “any incremental increase in trans fatty acid intake increases [coronary heart disease] risk.”((National Academies Press (U.S.). Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). Washington, D.C: National Academies Press, 2003.)) It should be noted that because of active efforts to reduce saturated fat in the marketplace, 50% of America’s trans fat intake now comes from animal products. Because of the existence of trans fats in processed and animal foods, the only way to avoid trans fats is to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet.
One of the authors of this report (the Director of Harvard’s Cardiovascular Epidemiology Program) famously explained to Reuters news agency why—despite this—they didn’t recommend a vegan diet, “We can’t tell people to stop eating all meat and all dairy products,” he said. “Well, we could tell people to, become vegetarians,” he added. “If we were truly basing this only on science, we would, but it is a bit extreme.”((http://forum.lowcarber.org/archive/index.php/t-50159.html)). Imagine basing a dietary recommendation on science! Oh yes… that is extreme! This incredibly telling comment indicates that government guidelines begin by looking at the science, but then recommendations get watered them down to appease lobbyists and politicians. It also suggests a paternalistic attitude from governmental agencies in the area of nutrition.
“We can’t tell people to stop eating all meat and all dairy products,” he said. “Well, we could tell people to, become vegetarians. If we were truly basing this only on science, we would; but it is a bit extreme.” !!??
2003 – Roy Swank publishes results after having participants on his low fat diet for multiple sclerosis for 50 years- Review of MS patient survival on a Swank low saturated fat diet.((Swank RL, Goodwin J. Review of MS patient survival on a Swank low saturated fat diet. Nutrition. 2003 Feb;19(2):161-2.)) Swank tracked down 15 of his surviving participants and interviewed them in person. They were all between 72 and 84 years old (Swank himself was 94). Amazingly, only two survivors needed help walking and had any sign of their disease; as for the others, Swank described it thusly, “The remaining 13 patients were remarkably well. They were very active, could care for themselves, could walk as necessary, and were normal mentally. … [They] stood and were active and unusually youthful looking, with very smooth facial skin devoid of wrinkles due to good subcutaneous circulation. They were all in friendly, good spirits, had joyful laughter, and generally quite youthful behavior.” This study also indicates that if MS patients follow the low-fat diet proposed by Swank (no more than 10 to 15 g/d of saturated fat) they can expect to survive and be ambulant and otherwise normal to an advanced age.
“The remaining 13 patients were remarkably well. They were very active, could care for themselves, could walk as necessary, and were normal mentally. … [They] stood and were active and unusually youthful looking, with very smooth facial skin devoid of wrinkles due to good subcutaneous circulation. They were all in friendly, good spirits, had joyful laughter, and generally quite youthful behavior.”
2003- Joel Fuhrman publishes Eat to Live. Fuhrman earned a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in nutritional medicine. Eat to Live quickly became a number one hit on the ‘New York Times’ bestseller list. Fuhrman has always managed to maintain a high profile in nutritional arena. On the downside, he is a slick classic American salesman with a polished style and delivery. On the upside, he practices what he preaches and is in incredibly good shape for a man born in 1953. He has promoted what he calls a Nutritarian Diet, which is a diet low in calories, but high in nutrients. He is credited with popularizing the term ‘nutrient density’. Dr. Fuhrman developed the ANDI (Aggregated Nutrient Density Index) scale to rank foods based on their nutrient density per calorie. Cruciferous greens such as kale, collards, and mustard greens top the index with nutrient density scores of 1,000, while cola drinks are at the bottom, with a score of 1.
Fuhrman may have his critics, but it is hard to fault his nutrient dense eating recommendations, which consist primarily of a mixture of cooked and raw, whole, plant-based foods. He does allow people to eat some animal products, but recommends that they be occasional foods. Fuhrman, like Dr. McDougall, is an avid reader of research, and backs up his claims with studies supporting his approach to eating. More than anything, Fuhrman has added more diversity to the WFPB world by offering a different approach. On the one hand it is stricter than several other approaches with the amount of raw vegetables and leafy greens recommended, but conversely it allows some animal foods, providing dietary flexibility. While there are differences in individual recommendations from all of the WFPB leaders, they pretty much agree on the majority of the diet structure.
2004 – American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) is founded. The ACLM is comprised of members who are passionate about the urgent need to transform healthcare. This organization addresses the need for quality education and certification of clinical practice in lifestyle medicine. It supports its members in promoting Lifestyle Medicine as the first treatment option, as opposed to a first option of treating symptoms and consequences with expensive pills and procedures. ACLM members are united in their desire to identify and eradicate the cause of disease. What was seen previously as outside the scope of mainstream medicine is now widely viewed as the future of healthcare, as the healthcare system shifts from a fee-for-service to a value and outcome-based system of healthcare delivery. The evidence supporting a lifestyle approach to health and disease, is very persuasive, and in the case of chronic illness, is typically more powerful than pharmaceutical interventions. Not surprisingly, food is one of the primary interventions employed lifestyle medicine, and the foods that have been shown to have the power to heal and prevent disease are overwhelmingly whole plant foods.
2006 – T. Colin Campbell releases his book, The China Study based on the China-Cornell-Oxford Project.((https://web.archive.org/web/20090223222003/http:/www.nutrition.cornell.edu/ChinaProject/)) Dr. Campbell has an extremely impressive 60-year professional career in nutrition, biochemistry and toxicology which has included over 70 grant-years of peer-reviewed research funding (mostly with NIH). He has served on grant review panels of multiple funding agencies, actively participated in the development of national and international nutrition policy, authored over 300 research papers and given hundreds of lectures around the world. He also served as Senior Science Advisor to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), and Senior Science Advisor during the formative years of the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). AICR awarded him the 1998 Lifetime Achievement Award in Cancer Research. There are few people on the planet as knowledgeable on nutrition and health as Dr. Campbell. In The China Study, Campbell details the many connections found between diet and disease. Campbell puts into plain language how the study of rural Chinese resident found that as meat consumption drops, so did heart disease, diabetes, and several cancers (colon, lung, breast, leukemia, childhood brain, stomach and liver).((Campbell, TC, Campbell, TM. The China Study. Pg. 75. Dallas, TX. BenBella Books, 2006)) One important finding of the China Study was that there was no point at which disease rates stopped dropping in relation to animal product consumption. In other words, any amount of animal products in one’s diet increases one’s odds of these ‘diseases of affluence’.
2007- Caldwell Esselstyn publishes Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Dr. Esselstyn’s book puts forth a program for reversal of heart disease by adopting a plant-based diet based on evidence from his original 20-year study proving changes in diet and nutrition can actually cure heart disease. He also researches other cultures where coronary artery disease is virtually absent and finds that these groups of people all eat plant-centred diets. This included the Tarahumara Indians of northern Mexico, the Papua highlanders of New Guinea, and the inhabitants of rural China and central Africa. This finding is especially significant because heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women, causing one person to die (needlessly) every minute.((https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/docs/fs_heart_disease.pdf)) Studies show that heart disease begins at a very young age in America, and is virtually ubiquitous. As a result, people think that this disease is an inevitable fact of aging. Looking at other cultures with different diets we know that heart disease is not inevitable. Furthermore, Esselstyn’s clinical study proved that this condition is reversible, simply by mimicking the diet of cultures that do not get heart disease. What do these diets have in common? They are all whole food diets that consisting mostly of vegetables, grains, legumes, leafy vegetables, root vegetables and fruit – in other words, a WFPB diet.
2009 – T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies is established in Ithaca NY, as a part of Cornell University’s online learning program. This program offers a plant-based nutrition certificate, a comprehensive online program in plant-based nutrition featuring lessons from 25+ experts in the field.
2009- A review of health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, long touted as healthier than the North American diet, followed 23,349 men and women for 8.5 years. An anatomy of health effects was published, and the single most important component was the high consumption of plant foods. In contrast, fish and seafood consumption, the only animal foods promoted in the Mediterranean diet, did not seem to confer benefits.((Trichopoulou A, Bamia C, Trichopoulos D. Anatomy of health effects of Mediterranean diet: Greek EPIC prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2009 Jun 23;338:b2337.))
2009 – Worldwatch Institute publishes “Livestock and Climate Change,” authored by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, environmental specialists employed by the World Bank Group. This report((http://www.worldwatch.org/files/pdf/Livestock%20and%20Climate%20Change.pdf)) puts forth the case that up to 51% of human-caused greenhouse gas is attributable to livestock. This is the beginning of a paradigm shift, recognizing the massive effects of animal agriculture on climate change.
2010 – UN Report, Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production((http://www.unep.org/resourcepanel/portals/24102/pdfs/priorityproductsandmaterials_report.pdf)) recommends a world-wide dietary shift away from meat and animal agriculture to mitigate effects of climate change. The report states, “Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.” Professor Edgar Hertwich, the lead author of the report, said: “Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels.”
“Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels.”
The panel of experts ranked products, resources, economic activities and transport according to their environmental impacts. Agriculture was on a par with fossil fuel consumption because both rise rapidly with increased economic growth, they said. The report stated that agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. This damning report states that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change. For more on this topic, visit Chomping Climate Change.
At this point in human history it is now obvious that one cannot talk about the human diet without considering its environmental impact. A report from United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) international panel of sustainable resource management states that as the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable.
2011 marks a year of true momentum gathering in this movement. From 2011 forward, there are multiple data entries for each and every year, indicating the coalescing of research, conferences, events, medical practice, commerce, policy and institutionalization of plant-based eating. This may still be a fringe movement, but it has passed the test of scientific rigor, gained tremendous legitimacy, and is truly here to stay.
2011- The most prestigious scientific body in the United States, the National Academies of Science, concluded that the only safe intake of trans fats, saturated fats and cholesterol should be zero. Word for word, their report indicated, “The Institute of Medicine did not set upper limits for trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol because any intake level above zero increased bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol).”((Trumbo PR, Shimakawa T. Tolerable upper intake levels for trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Nutr Rev. 2011 May;69(5):270-8.)) Needless to say, the only way to avoid these nutrients is to avoid all animal foods, and any processed foods that contain these three nutrients.
“The Institute of Medicine did not set upper limits for trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol because any intake level above zero increased bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol).”
2011 – MyPlate((https://www.choosemyplate.gov/)) replaces the USDA’s MyPyramid guide on June 2, 2011, ending 19 years of USDA food pyramid diagrams. This simple guide divides the dinner plate into sections of approximately 30 percent grains, 40 percent vegetables, 10 percent fruits and 20 percent protein (accompanied by a smaller circle representing dairy). This has been a dramatic improvement of the food pyramid, for many reasons, not the least of which is that it no longer recommends meat. However, it is clear that the National Dairy Council holds substantial power, as it was able to keep a serving of dairy in the new guidelines, despite an abundance of studies suggesting that dairy is not health-promoting.
MyPlate is supplemented with additional recommendations, such as “Make half your plate fruits and vegetables”, “Make at least half your grains whole”, and “Vary your protein food choices”.
2011 – www.nutritionfacts.org is launched. This non-profit website is devoted to making plant-based dietary research freely available and comprehensible to the average person. Dr. Michael Greger and his team read through every issue of every English-language nutrition journal in the world, and from this produce daily videos and articles on a broad range of nutrition topics. This site contains thousands of videos and articles on the scientifically-proven benefits of a plant-based diet. On this website, you can find articles and videos (complete with links to with all of the supporting studies) detailing the effects of plant-based diet on almost every health condition ever studied. You can use the search function on the main page, or you can browse by topic, using the feature on the left side of the home screen. The importance of this website cannot be understated. In today’s world there is a lot of “information” out there, but much of it is unsubstantiated information. At Nutritionfacts.org, you will find thousands videos and articles on hundreds of medical conditions. You can quickly follow links to studies featured in each article or video. What you will not find is advertisers, or site sponsors, or pop-ups. This makes it a first, and one-of-a-kind nutritional website.
2011 – Forks Over Knives is released. This documentary film, mentioned in the prologue, has been highly influential in raising awareness of the benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet. This film examines the profound claim that most, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. If you have not yet watched this film, then go to Netflix and watch it now. 🙂
2011 – U.C. Davis Integrative Medicine Program is launched. U.C. Davis is part of the Institute for Population Health Improvement at the University of California Davis School of Medicine. The mission of UC Davis Integrative Medicine is to combat chronic disease with positive changes in health, diet, fitness, wellbeing, and lifestyle choices. This program both endorses and provides education on plant-based eating as a foundation of a healthy lifestyle with recipes, regular newsletters, support and occasional eSummits.
Rosane Oliveira, PhD is Founding Director of UC Davis Integrative Medicine and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Department of Public Health Sciences at the School of Medicine at the University of California Davis. Blending a life-long passion for food and nutrition with over 20 years of scientific experience in genetic research, Dr. Oliveira is devoted to educating people about how food and lifestyle choices can affect genetic expression–i.e. how genes are turned on and off and either cause disease or promote health.
2011 – First Annual Plant-Stock takes place on Caldwell Esselstyn’s family farm in NY State. This annual weekend gathering brings in world-class presenters on the topic of plant-based eating, and is an expo of food and retailers of plant-based merchandise. This event is run by Rip Esselstyn and his company Engine 2, which guides people getting started on plant-based diets and runs conferences and events supporting this lifestyle. Click Here to view a post covering my 2014 Plant-Stock weekend.
2011 – Clett Erridge publishes a seminal study in the British Journal of Nutrition. ((Erridge C. The capacity of foodstuffs to induce innate immune activation of human monocytes in vitro is dependent on food content of stimulants of Toll-like receptors 2 and 4. Br J Nutr. 2011 Jan; 105(1):15-23.)) The study has a large fancy name, but here’s the CliffsNotes version: Before this study, researchers knew that all meat products cause a slow steady spike in inflammatory levels after ingestion, but did not know exactly why.
This study verified that it is the load of dead bacteria in animal products, which release endotoxins that are absorbed into our system, leading to the endotoxemic inflammation we see after meat, egg, and dairy consumption. Unfortunately these endotoxins are heat stable, so they are not destroyed by any cooking method. Here are three short videos on this topic.
2012 – Two massive prospective studies, the Harvard Health Professionals Follow-up Study((Pan A, Sun Q, Bernstein AM, Schulze MB, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Hu FB. Red Meat Consumption and Mortality: Results From 2 Prospective Cohort Studies. Arch Intern Med. 2012;0(2012):201122871-9.)) and the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study((Ornish D. Holy Cow! What’s Good for You Is Good for Our Planet. Comment on “Red Meat Consumption and Mortality”. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(7):563-564. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.174.)) both conclude that red meat consumption was associated with living a significantly shorter life—increased cancer mortality, increased heart disease mortality, and increased overall mortality. Harvard’s publication “Essentials of Healthy Eating: A Guide,” explains about picking “the best protein packages by emphasizing plant sources of protein rather than animal sources.” Their recommendation is, “Go with plants. Eating a plant-based diet is healthiest.” Walter Willett, the Chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard is previously quoted as saying (back in 1990) with regards to findings on cancer, “If you step back and look at the data, the optimum amount of red meat you eat should be zero.”
“If you step back and look at the data, the optimum amount of red meat you eat should be zero.”– Walter Willett, the Chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard
2013 – Another landmark study((Koeth RA, Wang Z, Levison BS, et. al. Intestinal microbiota metabolism of l-carnitine, a nutrient in red meat, promotes atherosclerosis. Nat Med. 2013 Apr 7.)) is published. In this study, researchers established a link between dietary carnitine and choline to the production of trimethylamine-n-oxide, which plays an initiating role in cancer and heart disease. Implications of this study are explained in this video by Dr. Greger at Nutritionfacts.org.
2013 – The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010 (GBD 2010),((http://thelancet.com/gbd)) covering the years 1990 to 2010, is published in The Lancet. This was the first time The Lancet dedicated an entire triple issue to one study. This massive study was a collaborative effort of 488 researchers from 303 institutions in 50 countries. GBD 2010 covers 187 countries, 20 age groups, 21 regions, 291 diseases and injuries, and 67 risk factors. You can view the ongoing history of this study here. One extremely important finding from this study is the key role that diet plays in America in death and disability.
As seen in the graph below, diet is the leading cause of death and disability, displacing smoking and all other risk factors. Another fascinating finding is that although exercise is very important- according to this study, the risk associated with a sedentary lifestyle pales in comparison to the risk of a poor diet. And before you go thinking, “Well, I have a good diet”, remember that more than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of American adults are considered to be overweight or obese. More than one-third (35.7 percent) of adults are considered to be obese. More than 1 in 20 (6.3 percent) have extreme obesity. Almost 3 in 4 men (74 percent) are considered to be overweight or obese.((https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/overweight-obesity-statistics.aspx)) If you are healthy, then you are in the minority.
2013 – Kaiser Permanente, the largest medical insurer in the US, publishes their Nutritional Update for Physicians,((Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets. Perm J. 2013 Spring; 17(2): 61–66. doi: 10.7812/TPP/12-085. PMCID: PMC3662288)) presenting strong evidence, and encouraging doctors to promote a plant-based diet for their patients. Kaiser also makes available their Plant-Based Guide for Patients to help participants adopt plant-based eating for optimum health.As well, their website offers help and guidance on getting started on a plant-based diet. Why would the biggest health insurer be promoting plant-based diets? – It is because the evidence clearly shows the benefits of this manner of eating. If their clients are healthier, then they will be paying out less in health care costs.
2013 – T. Colin Campbell publishes his NY Times best seller, Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition. In this book, he explains the science behind WFPB diet, the ways our current scientific paradigm ignores the fascinating complexity of nutrition and the human body, and why our eating habits haven’t changed. The book delves deeply into scientific process explaining how cancer develops and how metabolism works. Campbell also gives us a personal insight into the bureaucratic roadblocks and the lobbying power of agricultural and food groups that hamper effective public policy and public education on food and nutrition. The book is a manifesto on the fundamental importance of viewing nutrition from a big-picture perspective, while not discarding the traditional reductionist approach currently used to investigate this subject. It proposes a fundamental shift in the manner which we view the human body and nutrition. The title is a bit of a give-away. ‘Whole’ refers not to just the foods that we put into our bodies, but also our approach to investigation and understanding of nutrition and also of human health.
2013 – Chromosomal telomere lengthening from dietary changes. Telomeres are caps on the end of DNA strands. Telomere length is a marker of age, because telomeres shorten with age. Ornish’s 2013 paper((D Ornish, J Lin, J M Chan et al. Effect of comprehensive lifestyle changes on telomerase activity and telomere length in men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer: 5-year follow-up of a descriptive pilot study. The Lancet. Volume 14, No. 11, p1112–1120, October 2013)) was only a pilot study, but is worth mentioning because it is a landmark study that was the first intervention to show actual reversal of the aging process at the cellular level. In this study, researchers found that participants DNA telomeres had actually lengthened by 10% at the end of the trial. The trial involved four lifestyle interventions: whole food plant-based diet, exercise, stress reduction and meditation. Future trials will be needed to determine which aspects of this intervention were most significant in terms of effect on telomere length.
2013 – A review of the Blue Zones by Chrysohoou and Stefanadis(( Chrysohoou C, Stefanadis C. Longevity and diet. Myth or pragmatism? Maturitas. 2013 Dec;76(4):303-7. )), five regions on the planet with the longest lived people, examined the common themes in these five different groups. The three most common themes found were: strong social support and engagement, daily exercise, and diets that centre on whole plant foods, reserving meat mostly for special occasions. In fact, the population with perhaps the highest life-expectancy in the world (the California Adventist vegetarians) doesn’t eat any meat at all, adding ten years to their life expectancy when compared to other Americans.((Fraser GE, Shavlik DJ. Ten years of life: Is it a matter of choice? Arch Intern Med. 2001 Jul 9;161(13):1645-52.))
2013- Another study addresses the question, “Do vegetarians get enough protein?” This study found that people eating plant-based diets average about twice the estimated average daily protein requirement.((N Rizzo, K Jaceldo-Siegl, J Sabate, G E Fraser. Nutrient Profiles of Vegetarian and Nonvegetarian Dietary Patterns. Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2013 Dec;113(12):1610–1619.)) So, plant-based eaters get more than enough protein, and from a health point of view, the protein that they are eating is superior.
2014 – Caldwell Esselstyn publishes his intervention trial ((Esselstyn CB, Gendy G, Doyle J, Golubic M, Roizen MF. A way to reverse CAD? J Fam Pract. 2014 Jul;63(7):356-364b.)) of 198 individuals on a strict whole food, plant-based diet devoid of oils and nuts. Of the 198 patients with established cardiovascular disease, 177 (89%) were adherent. Major cardiac events judged to be recurrent disease totalled one stroke in the adherent cardiovascular participants—a recurrent event rate of 0.6%, significantly less than reported by other studies of plant-based nutrition therapy. Thirteen of 21 (62%) non-adherent participants experienced adverse events. With a death rate differing by a factor of 100 between the adherent and non-adherent participant, this study shows once again, the incredible power of a WFPB diet to stop and often reverse America’s number one killer – heart disease.
2014 – “Farmacy” Program is developed at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center in Houston. This is Houston’s first hospital-based organic produce stand. Doctors write a prescription for fresh fruits and vegetables, and Rawfully Organic Co-Op fills their order. “Along with a recommendation for regular exercise, I write all of my patients a prescription for more fruits and vegetables,” said Dr. Garth Davis, who created special “Farmacy” prescription pads for this purpose. “Eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day has been shown to prevent cancer, lower the risk of heart disease and help people live longer.”
2014 – First Annual International Plant-Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference takes place.
This annual conference of healthcare providers, organized by The Plantrician Project, allows attendees to learn and share about the latest information in plant-based nutrition research.
2104 – Cowspiracy premieres.
This groundbreaking documentary film explores the detrimental effects of agriculture, by interviewing government officials, environmental groups, and experts in the environmental field. They also research the facts surrounding the topic and then meticulously list them (with supporting) on their website. What one learns, after examining the facts, is that even with present global population levels, animal agriculture in any form is not sustainable. Furthermore, it is contributing to global warming, destruction of rainforest, species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction. This is a must-see film; not because it is a great film, but because the evidence presented is so shocking, so far reaching, and so compelling.
2014 – Comparison of Nutritional Quality of the Vegan, Vegetarian, Semi-Vegetarian, Pesco-Vegetarian and Omnivorous Diet. This study of 1475 people analyzed the diet of each participant using the Healthy Eating Index (HEI). The HEI is a measure of diet quality that can be used to assess compliance with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Here is the study conclusion: “In conclusion, results concerning body weight, nutritional intake, nutritional quality and quantity are in line with the literature on restricted and prudent diets versus unrestricted omnivorous diets. The use of indexing systems, estimating the overall diet quality based on different aspects of healthful dietary models (be it the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans or the compliance to the Mediterranean Diet) indicated consistently the vegan diet as the most healthy one.”((Peter Clarys, Tom Deliens, Inge Huybrechts et al. Comparison of Nutritional Quality of the Vegan, Vegetarian, Semi-Vegetarian, Pesco-Vegetarian and Omnivorous Diet. Nutrients. 2014 Mar; 6(3): 1318–1332.))
“In conclusion, results concerning body weight, nutritional intake, nutritional quality and quantity are in line with the literature on restricted and prudent diets versus unrestricted omnivorous diets. The use of indexing systems, estimating the overall diet quality based on different aspects of healthful dietary models indicated consistently, the vegan diet as the most healthy one”
2014 – Plantrition Project is launched.
Their stated mission is to “educate, equip and empower our physicians and healthcare practitioners with knowledge about the indisputable benefits of plant-based nutrition. To provide them with the resources they, in turn, use to inform and inspire their patients to shift from the Western industrialized diet to a life-changing, whole-food, plant-based way of living.” This not-for-profit organization focuses on “developing educational tools, resources and conferences that educate, equip, and empower physicians and allied health professionals about the use of whole food, plant-based nutrition as a therapeutic intervention to prevent, suspend and even reverse the epidemic of chronic disease that’s plaguing the U.S. and many other countries around the world.”
2014 – A review of literature on longevity entitled, Diet Patterns and Mortality: Common Threads and Consistent Results((McCullough ML. Diet patterns and mortality: common threads and consistent results. J Nutr. 2014 Jun;144(6):795-6. )) looked at four of the major dietary quality scoring systems, which have all been associated with extending lifespan and lowering heart disease and cancer mortality, they were found to share only four things in common: more fruit, more vegetables, more whole grains, and more nuts and beans. ((Reedy J, Krebs-Smith SM, Miller PE, Liese AD, Kahle LL, Park Y, Subar AF. Higher diet quality is associated with decreased risk of all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality among older adults. J Nutr. 2014 Jun;144(6):881-9.)) They are all built on a common core of a diet rich in plant foods, whereas opposite food patterns, rich in animal foods and poor in plant-based foods (in other words, the Western diet), is associated with higher risks. ((Reedy J, Krebs-Smith SM, Miller PE, Liese AD, Kahle LL, Park Y, Subar AF. Higher diet quality is associated with decreased risk of all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality among older adults. J Nutr. 2014 Jun;144(6):881-9.))
2015 – The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization, announces processed meat has been determined to be a Type 1 carcinogen, and red meat is a Type 2 carcinogen.((IARC Monographs evaluate consumption of red meat and processed meat. October 2015)) The term red meat refers to all types of mammalian muscle meat, such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat. The term processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation. Most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats may also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products such as blood. This determination was made by 22 scientists for 10 different countries looking at over 800 studies. The IARC Working Group considered more than 800 studies that investigated associations of more than a dozen types of cancer with the consumption of red meat or processed meat in many countries and populations with diverse diets. The most influential evidence came from large prospective cohort studies conducted over the past 20 years.
* An important footnote to this story is that the Global Burden of Disease study, one of the largest undertaking in recent history, found that approximately 34,000 cancer deaths occur each year due to processed meats, and this is one of the key studies that led to the World Health Organization determining that processed meat is a Type 1 carcinogen. However, that same study found that 840,000 deaths occur annually due to hypertension, kidney disease, and other diseases, as a direct result of processed meat. This figure was rarely mentioned in the media when this story hit the news. Yes, cancer is a concern with processed meat, but it is only one reason to avoid this food product. This is because cancer deaths only represent four percent of human deaths caused annually due to processed meat consumption. Another 806,000 deaths occur annually due to non-cancer reasons, just from processed meats alone.
2015- Documentary film PlantPure Nation is released. After renowned nutritional scientist and bestselling author T. Colin Campbell gives a stirring speech on the floor of the Kentucky House of Representatives, his son, Nelson, and Kentucky State Representative Tom Riner work together to propose a pilot program documenting the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Once the legislation goes into Committee, agribusiness lobbyists kill the plan. Undeterred, Nelson decides to try his own pilot project in his hometown of Mebane, North Carolina. Nelson hoped to demonstrate that a whole foods plant-based diet would lead to significant and measurable health improvements in just 10 days. He also wanted to demonstrate that such a diet would be easy to follow and indefinitely sustainable. Using an approach consistent with the mainstream values of his hometown, he started small, offering ten-day “jumpstarts,” using freshly prepared plant-based meals and before and after biometric testing.
Beyond Mebane, PlantPure Nation explores the topical issues of the small family farmer, food deserts, modern medicine and the challenges of getting plant-based nutrition included in the political process. This is much more than a documentary film; it is a serious attempt to create a broad plant-based movement across North America at the grassroots level.
2015 – Proteinaholic is released. In this book, Dr. Garth Davis meticulously documents the negative effects of how our obsession with meat is killing us, citing almost 700 studies.
Garth Davis is a bariatric (weight loss) surgeon who decided to change his own health after realizing at mid-life that he was on a collision course with heart disease. This book covers his own health journey but primarily focuses on research connecting the dots between animal-based foods and disease. Conversely it covers research supporting a plant-based diet as a health promoting strategy.
2015 – How Not to Die is released, and immediately go to the NY Times Best Seller list. In this book, Dr. Michael Greger covers the top 15 causes of death, and discusses dietary strategies to avoid dying of these diseases. It turns out that a WFPB diet is the best strategy for each of these diseases. The list of citations in Greger’s book is so long that his publisher tried to talk him into posting it online to save printing costs. Greger insisted that the full 132 pages of citations be listed in the book. At about 20 citations per page, this means that over 2600 studies support his claims of the benefits of a WFPBD to live a longer and healthier life.
2015 – Lankenau Medical Center just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania opens a half-acre organic farm on its campus to provide fresh produce to patients. With over 1.5 million people, Philadelphia is one of the largest cities in the country and consistently named one of the unhealthiest. In 2010,((http://www.phila.gov/health/pdfs/Philadelphia_obesity_chronic_disease812.pdf)) 32 percent of its adults and about 25 percent of its children were obese. That same year, 13 percent of the city’s adults had diabetes, and Philadelphia County ranked highest among the country’s largest counties for chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease and hypertension. This has caused some hospitals to look for ways to address health needs before a patient’s condition has deteriorated so much that a hospital visit is necessary. At Lankenau, that meant providing its patients with a source of healthy food.
The hospital paired with Greener Partners, a nonprofit advocate for local food systems in Pennsylvania, to build and maintain what would become the Deaver Wellness Farm. Since the farm’s launch in 2015, it has provided over 4,000 pounds of organic food to hospital patients at no cost. The produce is used for educational demonstrations and served in the hospital cafeteria.
Lankenau now facilitates pop-up markets in internal medicine and the OBGYN practice wards. While patients wait for appointments, hospital employees lead nutrition courses and food demonstrations. As well, medical assistants bring in fresh kale, broccoli, tomatoes, eggplant, arugula, and other produce for them to select. The hospital also provides recipes, and, during an appointment, physicians use the produce to show how a patient can make healthier lifestyle choices.
Lankenau is not the nation’s only hospital-run farm. Others include St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, both in Michigan; and St. Luke’s University Health Network in Pennsylvania. This approach to patient health is a fundamental paradigm shift in healthcare delivery away from ‘sick care’, to actual healthcare, as it attempts to address the root causes of chronic illness.
2015 – Dr. Kim Williams, President of American College of Cardiology is quoted saying “There are two types of Cardiologists- vegans, and those who haven’t read the data.” To this day, many cardiologists still haven’t gotten this message.
“There are two types of Cardiologists- vegans, and those who haven’t read the data.”
2015 – T. Colin Campbell Centre for Nutrition Studies publishes a list of top plant-based research and news stories of 2015.
The evolutionary trigger for larger brains in humans required dietary starch – Researchers put forward a comprehensive argument((K Hardy, J Brand-Miller, KD Brown, MG Thomas, L Copeland. The Importance of Dietary Carbohydrate in Human Evolution. The Quarterly review of biology 2015;90:251-68.)) that the evolution of man to a larger brain was not supported meat alone, but also required starch. The brain uses relatively massive amounts of glucose, supplied most efficiently by starches, and the following related changes may have occurred about the same time, geologically speaking: the advent of fire and cooking, which allow starches to be more easily digestible, the growth of our glucose-hungry brain, and the emergence of our amylase genes, which allows us to break down starches for digestion.
- A Dietary Prescription for Chronic Kidney Disease. Recently published research shows that those with at least ‘moderate’ chronic kidney disease have a lower mortality rate the more of their protein comes from plants. For every 33% increase in the ratio of plant to total protein consumption, researchers found a 23% decreased risk of mortality.(( Chen X, Wei G, Jalili T, et al. The Associations of Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause Mortality in CKD. American Journal of Kidney Diseases 2015.))
- A Cleveland Clinic study((M Macknin, T Kong, A Weier et al. Plant-Based, No-Added-Fat or American Heart Association Diets: Impact on Cardiovascular Risk in Obese Children with Hypercholesterolemia and Their Parents. J Pediatr 2015.)) showed that obese kids with high cholesterol and their parents did better on a no-added-fat, plant-based program than they did on the American Heart Association Diet. They lost weight and reduced cholesterol and inflammation in just 4 weeks.
- Several studies((Charepalli V, Reddivari L, Radhakrishnan S, Vadde R, Agarwal R, Vanamala JK. Anthocyanin-containing purple-fleshed potatoes suppress colon tumorigenesis via elimination of colon cancer stem cells. J Nutr Biochem 2015.)) ((O’Keefe SJ, Li JV, Lahti L, et al. Fat, fibre and cancer risk in African Americans and rural Africans. Nature communications 2015;6:6342.)) ((Yang M, Kenfield SA, Van Blarigan EL, et al. Dietary patterns after prostate cancer diagnosis in relation to disease-specific and total mortality. Cancer prevention research 2015;8:545-51.)) ((Yang M, Kenfield SA, Van Blarigan EL, et al. Dairy intake after prostate cancer diagnosis in relation to disease-specific and total mortality. Int J Cancer 2015;137:2462-9.)) are published connecting plant-based diet with cancer risk reduction.
- The USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends a more sustainable, plant-centered American diet. They wrote, “The major findings regarding sustainable diets were that a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet.”((http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/02-executive-summary.asp)). Needless to say, the food and agriculture industry reacted by saying sustainability is not the mandate of the USDA, and to no one’s surprise, congress stripped away any commentary about environmental sustainability. However, these recommendations from the advisory committee signaled an institutional shift in acceptability of plant-based diets, which is immensely important.
“The major findings regarding sustainable diets were that a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet”- The USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee
2016 – Barnard Medical Center (BMC) opens in Washington, DC. It is one of the first mainstream clinics in the nation to address the country’s chronic health issues through nutrition and preventive medicine. Neal Barnard, MD, founder and president of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and now founder and medical director of BMC, works with physicians, nurse practitioners, and dietitians to help thousands of patients every year with weight loss, heart health, diabetes, cancer prevention, and childhood nutrition.
2016 – A two-year residency program focused on plant-based dietary medicine is initiated at Maine Medical Center in Portland, ME. The first medical program of its kind, this program is founded on the principle of preventing disease with diet as opposed to attempting to treat it with prescription medicine. The program offers a curriculum structured around studies that link plant-based diets and health. This program is an important step toward educating medical professionals about incorporating plant-based nutrition into their practice.
2016 – The US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics puts out a position paper in favour of plant-based diets because of their health effects, the reduced environmental impact, and their sustainability. Here is the abstract from their position paper- word for word (I have added bolding and underlining.)
“It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes. Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity. Low intake of saturated fat and high intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds (all rich in fiber and phytochemicals) are characteristics of vegetarian and vegan diets that produce lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and better serum glucose control. These factors contribute to reduction of chronic disease. Vegans need reliable sources of vitamin B-12, such as fortified foods or supplements.”((Melina V, Craig W, Levin S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. December 2016 Volume 116, Issue 12, Pages 1970–1980.))
2016- The Chinese government outlined a plan to reduce its citizens’ meat consumption by 50%!!
In a move that climate campaigners hope will provide major heft in the effort to avoid runaway global warming. Dietary guidelines drawn up by China’s health ministry recommend that the nation’s 1.3 billion population should consume between 40g to 75g of meat per person each day. The measures, released once every 10 years, are designed to improve public health but could also provide a significant cut to greenhouse gas emissions.
2016- A group of researchers at Oxford University published an analysis comparing the future effects of three different dietary scenarios out to the year 2050. They considered effects on global human mortality, greenhouse gas emissions, and economic value of health and environmental benefits. The three dietary patterns were 1) a moderate pattern following dietary guidelines 2) vegetarian and 3) vegan. Global adoption of any of the three dietary scenarios would be beneficial, but the more plant-based the diet, the greater the benefit. Global adoption of a vegan diet was projected to avoid 8.1 million deaths per year and reduce mortality by 10% for all causes by 2050. Vegan diets were projected to reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 70% of those predicted in 2050. A vegan diet was projected to save $1067 billion USD per year in health-related costs (3.3% of the predicted global GDP) and $570 billion USD per year due to avoided environmental harm.
- Dairy industry loses a massive antitrust lawsuit filed against the nation’s largest dairy producers.((https://www.hbsslaw.com/cases/dairy-price-fixing)) They were found guilty of killing over 500,000 cows for the expressed purpose of inflating the price of milk and other dairy products. This resulted in a $52 million class-action settlement for consumers.
- The US Department of Agriculture bought $20 million of cheese (about 11 million pounds) from private inventories to reduce a cheese surplus that was at its highest level in 30 years.
Both of these situations are a direct result of Dairy Program Subsidies in the United States that totaled $5.6 billion from 1995-2014 (and this is just the dairy industry). Knowing the power of plant-based foods to promote health and fight disease, the policy of subsidizing the animal industry appears highly questionable. It no longer makes sense to prop up these industries when the public should be encouraged to eat more plant-based foods. And as we can see from example 1) and 2), the animal industries are becoming increasingly desperate as they begin to lose market share. The smarter companies will move to non-dairy milks and milk-products as the public awakens to the emerging evidence.
2016- Ray Cronise, working on sustained weight loss and life/health extension, determines that the optimum diet to achieve these goals is a plant-based diet centered on whole food. In his paper titled, Oxidative Priority, Meal Frequency, and the Energy Economy of Food and Activity: Implications for Longevity, Obesity, and Cardiometabolic Disease, he proposes a new Food Triangle (below) as a method for understanding energy value of food and the quality of micronutrients. He suggests trying to stay on the right upper side of the triangle as much as possible to achieve maximum health, longevity and sustained weight loss.
As Cronise points out, animal foods (on the left side of the triangle) contain more fat, along with fewer micronutrients per calorie, whereas whole plant foods (on the right side of the triangle) contain more carbohydrates (our body’s preferred fuel) along with more micronutrients and antioxidants per calorie; nutrients known to contribute to health-span. The amino acids associated with decreased lifespan (leucine, lysine, methionine, branch-chained amino acids) are found in decreased concentration in plant foods when compared to animal foods. While these are essential amino acids, more is not necessarily better. This is one reason why plants are a preferred source of protein.
“Our version of the Food Triangle may be used to compare popular diet schemes for energy density. For example, the relative energy density of a Paleo-versus vegan-style diet, which nearly mirrors the opposite sides of the Food Triangle, is shown. Furthermore, a “Western diet,” which is more heavily weighted toward foods at the base of the Food Triangle, is predicted to result in maximum energy accumulation of dietary fat. While not considered part of the whole foods integrated into the Food Triangle, excess refined oil, sugar, and grain (e.g., flour) adulterants may drive any of these diet schemes to unintentional chronic overnutrition. While either side of the Food Triangle is predictive for excess energy, it may also be used to predict overnutrition of dietary amino acids and fats and undernutrition of phytonutrients and dietary fiber.”((Cronise R J, Sinclair D A, Bremer A A. Oxidative Priority, Meal Frequency, and the Energy Economy of Food and Activity: Implications for Longevity, Obesity, and Cardiometabolic Disease. Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders. November 2016, ahead of print. doi:10.1089/met.2016.0108.))
In his 2017 book, Our Broken Plate, Cronise advocates for a paradigm shift away from talking about macronutrients (fats, carbs, and protein) to talking about real food as a way to get us out of the present stalemate between low-carb vs high carb, and low fat versus high fat, protein discussions that predominate the discussion in nutritional discussions and blogs. He puts forth the New Food Triangle as a map, or way out of this stalemate.
2016 – In November 2016, twenty four members of the EU parliament signed a letter to the European Commission President insisting on a collective reduction in animal agriculture and a shift to promoting a plant-based diet. In the letter they stress the need to reduce consumption levels by at least 30% by 2030 in order to help meet climate targets, reduce pressure on river basins and reduce the incidence of serious chronic health problems caused by meat and dairy. Addressed to the European Commission, it states, “The science is clear that reductions in meat and dairy consumption are required to achieve meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions“. This was the first multilateral recognition that animal agriculture reduction is an essential part of a climate change strategy.
“The science is clear that reductions in meat and dairy consumption are required to achieve meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions“.
2016- T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies publishes the top plant-based research stories for 2016. Some of these are already featured above. Others include:
- Plant-based athletes are competing at the highest levels. American athletes, tennis player Venus Williams and weight lifter Kendrick Farris, and one Australian athlete, sprinter Morgan Mitchell, competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Venus Williams has been eating a largely plant-based diet for the past 5 years since being diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder. She took home a silver medal in mixed-doubles from Rio. Prior to the 2016 Olympics, Kendrick Farris broke the U.S. record in his weight class of 207 lbs by lifting a combined 831 lbs.
- Several major studies discover problems with animal products as a protein source. One study((High animal protein intake associated with higher, plant protein with lower mortality rate. Increased death risk primarily associated with red meats, eggs and dairy — not found among those with healthy lifestyle. Massachusetts General Hospital News Release. August 1, 2016.)) found that eating plant protein instead of animal protein cuts risk of death. An editorial in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition((Koletzko B, Demmelmair H, Grote V, Prell C, Weber M. High protein intake in young children and increased weight gain and obesity risk. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Feb;103(2):303-4. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.128009.)) made a compelling case that eating excess animal protein, particularly dairy protein, is a contributor to childhood obesity and related diseases. Women who get diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) are at a significantly higher risk of later getting full blown type 2 diabetes is they eat a low-carb dietary pattern, particularly if it is rich in animal protein and fat. And postmenopausal women who consume the most animal protein are at a 60% increased risk of getting heart failure compared to those who consume the least animal protein.
- High-protein supplements negate the beneficial effects of weight loss on insulin sensitivity. One of the great benefits of weight loss is often in insulin sensitivity, but this fascinating study found that merely consuming two servings of whey protein a day in addition to a standard low-calorie diet eliminated the benefit of weight loss. People lost weight but had no improvements in insulin sensitivity. Many people commonly try to lose weight by eating protein bars and shakes and protein-based meal replacements. Even if they lose weight, they may be sabotaging their efforts at improving metabolic health if they consume extra protein, particularly whey protein.
2016 – Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine posts their top ten plant based stories for 2016.
2017- Several Top Notch Documentaries are released promoting a shift to plant-based eating.
Eating you Alive
Eating You Alive is a health-based film that features leading medical experts and researchers and takes a scientific look at the reasons we’re so sick, who’s responsible for feeding us the wrong information and how we can use whole-food, plant-based nutrition to fight chronic disease. Find out more information HERE.
The Game Changers
This website is executively produced by famed film director James Cameron and showcases several athletes that have adopted a vegan diet.
Eating Our Way To Extinction
The creators behind the viral clip which Leonardo DiCaprio described as “the video future generations will be wishing everyone watched today” are now working to bring you Eating Our Way to Extinction; a feature-length documentary. Through world-renowned scientists, researchers, global leaders, and celebrities, the film is bringing to life the reality of the true cost of our current relationship with animals. The film takes an in depth look at compassion, environment, health and economics.
What the Health
The directors of Cowspiracy have produced the this investigative health documentary to date. ‘What the Health’ follows Kip Andersen as he uncovers the negative dietary impacts of animal foods but also investigates the systems and organizations (such as heart and diabetes associations) that are complicit in the supporting these industries.
2017- Plant protein builds muscle as well as animal protein. A study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looking at 2986 men and women aged 19–72 years found (as other studies have found) that people eating more protein had more muscle mass and strength. However, the source of the protein (derived from plant or animal) was irrelevant to outcomes. In other words, lentils build muscle as effectively as chicken.
21st Century Plant-Based Athletes
Finally, let’s talk about 21st century plant-based athletes. There are now countless plant-based athletes performing at the highest high levels (Olympic, Ironman, and Ultramarathon levels), dispelling the myth of the skinny or weak vegan. The list is massive, but a short list includes:
- American football tight end – Tony Gonzalez
- American football running back – Ricky Williams
- American football defensive end – David Carter
- Tennis stars – Venus and Serena Williams
- Pro basketball center – Robert Parish
- Olympic rower – David Smith
- Olympic running champion – Carl Lewis
- Olympic sprinter Morgan Mitchell
- Ultramarathon runners – Scott Jurek and Rich Roll
- Ironman champion – John Joseph
- Ironman triathlete – Brendan Brazier
- One of the most successful freerunners in the world – Timothy Shieff
- UFC fighters – Nick and Nate Diaz
- Mixed Martial Artist champions – Jake Shields and Mac Danzig
- Eight-time national super heavyweight boxing champion, and captain of the USA National Boxing team – Cam Awesome
- Professional boxer – Mike Tyson
- World Champion at the 2014 Savate Championships – James Southwood
- US Olympic weightlifter – Kendrick Farris
- Germany’s strongest man in 2011 for the 105 KG weighting -Patrik Baboumian
I could go on and on with more names, but I hope that I have made my point here. A plant-based diet will not hamper your physical performance. In fact, if you listen to interviews, you will find that almost all of these athletes indicate that they feel better, and have more endurance, and have less health issues on a plant-based diet than their previous diet.
In addition to the specific scientific data that has emerged concerning the benefits of a plant-based diet in the last century, there are also many trends that have emerged from the science over the last 100 years or more. For example:
- A plant based diet, consisting of whole foods tends to be anti-oxidative, helping the body to fight ever-present reactive oxygen species. These free radicals (or reactive oxygen species) are implicated in damage to cellular DNA, oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids in lipids (lipid peroxidation), oxidation of amino acids in proteins, and oxidative deactivation of specific enzymes by oxidation of co-factors. Antioxidant-rich foods originate from the plant kingdom due to the thousands of different natural antioxidant compounds found in plant foods. On average, plant foods have 64 times more antioxidants((Carlsen MH, Halvorsen BL, Holte K et al. The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. Nutr J. 2010; 9: 3. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-3)) than meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. Animal foods max out at 100 units of antioxidants; plant foods go up to 289,000 units!The process of food digestion creates a pro-oxidative state in the body, which can increase cellular damage. Most processed foods, and almost all animal foods add to the body’s oxidative debt, rather than help move it out of an oxidative state. This is one mechanism whereby animal and processed foods can cause disease.
- Most disease processes have an inflammatory component to them. Whole, plant-based foods tend to be anti-inflammatory, fighting inflammation in our body. This, in turn, helps our bodies fight disease. This is one mechanism whereby plant foods fight disease.
- Animal foods and most processed foods are pro-inflammatory in nature. They actually cause inflammation. Several factors may account for this, such as heme iron, endotoxins, saturated fat, high bacteria load, TMAO, tapeworms, advanced glycation end products or AGEs, and NeuGc, a foreign meat molecule that may increase the risk of heart disease and cancer. These are the many mechanisms whereby animal foods may cause disease.
- Our bodies not only need macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fats); they also need micronutrients (minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients). Whole plant foods are rich in micronutrients, containing a far greater concentration of these nutrients than animal foods or most processed foods.
- We have known about minerals and vitamins for many decades now. However, we are just beginning to learn about phytonutrients. Plant foods contain thousands of natural chemicals that are manufactured in plants for natural protection from germs, fungi, bugs, and other threats. It turns out that most of these phytochemicals, or phytonutrients are also beneficial for our health, boosting our detoxification enzymes, modulating gene expression, and even repairing DNA.
- Fibre is an essential nutrient, but less than 3% of Americans get the recommended amount of fibre.((Krebs-Smith SM, Guenther PM, Subar AF, Kirkpatrick SI, Dodd KW. Americans do not meet federal dietary recommendations. J Nutr. 2010 Oct;140(10):1832-8. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.124826.)) This nutrient is found in abundance in whole plant foods. Recent research indicates that fibre is the primary food for our beneficial gut bacteria. Animal food is devoid of any fibre.
- Eating lower on the food chain is an effective approach to minimizing toxic chemicals that accumulate within all living organisms, due to the phenomenon of bioaccumulation. Pesticides, heavy metals and other chemicals tend to accumulate higher up on the food chain. Eating a plant-based diet helps minimize this effect in our diet.
- An immense amount of research has been conducted in the last decade the exciting new field of the human microbiome. Most of the human microbiome resides in our gut, commonly referred to as our gut microbiota. Researchers are finding many connections between our microbiota and health; and not just physical health, but also our mental health. There is always a battle, or balance, of good and bad bacteria in our gut. A diet rich in processed, fatty, or sugary foods feeds the ‘bad’ bacteria. “Health-promoting effects of our good bacteria include boosting our immune system, improving digestion and absorption, making vitamins, inhibiting the growth of potential pathogens, and keeping us from feeling bloated, but should bad bacteria take roost, they can produce carcinogens, putrefy protein in our gut, produce toxins, mess up our bowel function, and cause infections.” ((Saulnier DM, Kolida S, Gibson GR. Microbiology of the human intestinal tract and approaches for its dietary modulation. Curr Pharm Des. 2009;15(13):1403-14.)) A diet rich in whole plant foods feeds the ‘good’ bacteria. This change in gut flora can happen in a very short period of time. This is just one more reason to eat a diet rich in whole plant foods.
- There are inherent risks associated with eating other members of the animal kingdom, explained in this evidence-based video, Eating Outside Our Kingdom. These risks include cancer, autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases as well as diseases that fellow members of the animal kingdom could be carrying.
While lengthy, this article only covers a fraction of the scientific data connecting a whole food, plant-based diet to human health. I have also covered only a limited number of milestones marking the journey this healthy eating pattern into mainstream North America over the last century. It should also be noted that during that same time evidence has emerged showing the negative effects of animal-based foods and many processed foods on our health.
Sadly, animal foods are not just affecting our health in a negative manner; we also see that animal agriculture is extremely destructive to the environment; and this is no small effect. Humans number 7.5 billion, and we consume 56,000,000,000 farm animals each year. These figures do not include fish and other sea creatures whose deaths are so great they are only measured in tonnes. At this point in history, 97% of the mammal biomass of our planet is made up of humans and the animals that we raise for slaughter. Sadly, only 3% of the mammals on the earth are now wild, and the current pressures on them are tremendous.
The last century has provided us with a mountain of evidence, including epidemiological studies (both prospective and retrospective), intervention trials, and even metabolic ward experiments where every aspect of diet is measured accurately. These studies have been performed on small and moderate-sized groups, and observational studies have been done on extremely large populations. Some studies have gone on for decades, even following people right up to the end of their lives.Most researchers performing these studies are not vegans or plant-based eaters; they are conscientious scientists with no agenda other than searching for the truth.
The overwhelming trend observed in all of this data is in-line with findings the famous China-Cornell-Oxford Project which clearly indicated that the closer one moves toward a diet centered around whole plant food, the less chronic diseases (aka diseases of affluence) one experiences. With a whole food, plant-based diet we see less cancer, less heart disease, less diabetes, less obesity, and fewer occurrences of other many diseases related to dietary excess. The good news for persons who are not terribly disciplined is that benefits seen exist on somewhat of a continuum. However, as Caldwell Esselstyn would quickly point out (and as we saw in Roy Swank’s study), serious conditions such as MS, heart disease, diabetes etc. require strict dietary adherence to actually see important life-saving benefits. For this group of people, this diet can mean the difference between life and death.
In part two of this article (coming soon) we will look at some of the major figures that have conducted seminal research and fought against the prevailing paradigm and the economic and political forces supporting it.
WOW!!!! You just read over 20,000 words. Congratulations!
If you want to see a study, person, or event added to this timeline, or if you feel changes should be made, please email me with the information.