A Vegan Diet Can Prevent and Treat Chronic Diseases

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From paleopathology, we have learned that cultures with primarily animal-centered diets, such as the meat-eating nobility of recent centuries, suffered many of the same diseases that we do today, including heart disease, hardening of the arteries, cancer, gallstones, kidney stones, osteoporosis, arthritis, tooth decay, gout, and even headaches. Interestingly, these diseases were not present in humans eating plant-based diets, e.g., most of the primitive human cultures, and the peasants, slaves, and “common folk” of recent history.

…while conventional medicine still expounds the importance of dairy products in staving off bone loss, Dr. Saunders points out that North America has the highest rate of dairy consumption – along with the highest rate of osteoporosis – in the world.

There is only one major disease and that is malnutrition. All ailments and afflictions to which we may fall heir are directly traceable to this major disease. –Dr D.W. Cavanaugh, M.D.

Therefore, although antibiotics and other advances have helped with many ills, we now die of atherosclerosis, obesity, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases that can be prevented perhaps 80-90% of the time by proper nutritional habits.

[T]he use of food that is injurious is the cause of disease.

I have observed among nations whose aliment is vegetables and water that disease and medicine are equally unknown, while those whole aliment is flesh and fermented liquor are constantly afflicted with disease and with medicine more dangerous than disease itself.

The people living in Pakistan’s Hunza Valley eat almost exclusively home-grown, organic plant foods, such as fruits, grains, and vegetables, fed by glacial mineral water. The main Hunza grain is millet, and they never consume bleached, enriched, processed foods. The Hunza people eat animal protein very infrequently, and their health is unrivaled anywhere in the world.

…regulation of foods began to focus on convenience rather than nutritional value. America’s food supply became homogenized, pasteurized, refined, bleached, chemically preserved, hydrogenised, defibered, artificially flavored and colored, synthetically fortified, sugared, and salted. (Today, plants and animals are also genetically engineered, irradiated, antibiotic-fed, and laden with pesticides, herbicides, and hormones.)

The meat and dairy industries have such a tight hold on the U.S. government’s Department of Agriculture that they successfully delayed the release of the “Food Pyramid” for a full year, asking the Department of Agriculture to reconsider its graphic design wherein meat and dairy were portrayed close to the top, near “Fats, Oils, and Sweets.”

America is one of the sickest nations on the planet. Despite our wealth, access to educational media, natural resources, and opportunity, most Americans accept atherosclerosis, cancer, hypertension, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other degenerative chronic diseases as part of the normal aging process. Unfortunately, most “conventional” medical practitioners accept this misguided and bleak picture out of ignorance, though many have expressed a desire to know more about the connection between diet and disease. The Committee on Nutrition in Medical Education (CNME) recommended back in 1985 that a minimum of twenty-five hours would be necessary to teach basic nutrition material, and found that only two medical schools in the nation met these criteria. The CNME also found that less than 3% of the questions on national physician exams for board certification asked about nutrition. By May 2000, medical and osteopathic schools provided an average of only six to thirty hours of nutrition education (including material that was presented outside of nutrition courses). The American Association of Medical Colleges and other accrediting bodies have allowed conditions so lax that some graduating physicians in a traditional curriculum have only received on course in nutrition—the safest, most effective and inexpensive form of disease prevention available. Worse yet, this one course is guided by the United States /department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Pyramid of 1992, and was previously based upon the Basic Four Food Groups of 1956. These faulty and dangerous dietary guidelines gained and retain their place thanks to heavy lobbying by the meat and dairy industries, whose political dollars find their way to the individual pockets or the campaign funds of officials in Washington, D.C. In 1988, the United States Surgeon General announced that about two thirds of all deaths in America were related to diet. This book will compile scientific evidence and prove beyond reasonable doubt that our Standard American Diet (SAD) keeps Americans sick—and makes others sick who switch to it.

Using currently technology and data spanning thousands of years, gathered from paleopathologists and other scientific researchers around the world, the Physicians’ Committee compared cultural dietary practices and resultant chronic disease incident rates. This is precisely the work that our government should have done decades ago with our tax dollars. Instead, the United States Government, the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Dietetic Association (ADA) have shown us through their actions that they are controlled by the livestock, dairy, and other lobbies and are willing to compromise human lives and squander taxpayer dollars. In light of the evidence, I see no other explanation.

Between 1970 and 1986, Americans watched the amount of money spent annually on leg drugs rise from $8 billion to $31 billion. During the same time period, the total disease care bill for Americans rose from 7.4% to 11% of the nation’s Gross National Product. The current trend shows the picture worsening exponentially while Americans become sick and watch their loved ones die painful deaths. As Dr. John McDougall has said, the current American health care system would be appropriately called an “illness-care system.”

In the following pages, I will summarize existing research on various dietary practices and their subsequent preventable disease incidence rates. I will also introduce the vegan New Four Food Groups and focus upon specific and commonly occurring preventable diseases related to the Standard American Diet (SAD). Finally, I’ll discuss related ethical and political issues, along with positive trends and what they indicate about our food choices today. In the appendices, physicians and their patients will find educational fact sheets that they can photocopy and distribute freely.

D.W. Cavanaugh, M.D., of Cornell University, wrote, “There is only one major disease and that is malnutrition. All ailments and afflictions to which we may fall heir are directly traceable to this major disease.” If these statements sound radical to you now, I invite you to read further and form your own judgment.

Historical Comparisons of Dietary Practices and Resultant Disease Prevalence

Homo Sapiens appeared approximately 40,000 years ago, and we have evidence of agricultural practices beginning about 10,000 years ago. Since that time, the human diet remained virtually unchanged until a little over 100 years ago, when the Industrial Revolution drastically changed both our food supply and our activity level. Organic and nutrient-rich natural foods grown in a perfect ecosystem with clean, fresh air and water have now been replaced by “technologically advanced” but nutrient-stripped versions, laced with non-biodegradable synthetic chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones. In addition, the human dietary intake of animals has increased dramatically. The result has been weakened human bodies with an incidence rate of 80-90% or more of death by diseases—such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes—caused by diet.

Current studies of traditional human dietary practices challenge the idea that humans were aggressive hunting animals who depended primarily on animal flesh for survival. According to the research, the prehistoric diet for at least the last million and a half years was primarily three times more plant than animal foods , the reverse of what the average American eats on the Standard American Diet (referred to from here onward as the SAD).

Paleopathologists (scientists who study mummies, frozen skeletons, and other remains) can now tell us which chronic diseases were and were not present in humans at different times, and have drawn conclusions regarding dietary influences. From paleopathology, we have learned that cultures with primarily animal-centered diets, such as the meat-eating nobility of recent centuries, suffered many of the same diseases that we do today, including heart disease, hardening of the arteries, cancer, gallstones, kidney stones, osteoporosis, arthritis, tooth decay, gout, and even headaches. Interestingly, these diseases were not present in humans eating plant-based diets, e.g., most of the primitive human cultures, and the peasants, slaves, and “common folk” of recent history. Their diet has been proven to consist mainly of apples, barley, leeks, garlic, lentils, melons, onions, radishes, seeds, wheat, and other plant foods. Some ancient societies ate more animal foods, but the amount and type of fat consumed was very different from what it is today. Modern domesticated farm animals contain about eight to ten times more fat than their wild counterparts. The European nobility of the last few centuries ate mainly the flesh of cows, goats, sheep, ducks, and geese, and their remains show evidence of all of the diseases that are now attributed to the consumption of animal proteins and fats.

Some people believe the myth that Americans are living longer and are much healthier than they were in the past. In fact, the life expectancy for a 45-year old increased by only six years from 1870 to 1970, despite sterile hospitals, improved sanitation, technological advances, and the invention of vaccines and antibiotics that protects us from cholera, typhoid, chicken pox, yellow fever, bubonic plague, tuberculosis, and most venereal diseases. Some statisticians will cite figures that appear to indicate better medical progress in life expectancy, but these often do not facto out infant mortality (which was fifteen times higher in 1870 than in 1970) and maternal birthing mortality rates. The obvious major change that occurred within those 100 years is that Americans began to eat very differently than they had in the past. Therefore, although antibiotics and other advances have helped with many ills, we now die of atherosclerosis, obesity, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases that can be prevented perhaps 80-90% of the time by proper nutritional habits.

As the following references will show, the understanding that proper diet has a key role in good health is not a new one. One the contrary, all of the world’s major religions and cultures recognize the life-sustaining or life-destroying abilities of diet.

Many readers will be familiar with the biblical story of Daniel, and may remember the dietary experiment described therein. After suffering with ill health, Daniel proposed switching the servants from the rich “royal” foods to a diet of vegetables and water. In only ten days’ time, the servants looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who had eaten the “royal” foods (Daniel: 1:11-15).

We can trace other dietary recommendations to the Bible, which outlines what is now called the kosher diet. “God said, ‘see, I give you all the seed-bearing plants that are upon the whole earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this shall be your food’ “ (Genesis 1:29). “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘’Speak to the sons of Israel, say to them: “You must not eat the fat of ox, sheep or goat. The fat of an animal that has died a natural death or been savaged by beasts may be used for any purpose, but you must not eat it” ‘ “ (Leviticus 7:23-24). The diet later allowed the eating of specific animals (which, unlike the animals most Americans eat today, were devoid of synthetic hormones, pesticides, herbicides, and antibiotics). The text specifically forbids the eating of camel, hyrax, hare, pig, and any sea life that is without fins or scales: You must hold them detestable; you are not to eat their flesh and you must avoid their carcasses” (Leviticus 11:1-12). Scales or not, keep in mind how many more toxins are present in our planet’s waters at this date, nearly 4,000 years later.

“You must not eat any of the following birds: eagles, owls, hawks, falcons, buzzards, vultures, crows, ostriches, seagulls, storks, herons, pelicans, cormorants, hoopoes, or bats” (Leviticus 11:9-13). We now have scientifically established that these animals are dangerous to eat—shellfish, for example, with their high concentrations of mercury, contaminants, and toxins; and the scavenger birds and animals who carry diseases such as rabies, tuberculosis, trichinosis, salmonella, and parasites.

Further, in keeping with current studies of the excreted waste products and other contaminants found in animal and human blood (ureas, bilirubin, creatinine, creating, uric acid, organic acids, ketoglutaric acid, malic acid, hormones, pyruvic acid, lipids, cholesterol, etc.) , the Bible says, “It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, in all your dwellings that you eat neither fat nor blood” (Leviticus 3:17). “Moreover you shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal, in any of your dwellings” (Leviticus 7:25-26).

Here is just a sampling of both ancient and modern dietary recommendations from around the world:

  1. One of the world’s oldest medical books, the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine or Nei Ching, was written in the third century B.C.E., or possibly much earlier. It recommends whole cereal grains as the principal food. Ching’s followers were said to have lived actively until over 100 years of age.
  2. The Upanisbads, also called the early Forest Teachings of India, state, “From food are born all creatures; they live upon food, they are dissolved in food. Food is the chief of all things, the universal medicine.”
  3. The Principal texts of Ayurveda emphasize the central importance of dietary intake in health: “[T]he use of food that is injurious is the cause of disease.”
  4. The Quran teaches of the beneficial effects of grains, as did the twelfth-century Jewish-century Jewish physician and philosopher Moses Maimonides.
  5. The medieval medical system taught Ibn Sina (Avicenna), long the standard in Europe and the Middle East, placed the importance of a healthy diet at the center of its medical teachings.
  6. In 1713, the renowned Japanese physician and Confucian scholar Ekiken Kaibara, who remains a prominent force in Japanese medicine, recommended a balanced diet and light, simple meals as protection against chronic disease.
  7. In the eighteenth century, Christopher Von Hufeland, Goethe’s physician, wrote on macrobiotics and warned of the health hazards of meat and sugar.
  8. Eighteenth-century Japanese physiognomist Namboku Mizuno recommended a simple grain and vegetable diet. “But someone who loves sake, meat, and rich food,” he said, “will spoil is mind and body, and automatically he will destroy such great ‘ki’ energy, and his life will be short.”
  9. Japanese physician Sagen Ishizuka concluded at the end of the nineteenth century, from studies in anthropology and the military, that the ideal diet is based on whole cereal grains and supplemented by beans, vegetables, seeds, and nuts, with a small amount of fish or game depending on the climate, region, and season.
  10. Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who spent over forty years working in French equatorial Africa, attributed the rise of degenerative disease to the import of European foods, such as condensed milk, canned butter, meat and fish preserve, white bread, and refined salt.
  11. In 193, George Ohsawa (also called Yukikazu Sakrazawa) healed himself of terminal pulmonary tuberculosis with health and diet recommendations by Sagen Ishikuza, and then spent over fifty years teaching macrobiotic methods of eating.”
  12. John Stuart, an English traveler across Europe and Asia and an observer of many cultures, said, “I have observed among nations whose aliment is vegetables and water that disease and medicine are equally unknown, while those whole aliment is flesh and fermented liquor are constantly afflicted with disease and with medicine more dangerous than disease itself.”

Finally, almost 2,500 years ago, studying in ancient Greece, Hippocrates—also called the “Father of Medicine”—stated, Let food be thy medicine and they medicine food.” Interestingly, medical schools have edited out the reference to diet from the original Hippocratic Oath, which stated, “I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.” Hippocrates recommended a diet rich in plant-based foods native to their environment.”

The health statistics yielded by current scientific studies on various existing cultures are also of interest. The Tarahumara and Hunza cultures, for example, are receiving great attention due to their excellent health.

The Mexican Tarahumara Indians in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains eat a diet that is roughly equivalent to the Pritikin Diet (10% protein, 10% fat, and 80% carbohydrates). Research cited in recent years noted that their cholesterol levels average 125 mg/dl, compared to the average American Caucasian at 220-280 mg/dl. On this diet, the Tarahumaras can perform a 500-mile run in five days and carry a 100-pound pack for 110 miles for 70 hours. It has been noted that the women of the tribe can run continuously for 50 miles at a time. These Indians eat animal protein perhaps once a month; their main diet consists of corn, peas, beans, squash, and other native plants and fruits. Physical examination show that they are completely free fro cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. The 50,000 Tarahumaras use no mechanical energy in framing and travel only by foot.

The people living in Pakistan’s Hunza Valley eat almost exclusively home-grown, organic plant foods, such as fruits, grains, and vegetables, fed by glacial mineral water. The main Hunza grain is millet, and they never consume bleached, enriched, processed foods. The Hunza people eat animal protein very infrequently, and their health is unrivaled anywhere in the world. Not only do they have no chronic disease and no need for hospital, dentists, or doctors, and mental health institutions. Individuals over 100 years old still have smooth skin, clear eyes, and all of their teeth.

Robert McCarrison, a British surgeon, traveled through the Northwest Territory of India for seven years, from 1904 to 1911, and studied the Hunza there. He stated, “I never saw a case of asthenic dyspepsia, o gastric or duodenal ulcer, of appendicitis, of mucous colitis , or of cancer.”

Shifts from traditional plant-based diets to animal-based diets have also been proven to cause diseases like diabetes among the Pima Native American Indians; the Yemenites, who moved to Israel and changed their diet; and Kurdish immigrants.

The U.S. government didn’t have most of this information in the late 1800s and mid-1900s, at the time of the large demographic shift from country to city, when its regulation of foods began to focus on convenience rather than nutritional value. America’s food supply became homogenized, pasteurized, refined, bleached, chemically preserved, hydrogenised, defibered, artificially flavored and colored, synthetically fortified, sugared, and salted. (Today, plants and animals are also genetically engineered, irradiated, antibiotic-fed, and laden with pesticides, herbicides, and hormones.) Just as doctors who used to recommend smoking to their “nervous” patients or white sugar to their overweight patients didn’t know how mistaken these ideas were, our government was probably unaware of the dangers of allowing animal products and re-packaged “convenience” foods to replace whole fruits, grains, and vegetables.

But now, despite the substantial evidence against the SAD (Standard American Diet) and in support of a vegan diet, our government continues to perpetuate a debilitating, expensive and painful disease for millions of Americans through its purposely lackadaisical regulation of the curriculums of the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Dr. Albert Stunkard states, “Failures of nutrition education do not stop at elementary school level. The poor state of nutrition education in higher education, notably in medical school, is undoubtedly one of the many factors contributing to the nutrition problem—including obesity—of our nation.” Until Americans demand more from our government, and from their physicians and other medical leaders, our country will remain sick and tired for unfortunate generations to come. We must demand it with our refusal to intellectually and financially support any compromise of proven disease prevention based on statistical comparisons that are already available. We do not need to await further experimentally controlled conditions, bureaucratic funding, or support from the AMA or the ADA.

The meat and dairy industries have such a tight hold on the U.S. government’s Department of Agriculture that they successfully delayed the release of the “Food Pyramid” for a full year, asking the Department of Agriculture to reconsider its graphic design wherein meat and dairy were portrayed close to the top, near “Fats, Oils, and Sweets.” As you read on, consider what that one year meant in terms of millions of lives lost and billions of dollars wasted as the “Basic Four Food Groups” remained in place as America’s guide to optimum health. This situation is good for the meat and dairy industries and their elected officials, but terrible business for taxpayers when we look at the cost in human lives, governmental assistance benefits, hospital and medical costs, time off work due to disease and disability, and health education dollars wasted on programs that can have little if any positive effect on current disease statistics if used “as directed” by consumers.

The Vegan Diet As Chronic Disease Prevention: Evidence Supporting the New Four Food Groups

Psychologist and prevention consultant Kerrie K. Saunders posits that America is one of the sickest nations and that many of our diseases can be controlled or eliminated through diet. In The Vegan Diet as Chronic Disease Prevention: Evidence Supporting the New Four Food Groups, she begins with documentation from writings throughout history positing that meat and fat are dietary dangers. The diets of other cultures indicate that four food groups constitute a healthy diet: fruits, grains, vegetables and legumes alone and in combination will provide all the essentials for optimum nutrition. While foods are recommended to improve specific conditions, this is not a recipe or meal plan source but rather a series of essays arguing for the vegan lifestyle. Ample citations are provided to support the theories, and charts and boxes break out lists of foods and resources where applicable.

Book Description

The United States is one of the sickest nations on the planet. Despite our wealth, access to educational media, natural resources, and opportunity, most Americans accept atherosclerosis, cancer, hypertension, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other degenerative chronic diseases as part of the normal aging process. Unfortunately, even our traditional "modern medicine" practitioners believe this misguided and bleak picture out of ignorance. This is because in a traditional curriculum, many physicians-in-training only receive one course in nutrition—the safest, most effective, and least expensive form of chronic disease prevention available. This one course is guided by the faulty 1992 "Food Pyramid" of the American Dietetic Association (ADA), which derived from the even more dangerous "Basic Four Food Groups" of 1956. In both cases, the approval of these dietary guidelines was a political rather than a medical decision, and recent scientific evidence has shown how these guidelines keep Americans sick rather than healthy.

The Vegan Diet as Chronic Disease Prevention explores the mountain of evidence that suggests that a diet free of animal products can have radically beneficial effects on many conditions that affect vast numbers of Americans. Dr. Saunders provides an exhaustive list of references and sources in arguably the most comprehensive argument in print for the human health benefits of the vegan diet.

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