Dr. Mike Greger on How to Combat Most Common Diseases Through Plant-based Diets

Heart disease is a choice, like cavities…If you look at the teeth of people who lived over 10,000 years before the invention of the toothbrush, they pretty much had no cavities. Didn’t brush a day in their lives, never flossed, no Listerine, no Waterpik…yet no cavities, because candy bars hadn’t been invented yet.

So why do people continue to get cavities when we know they’re preventable though diet? Simple. Because the pleasure people derive from dessert may outweigh the cost and discomfort of the dentist chair. And that’s fine. Look, as long as people understand the consequences of their actions, as a physician what more can I do? If you’re an adult and you decide the benefits outweigh the risks for you and your family, then, you know, go for it. I certainly enjoy the occasional indulgence. I’ve got good dental plan.

But what if instead of the plaque on your teeth, we’re talking about the plaque building up in your arteries? Another disease that can be prevented by changing your diet. Then what are the consequences for you and your family?

Now we’re not just talking about scraping tarter any more. Now we’re talking life and death…The most likely reason most of our loved ones will die is heart disease. It’s still up to each of us to make our own decisions as to what to eat and how to live, but we should make these choices consciously, educating ourselves about the predictable consequences of our actions.

Atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries, begins in childhood. By age 10, the arteries of nearly all kids have fatty streaks—the first stage of the disease. Then plaques start forming in our 20s, get worse in our 30s, and then can start killing us off.

In our heart, it’s a heart attack. In our brains, it’s a stroke. In our limbs, it can mean gangrene. And in our aorta, an aneurism.

If there is anyone in this audience over the age of 10 years of age, the question isn’t whether or not to eat healthy to prevent heart disease; it’s whether or not you want to reverse the heart disease you already have.

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Ornish and Esselstyn proved you can reverse heart disease with a plant-based diet. But you don’t have to wait for your first heart attack to unclog your arteries. We can start reversing our heart disease right now. We can start reversing the heart disease in our kids tonight.

How do we do it?

According to the Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Cardiology this year, the only risk factor required for these atherosclerotic plaques, our number one killer, is cholesterol, elevated LDL, a1so called “bad” cholesterol in our bloodstream.

To drop our LDL cholesterol, we need to drop our intake of three things: trans fats, saturated fats, and dietary cholesterol. Trans fats increase our risk of heart disease, sudden death, diabetes — basically only found one place in nature, and that’s animal fats.

The food industry, however, found a way to synthetically create these toxic fats by hardening vegetable oil in a process called hydrogenation, which rearranges their atoms to make them act more like animal fats. Currently nearly half of America’s trans fat intake comes from animal products.

According to the USDA, cheese, milk, yogurt, burgers, chicken fat, turkey meat, bologna, hot dogs contain up to between 1% to 5 % trans fats naturally. They also found small amounts of trans fats in non-hydrogenated vegetable oils due to the refining process.

Is getting a few percent trans fats a problem though? The most prestigious scientific body in the United States, the National Academies of Science, concluded that the only safe intake of trans fat is zero, because any incremental increase in trans fatty acid intake increases coronary heart disease risk. Trans fat intake, irrespective of source — hydrogenated junk food or animal fat — may increase cardiovascular disease risk. And because trans fats are unavoidable–in ordinary non-vegan diets– getting down to zero trans fats would require significant changes in the patterns of dietary intake for most Americans.

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One of the authors of the report, the Director of Harvard’s Cardiovascular Epidemiology Program, famously explained why, despite this, they didn’t recommend a plant-based 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.”

Wouldn’t want scientists basing anything on science now, would we? No…Avoiding saturated fat means basically avoiding dairy, chicken, cake and pork. And avoiding cholesterol means avoiding animal products in general, especially eggs.

The American Egg Board is a promotional marketing board appointed by the U.S. government whose mission is to increase the demand for egg and egg products on behalf of U.S. egg producers. Now because the board is overseen by the federal government, if an egg corporation wants to dip into the $10 million they set aside every year for advertising, they’re not allowed to break the law with those funds. What a concept!

Now this leads to quite revealing exchanges between the egg corporations and the USDA on what the egg industry can and cannot say about eggs. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, I was able to get my hands on some of those emails.

Do you want to see them? Of course, a lot of what I got looked like this…”Please note a number of items about our Salmonella crisis support module…” Any questions?

Or even better, entire sheets of paper that literally just said this… That was the whole sheet of paper.

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