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Home » Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death by Michael Greger (Transcript)

Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death by Michael Greger (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Dr. Michael Greger’s talk titled “Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death”. This is Dr. Greger’s 2012 live presentation.


In past years, I’ve addressed the most pressing dietary issues of our time, like what’s the healthiest variety of apple, or what’s the most nutritious nut or dried fruit, or what’s the best bean, what’s the best berry? What’s the best bowel movement?

We had fun. People got to vote. You know, some folks came away all huffy, especially the New Yorkers back there. But this year, I thought I’d lighten it up, and answer what’s the best way to prevent death?

Every year the CDC updates the latest leading causes of death in the United States. So let’s start at the top and go down the list — see what’s new in each category.

Heart disease, #1. The 35-year follow-up of the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, just published, now the most definitive long-term study on older women’s health we have. Since the study started thousands of participants died, but that allowed them to study the risk factors for mortality. Because heart disease was the leading cause of death, it comes as no surprise that dietary cholesterol intake was a significant risk factor for dying.

The second leading cause was smoking-related cancer deaths. But what’s so neat about this study is that it’s a competing risks analysis, so it allowed them to compare different risks to one another. So consuming the amount of cholesterol found in just a single egg a day appears to cut a woman’s life short as much as smoking five cigarettes a day for 15 years.

The most protective behavior they found was fiber consumption. Eating just a cup of oatmeal’s worth of fiber a day appears to extend a woman’s life as much as four hours of jogging a week. Though you can do both.

And so it’s worth noting that, look, the intake of cholesterol, only found in animal foods, was associated with living a shorter life. And the intake of fiber, only found in plant foods, was associated with living a longer life.

The one specific food most tied to longevity was nuts. You also appear to get four hours of weekly jogging benefit eating just two handfuls of nuts a week. Yeah, heart disease is the #1 cause of death, but what if your cholesterol’s normal?

I hear that all the time from patients. Have to break it to them: look, having a normal cholesterol in a society where it’s normal to drop dead of a heart attack — not necessarily a good thing. And remember, it’s our #1 killer.

In a huge study last year, most heart attack patients fell within recommended targets for cholesterol, demonstrating that the current guidelines are just not low enough to cut heart attack risk. Close to half of heart attack victims had cholesterol levels classified in the guidelines as optimal, though I’m not sure their grieving spouses and orphaned children will take much comfort in that fact.

What is considered optimal is still way too high. Yeah, having a below average cholesterol reduces your risk, but, as the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Cardiology wrote more than a decade ago, it’s time to shift from just decreasing risk to actually preventing and reversing, arresting atherosclerosis. We don’t want low risk; we want no risk. How do you do it?

Well, for the build-up of plaque in our arteries to cease, it appears that we have to get our total cholesterol down to be about 150. In other words, the cholesterol must be lowered to that of your average pure vegetarian.

Now but because relatively few persons are willing to abide by the vegetarian lifestyle, you know, drugs are required to get down to similar levels. So it’s our choice.

Now notice though, even though the average vegan has a cholesterol of 150, it doesn’t mean that all vegans have 150. That’s why I do free cholesterol screenings here at Summerfest. Stop by my table. A little drop of blood. Just will take a couple of minutes. I’ll be happy to do that for you.

All right, so it’s our choice: diet or drugs.

Why not just choose the drugs?

Well, that’s a good question. As the good doctor noted last night, the FDA just announced newly mandated safety labeling by law to cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. So this is Lipitor, Mevacor, Crestor, Zocor, Vytorin, and that kind of thing.

The FDA issued new side effect warning labels this year regarding the increased risk, brain-related risks, and associated memory loss and confusion, an increase in blood sugar levels, as well as new onset diabetes.

One prominent cardiologist described this kind of Faustian bargain: yes, fewer heart attacks, but more diabetes.

With all the memory loss and confusion caused by these drugs, folks may forget there’s actually way to lower the risk of heart attacks and diabetes at the same time, called the plant-based diet.

All right, now cholesterol is just half of the heart disease story. The other half is inflammation.

We’ve known for 15 years that a single meal high in animal fat — a sausage and egg McMuffin was used in the original study — can paralyze our arteries, cutting their ability to relax normally in half within hours of eating animal products. The whole lining of our vascular tree gets inflamed and stiffened.

And just as that inflammation — so here’s hours, right: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,5 6 — just as that inflammation, just as that crippling of our arteries starts to finally calm down after 5 or 6 hours — lunch time! Right?

And then we may whack our arteries with another load of meat, eggs, or dairy. And so most people are in this chronic state of low-grade inflammation, increasing risk for these inflammation-related diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes one meal at a time.

Does the same thing to our lungs — again within hours, inflammation in our airways. A single meal causing internal damage, not just years down the road, but literally right then and there, that day, within hours of it going into your mouth. And just this year, we finally figured out, we finally solved the mystery as to why.

And it doesn’t appear to be the animal fat itself. And it’s apparently not the animal protein, which is what’s implicated in the inflammation from arthritis.

So if it’s not the animal fat, and it’s not the animal protein, what is it?

The whole thing is a crazy cool detective story that I’ll be putting in a series of videos, next week actually: July 4th, July 5th, July 6th. But I’ll just cut to the chase. Spoiler alert!

After a meal of animal products, people suffer from endotoxemia. Their bloodstream becomes awash with bacterial toxins, known as endotoxins that are present in the animal products. So, I mean, no wonder our body goes crazy! These dead meat bacteria toxins aren’t destroyed by stomach acid, aren’t destroyed by pancreatic enzymes, aren’t destroyed by cooking. They tried boiling meat for hours. It still didn’t work.

So these bacterial toxins were found to be highly resistant to cooking and our bodies’ best attempts at acid and enzyme digestion. Now the animal fat actually does play a profound role in this whole process by ferrying the bacterial toxins present in the meat, through the gut, into our system. So the reason animal products trigger immediate inflammation appears to be because they’re so loaded with bacteria that can trigger inflammation, dead or alive, even if they’re fully cooked.

And then saturated animal fat then boosts the absorption of these toxins into our bloodstream. So now that we know what’s going on, what do we have to do?

Well, from a 2012 follow-up: while the obvious, most obvious solution to this metabolic endotoxemia — well, we can reduce saturated fat intake, which in this country comes mostly cheese and chicken. But the Western diet is not conducive to this mode of action, and it is difficult for patients to comply with this request.

So what? Let’s not even tell them? Right, I mean…This patronizing attitude in the medical profession of “Oh, patients won’t change their diet or stop smoking, even if it’s going to kill them, you know, so why bother?”

That attitude may be one of the real leading causes of death. But let’s get back to the official list and take on cancer next.

What’s the latest? Well, we know from the largest forward-looking study on diet and cancer ever performed by humanity: the incidence of all cancers combined, lower among vegetarians to meat eaters, especially some of the fastest growing tumors, like lymphomas and leukemias. And for that the worst meat was actually poultry, chicken.

Up to triple the rates for every 50 grams of poultry consumption. A quarter of a chicken breast: triple your risk. Normally this entire presentation would be in kind of a quiz show format, but there was a scheduling mix-up. I was supposed to be the last speaker of the night, at night, and so I could go long and not interfere with the schedule.

But anyway, it won’t happen again, and so next year be back to the quiz show format. And I apologize. I had to cut this short.

But the link between meat and cancer is such that even the Journal of Meat Science last year asked, “Should we become vegetarians?” Or they said, “Can we make meat safer?” There’s a bunch of additives, for example, you know, that can suppress the toxic effects of the blood-based iron, the heme iron found in meat. Now the additives are still under study, but “could provide an acceptable way to prevent colon cancer,” because avoiding meat is obviously completely out of the question.

They fear that if the National Cancer Institute recommendations to reduce meat consumption were adhered to, sure, cancer incidence may be reduced, but farmers and the meat industry would suffer important economical problems.

Now for those of us more concerned about the suffering caused by the meat industry, rather than the suffering of the meat industry, what happens if you put cancer on a vegan diet?

Well, the Pritikin Research Foundation just completed this elegant series of experiments, which I want to spend a bit of time on. Simple experiments. They put people on different diets, draw their blood, and then dripped their blood on cancer cells growing in Petri dish, and just stood back to see whose blood was better at suppressing cancer growth.

They were the ones that published that study showing that the blood of those on a vegan diet was dramatically less hospitable to cancer. Now even the blood of those on a standard American diet fights cancer. I mean if it didn’t, everybody would be dead.

It’s just that the blood of those eating vegan fights about eight times better. The blood of those on the standard American diet suppresses cancer growth by about 9%. You put people on a plant-based diet for a year though and their blood just tears it up. The blood circulating through the bodies of vegans has nearly eight times the stopping power when it comes to cancer cell growth.

Now this was for prostate cancer, the most common cancer among men; for women, it’s breast cancer. So the Pritikin researchers tried duplicating the study with women using breast cancer cells instead. Now they didn’t want to wait a whole year to get the results. So they figured they’d try to see what a plant-based diet could do in just two weeks against three different types of human breast cancer. This is the before, cancer growth rates powering away at 100%. And then this is after eating a plant-based diet for just 14 days. Now slowing down cancer growth is great, but getting rid of them, getting rid of cancer cells is even better.

This is the before and after, measuring cancer cell death. This is the before. And this is the after. Pre and post plants.

The same blood, now coursing through these women’s bodies, gained the power to significantly slow down and stop breast cancer growth thanks to just two weeks of eating a plant-based diet.

What kind of blood do we want in our body, what kind of immune system? Do we want blood that’s just kind of going to roll over when new cancer cells pop up? Or do we want blood circulating to every nook and cranny within our bodies with the power to slow down and stop them?

Now this strengthening of cancer defenses was after 14 days of a plant-based diet and exercise. They were out walking 30 to 60 minutes a day. Wait, maybe the only reason their bodies became, you know, so effective at suppressing cancer cell growth was because of the exercise. Maybe diet didn’t have anything to do with it. So they put it do the test. This is measuring cancer cell clearance. And this is what we saw before, the effect of blood taken from those eating a plant-based diet, in this case for 14 years, along with mild exercise — just like walking every day.

So a plant-based diets, walking — that’s the kind of cancer cell clearance you get. Now compare that to the cancer stopping power of your average sedentary — see this little burger, burger, apple – sorry, on the website it’s a little bit… All right — compared to the cancer stopping power of your average sedentary meat-eater, which is basically nonexistent. But what about this middle group?

Now this middle group, instead of 14 years on a plant-based diet, they had 14 years of the standard American diet, but had daily strenuous hour-long exercise, like boot camp this morning. Seriously, calisthenics.

They wanted to know if you exercise hard enough and long enough, can you rival some strolling vegans? Let’s find out.

And exercise worked, no question, right? But literally 5,000 hours in the gym: no match for a plant-based diet. Here’s an actual photomicrograph of cancer cells stained so that they release light when they die. As you can see in the controlled group, there were a few cancer cells dying. Even if you are a couch potato eating fried potatoes, your body’s not totally defenseless. But here’s the hard-core strenuous exercise group. Cancer cells dying left and right. But nothing appears to kick cancer butt more than a plant-based diet.

Why, though? Some people don’t care, but I’m always curious. All right…How does a simple dietary change make one’s bloodstream so inhospitable to cancer after just a few days? We didn’t know until last year, when they sought to determine the underlying mechanisms for these anti-cancer effects. And it is a wild story. I have a whole series of videos coming out about it. The story involves little people and big people, and big dogs and little dogs.

It involves marshmallows, Tinker toys, cannibalism, and vegan bodybuilders. From beef steak to beefcake. I wish I had time, believe me, but the videos will be up soon. Bottom line: the answer to the Pritikin puzzle is IGF-1. Insulin-like Growth Factor One is the cancer-promoting growth hormone involved in every stage of cancer growth, spread, metastasis, cancer invasion. But you put people on a plant-based diet and their IGF-1 levels, plant-based diet, go down, and if they continue to be on plant-based diet — this is just after a few weeks — if you’re on a plant-based diet long term, levels drop even further, and their IGF-1 binding proteins go up. That’s one of the ways our bodies suppresses cancer growth, protect itself from cancer, protect itself from excessive growth, by releasing this binding protein into the bloodstream to bind up, to tie up IGF-1.

It’s like our body’s, you know, kind of emergency brake. Yes, in as little as 11 days, a plant-based diet can reprogram your body to bring down IGF-1 production.

But what about all the IGF-1 that’s circulating from the bacon and eggs you ate last week? So the liver releases this snatch squad of binding proteins to tie up, to take all this IGF-1 out of circulation, and as you can see it just gets better with time the longer we eat healthy.

Here’s the experiment that nailed IGF-1 as the villain. All right, same as last time. Go on a plant-based diet and cancer cell growth rates drop dramatically. And cancer cell death shoots up. Already saw that. But then here’s the kicker.

What if you added back to the cancer the exact same amount of IGF-1, banished from your body by eating a plant-based diet goes back? Let’s take that same IGF-1, add it back to the cancer and see what happens. And it erases the diet and exercise effect. It’s as if you never started eating healthy at all. So that’s how we know that lowering animal product consumption leads to lower IGF-1, which leads to lower cancer growth.

But how low does our animal product consumption have to go? How plant-based diets have to get? Well, let’s look at the IGF-1 levels of meat eaters, compared to vegetarians, compared to vegans. Does a plant-based diet — is it better at lowering the circulating level of IGF-1 compared to a meat-eating diet or lacto-ovo diet? And this is what they found.

Only the vegans — so meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans — only the vegans had significantly lower levels. And the same relationship was found with IGF-1 binding protein levels; that’s what we want higher. Again we’ve got nothing here. One really had to go to that final step, vegans, to significantly bind up all that excess IGF-1 in their blood streams. This was a study done on women.

What about vegan men? They found the same thing. So even though vegan men tend to have significantly higher levels of testosterone than both vegetarians or meat eaters — which actually can promote the growth of prostate cancer, but the reason a vegan diet can actually reverse the progression of cancer, which we saw, I’ve shown you in previous years, the Dean Ornish work, may be because of how low their IGF-1 levels are.

So high testosterone, but still low cancer in the vegans. The bottom line is that male or female, just eating vegetarian diet did not seem to cut it, didn’t do your body many favors. It looks like to get that significant drop in that cancer-promoting growth hormone levels, one really has to move towards eliminating animal products altogether.

Now the good news is that now based on what we know about IGF-1, we can predict that a vegan diet may be profoundly protective with respect to risk, for example, for breast cancer in older women. Okay, just 13 leading causes of death to go! All right, let’s run through the list here.

The top three killers used to be heart disease, cancer, stroke. Oh, that is so 2011.

Now it’s heart disease, cancer and COPD — like emphysema. So thankfully, COPD can be prevented with a plant-based diet, and even treated with plants if you want to check that out.

Now, of course, the tobacco industry took these landmark findings a little differently. Instead of adding plants to people’s diets to prevent emphysema, wouldn’t it be simpler to just add them to cigarettes? And, voila, the addition of acai berries to cigarettes evidently has a protective effect against emphysema in smoking mice.

Next they’re going to start putting berries in meat. I couldn’t make this up, people. Look at this. Adding fruit extracts to burgers, right? Now this was not without its glitches. The blackberries literally dyed the burgers with this kind of distinct purplish color, though infusing lamb carcasses with kiwifruit juice before rigor mortis set in does evidently lead to greater tenderness in the meat. And it is possible to improve the nutritional profile of frankfurters by adding ground up grape seeds, though there were complaints that the grape seed particles were visible in the final product.

And look, if there’s one thing we know about hot dog eaters, it’s that they’re picky about what goes in their food. Pig anus? Okay. But grape seeds? Eww!

Preventing strokes, #4.

Preventing strokes is all about eating potassium-rich foods. Potassium, from the words pot ash. You take any plant, put it in a pot, reduce it to ash and what you’re left with pot-ash-ium — true story.

But can anyone name me a plant food particularly high in potassium? Bananas!

Why is that like the one thing everyone knows about nutrition? Seriously, like did Chiquita have like this great PR firm or something? I bet you could walk into the Heart Attack Grill, where they’re eating food like this, and ask anyone, and they’d be like, “I don’t know what to eat, but I do know bananas got potassium.”

In reality, bananas don’t even make the top 50 sources, coming in at #86, right behind fast food vanilla milk shakes, and then bananas. The top five sources are tomato and orange concentrates, and in terms of whole foods sources, it is greens, beans, and dates.

In fact if you look at the next leading cause of death, bananas could be downright dangerous.

Alzheimer’s is now our sixth leading cause of death. We’ve known for 20 years now that those who eat meat, red or white — including poultry and fish — were between 2 to 3 times more likely to become demented compared to vegetarians. And the longer that you’re vegetarian, the lower your risk of developing dementia.

But the exciting new research is actually on treating Alzheimer’s using these natural plant remedies, which actually beat out placebo, and worked as well as the leading Alzheimer’s drug. Again, all on the website, all for free.

Next on the kick-the-bucket list is diabetes, which can be prevented with a plant-based diet, and treated with a plant-based diet, and even reversed in many cases with a plant-based diet. And I encourage everyone to check out Brenda’s talk at 3 o’clock this afternoon. This is from October.

Those eating vegetarian had significantly lower rates than meat eaters, but it was the vegans that did the best. And this is the surprising thing. This was after controlling for obesity. Sure vegans got lower diabetes rates, right, they’re so skinny. But even at the same weight, vegans have just a fraction of the diabetes risk.

Why are vegans, on average, so slim? Well, obesity is so rare among those eating plant-based diets, nutrition researchers have been desperate to try to uncover the secret. Yes, they eat fewer calories, but not that many fewer. In the past years I’ve gone through a number of theories to try to explain this. Maybe it’s because people eating plant-strong diets express more of that fat shoveling enzyme in the mitochondria, the power plants of our cells. I’ve talked about that.

Maybe it’s because the gut bacteria populations are different. Maybe it’s because of avoiding the obesogenic chemicals, these endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the meat supply. It’s an obesity-causing virus in poultry that may be even playing a role. We’re still not sure. Theories keep coming.

Here’s the latest theory: maybe it’s the propionate. After all, what’s the one thing that’s only in plant foods? Fiber. Animals have bones to hold them up; plants have fiber to hold them up.

Now wait a second. I thought fiber was defined as our inability to digest it. Well, true, we can’t break down fiber, but the gazillions of good bacteria in our guts can. And what do they make with it? They make propionate, which gets absorbed into our blood stream. So technically we can digest fiber, but just not without a little help from our little friends.

So but what does propionate do? Well, it inhibits cholesterol synthesis. That’s good. It also appears to have what’s called a hypophagic effect, meaning it helps us eat less, by apparently slowing the emptying of our stomachs, which makes us feel fuller longer. Propionate regulates food intake, or whether it’s because it slows the generation of new fat cells, but it results in this overall anti-obesity effect.

And we can actually boost the populations of these good bacteria in our guts without taking probiotics, just by eating vegetarian because we’re feeding our little friends with fiber. Animal foods also tend to be calorically dense. For example, to walk off the calories found in single pat of butter you’d have to add an extra 700 yards to your evening stroll that day. Or a quarter mile jog to each sardine we put in your mouth, and that’s just the edible part.

And any who choose to eat two chicken legs better get out on their own two legs and go run an extra 3 miles that day to outrun weight gain. And that’s for steamed chicken, skin removed. Here’s the latest: Meat consumption and prospective weight gain.

We’re talking hundreds of thousands of men and women studied across 10 countries with weight gain measured over a 5-year period. What did they find? Total meat consumption associated with weight gain in men and women. The conclusion is that the decrease in meat consumption may improve weight management. And this was after controlling for initial weight, and physical activity, educational level, smoking status, total energy intake…What? That’s the kicker. This was after controlling for calories.

The link between meat and weight gain remained even after controlling for calories. Meaning if you have two people eating the same number of calories, the person eating more meat may gain more weight. They even calculated how much more. An intake of 250 grams of meat a day, which is nothing compared to what the US eats, would lead to an annual weight gain 422 grams higher than the weight gain experienced with the same-calorie diets with lower meat content.

After 5 years, the weight gain would be about 5 pounds more. So same calories, yet 5 pounds heavier eating meat. And steak was nothing. The strongest relation between annual weight gain was observed for poultry. Let’s say you start out at a normal weight and eat a hamburger every day. Well, this is how much extra weight you’d gain, in addition to the calories that are present.

And if you ate the same number of calories instead of processed meat, like a ham sandwich with three slices of deli meat, you’d be up to here. And then half a chicken breast puts you up to here, again, above and beyond the calories.

In conclusion, our results indicate that meat intake is positively associated with weight gain. This persisted after adjustment for energy intake, and therefore we’re in favor of this public health recommendation to decrease meat consumption for health improvement.

For more, make sure to check out the meat industry’s take on this study — very interesting — as well as PCRM’s wonderful work trying to put a vegan diet to work in a corporate setting.

Kidney failure, 8th leading cause of death, can be prevented with a plant-based diet; can be treated with a plant-based diet. Why? Because our kidneys are highly vascular organs. That’s why kidneys look so red inside. Our two little kidneys filter through our entire blood stream. And so if the standard American diet is so toxic to blood vessels in our heart, brain, and pelvis, leading to heart attacks, strokes, and sexual dysfunction, what might it be doing to our kidneys?

Long story short, Harvard researchers found three significant risk factors for declining kidney function, meaning you start to lose protein out your urine. Your body’s not supposed to be peeing out its protein. The three risk factors for declining kidney function were: animal protein, animal fat, and cholesterol. It’s not protein; it’s not fat. Animal protein, animal fat.

No relationship found with plant protein or plant fat. Not only do vegans appear to have better kidney function, but dramatic improvements were found treating kidney failure patients with pure vegetarian diets after just one week.

Leading killer #9 is people dying from respiratory infections.

So check out my video “Kale and the Immune System,” talking about the immunostimulatory effects of kale. Is there anything kale can’t do? And if you look at my video “Boosting Immunity Through Diet,” which was actually — if you can see this is June 28th — this is just the video-of-the-day that went up on Wednesday, you can see that eating just a few extra fruits and vegetables can significantly improve one’s immune response to pneumococcal pneumonia.

Suicide is # 10. Now last year at Summerfest I talked about improving mood through diet. We know vegetarian diets have been associated with healthier mood states, but you don’t know if it’s cause and effect until you put it to the test, and that’s what was done this year.

You take regular meat-eaters, and you remove meat, fish, poultry, and eggs in this study from their diets, and you can see a significant improvement in mood scores after just two weeks. It can take drugs like Prozac months to take effect. In fact the way drugs like Prozac work is they boost the levels of the so-called happiness hormone, serotonin.

Did you know that there is serotonin in plants? I had no idea; I certainly didn’t. But there’s serotonin and dopamine and all sorts of human neurotransmitters in plants, so much so there’s been a call to start treating depression with high-content sources of serotonin, you know, like plantains, pineapples, bananas, kiwis, plums, and tomatoes.

And what’s the side effects? You get a little seed stuck in your teeth or something, right? Maybe that’s why a high intake of fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and soy was associated with a decreased prevalence of depression. Maybe that’s why improved behavior in teenagers was significantly associated with higher intakes of leafy green vegetables and fresh fruit.

For more, keep an eye out for my videos on the wrong way to boost serotonin, which is by these tryptophan supplements, a better way to raise serotonin, to fight things like premenstrual depression, and then the best way, as reported in this double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study on the successful use of butternut squash seeds in the treatment of social anxiety disorder, for example. Amazing.

How might a plant-based diet prevent systemic infections? Well, meat-borne bacteria can directly invade one’s bloodstream through the intestinal wall, or in women, can creep up into their bladder. Just this month, June 2012, we have direct DNA fingerprinting proof, finally, that women eating meat are getting urinary tract infections from eating meat contaminated with fecal bacteria, that then crawl up into their bladder. And chickens are the most likely reservoir.

Wait a second. You can’t sell unsafe cars. You can’t sell unsafe toys. How is it legal to sell unsafe meat?

Well, they do it by blaming the consumer. As one USDA poultry microbiologist said, raw meats are not idiot-proof. They can be mishandled and when they are, it’s like handling a hand grenade. You pull the pin, somebody’s going to get hurt. See if we get sick, it’s our fault. Now while some may question the wisdom of selling hand grenades in supermarkets, the USDA poultry expert disagrees. “I think the consumer has the most responsibility but just refuses to accept it.” That’s like a car company saying, yeah, we installed faulty brakes, but it’s your fault for not putting your kid in a seat belt.

A director at the Centers for Disease Control responded famously to this kind of blame-the-victim attitude from the meat industry. “Is it reasonable,” she asked, ‘”if a consumer undercooks a hamburger that their 3-year-old dies?” Is that reasonable? Not to worry, though; the meat industry’s on it.

They just got the FDA approval for a bacteria-eating virus to spray on the meat. Now some have raised concerns about these so-called bacteriophages, such as the possibility that these viruses can spread toxin genes between bacteria, which wouldn’t be good, especially given the difficulties in preventing of large numbers of these viruses from being released into the environment from the slaughter houses. Now it could also allow the meat industry to become more complacent about food safety, if they know they can just kind of spray some viruses on at the end, similar to the quick fix argument about irradiation.

From the industry point of view, who cares if there’s fecal matter in the meat as long as you can just blast it at the end with enough radiation? Now the meat industry’s concerned that consumer acceptance of these bacteria-eating viruses may present somewhat of a challenge to the food industry, not that they’d ever be labeled, of course.

But if they think that’s going to be a challenge, check out their other bright idea. The “Effects of Extracted Housefly Pupae on Chilled Pork Preservation.” This is a sciency way of saying they want to smear a maggot mixture on the meat. Now it’s a low cost, simple method. Think about it.

Maggots thrive on rotting meat, yet there have been no reports of maggots having any serious diseases — not that anyone’s really checked, but… indicating that they have a strong immune system. They must be packed with some kind of antibacterial properties, otherwise they’d die themselves eating rotting meat.

So they took maggots that were three days old, washed them, dried them, kind of toweled them off. Put through them in tissue blender — kind of a little Vitamix action there — and voila! Safer meat. We did kidney failure.

What about liver failure? We’ve known for 35 years — oh, you can’t even see this — 1977, that a vegetable-protein diet can be used to treat liver failure, significantly reducing the toxins that otherwise would build up eating meat with a less-than-functional liver. Imagine eating meat without a fully functioning liver to detoxify your blood. I do have to admit, though, that some people living on plant-based diets have worsening liver function. They’re called alcoholics…

In fact, strictly plant-based, living on potatoes, and corn and barley and grapes, and yet still, however, not doing so hot. It’s unclear.

High blood pressure is up next, so called essential hypertension, essentially only found in those who eat meat. Again, look at this. We’ve known for decades, since 1974 out of Hopkins, we’ve known that consumption of foods of animal origin was highly significantly associated with blood pressure, even after, again, the weight effects are removed.

Fast forward 39 years to 2012. And compared to non-vegetarians, compared to meat eaters, as you get more and more plant-based, so meat eater to flexitarian, to just eating fish, to lacto-ovo to vegan, look what happens to hypertension, high blood pressure. There is this progressive reduction in risk to just a tiny fraction.

You see the same thing in diabetes. Here’s diabetes. Again the stepwise reduction of risk as one eliminates animal products, on down. Oh, and same thing with body mass index. As you can see, obesity rates get lower and lower. In fact, vegans are actually the only population, on average, that was not overweight. Even the vegetarians were overweight.

Diabetes, hypertension: leading causes of death. Is it going to take the medical profession another 39 years before we actually do something about it? How long does it take, being vegan, to bring blood pressures down? Twelve days!

McDougall took 500 meat eaters, put them on a vegan diet, and over a span of 11 days, dropped their blood pressures 6%,about double that drop in those that were hypertensive to begin with.

The 14th leading killer: Parkinson’s disease.

Does a vegan diet reduce risk for Parkinson’s disease? Good question. Well, we know that every single prospective study ever done on dairy products, milk consumption, and the risk of Parkinson’s disease found increased risk of Parkinson’s. Why? Well, one possibility is that dairy products in the United States are contaminated with neurotoxic chemicals. There’s substantial evidence suggesting that exposure to pesticides may increase Parkinson’s disease risk, and these autopsy studies have found that the levels of these pollutants and pesticides elevated levels in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients, and some of these toxins are present at low levels in dairy products.

They’re talking about toxins like tetrahydroisoquinoline, which is a Parkinsonism-related compound found particularly in cheese. Now although the amounts of this neurotoxin, even in cheese, are not very high, the concern is that they may accumulate, these neurotoxins may accumulate in the brain over long periods of consumption.

And finally, aspiration pneumonia, which is caused by swallowing problems due to Parkinson’s or having a stroke or Alzheimer’s, all of which we’ve already covered.

So where does this leave us? These are the top 15 causes of death, the top 15 reasons Americans die, and a plant-based diet can help prevent nearly all of them, can help treat more than half of them, and in some cases even reverse the progression of disease, including our top three killers.

Now, there are drugs that can help, too. You can take one drug to treat cholesterol every day for the rest of your life, another drug for blood sugars, a few more pills for your blood pressure. The same diet, though, does it all. It’s not like one diet for this, and then a different diet for this. One diet to rule them all.

And what about drug side effects? I’m not talking a little rash or something. Prescription drugs kill more than 100,000 Americans every year. And I’m not talking about medication errors, not abuse, not overdose. We’re talking this is just deaths from side effects, so called ADRs, adverse drug reactions to prescription drugs.

Wait a second, 100,000 deaths a year? That means — let’s go down the list — whoa! That means that the sixth leading cause of death in the United States is doctors! The sixth leading cause of death is me!

Thankfully, it can be prevented with a plant-based diet. Seriously, though, compared to 15,000 American vegetarians, meat eaters had about twice the odds of being on aspirin, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, antacids, pain killers, blood pressure medications, laxatives and insulin.

So plant-based diets are great for people that don’t like taking drugs, don’t like paying for drugs, and, of course, don’t like risking adverse effects.

Now this study did show that plant-based diets have their own side effects. Side effects include a lower risk of chronic disease, fewer allergies, fewer surgeries. We’re talking fewer varicose veins and hemorrhoids, even fewer hysterectomies. And we’re not talking just the big killers, not just less heart disease — and this is the longest study of vegetarians in human history — not just less heart disease and stroke and high blood pressure, and diabetes, but less diverticulosis, less — if you can read this — less diseases overall.

That’s the side effects of a plant-based diet: less disease overall.

Here’s the allergies thing.

Again, longest running study on vegetarians in history. Women who eat meat, compared to vegetarians, appear to have a 30% greater risk of reporting chemical allergies, 24% more asthma, more drug allergies, even more bee-sting allergies, 15% more hay fever.

A new side effect of plant-based diets we just learned about last year: fewer cataracts. That’s what we get, fewer cataracts, the leading cause of blindness and vision loss. Compared to those just eating a single serving of meat a day in one meal, those eating half a serving a day drop their risk 15%.

Just eat fish, dropped about 21%. Get rid of fish, drop 30%. Get rid of eggs and dairy: full 40% drop in risk.

And that’s all in addition to my favorite side effect of plant-based diets: helping to prevent 15 out of our top 16 killers. Want to solve the healthcare crisis? I’ve got a suggestion.

Imagine if our nation embraced a plant-based diet. Imagine if we just significantly cut back on meat. Well, there is actually one country that did it. After World War II, Finland joined us and started packing on the meat, eggs, and dairy. And by the 1970’s, the mortality rate from heart disease of Finnish men was the highest in the world, even put us to shame. So, look, they didn’t want to die, so they got serious.

Heart disease is caused by high cholesterol. High cholesterol is caused by high saturated fat intake. So the main focus of the strategy was to reduce the high saturated fat intake in the country. So this means here that’s cheese, chicken, cake and pork basically. So a berry project was launched to help dairy farmers switch to berry farming. Whatever it took.

And indeed, many farmers did switch from dairies to berries. They pitted villages against each other in these friendly cholesterol-lowering competitions to see who could do the best. So how’d they do?

Well, look, on a population scale, even if mortality rates drop 5%, I mean that could save thousands of lives. But remarkably great changes took place…

An 80% drop in cardiac mortality across the entire country. 80% drop in heart disease deaths! With such greatly reduced rates of cardiovascular and cancer mortality, the all cause mortality was basically almost cut in half, leading to the men living 7 more years, and 6 more years for women. And, look, this is just cutting down on animal products.

Now vying for the world record for heart disease deaths, of course, the United States of America.

So why doesn’t our government make these same recommendations? I’ve got this whole series of videos on the conflicts of interests within the U.S. dietary guideline committees. They’re the ones that make the recommendations, and indeed, whether they’re being funded by candy bar corporations, or the sugar association, or a member of McDonald’s Council on Healthy Lifestyles, serving on Coca Cola’s Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness. And notice, we only know about this thanks to a PCRM lawsuit against the USDA. Very impressive.

One committee member served as the Duncan Hines brand girl and then as the Crisco brand girl. These are the folks that dictate U.S. nutrition policy. If you read the official dietary guideline recommendations, you’ll note that there is no discussion at all of the scientific research on the health consequences of eating meat.

Why? Because if the committee actually discussed this research, it would be unable to justify its recommendation to eat meat at all, as the research would show that meat increases the risks for chronic diseases, contrary to the purpose of having dietary guidelines in the first place, right? Thus, by simply ignoring the research, the committee is able to come to a conclusion that would otherwise look improper.

So they can’t even talk about the science.

We know that a plant-based diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, no meat reverses heart disease, completely prevents deaths from heart disease, and slows the progression of cancer, and an almost identical diet is promoted by the World Cancer Research Fund to prevent cancer, based on the largest review of scientific studies to date.

But again, they can’t even talk about the science because how could they justify anything but a plant-based diet? Let me end with what is probably the best summary of nutrition policy in the United States that I’ve ever seen: The new dietary guidelines have been released. They tell us to eat healthier. But not as healthy as to noticeably affect any corporate profits.

Thank you very much.

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