It was the Thursday before Shabbos HaGadol. Every news outlet; newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and electronic media across the globe broadcast it. What was it that caught the attention of the world? The basic headline was “Poor diet kills more than smoking and high blood pressure”. When we looked inside the study we saw that the “Western diet”, now known as SAD-Standard American Diet, heavy in meats, fats and sugar is killing one in five people bringing them to an early demise. But we also saw something else. Lack of fruits, vegetables and whole grains were just as much to blame. This might not have been news at all to those of you who read my columns on a steady basis, but it felt good that such a large scale study involving so many of the top experts in the world validated the science I have been imparting to my readers for many years already. Let’s step back for a moment and see the bigger picture.
The number 7,000 probably doesn’t mean a lot to most people. But let’s take a look back in history. On January 11, 1964, Luther L. Terry, M.D., Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service, released the first report of the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health. On the basis of more than 7,000 articles relating to smoking and disease already available at that time in the biomedical literature, the Advisory Committee concluded that cigarette smoking is—
- A cause of lung cancer and laryngeal cancer in men
- A probable cause of lung cancer in women
- The most important cause of chronic bronchitis
The release of the report was the first in a series of steps, still being taken more than 40 years later, to diminish the impact of tobacco use on the health of the American people. For several days, the report furnished newspaper headlines across the country and lead stories on television newscasts. Later it was ranked among the top news stories of 1964.
Think about this for a moment. For years and years before this “official” proclamation we knew that there were dangers in tobacco. All of this literature existed telling us not only about the dangers of smoking regarding cancer and bronchitis, but so much more, all of which we know today. What about the moral and ethical responsibility of public dissemination of this information? In other words, it was known all along by many in the scientific community that smoking was harmful. Even doctors were still recommending to some of their patients to smoke to help them with their digestion. But we already knew that smoking was killing people. Why did we have to wait for over 7,000 studies to begin educating people that cigarettes are dangerous? It then took several decades to reduce the amount of smokers in the United States from 50% of the population to 20% (still way too high). A lot of people became ill and even faced death that might have lived had this information been dispensed.
Many of my colleagues and myself have been pushing the following idea for a while. There are already more than 3,000 papers, reports and studies telling us everything in this new report. This new large and comprehensive report was nothing but positive news for improving people’s health and wellness. One would certainly enhance the quality of their life if they follow its recommendations. But we’ve know all of this through randomized trials and studies for a long time already. Also, this report is still ignores the importance of reducing dairy and limiting fish. In a way, this report is similar to the 1964 report on smoking. We learned some of the dangers of smoking but it didn’t tell all the dangers. And it took way too long for all of that to come out and they are still only gradually releasing information. What you read in my columns is always backed by good science. Yes, it’s true that the science can change over time as we are able to gather better data, but what we know currently is very conclusive. Do we really have to wait for another 3,000 papers and reports before we start taking care of ourselves? I certainly hope not.
The lead author of this report was Dr. Shkan Afshin of the University of Washington. It involved 130 scientists from 40 countries. Basically we learn that fat, sugar, and salt (in great abundance in processed foods and the western diet in general) can be killers. The study, which was published in the esteemed medical journal The Lancet, showed that in one year, diet was behind 9,497,300 deaths from cardiovascular disease, 913,100 deaths from cancer, 338,700 from diabetes and 136,600 from kidney disease. In comparison, Tobacco was associated with 8 million deaths total and high blood pressure 10.4 million. So poor diet alone has accounted for about 10.9 million deaths per year.
It is interesting that the worst countries were China, India, Russia, the United States, Indoneasia and Pakistan. The things they have in common are not just high consumption of salt, sugar and fat, but there is a terrible lack of good nutrition. There has been a drop in consumption of healthy foods like whole grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. It’s not just that we are eating bad foods, we aren’t eating nearly enough good foods. On average, we are only eating 12% of the recommended amounts of seeds and nuts, only a quarter of the amount needed of whole grains, and on the fruit and vegetable side, we aren’t even a third of the way there. On the other side of this coin, soda consumption worldwide has increased to 10 times the recommended amount of sugar sweetened beverages. Substantial intake of red and processed meats, sugar sweetened beverages and packaged foods such as cakes, cookies and spreads are very much to blame for this crises as well.
Heeding bad advice
So with all of this knowledge, doctors and organizations that portend to advance good health and prevent heart disease and prevent cancer still continue to have you believe that if you follow the advice on their web sites and their recipes, you will be healthy. We now know that there is a different truth. Please remember that most doctors get little or no nutrition education in medical school. The flip side of this is that there are now about 3,000 doctors registered with the plant based doctors organization (plantbaseddoctors.org and plantbaseddoc.org) who have gone out and reeducated themselves and now use nutrition as a first line therapy to cure, reverse and prevent disease. If you can convince your doctor, have him or her contact me by email and I will be happy to provide guidance and resource material to help them understand how to heal with food and how to be a better doctor because of it. Using food can not only prevent disease, it can reverse and cure it. Medications generally manage a disease.
The good news
So here are two pieces of good news. The first, everyone can make the changes necessary to improve your health. You don’t need pills or procedures. Eat more and more plant based food, drink more water, eat more non-animal proteins and by all means, stop the processed foods altogether. Eat less meat, chicken, eggs and fish—and especially processed meats like hot dogs and deli. Drink a lot less sugar sweetened drinks and I might add that the artificial sweetened stuff is no good either. Every change makes a positive difference to your health. Every change is a step closer to staying out of the doctor’s office and living a healthy and vibrant life. And here is the second piece of really good news. Do you know which country placed highest in the LEAST diet related deaths to total population? ISRAEL! I guess some people are reading what I am writing. Make the commitment today to start making the changes that will “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life."
Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a BEHAVIORAL CHANGE and WELLNESS COACH with over 19 years of professional experience. Alan is the creator and director of the “10 Weeks to Health” program for weight loss. He is available for private coaching sessions, consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs both in his office and by telephone and skype. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Check out his web site – www.alanfitness.com US Line: 516-568-5027