History is about to be made here in Jerusalem. It’s a “ first ever” event and it is far more significant that one might think.  But before we talk about the first-ever Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) conference for kosher consumers, let’s go back about a hundred years in history and put this event into context

Sometimes, in order for the truth to come out, it takes people to go against the grain.  It takes people who are willing to look at the science and not just do what everyone else does. In the late 1940s, Dr. Walter Kempner was at Duke University when he developed what came to be known as The Rice Diet.  Dr. Kempner had many patients with malignant hypertension with kidney failure and there really weren’t any great treatment options back then.  The diet consisted of white rice, sugar, fruit, fruit juices.  All animal proteins were removed.  The results were amazing and he turned around hypertension, kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and obesity. He was a true pioneer and as Dr. John Mcdougall points out, all of the pioneers of lifestyle medicine today really owe a debt to Dr. Kempner.  But it didn’t stop there.

In 1957, a surgeon named Denis Burkitt  began looking at large medical epidemics.  He noticed that the great bulk of diseases occurring in the Western world—heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and many others—were surprisingly rare in rural Africa. During 20 years of surgical practice in Africa, he removed only 2 gallbladders, something he might have done on a single morning in any London hospital. Other conditions, from appendicitis to colon cancer, were rare in Africa, but common in Europe. He ruled out genetics and proposed that the culprit was diet. In Europe and the Americas, diets were low-fiber as opposed to the fiber-rich African diet.  He was one of the first to suggest that it wasn’t our genes that were causing chronic disease, but rather our diet. 

In spite of Dr. Kempner’s and Dr. Burkitt’s discoveries, modern medicine continued to rely of drugs, surgeries and procedures to treat various chronic diseases. While Dr. Butkitt was making his discoveries, Nathan Pritikin (not a medical doctor) was trying to figure out his own health problems.  He researched thoroughly, and met Dr. Lester Morrison who was using a very low fat diet to treat many of his cardiac patients.  Nathan Pritikin then developed his version of Dr. Morrison’s diet. His cholesterol dropped and his ECG became normal.  In 1975, he opened his Center for Longevity.  He used this low-fat, low-cholesterol, high fiber diet that he developed and his results were truly amazing. Over a 3 week period of time, looking at 4,587 participants, they saw an average 23% drop in total cholesterol, 23% drop in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, 24% drop in non-HDL cholesterol, and 33% in triglycerides.  As doctor Michael Greger reminds us in his book, How Not to Die, his grandmother who was told by her cardiologist to go home and get things in order as there was nothing else to do.  She went to Pritikin, was wheeled in and after switching to the Pritkin program, walked out.  She lived another 29 years.  Keep in mind that Nathan Pritikin had no medical training.  But he followed the research and look what happened.  This was the first popularized use of a WFPB diet to reverse disease.

By the time we moved into the mid 1980’s, Dr. Dean Ornish was putting his heart trial together to test the power of lifestyle, primarily with nutrition to reverse heart disease and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn was persuading the Cleveland Clinic to send him some people with heart disease to see if diet could also bring reversal.  Both doctors succeeded, using a whole foods plant based diet to reverse heart disease.  Just look at the angiograms before and then going forward into the trials and you can see it for yourself.  It was during this period of time the Dr. T. Colin Campbell was involved in his 30+ year study of the effect of animal proteins on cancer. This became known as The China Study.  All of these trials and research clearly showed that the single best diet to prevent and reverse chronic disease was WFPB eating.  Really, as doctor Greger points out time and again, since 1990, we’ve had that answer to heart disease.  We just haven’t implemented it.

The single biggest turning point occurred 12 years ago. On May 6t, 2011 an empowering documentary called Forks over Knives was released.  I don’t think anything has brought more awareness to the power of plants as this movie did.  Featuring Drs. Barnard, Ornish, Campbell, McDougall, Pulde, Lederman, Popper and others, this documentary put all the research out for the public to consume.  It’s still amazing to me that research that would benefit mankind in so many ways managed to be so suppressed for so long.  More than 20 million people have viewed Forks over Knives. It’s positive impact is really immeasurable. It started yours truly on his own plant based journey. Many other documentaries have come out since, including What the Health, Diet Fiction, Eating you Alive, Plant Pure Nation,  The Game Changers and now many, many more.  In addition, numerous books, all well researched and well sourced, have hit the market.  The authors include Dr. Greger, Dr. Saray Stancic, Dr. Campbell, Dr. Ornish, Dr. Esselstyn, Dr Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Brooke Goldner, Dr. Will Bulsiewicz and many, many more. 

The awareness of lifestyle medicine has grown exponentially and more and more physicians are being trained in it.  We are now in the next generation of plant based health providers. Even though we are still a long way away from lifestyle being a standard front-line treatment, there are now more than 10.000 physicians members of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and of 20,000 affiliated with the PCRM.  In Europe and Israel PAN is guiding doctors on how to use nutrition and showing them that it is indeed the most powerful tool we have to treat and prevent chronic and autoimmune diseases.  This is a slow and arduous process, however, it is progressing.

Conferences abound yearly on Lifestyle Medicine and WFPB.  They are attended by thousands of people, doctors and laymen alike. These have turned out to be a major event where new research papers are presented. New ideas on how to transition patients from SAD—standard American diet--to a plant predominant diet are discussed.  So that brings us up to July 11th at Nefesth B’Nefesh in Jerusalem. 

Thanks mostly to Debbie Ezra, the very first conference for Whole Food Plant Based and Vegan Kosher eaters is about to take place.  Two major plant based doctors will be speaking.  Dr. Dr Miriam Maisel from Tel Aviv and Dr. Malka Mann from N.Y. Workshops will be taking place—I hope to be giving one of those-and many vendors will be there showing their healthy vegan products.  Now here’s the clincher-IT’S FREE!

It’s been a long journey but it’s really happening. BE A PART OF HISTORY-register on line for the conference.  You don’t have to be a plant based or vegan eater to attend.  Just come. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the information and knowledge you will gain, can have a positive impact on the quality of your health for the rest of your life.  I am looking forward to seeing you there.  Your attendance will  “add hours to your days, days to your years, and years to your life.”

Alan Freishtat is a HEALTH and WELLNESS COACH and PERSONAL TRAINER with 23 years of professional experience. He is a graduate of the eCornell University Certificate course on Plant Based Nutrition for preventing and reversing illness. Alan is director of The Wellness Clinic.  He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at alan@alanfitness.com www.alanfitness.com US Line: 516-568-5027