Chapter 8. Fighting Chronic Diseases

HEART DISEASE

Nothing kills more Americans than heart disease and stroke. More than 868,000 Americans die of cardiovascular diseases every year, which equates to one-third of all deaths. They are the cause of so much suffering, take our loved ones from us, and have an economic impact, too, costing the U.S. healthcare system $214 billion per year and $138 billion in lost productivity.

There is strong evidence that a plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and wholegrains can be beneficial in managing, halting, and even reversing these life-threatening diseases.

While a rapidly growing number of medical professionals and healthcare systems now recognize the effectiveness of a WFPB diet in treating heart disease, GenV supporters Dean Ornish, M.D. and Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D. were the first medical professionals to research and demonstrate how comprehensive lifestyle changes may begin to reverse even the most severe coronary heart disease without the aid of drugs or surgery. Today, many more scientific and medical experts have joined them.

Resources for managing, reversing and reducing your risk of heart disease, vascular disease, stroke, and related conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, can be found here:

CANCER

Each year in the United States, more than 1.6 million people are diagnosed with cancer, and almost 600,000 die from it, making it the second leading cause of death. The cost of cancer care continues to rise, now exceeding $200 billion a year.

Regardless of its cause, cancer only becomes a disease once malignant cells evade our immune system. A powerful immune system can protect us against cancer and eliminate tumors that have formed. As we learned in chapter 5, a WFPB diet can reinforce our immune systems.

In 2008, GenV supporter Dr. Dean Ornish published landmark research showing that comprehensive diet and lifestyle changes could slow, stop or reverse the progression of early-stage prostate cancer. This was tied to the fact that our diet and lifestyle can affect gene expression, “turning off” genes that promote cancer and heart disease.

In his seminal work, The China Study, biochemist T. Colin Campbell showed that cancer development is primarily a nutrition-responsive disease rather than a genetic one, and that high-antioxidant WFPB nutrition has a positive biological effect on our body’s defense systems, enabling them to control and, on occasion, even reverse cancer development.

Controlled studies also showed that animal-based protein and dietary fat consumption has the opposite effect on cancer, by turning tumor development “on”. The World Health Organization (WHO) has responded to this evidence by classing processed meats (including deli-meats, ham, chorizo, hot dogs, pepperoni, bacon, sausage, and jerky) as a Group 1 carcinogen, putting it in the same cancer-causing category as smoking. Non-processed meats, such as beef, lamb and pork, have also been classified as carcinogenic and a “probable” cause of cancer.

Furthermore, dairy products (milk, yogurt, cream, cheese) are linked to prostate cancer and are also associated with an increased risk of lung, breast, and ovarian cancers in people with lactose intolerance—which is most people on the planet! The Life After Cancer Epidemiology study found that, among women previously diagnosed with breast cancer, those consuming one or more servings of cheese, ice cream, or whole milk daily had a 49 percent higher breast cancer mortality, compared with those consuming none.

Want to learn more about increasing your resistance to cancer through food? Here’s how:

DIABETES

More than 34 million Americans have diabetes, and another 88 million adults in the United States have a condition called prediabetes, which puts them at risk for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes can cause heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness, and costs the U.S. healthcare system and employers $327 billion every year.

Studies show that eating the standard American diet can cause fat particles to build up inside our cells. These fat particles interfere with insulin’s ability to move sugar out from our bloodstream and into our cells, so instead of powering our cells, the glucose remains in our bloodstream, eventually leading to diabetes.

A WFPB diet, which is naturally low in fat, is a powerful tool for preventing, managing, and even reversing type 2 diabetes because it allows insulin to function properly. It has been shown to be effective at reducing and managing symptoms of type 1 diabetes as well.

In a 2003 study funded by the NIH, The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine tested thousands of patients with type 2 diabetes and determined that a plant-based diet controlled blood sugar three times more effectively than a traditional diabetes diet that limited calories and carbohydrates. Within weeks on a plant-based diet, participants saw dramatic health improvements. In some cases, you wouldn’t even have known they’d had the disease at all.

Nutritional biochemist, Dr. Cyrus Khambatta, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2002, and has since been educating people with type 1 diabetes, type 1.5 diabetes, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes on how to reduce reverse insulin resistance through a WFPB diet and exercise. He has had outstanding patient results.

For more information about how you can manage and even reverse your diabetic or prediabetic condition, check out these great resources:

ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia, is a progressive brain disease that affects about 5.8 million Americans. It is the seventh leading cause of death among all adults and costs in excess of $300 billion.

While there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, there are ways to prevent cognitive decline, to slow disease progression, and improve the quality of life for those who already have a diagnosis. And what most of the 50 million people living with Alzheimer’s worldwide don’t know is that by making certain lifestyle choices, they could have reduced their risk of developing this devastating disease by up to 90 percent.

This staggering statistic is often discussed by pioneering neurologists Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, co-directors of the ‘Brain Health and Alzheimer’s Prevention Program’, who, through their award-winning work, have found that one of the biggest factors in our long-term neurological health is what we choose to put on our plates.

Research suggests that Alzheimer’s is essentially a garbage disposal problem: it’s the brain’s inability to cope with the junk we’ve fed it over a lifetime, and that makes a lot of sense. Poor nutrition can damage our brain in numerous ways; causing inflammation (a hallmark of chronic illness); clogging blood vessels (the cause of cardiovascular disease and stroke); and depriving our brain of the nutrients it needs to function optimally. Though our brain may only seem like a small part of us, it actually uses up to 25 percent of the body’s energy and, because food is energy, our brains are especially vulnerable to each nutritional choice we make.

Dr. Dean Ornish is currently directing the first randomized controlled trial to determine if comprehensive lifestyle changes can reverse the progression of early Alzheimer’s disease, with positive results expected. Meanwhile, existing studies show that eating a predominantly plant-based diet can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 53 percent, while exercise can reduce the risk of the disease by 40 percent and stroke by 25 percent.

Additional resources include:

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