By Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D and T. Colin Cambell, PHD
As the medical expenditures of this nation approach 20% of the gross domestic product and have reached 25% of the government’s budget, we urgently seek relief.
Where can we expect help to come from to ease this burden? It will not come from universal health insurance or increasing Medicare payments. It will not come from a new “pill” or “procedure.”
It will come when we in medicine and science share with the public knowledge of a life style which will diminish and eliminate our common chronic killing diseases.
How is this accomplished? Asking the public to stop smoking, exercise and eat a healthful diet has not worked It is time to be more specific. Maintain advice to stop smoking and exercise, but convert to complete plant-base nutrition without oils, dairy and meat.
Epidemiologic evidence and scientific study confirm this recommendation. One of us, (T. Colin Campbell) in his best selling The China Study recounts his finding of virtually no cardiovascular disease and rarely any western cancer in Chinese provinces which had not yet industrialized and were consuming plant-centered nutrition. Yet as soon as these provinces gained wealth and could afford animal based foods, there was a prompt emergence of western cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
A similar example in North America are the Tarahumara Indians thriving in the mountains and canyons of northern Mexico. They consume a spartan food plan of squash, beans and corn. Cardiovascular disease is absent and their strength and stamina are legendary. When carefully studied by Dr. William Connor, they are free of any vitamin, mineral, or nutritional deficiencies. Cardiovascular disease is also missing in Central Africa except in the Masai who as herdsmen live on milk, blood and meat.
Coauthor Caldwell B. Esselstyn,Jr. in his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Diseasesummarizes his twenty year study applying plant based nutrition to patients seriously ill with coronary artery heart disease. All compliant patients halted their disease beyond twenty years, often with striking evidence of disease reversal in their arterial photographs (angiograms). This included patients who were told at the beginning of the study by expert cardiologists that they would not live a year.
This experience is a refutation of the argument by many physicians that patients would not switch to or maintain plant-base nutrition. In addition to reversing heart disease, we have witnessed reversal of carotid artery disease to the brain, elimination of leg pain (claudication) from arterial disease and restoration of erectile function.
By way of contrast studies now show us how rampant cardiovascular disease has become. By age twelve school children develop thickening of their carotid arteries to the brain. Fully 80% of twenty-year old soldiers, dying in combat, are found to have coronary artery heart disease. That figure is now raised to 100% in a more recent study of those men and women between the ages of 16 to 34 years who have died of accidents, homicides and suicides.
Dr. Lewis Kuller, professor of public health at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine as a result of his decade long cardiovascular health study made the following statement: “All males who are 65 years of age and all females who are 70 years who have been exposed to the typical western diet have cardiovascular disease and should be treated as such.”
It appears that nobody eating the typical western diet escapes. All scientists agree on the nutritional causation of the disease but there is a divergence of opinion on therapy.
The basic science on this disease causation is now clearly understood, but is unknown by the public and even many physicians. The life jackets for sustaining our vascular health are the single layered endothelial cells, which line all our blood vessels, and the magical gas nitric oxide, which the endothelial cells produce.
Nitric oxide permits smooth non sticky blood flow, dilates (widens) our blood vessels, inhibits development of blockages and destroys inflammation. The reason this wonderful system falters is because each meal of oils, dairy products and meat has been shown to injure and incapacitate endothelial cell function ultimately leading to vascular disease.
It took us many thousands of years to finally make the public aware of how damaging the smoking of tobacco is for human health. Despite a spineless government and a powerful tobacco lobby science triumphed. More recently the scientific scrutiny of processed oils, dairy products, fish, fowl, and meat confirms that these foods are injurious to health.
If this were poison ivy the advice would be to stop touching it. Knowing the foods that injure our blood vessels, the advice should be to stop eating them. This approach works. It is inexpensive, prompt, enduring, and the patient now becomes the locus of control of the disease. Yet this approach is infrequently utilized. Why?.
Physicians are unaware of this treatment. They are unschooled in nutrition and behavioral modification. They are not financially compensated for this activity and do not have time for counseling in the detail this method requires. Other health professionals, nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants, dietitians, and nutritionists can develop these counseling skills.
Even for physicians who see heart disease patients to refer them for their counseling is conflicted. Physicians who use intervention are enormously financially rewarded although they freely admit they are not treating the disease and merely accomplishing stopgap plumbing. Outside of emergencies these interventions do not prolong life or prevent new heart attacks. The procedures of stents and bypass surgery cost over 100 billion dollars in 2006 and stents alone consumed 10% of the Medicare budget.
The pharmaceutical industry would be horrified to see the heart disease epidemic controlled. Statin drug sales alone generate 21 billion dollars to the industry. While there has been talk of putting them into our water supply and giving them to children, that enthusiasm has been recently chilled by the careful study of Dr. Beatrice Goloomb of the university of California at San Diego. Her painstaking review of 99 articles on statin drugs reveals a heretofore unrecognized plethora of serious side effects. The stent industry also receives billions of dollars each year and were panicked at the thought their drug eluting stents might be causing clotting and premature death.
The United States government is too politically crippled to halt nutritional disease epidemics. The United States Department of Agriculture every 5 years designs the food pyramid for all Americans. In as much as all officers of the USDA have previously held executive positions with the cattle, dairy, pork and egg industry, it is not surprising that each new pyramid contains the foods that guarantees millions of Americans will perish each year. The fox is in the henhouse. Having the USDA prepare our food pyramid is like having Al Capone prepare our income tax return.
In summary, the only forces against resolution or our most serious diseases are medicine, industry and the government. The billions of income they receive from preserving the status quo make them a formidable adversary.
Nevertheless, the forces for health can prevail if they educate the public in the transformational power of plant based nutrition to cure and prevent disease. Why would anyone enjoy a meal knowing they were about to injure the lining of their blood vessels?
The same nutrition which eliminates heart attacks and stroke also eliminates obesity, diabetes, hypertension, the common western cancers, gallstones, diverticulitis,. osteoporosis, dementia, erectile dysfunction and frailty to mention a few. Such an enlightened public could embrace a paraphrasing of John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for your health, ask What you can do for your health.”