Fight Fire With Veggies

The image of rough and tough firefighters swapping war stories over tofu burgers and steamed greens may seem alarming, but for members of Firehouse 2 in Austin Texas it's vegan or bust. Deborah Bluementhal of The New York Times explains what prompted these "dinosaurs" to abandon their carnivorous ways:

A routine cholesterol test left Specialist Rae, 37, shaken. The American Heart Association ranks anyone with a level of 240 or more high risk; Specialist Rae's hit 344.


"I was floored, scared," he said. "I had no clue."

Spooked by the outcome of his test. Specialist Rae asked fellow Firefighter Esselstyn for advice. Esselstyn, 43, a former professional triathlete explained that meat isn't necessary for optimal health. Esselstyn a vegan had good reason to make his claim:

Firefighter Esselstyn knew through his father's work that a strict vegan diet would help. His father, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., had been a general surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic and still conducts research there.


Dr. Esselstyn's 12-year trial with patients with what looked like terminal heart disease showed that a very-low-fat, plant-based diet with cholesterol-lowering medicine could bring striking improvement.

Heart disease "never need exist," Dr. Esselstyn said, but if it does, "it never need progress."

How could someone with a bad ticker drag me out, Esselstyn explains. This concern attracted other members of Engine 2 to veganism as well. The switch seems to be working. Recently Specialist Rae achieved a cholesterol score of under 200.

Austin is taking notice of their herbivorous firemen. Shouting terms of endearment as the red engine drives by. A local eatery even named a sandwich after them, "The Engine 2 Veggie Sandwich." They even have their own goofy website promoting their diet, with links to several articles about their efforts.

You might recognize the name of one of the firefighters. Firefighter Esselstyn's father Caldwell B. Esslestyn Jr., M.D. is a leading advocate of a consuming a vegetable-based diet to prevent and reverse heart disease. Dr. Esseltyn's work has been discussed here before. To learn more about his research click here, or check Dr. Fuhrman's book Cholesterol Protection For Life.

Frankenpork

Gina Kolota of The New York Times reports that cloned pigs may be the nutritional holy grail. Recently researchers from three major universities genetically modified a group of swine to make pork that's rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Harvard professor of clinical medicine Alexander Leaf says:

"People can continue to eat their junk food," Dr. Leaf said. "You won't have to change your diet, but you will be getting what you need."

The article glosses over the important point: even with beneficial omega 3 fatty acids pork meat still contains saturated fats and cholesterol. This is from Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live, in which he discusses the risk of heart disease as it relates to the consumption of animal products:

Poring through nation-by-nation mortality data collected by the World Health Organization, I found that most of the poorer countries, which invariably consume little animal products, have less than 5 percent of the adult population dying of heart attacks.1 The China Project confirmed that there were virtually no heart attacks in populations that consume a lifelong vegetarian diet and almost no heart attacks in populations consuming a diet that is rich in natural plant foods and receives less than 10 percent of its calories from animals.

For more of Dr. Fuhrman's thoughts about meat, read his post from Friday.

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Lower LDL, Lower Chance of Coronary Heart Disease

A study in The New England Journal of Medicine concludes that long-term lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol are associated with a dramatically reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).

European Research: Restricting Animal Products Reduces Weight Gain, Cancer

In Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman warns against eating regular quantities of animal products, refined grains, and oils, urging you instead to get most of your calories from vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, and raw nuts:

Vegetable and fruits protect all types of cancers if consumed in large enough quantities. Hundreds of scientific studies document this. The most prevalent cancers in our country are mostly plant-food-deficiency disease. Raw vegetables have the most powerful anti-cancer properties of all foods.


Research shows that those who avoid meat and diary have lower rates heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.1

Studies have confirmed that individuals consuming a vegetarian diet (one based on plant matter and not dairy or refined grains) live longer than non-vegetarians and almost never get heart attacks.

With this in mind, consider this recent weight loss study from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. The eating habits of 22,000 people, meat eaters and vegetarians, were tracked over five years. In the end results found that all participants gained a few pounds, but individuals who adopted a vegetarian or vegan diet gained the least. Reuters reports:

"The weight gain was less in the vegans than in the meat-eaters and somewhere in between in the other groups," said Tim Key, of Britain's Cancer Research UK charity and the University of Oxford, who conducted the study.


"The lowest weight gain was in people who changed their diet to eat fewer animal products," he told Reuters.

In addition to stressing the importance of physical activity for sustained health, the study also comments on the link between diet and cancer:

[The study] also showed that diet is second only to tobacco, as a leading cause of cancer, and, along with alcohol, is responsible for nearly a third of cancer cases in developed countries.
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Knock Out Obesity and High Cholesterol with Veggies

In Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman calls obesity "the number one health problem in the United States."

If the current trend continues by the year 2030 all adults in the United States will be obese. The National Institutes of Health estimate that obesity is associated with a twofold increase in mortality, costing society more than $100 billion per year.1
Of course, regular readers of this blog know pretty well what he recommends as a solution: a healthy diet rich with vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, and raw nuts.


Dr. Fuhrman's approach was shown in a study to reduce LDL cholesterol 33%, making it the only nutritional approach shown to be more effective than statins.

Now there's news of a milder nutritional intervention that has been getting some milder--but promising results. A study published this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating nutrient rich foods like tofu and oatmeal help lower cholesterol. Beth Duff-Brown of the Associated Press reports:

Jenkins, Canadian research chair in metabolism and nutrition at Toronto, and Dr. Cyril Kendall, also of the University of Toronto, studied 55 middle-aged men and women who had high cholesterol and were at risk for heart disease.


The participants were already on a heart-healthy diet. They were then prescribed a diet that included more specific foods, such as raw almonds, tofu and other soy foods, viscous fibers such as oatmeal, barley, okra and eggplant, and plant sterol-enriched margarine.

After a year, the group who stuck faithfully to the new eating plan lowered their cholesterol by an average of 29 percent. Jenkins said the rate was comparable to results from participants who had taken a statin drug for one month before starting the diet, as well as general studies of patients on such drugs.

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Delving Into the Archives

Even though it's only a few months old, Followhealthlife has already accumulated a pretty big library posts and podcasts on various health topics. If you ever feel like searching through those archives (either by clicking on a topic at the left and then scrolling through relevant results, or better yet typing a keyword in the search box at the upper left) you'll see there's all kinds of interesting stuff.

Here's a rundown of some of the more popular posts from our first few months:

Childhood Obesity: Growing In The Wrong Direction

Obesity is rapidly becoming one the nation's worst epidemics. A dangerous trend considering the variety of diseases linked to obesity, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The growing number of overweight children is especially concerning. This article on KidsHealth.org discusses the issue and provides tips to help kids beat the bulge:

Overweight children are at risk for serious health conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol - all once considered exclusively adult diseases. But overweight children may also be prone to low self-esteem that stems from being teased, bullied, or rejected by peers. Overweight children are often the last to be chosen as playmates, even as early as preschool. Children who are unhappy with their weight may be more likely than average-weight children to develop unhealthy dieting habits and eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, and they may be more prone to depression, as well as substance abuse.

Dr. Fuhrman's book Onlyourhealth Your Child is devoted to helping parents keep their children free of disease through proper nutrition. In the book he offers this stern warning about childhood obesity:

Obesity is the most common nutritional problem among children in the United States. On in three kids in America are overweight, and the problem is growing. The number of children who are overweight has more than doubled during the past decade. Social forces, from the demise of cooking to the rise of fast food, as well as dramatic increases in snack food and soda consumption, have led to the most overweight population of children in human history. Added to this dietary disaster is television, computer, and video technology that entertains our youngsters while they are physically inactive. Unless parents take a proactive role in promoting and assuring adequate nutrition and an active lifestyle, you can be sure the children of American will continue this downward spiral into obesity and ill health. Obese children suffer physically and emotionally throughout childhood and then invariably suffer with adult heart disease, and a higher cancer incidence down the road.