Eat for Health: Heart Disease and Dementia Aren't Inevitable

This is an excerpt from Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat For Health.

As this chart shows, heart disease as a major cause of disability and death is a recent phenomenon.

Heart disease was not inevitable in the past and it doesn’t have to be inevitable now. It has known causes. Populations where these predisposing lifestyles are not lived out have practically no heart disease. When studies look at these issues, they find that the cultures that eat a healthy, vegetable-rich diet have almost no recorded heart disease, including hundreds of thousands of rural Chinese who have not had a single documented heart attack.1 Because heart disease has become so ubiquitous in America, many people believe the myth that heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, and dementia are largely genetic or the consequence of aging. It may be rare in the modern world that any majority of a population exercises, does not smoke, and eats very healthfully, but those that do earn a low-risk status and do not have heart attacks.2

The same factors that cause atherosclerosis, leading to heart attacks and strokes, also create dementia, and I am referring to both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. This includes the same diets that are high in animal fat and low in vitamins, minerals, fruits, and green vegetables.3 Of course, smoking and lack of physical exercise play a role in these common diseases, but the point is that it does not have to happen to you. These diseases, and others that plague modern America, are not the inevitable consequences of aging. They can actually resolve and improve with age or can be avoided entirely. They are simply the result of years of poor nutrition and an unhealthy lifestyle. My hope for you is that through this eating-style, you, like my patients who have embraced this program, can rid yourself of migraine headaches, acne, autoimmune diseases, and diabetes. So many of my patients have restored their health after conventional physicians—and the conventional beliefs about the inevitability of disease— told them their problems were going to be life long. Their doctors were wrong.

1. Sinnett PF, Whyte HM. Epidemiological studies in total highland population, Tukisenta, New Guinea. Cardiovascular disease and relevant clinical, electrocardiography, radiological and biochemical findings. J Chron Diseases 1973;26:265. Campbell TC, Parpia B, Chen J. Diet, lifestyle and the etiology of coronary artery disease: The Cornell China Study. Am J Card 1998;82(10B):18T-21T. Miller K. Lipid values in Kalahari Bushman. Arch Intern Med 1968;121:414. Breslow JL. Cardiovascular disease myths and facts. Cleve Clin J Med. 1998;65(6):286-287.

2. Palmieri L, Donfrancesco C, Giampaoli S, et al. Favorable cardiovascular risk profile and 10 year coronary heart disease incidence in women and men: results from the Progetto CUORE. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2006;13(4):562-570.

3. Commenges D, Scotet V, Renaud S, et al. Intake of flavonoids and risk of dementia. Eur J Epidemiol. 2000;16(4):357-363. Otsuka M, Yamaguchi K, Ueki A. Similarities and differences between Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia from the viewpoint of nutrition. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002;977:155-161. Nash DT, Fillit H. Cardiovascular disease risk factors and cognitive impairment. Am J Cardiol. 2006;97(8):1262-1265.

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Adrienne - September 23, 2008 1:24 PM

Didn't the rural Chinese documented in The China Study eat a rice-based diet with added vegetables? On average they consumed only 33 grams of fiber a day. I dont know if you can call that a vegetable-rich diet.

Joel Fuhrman, MD - September 23, 2008 10:15 PM

True, that as a whole, by my high standards, you could not call the Chinese diet vegetable-rich, but by comparison with the Standard American Diet (SAD), and the amount of vegetables consumed by the average American, you could.

Dr. Campbell reported that the data from the China Study confirmed that cardiovascular disease was associated with a lower intake of green vegetables and decreasing intake of plant proteins (vegetables and beans)
and increased animal protein intake.

He has also supported my conclusion with such statements founded in the China Study, "The greater the variety of plant-based foods in the diet, the greater the benefit. Variety insures broader coverage of known and unknown nutrient needs....The closer the food is to its native state -- with minimal heating, salting and processing -- the greater will be the benefit."

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