Here’s something that will profoundly impact your health and your life: stop eating a Western diet and start eating real food.
A Western diet consists of refined foods, loads of added sugar, large quantities of food, and very few fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Populations who consume this diet invariably suffer from heart disease, cancer, stroke, Type-2 diabetes, and obesity. What about you? What kinds of foods do you regularly consume?
If fast food, packaged food, lots of meat, and loads of sugar are part of your weekly routine, it might be time for a bold change in your lifestyle.
People who stop eating a Western diet will see a dramatic improvement in their overall health — like an 80% reduction in the risk of heart disease, a nearly 90% reduction in the risk of Type 2 diabetes, and a 70% reduction in the risk of cancer.
Those are startling statistics, and I didn’t just pull them from thin air. Over the course of twenty years, T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. a professor of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, has been one of the directors of The China Project. The results of this long-term study have been released in a book: The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health
The project was a “survey of death rates for twelve different kinds of cancer for more than 2,400 countries and 880 million (96%) of their citizens,” according to the book. They studied the relationship between mortality rates and the dietary, lifestyle and environmental characteristics in 65 counties in China over a twenty year period. The conclusions are astonishing, especially for those of used raised on a typically American diet.
Here are some of the conclusions from the study:
- Diets high in animal protein (including casein in cow’s milk) are strongly linked to diseases such as cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
- The authors recommend people eat a whole-food, plant based diet, and avoid consuming beef, poultry, fish, eggs and milk as a means to reduce the risk of and/or reverse the development of chronic diseases.
- They recommend people take in adequate amounts of sunshine in order to maintain sufficient amounts of Vitamin D.
- If animal products are completely avoided, they recommend taking a vitamin B12 supplement.
- The authors state that plants protect the body from disease because so many of these plants contain large amounts and a wide variety of antioxidants, which protect us against free radicals.
- They say that the consumption of animal protein increases the acidity of blood and tissues. Our bodies pull calcium from our bones to neutralize the acid. Less calcium means weaker bones.
In the book, Dr. Campbell discusses at length certain diseases associate with diet and some of the dietary changes we can make to help prevent or reverse these diseases. Take a good look at this list — it is compelling enough to completely reconsider our fast-paced, quick food, fat and sugar infused, pre-packaged eating habits.
Disease such as Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis are more prevalent among people who live at higher geographic altitudes and who consume a diet high in animal protein, particularly cow’s milk. Vitamin D, which is important for the regulation of the immune system, is connected to both of these scenarios.
Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other cognitive problems are linked to hypertension and high cholesterol, and the damage caused by free radicals. Proper diet can control these risk factors.
Breast cancer is linked to the long-term exposure of high concentrations of female hormones and high blood cholesterol levels, and these higher concentrations are linked to a diet high in animal protein. Chinese women are exposed to much lower levels of estrogen than American or British women, and the rate of breast cancer among Chinese women is about one fifth the rate for Western women.
The consumption of plants high in fiber, such as green leafy vegetables, beans, and whole grains, dramatically reduces the risk of colorectal cancer.
A diet that includes carotenoids, which are found in colorful vegetables, help protect against macular degeneration which can lead to blindness. A diet that includes the antioxidant lutein, which is found in spinach, can protect against the development of cataracts.
Eating plant protein has a greater impact on lowering cholesterol levels than does reducing the fat or cholesterol intake alone. Regular consumption of animal-based foods leads to heart disease. The rate of coronary heart disease among American men (who eat more meat) was seventeen times higher than that of Chinese men at the time of the study.
The increased amount of calcium in the blood triggered by the acidity in animal protein may result in kidney stones. Kidney stone formation is linked to the presence of free radicals.
Metabolism and Obesity
Consuming diets high in protein and fat transfers calories to their storage form as fat rather than heat. The authors state that “diet can cause small shifts in calorie metabolism that lead to big shifts in body weight.” They suggest that a diet low in animal protein and fat not only helps prevent obesity, but also helps people reach their full growth potential.
As mentioned before, when the body has to pull calcium from the bones to neutralize the affects of acidity from animal protein, the bones become weaker and at greater risk for fracture.
Here are some of the general principles that Dr. Campbell and his associates have determined as a result of their findings during this twenty year study:
- Proper nutrition is critical to maintaining health in all areas of our lives
- It is the combined impact of a variety of foods the leads to good nutrition.
- Foods that are beneficial for a particular chronic disease will support good health across the board.
- Vitamin supplements are not a substitute for proper nutrition.
- The same diet and nutrition that can help prevent early stage disease can also help reverse later stage disease.
- There are virtually no nutrients in animal based foods that are not better provided in plant based foods.
- Diet and nutrition can neutralize or reverse the effects of noxious chemicals.
- Genes alone do not determine whether or not you will get a disease. The genes must be activated or expressed, and diet and nutrition play a critical role in that activation, whether the genes are good or bad.
Converting from a traditional Western diet to a mostly vegetarian diet can feel overwhelming and boring. Let’s be honest, we like meat. It’s hard to resist a juicy steak, bar-be-que ribs, or the million and one ways we’ve learned how to cook chicken. Eating meat is part of our culture. But that may be the problem. We need to re-define our culture of eating and take control of our health.
If this article has inspired you toward healthier eating, I’d like to invite you to join me in abstaining from red meat for the next two weeks and substitute with additional vegetables and fruit. This is a start, and now that you are armed with the knowledge of how small changes can profoundly impact your health, maybe it won’t be so hard!
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This article was written by Barrie Davenport for LiveBoldAndBloom and was published August 4, 2010.