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  • October/November/December 2017
  • Healthcare: The US Medical Profession Discovers Food's Healing Power
  • Healthcare: The US Medical Profession Discovers Food's Healing Power

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    HEALTHCARE

    The US Medical Profession Discovers Food’s Healing Power

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    A hospital in West Texas is a bellwether for a young movement that teaches many of our deadly diseases can be mitigated, even cured, by a change in diet

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    Historically, mankind understood that good food means good health. Hippocrates, the Greek father of Western medicine, said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.“ Over two millennia ago in the East, Tiruvalluvar wrote, “The pleasures of health abide in the man who eats moderately. The pains of disease dwell with him who eats excessively.” Those old wisdoms fell into disuse, and just 30 years ago a US doctor’s twelve years of training included a paltry two hours of nutritional science. Food’s healing powers were forgotten in the medical community. Then along came the evangelists Dean Ornish, Dr. John McDougall and T. Colin Campbell to talk about plants versus meats in our diet. Suddenly, doctors are entering the conversation. The story of this cultural and scientific shift is told below by two physicians and a health expert.

    BY DR. SCOTT STOLL, PENNSYLVANIA

    NEARLY 15 YEARS AGO I STARTED TO share with my family, friends, colleagues and patients that a diet consisting of whole plant-based foods can prevent, suspend and even reverse the majority of the diseases impacting the world. My message was met with skepticism: “Food is just food, it can’t be that important or influential;” cynicism: “You are nice, Dr. Stoll, but this is a little out there for a doctor;” and occasionally outright hostility: “Don’t talk to me about food, I need medical care!”

    But a few people acted on the recommendation, and I watched as their lives were transformed: symptoms resolved, biomarkers normalized, medications discontinued, and life returned to their lives.

    Few healthcare practitioners at that time shared a similar passion, philosophy and practice style. There were no food-as-medicine conferences, very few books or scientific articles about vegan or plant-based food, and non-existent support in the medical or academic arena. In the early days of Google, only a handful of results would return to a search for “whole food plant based.”

    Two years ago, however, I experienced the early tremors of a cultural shift. During the annual dinner cruise that we host for our health immersions, a steward who served on the boat mentioned to me that he was reading about a whole-food, plant-based diet and had decided to make a change. I was stunned. To me this demonstrated a new level of cultural penetration.

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    SHUTTERSTOCK

    Change is in the air: Midland Memorial Hospital is a pioneer in the study and application of nutritional sciences. A quote from Dr. William W. Li, founder of the Angiogenesis Foundation

    So, what is a whole food plant based diet? It is a dietary lifestyle that maximizes the intake to whole plant foods and eliminates intake of processed and animal-derived foods. Consumption of meat, including chicken and fish, dairy products and eggs, as well as highly refined foods, like bleached flour, refined sugar and oil, are all eliminated or minimized.

    Today a Google search for “whole food plant based” returns over 9.2 million results. New books are published monthly. Comparing 2016 to 2000, we see a tenfold annual increase in new peer-reviewed scientific articles. Nearly four years back I co-founded the International Plant Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference, with the goal and vision of educating, inspiring, equipping, and empowering healthcare practitioners to utilize whole, plant-based food as a cornerstone in their medical practices.

    In 2016, more than 800 enthusiastic healthcare professionals from 20 countries attended the conference, including 20 from Japan. Each attendee returned home as a knowledgable and powerful advocate for positive change.

    For example, Dr. Staton Awtrey, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Midland Health, his wife Blythe Awtrey and Marcy Madrid, VP of planning and marketing, have inspired their hospital to transform healthcare delivery for their community. In just the last two years they have helped to:

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    Better choices: Midland Memorial Hospital removed unhealthy snacks for staff and patients and now provides a wide selection of items low in fat, sugar and salt

    1. Add plant-based meals to the hospital menu;

    2. Provide healthy plant-based options in the cafeteria;

    3. Remove all fryers from the ki