“The only diet that has been scientifically proven to reverse heart disease, to slow, stop, or reverse early-stage prostate cancer, and to reverse aging by lengthening telomeres (among other benefits) is a whole-food plant-based diet low in both fat and refined carbohydrates.” – Dr. Dean Ornish

Heart Disease

One person dies every 37 seconds in the US from heart disease. Coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease, is a food born illness, and is entirely preventable, and reversible via dietary changes. The world’s advanced countries have easy access to plentiful high fat food, and ironically, it is the high fat, Standard American Diet (SAD), that produces atherosclerosis. In the world’s poorer nations, many people subsist on a primarily plant-based diet, which is far healthier, especially in terms of heart disease. According to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, to treat coronary heart disease, a century of scientific research has produced a device-driven, risk-oriented strategy, yet many patients treated with this approach still experience progressive disability and death. This is a defensive strategy that is not health promoting. In contrast, compelling data from a variety of studies and population surveys supports the effectiveness of a plant-based diet and aggressive fat/cholesterol lowering, to arrest, prevent, and even reverse heart disease. Essentially, this is an offensive strategy. Dr. Esselstyn adds that the single biggest step toward adopting this strategy would be to have the United States dietary guidelines support a plant-based diet, and that an expert committee purged of industrial and political influence is required to assure that science is the basis for dietary recommendations.

“There are two kinds of cardiologists: vegans and those who haven’t read the data.” 
– Dr. Kim Williams 

It’s the food! Thanks to the research of Drs. Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn, we have known for years that a whole food plant based diet, along with a few other lifestyle changes, can prevent and reverse most instances of heart disease. Dr. Esselstyn may be best known for his landmark clinical study of 198 patients with significant CAD (coronary artery disease). Of these patients, 119 had undergone a prior coronary intervention with stents or bypass surgery, and 44 had a previous heart attack. During the four years of follow up, 99.4% of the participants who adhered to a whole-food plant-based diet avoided any major cardiac event, including heart attack, stroke, and death, and angina improved or resolved in 93% (a 30-fold improvement from those who were treated conventionally). In other words, all of the patients who followed a whole food plant based diet experienced significant improvement, in some cases actual reversal of near end stage heart disease. So compelling is the evidence from his own studies and those of others that Dr. Esselstyn has called coronary artery  disease a “toothless paper tiger, that need never exist, and where it does now, need never progress.”

A nutritional update for physicians published in The Permanente Journal notes that the benefits of a plant-based diet includes a reduction in medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic (restricted blood flow) heart disease mortality rates. It encourages physicians to consider recommending a plant-based diet to all of their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or obesity. The benefits include reducing risk factors for heart disease such as decreasing blood pressure, cholesterol and weight with improved blood sugar management. 

By choosing whole plant foods you are not only avoiding the factors that contribute to heart disease and other chronic diseases, but also at the same time increasing the protective substances that prevent disease and promote good heart health. 

Sources – Drs. Caldwell Esselstyn, Kim Williams, Michael Greger & Dean Ornish

Click here to learn more from Dr. Caldwell Essselstyn.
Click here to learn more from Dr. Dean Ornish. 
Click here to learn how the meat industry’s own study concluded that meat consumption increased the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and premature death.

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Cancer is traditionally considered to be a genetic disease. However, empirical evidence suggests that ultimate cancer development is instead a nutrition response disease. – Dr. T. Colin Campbell

In a study of over 6,000 people, those aged fifty to sixty-five, who reported eating diets high in animal protein, had a 75 percent increase in overall mortality, a 400 percent increase in cancer deaths, and a 500 percent increase in type 2 diabetes during the following eighteen years, whereas plant-based proteins reduced the risk of premature death in all of these categories.

Animal protein promotes the growth of cancer. In laboratory tests, Dr. T. Colin Campbell discovered that they could actually turn the growth of cancer cells on and off by raising and lowering doses of casein, the main protein found in cow’s milk.

“The people who eat the most animal protein have the most heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.” – Dr. T. Colin Campbell

A plant based diet is a powerful way to reduce cancer risk. Overall, people following plant-based diets cut their cancer risk as much as 40 percent. For people who have been diagnosed with cancer, it is an important way to improve survival as well.

Processed meat, from hot dogs to bacon, increases the risk of colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease, and even early death. Eating just 50 grams of processed meat daily also increases the risk of prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and overall cancer mortality.

Dairy products have been linked to prostate cancer as well. According to Dr. Neal Barnard, part of the problem too is that milk increases a compound in the bloodstream called IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor), which stimulates cancer cell growth. In addition, as the calcium in milk floods into your bloodstream, your body reacts to limit the influx of calcium to a safe level. To do that, it reduces the amount of vitamin D in your blood (vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium). But because vitamin D also has cancer-preventive effects, this loss of vitamin D increases cancer risk. At least, that is the theory.

Men who avoid milk, cheese, and other dairy greatly reduce their cancer risk when compared with their milk-drinking friends. Avoiding animal products allows you to sidestep risks, while providing your body with the specific anticancer effects that come from whole plant based foods.

Red wine may be in the “fruit group,” so to speak, but alcohol in any form increases the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, and other forms of the disease. Ouch. However, research on longevity in the Blue Zones regions suggests that an occasional glass of red wine with delicious dinners and friends can actually be health promoting.  

Vegetables and fruits are rich in cancer-fighting micronutrients, including folate (think green leafy vegetables), vitamin C (citrus fruit), beta-carotene (orange vegetables), and lycopene (tomatoes and watermelon), among many others. Cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, and their cousins) stimulate the liver to make enzymes that neutralize carcinogens that you may be exposed to.

As per Dr. Dean Ornish, “Increasing evidence from epidemiological and laboratory studies suggests that diet and lifestyle may have a role in the development of prostate cancer. The intake of total and specific vegetables, tomato products (lycopene), vitamin E, selenium, vitamin C and soy products has been inversely associated with prostate cancer risk. In addition, epidemiological evidence and migrant studies indicate that the incidence of clinically significant prostate cancer is much lower in parts of the world where people eat a predominantly low fat, plant based diet.”

Here’s the bottom line according to Dr. Dean Ornish: The only diet that has been scientifically proven to reverse heart disease, to slow, stop, or reverse early-stage prostate cancer, and to reverse aging by lengthening telomeres (among other benefits) is a whole-food plant-based diet, low in both fat and refined carbohydrates.

Click here to learn more from Dr. T. Colin Campbell on how casein, the main protein found in cow’s milk, causes cancer.

Click here to learn more from Dr. T. Colin Campbell on cancer prevention and treatment through wholistic nutrition.                  
Click here to learn more from Dr. Dean Ornish. 
Click here to learn more from the Blue Zones on wine consumption and longevity.

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Diabetes gets better and sometimes goes away altogether when people adopt a plant based diet. According to The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “In a 2003 study funded by the NIH, we determined that a plant-based diet controlled blood sugar three times more effectively than a traditional diabetes diet that limited calories and carbohydrates. Within weeks on a plant-based diet, participants saw dramatic health improvements. They lost weight, insulin sensitivity improved, and HbA1c levels dropped. In some cases, you would never know they’d had the disease to begin with. Studies show that eating a diet high in fatty foods can cause fat particles to build up inside our cells. These fat particles interfere with insulin’s ability to move sugar out from our bloodstream and into our cells. Instead of powering our cells, the glucose remains in our bloodstream, eventually leading to diabetes. A plant-based diet is low in fat, which allows insulin to function properly.”

As per Dr. Neal Barnard, “ A plant-based diet is a powerful tool for preventing, managing, and even reversing type 2 diabetes. Not only is this the most delicious ‘prescription’ you can imagine, but it’s also easy to follow. Unlike other diets, there’s no calorie counting, no skimpy portions, and no carb counting. Plus, all the ‘side effects’ are good ones.”

Three Steps for Avoiding Diabetes:
1. Avoid Animal Products
2. Keep oils and oily foods to a minimum
3. Favor low-Glycemic-Index foods

Click here to learn how to tackle diabetes with a plant-based diet from PCRM.org.
Click here to learn how to reduce your risk of Type 2 Diabetes with a plant-based diet.

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Alzheimer's disease

I have five aunts who have all been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Three are now deceased, and two appear to be in the later stages of the illness. While some chronic diseases are in decline, deaths due to Alzheimer’s have increased by nearly 87 percent in the last decade.

Interestingly, two out of every three people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are women. Scientists are still trying to understand the biology of the disease in a woman’s brain, and how it differs from a man’s brain (there is speculation that menopause, hormones, longevity, and cultural factors such as a frequent lack of both career and educational opportunities are likely linked), as one in six women develop Alzheimer’s after age sixty-five, while for men the chances are only one in eleven. Women in their sixties, are also twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as they are to develop breast cancer. 

The good news, according to Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, is that a whole food, plant based diet, along with a few other lifestyle factors, including regular exercise, adequate sleep, love, and cognitive activity, can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 90% (and if you, or someone you know is already burdened with some form of dementia, slow its progression). So, yes, 90%! This research is truly exciting as I knew very little about Alzheimer’s and incorrectly believed that for the most part, we were all destined to suffer the fate of whatever inherited genetic predisposition we had. Fortunately, this is not the case. Although genetics still plays a part, it turns out that our diet, and other lifestyle factors, play an even bigger role (than genetics) when it comes to gene expression, and our risk of developing Alzheimer’s. 

Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, but recent estimates indicate that the disorder may rank third, just behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death for older people. According to the National Institute of Health, Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia among older adults. 

Although the human brain is just a 3 pound organ, it consumes 25% of our body’s energy, which means that it is more vascular (relating to arteries and veins), and requires more blood, more energy, more oxygen, and basically more of everything.

One out of every two Americans on a Standard American Diet (SAD), who are 85 years or older, will develop Alzheimer’s disease or some form of dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease is less likely to strike for people on a plant based diet, according to the best available evidence. The disease is much more common among people eating more saturated fat, which is typically found in dairy and meat products. People following plant-based diets appear to be better able to preserve their memory and cognitive abilities as the years go by.

Click here for a link to The Alzheimer’s Solution by Drs. Dean & Ayesha Sherzai.
Click here to learn more from Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai. 
Click here to learn how to ward off dementia from Dr. Dean Ornish.
Click here to learn more about how plant-based diets are beneficial to the brain.

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As of 2013, the American Medical Association officially declared obesity a disease, by identifying the enormous humanitarian impact of obesity as requiring the medical care and attention of other diseases. Unfortunately, the way we treat diseases these days involves only drugs and surgery. Anti-obesity drugs have been pulled from the market again and again after they started killing people, yet sadly, this type of pharmacological treatment of obesity continues.

The same has happened with obesity surgeries. Current procedures include various reconfigurations of the digestive tract. Complications of surgery appear to occur in about 20 percent of patients, and nearly one in ten results in death. In one of the largest studies, 1.9 percent of patients died within a month of the surgery. Even if surgery proves sustainably effective, the need to rely on the rearrangement of our anatomy as an alternative to better use of our forks and feet (that is, diet and exercise) seems tragic. 

According to Susan Pierce Thompson, PhD, people need to understand that obesity is not a moral failing, or the result of a lack of education. Once it is understood that people are dealing with an addiction, a different set of protocols becomes clear. 

As per Dr. Thompson, “So I have no problem looking someone in the eye and saying, “From my personal experience, I will tell you, on a chemical level, food is equally as hard as crack cocaine and on a social lifestyle, day to day cue response triggering level, food is so much harder. It will blow your mind.” So, yeah, food is harder. On balance, food is harder.”

A 2015 study from the American Journal of Public Health found that the odds of a clinically obese person achieving normal weight without surgical interventions were just 1 in 210 for men, and 1 in 124 for women. The chances were even worse for those who were morbidly obese.   

So what gives?

The authors of the excellent book “The Pleasure Trap”, cite a study where rats maintained an ideal weight under all sorts of stressful conditions, when eating a healthy rat chow. However, when bread and chocolate were made available as desired, the average rat increased its body weight in fat by 49 percent within just sixty days. 

The book’s authors, Alan Goldhamer and Douglas J. Lisle, also tell the following story: If a frog is placed in a pan of water that is heated ever so slowly, he may never notice that the water temperature is rising. He will neuroadapt to the slowly heated water and be unaware of the danger. Though there may be no barrier to his escape, he is as likely as not to remain in the pan. As the temperature continues to rise, he may boil to death. His sensory capabilities fail to warn him in time that action is required for his survival. Most people think that if they were to consume a diet of whole plant based foods, they would not enjoy their food, or their lives. Indeed, most believe that they would suffer if they consumed a health-promoting diet. Like those addicted to drugs, they cannot imagine a better life, free from the drug-like effects of magic food (the high fat, highly processed Standard American Diet (SAD) food).  And like frogs in boiling water, millions are being slowly killed. 

Dr. Neal Barnard explains that if you are trying to lose weight, going vegan will help enormously. For starters, there is no longer even a drop of animal fat on your plate. This is great, because every gram of fat holds 9 calories. That’s a lot more than are in carbohydrates or protein (just 4 calories per gram). 

1 gram of carbohydrate, sugar or protein = 4 calories
1 gram of fat = 9 calories

For example, white-meat chicken, even without the skin, is about one-quarter fat, as a percentage of calories. In contrast, nearly all foods from plant sources, beans, grains, vegetables, and fruits, derive less than 10 percent of their calories from fat. So if you are skipping animal products and building your meals from plants, you’re skipping a lot of unwanted calories. 

Again, obesity is not a moral failing. Dr. Michael Greger explains that becoming overweight is a normal, natural response to the abnormal, unnatural availability of calorie-dense, sugary, and fatty foods. According to Dr. Greger, “the sea of excess calories in which we are now floating (and in which many of us are now drowning) has been referred to as a “toxic food environment.” This helps direct focus away from the individual and toward societal forces at work, such as the fact that the average child may be blasted with ten thousand food commercials a year. Or maybe they should be called pseudo-food commercials, as 95 percent of the ads were for candy, liquid candy (soft drinks), breakfast candy (sugary cereals), and fast food.”

Click here for an obesity facts page from Dr. Michael Greger’s nutritionfacts.org site.
Click here for Dr. Doug Lisle’s superb TED Talk on why it is so difficult for humans to make the right dietary choices. 

Alan Goldhamer, DC, & Doug J. Lisle, PhD, The Pleasure Trap, Susan Pierce Thompson, PhD, University of Rochester, The Food Revolution Summit, with John and Ocean Robbins, Dr. Neal Barnard, The Vegan Starter Kit, PCRM.org, and Dr. Michael Greger, How Not to Diet. 

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autoimmune disease

Dr. T. Colin Campbell has defined nutrition as the biological expression of food that promotes health. He has also said that nutrition is the biggest determining factor in the development of chronic illness, and far greater than viral, chemical, or even genetic causes. Brooke Goldner, MD, was able to overcome her own chronic illness, lupus (which caused abnormal kidney function, mini-strokes, migraines, arthritis, and rashes), by changing her diet. 

Here are a few excerpts from a Center for Nutrition Studies article by Dr. Goldner titled “Healing Autoimmune Disease With Supermarket Foods”:

The greatest impact on whether our genes for illness get triggered is by what we put into our bodies, what we eat. Your cells are literally created out of the foods you put into your body. If you eat purely for taste and convenience, like many people do, you are likely eating nutrient-poor foods that cause damaged dysfunctional cells. When you learn to eat foods that nourish your body, your cells can repair themselves, and the new cells created will be high functioning healthy cells.

Unhealthy foods create chronic inflammation, a condition where the immune system is constantly activated, which can be destructive to the body. Inflammation is normally the body’s healthy response to injury or infection. However, when the inflammation becomes chronic, or continuous, such as due to constant assault on the gut by the wrong foods, the inflammation becomes the cause of destructive diseases, like Lupus, Scleroderma, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Colitis, and many other chronic inflammatory diseases.

There are 3 steps to eliminating foods that cause chronic inflammation that leads to autoimmune diseases like Lupus, Scleroderma, Sjogren’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis and others. These same foods are known triggers for heart disease, diabetes and cancer as well, since they trigger our own personal deck of genes for illness.

Step 1: Eliminate Animal Products
Animal Products include all types of meat like beef, pork, lamb, fish, and chicken. It also includes eggs and dairy products. One of the reasons these foods must be avoided at all cost is because they cause massive amounts of inflammation in the body. Research has indicated animal-derived products are inflammatory in multiple different ways. A recent study in Scientific American showed that when the gut is exposed to saturated fat, it causes the destruction of the healthy protective bacteria in the gut, inflammation of the gut wall, initiation of an immune response, tissue damage and even hemorrhage…The more meat and dairy you consume, the more inflammation you create.

Step 2: Eliminate Added Oils
In step 1, we discussed the dangers of saturated fat from meat and dairy products. The omega-6 fatty acids, which create the inflammatory immune cells, can also be found in high levels in vegetable oils so they must also be avoided.

Step 3: Eliminate Processed Foods
Processed foods are products that you can buy that contain ingredients that do not occur in nature. People call them foods, but they’re more like synthesized edible products. So what exactly are processed foods? One quick way to find out is to grab a can or box from your kitchen and read the label. If it has a long list of ingredients that you cannot pronounce or it cannot be produced without a lab, it is processed.

More women get autoimmune diseases. A full 75% of the 23 million sufferers in the U.S. are women, but it’s unclear why. According to the CDC, Autoimmune diseases are the third most common category of disease in the United States after cancer and heart disease, and affect about 7% of the population.

Sources: Dr. Brooke Goldner via Center for Nutrition Studies, Cornell University


Reversing Disease with Supermarket Foods – Plant Based Style


https://nutritionfacts.org, Dr. Michael Greger

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Acne is a skin disease. Roughly 80-95% of adolescents in the US get acne. If you have teenagers in your life, you will definitely want to read this. Nina and Randa Nelson are twins who grew up on a vegan diet, yet still developed crippling acne in their early twenties, that left them depressed, out of work, and borderline suicidal. After many months of distress, they discovered that it was mostly the remaining saturated fats in their diet (nuts, avocados, peanut butter), as well as added oils in their food, and in their cosmetic products, that were together causing their debilitating acne. 

The only recommendations from their doctors/dermatologists were antibiotics, which proved to be only a temporary fix that would allow them to book modeling gigs, only to have their acne return a short time later. I had rosacea for many years, and I know that my dermatologist never recommended a diet change, and in fact, would tell me that rosacea had no cure, and could only be managed. She was nice, and regularly suggested antibiotics, but the power of plant based nutrition was not on her radar (as is the case with most doctors). After a few years of dealing with rosacea as a vegetarian, I ultimately removed the dairy and eggs from my diet, and my rosacea pretty much went away. 

Nina and Randa Nelson seem lovely and they have written a book called “The Clear Skin Diet”, which provides five pillars for an acne free diet: 

Pillar 1: Eat a whole food, low fat, plant based diet, which means no meat (saturated fat) and dairy. Randa Nelson refers to dairy as acne juice. So, nearly all veggies, fruits, beans, berries, whole grains, etc., are good. 

Pillar 2: Eat unrefined starches (sweet potatoes, potatoes tortillas, burritos, more whole grains, brown rice, corn).

Pillar 3: Avoid all oils (olive, safflower, canola, coconut, flaxseed, etc.) Cooking oils can be enjoyed as a treat once in a while once the acne has cleared up.

Pillar 4: For severe acne, avoid high fat plant based foods (peanut butter, soy, sweet potatoes fries, olives, hummus with oils, avocados) Note: Soy avoidance worries me, because it is such an important food source, but it can be high in fat. Perhaps the soy can be re-introduced on some level once the acne has cleared up.

Pillar 5: Eat Whole Foods, especially those highest in fiber as 97% of Americans are deficient in fiber.  Whole foods are plant foods that are unprocessed or unrefined, or refined and processed as little as possible (berries, fruits, whole grains, etc.).

Most of the information above is from Rip Esselstyn’s excellent Engine 2, Plant Strong podcast: https://www.plantstrongpodcast.com/…/episode-11-nelson-twins

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Animal Protein & Mortality

Dr. Dean Ornish suggests 4 simple lifestyle changes to help reverse most chronic diseases: eat well (plant-based diet), move more, stress less, and love more. 

One of the best things that anyone can do in their efforts to eat well is to eliminate animal products from their diet. This figure is part of a published article from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which compared plant protein to animal protein, and how each relates to mortality. If anyone you know (doctors, friends, family members), has any doubts about the health benefits of a plant based diet, please refer them to this table, or to page 9 of the original JAMA article (linked below), to have a look. It is pretty powerful, and pretty much a shut out. The consumption of animal products that is typical of the Standard American Diet (SAD), simply, and clearly, increases a person’s risk for death. Please remember too that animals get their protein from plants. So why not remove the middleman (being), go plant based, and avoid all of the additional health risks of consuming meat, dairy and eggs? 

As per SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University:
“A plant-based diet emphasizes eating more plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds,and legumes/beans) and fewer or no animal products (red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy). Plant-based diets can prevent, treat, and even reverse certain chronic diseases in adults that include high blood pressure (hypertension), heart (coronary artery) disease, type 2 diabetes (high blood sugar because your body does not use insulin properly), and high levels of lipids (fat, cholesterol, or triglycerides) in the blood. Adopting a plant-based diet can also lead to natural, and often sustained, weight loss among people who are overweight, obese, or who have a high body mass index.”

Click here to learn more from Dr. Dean Ornish.
Click here to learn more from SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. 

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Exercise can extend your life, and make you happier and smarter! 

One study done by the National Cancer Institute found that walking 30 minutes five times per week reduced premature deaths by 20 percent and walking 60 minutes five times per week reduced premature deaths by 31 percent (more intensive exercise added only incremental benefit in reducing mortality). A German study also reported that Just 25 minutes of brisk walking a day can add as much as seven years to your life. 

There are basically three types of exercises that are recommended for everyone: aerobic exercise like walking, strength training (natural resistance, bands, weights), and stretching. 

Dr. Dean Ornish: “In the spirit of keeping it simple, here’s the bottom line about exercise: if you like it, you’ll do it. Make it a “playout” rather than a workout. So find a type of exercise you enjoy doing in each of these three categories, and “just do it” regularly to “undo it.” Everything else is a refinement of this idea. In short: do what you enjoy, make it fun, and do it regularly. The rest is commentary…Put another way, running, whatever the pace or mileage, dropped a person’s risk of premature death by almost 40 percent, a benefit that held true even when the researchers controlled for smoking, drinking, and a history of health problems such as hypertension or obesity…Just twenty-five minutes of brisk walking a day can add as much as seven years to your life. In the Women’s Health Study involving tens of thousands of women, those who walked briskly for just sixty to ninety minutes each week, just fifteen minutes a day, cut their risk of death from heart attack and stroke in half. For every hour you spend running, you gain seven hours in your life expectancy, up to three additional years of life.”

“Move More! Moving naturally throughout the day, walking, gardening, doing housework, is a core part of the blue zones lifestyle. A day of sitting down, at work, in your car, on your couch, can’t be fixed by spending 30 minutes in the gym. So get up and move throughout the day, taking frequent stretch breaks, choosing the stairs over the elevator, and five- to ten-minute walks throughout the day.” – Dan Buettner
Researchers collected data from over a million men and women and found that those with the lowest fitness levels, were 76 percent more likely to be diagnosed with depression than those who were the most fit. Also, students of any age who exercise in school have better grades and learn more easily. And get this, fathers who exercise have smarter babies. It’s true. Dads can pass some of the brain benefits of physical activity to their kids through a process called epigenetics (the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work). Wow.

Have you heard of Ba Duan Jin or Qigong? Qigong (pronounced Tzegong, I think), is a set of qi gong exercises that were passed down from ancient China. I have been doing this 10+ minute routine (see video) of 7-8 exercises for a few months now, and they are not only effective, but great for all ages too. These simple exercises help circulation, and really do seem to regulate the yin and yang (hot and cold), as they promote inner health, and help alleviate pain. I often see older Chinese people in various neighborhoods doing these exercises, and now I can join them with confidence!

Dr. Michael Greger recommends 90 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk (four miles per hour) walking or 40 minutes of vigorous activity (such as jogging or active sports) each day.

Dr. Kristi Funk suggests 5 hours a week of moderate effort (like you can chit-chat while power walking), or 2.5 hours a week vigorous, sweaty workouts (panting not talking!).

Sources: Dr. Dean Ornish & Anne Ornish, “Undo It!”, Dr. Michael Greger, nutritionfacts.org, Dan Buettner, Blue Zones, Dr. Kristi Funk, pinklotus.com

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Stress Less

Researchers at Harvard University found that meditation alone can change the expression of genes (including those that regulate inflammation and others that eliminate unwanted cells). The more the participants meditated, the more their genes changed in a health promoting way. Wow.

Meditation has traditionally been associated with serious practitioners and Buddhist monks. But it is great for everyone, regardless of its form (spiritual, prayer, or any type of contemplative practice). According to Dr. Michael Greger (NutritionFacts.org), recent research suggests meditation may significantly reduce stress and increase overall well-being. For example, a study of caregivers of family members with dementia who meditated 12 minutes a day for 8 weeks, for a total of ten hours in total, experienced significant benefit.

Reducing stress through meditation may slow the rate at which people age as well. A study on cellular aging found that telomere length is directly related to how stress impacts the body on a chromosomal level (telomeres are little protective caps at the ends of the DNA molecules that make up our chromosomes. Their job is to stop the ends of chromosomes from fraying or sticking to each other, much like the plastic tips on the ends of shoelaces). Telomere length shortens with age, affecting health and lifespan. Studies have shown that those who incorporated healthy diet and lifestyle changes, such as meditation, may reduce excessive telomere shrinkage and perhaps even increase telomere length, thus slowing down aging.

Meditation, along with a combination of black, green, or white tea, has been found to activate alpha brain waves, and provide a significant health benefit too.

Dr. Christiane Northrup believes that we should do something pleasurable each and every day. She explains that taking time for pleasure and fun decreases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin, which are common risk factors for most chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and high blood pressure. 

The Blue Zones research also shows how chronic stress leads to inflammation and is the foundation for every age-related disease, including Alzheimer’s and dementia. Centenarians in the blue zones regions of the world have effective ways to manage stress on a daily basis. For Sardinians, this means a glass of wine and a chat with friends at the end of the day. For Seventh-Day Adventists in Loma Linda, this means a quiet nature walk during Sabbath. As an alternative to downshifting at happy hour, try meditating. Even just 10 minutes each day can improve your outlook and lower stress. 

I deeply admire Thich Nhat Hanh (it would take me three lifetimes of constant focus, to be half as “cool” as this man), and his book, “The Miracle of Mindfulness”, is wonderful, and particularly helpful with regards to breathing techniques. Who knew that breathing mindfully can be more important than food! The Loving-Kindness form of meditation that was created by researcher Emma Seppala (Stanford University), is terrific as well, and it takes less than 15 minutes a day. A video for her technique is to the right, and more background information can be found by clicking on the button below. 

Click here for a link to a Thich Nhat Hanh interview.
Click here for a teaching video from Thich Nhat Hanh.
Click here for an audio excerpt from “The Miracle of Mindfulness.”
Click here to learn more about Thich Nhat Hanh.

Sources: Dr. Dean Ornish, PCRM.org, Dr. Christiane Northrup, Dr. Michael Greger via Nutritionfacts.org, and Dan Buettner (Blue Zones)

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“The first element of true love is loving kindness. The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person.”  – Thich Nhat Hanh 

One of the most miraculous stories that I have ever heard on the power of love was told by the legendary Dr. Dean Ornish.
Dr. Ornish: “The study, by Robert Nerem, came out a while ago; it was in the journal Science. They put rabbits on a high-cholesterol diet assuming that they would all get heart disease. The rabbits were stacked in cages up to the ceiling, and they found that the ones up high got heart disease a lot more than the ones in the lower cages, which made no sense. They looked at the air circulation and other possible confounding factors. What they found was that the lab technician, who was short, would come in to feed the rabbits and would play with the ones in the lower cages because she could reach them, and she would ignore the ones in the higher cages. They repeated the study with genetically comparable rabbits fed the same diet, and they randomly divided the rabbits into two groups. With one group they would take the rabbits out of the cages, play with them, love them, and, unfortunately, eventually kill them (which is why I don’t do animal studies). They found that the rabbits that were touched, talked to, petted, and played with had 60% less atherosclerosis than those that were ignored, even though their serum cholesterol levels, heart rate, and blood pressure were comparable.”

Wow, Rabbits that were put on a high cholesterol diet, and treated with kindness and love, were 60% less likely to develop atherosclerosis. This groundbreaking study with its “accidental” finding, is explained in much greater detail by Dr. Kelli Harding, who wrote the book titled “The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness.” Click here here to learn more from Kelli Harding. 

Each one of us is a work in progress, and we are all surrounded by stress elements that seem to be unrelenting. I know first hand that finding joy or reasons to be happy can be a real challenge sometimes (especially during a pandemic!). Here are a few ideas from Dan Buettner and his remarkable “Blue Zones” research that may help in reducing stress, and promoting love and happiness: Get a Dog, Nurture your Religion or Spirituality, Volunteer more, Get Involved in your Community, Make New Friends, Eat Less Meat and Dairy, Eat More Veggies, and Know and Nurture your Purpose. Click here for for more information from the Blue Zones website on these and other habits for a happier, healthier life. 

Please remember as well that by adopting a plant based diet, you can save nearly 200 animal lives per year, and that animals are sentient beings who love to love too!

Sources: Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Kelli Harding, and Dan Buettner (The Blue Zones)

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