Diabetes Type 2 is a common and widespread disease and it is clearly related to overweight and obesity. The clinical manifestation of diabetes is also related to age. While only 2-3% of people under the age of 50 are afflicted, the prevalence of diabetes is rising continually with the progress of age. At an age of over 70 years, almost 20% are afflicted. So if we speak of a typical Person with diabetes, we think of an elderly person with long-time overweight. But in the last decades also younger people showed an increasing prevalence of diabetes. This may be due to an incline of obesity in our society and due to altered eating habits and less activity today.
While patients with diabetes often suffer under symptoms like chronic fatigue, polyuria and an increase of their thirst, diabetes itself can lead to other secondary illnesses in the long run. It weakens the immune-systems and makes the afflicted person more susceptible for systemic and local infections. It reduces the body’s capacity of healing, so that often time’s chronic wounds are prevalent. Furthermore Diabetes multiplies the risk of developing severe illnesses like stroke, heart-attack, kidney-failure and blindness.
This makes clear how essential it is, to treat the disease well and prevent further damage to the body. While older people often are treated with pills and if necessary also with insulin, especially younger people should be encouraged to change their lifestyle which can improve and in some cases even reverse their diabetes.
A recent study in England addressed the question, to what extend the loosing of weight can influence the diabetes. For this study they recruited 149 people at an age between 20 and 65 and a Body-Mass-Index between 27 and 45 that were diagnosed with non – Insulin – dependent Diabetes in the last 6 years. They gave them a special Formula-low-calorie-Diet which helped them to loose weight. Afterwards they got support in not gaining weight again. The participants of the study got no Diabetes-Medication at all. The results are astonishing: After 1 year 7% of 89 Persons that lost 0-5 kg decreased their diabetes, but already 34% of 56 Persons that had lost 5-10 kg completely reversed their diabetes! 28 people that lost 10-15 kg, 57% of them reversed their diabetes and with the 36 people that lost over 15 kg even 86% of them diabetes was completely reversed. The interesting thing was, that these effects were the same no matter how high the starting-level of obesity was. For example a person that lost from 130 to 115 kg had the same positive effects like a person that lost from 110 to 95 kg.
Altogether almost half of the participants of the study did not only reverse their diabetes, they also felt much better and gained more quality in life. These results are really encouraging and they shall activate us to motivate Patients in their efforts to adapt to a healthy lifestyle. We should support them in losing weight which by itself can lead to an improvement or even a reverse of diabetes. It will make them feel much better and prevent the emergency of secondary diseases. All together it is the healthiest, cheapest and most natural medication we can offer. Patients should be taught that it is worth it to take responsibility for your life and become active.
Source: Lean MEJ, et al. Durability of a primary care-led weight-management intervention for remission of type 2 diabetes: 2-year results of the DiRECT open-label, cluster-randomised trial. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol 2019;7:344–55.
A 1999 autopsy study of young adults in the US between the ages of 17 and 34 years of who died from accidents, suicides, and homicides confirmed that coronary artery disease (CAD) is ubiquitous in this age group. The disease process at this stage is too early to cause coronary events but heralds their onset in the decades to follow. These data are similar to those reported in an earlier postmortem analysis of US combat casualties during the Korean conflict, which found early CAD in nearly 80% of soldiers at an average age of 20 years. From these reports, which are 17 and 63 years old, respectively, it is clear that the foundation of CAD is established by the end of high school. Yet, medicine and public health leaders have not taken any steps to forestall or eliminate the early onset of this epidemic. Smoking cessation, a diet with lean meat and low-fat dairy, and exercise are generally advised, but cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the number one killer of women and men in the US. The question is, why? Unfortunately, such dietary gestures do not treat the primary cause of CVD. The same can be said of commonly prescribed cardiovascular medications such as beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, anticoagulants, aspirin, and cholesterol lowering drugs and medical interventions such as bare metal stents, drug-eluting stents, and coronary artery bypass surgery.
It is increasingly a shameful national embarrassment for the United States to have constructed a billion-dollar cardiac healthcare industry surrounding an illness that does not even exist in more than half of the planet. If you, as a cardiologist or a cardiac surgeon, decided to hang your shingle in Okinawa, the Papua Highlands of New Guinea, rural China,Central Africa, or with the Tarahumara Indians of Northern Mexico,you better plan on a different profession because these countries do not have cardiovascular disease. The common thread is that they all thrive on whole food, plant-based nutrition (WFPBN) with minimal intake of animal products.
By way of contrast, in the United States, we ignore CVD inception initiated by progressive endothelial injury, inflammatory oxidative stress, decreased nitric oxide production, foam cell formation, diminished endothelial progenitor cell production and development of plaque that may rupture and cause myocardial infarction or stroke. This series of events is primarily set in motion, and worsened, by the Western diet, which consists of added oils, dairy, meat, fish, fowl, and sugary foods and drinks —all of which injure endothelial function after ingestion, making food a major, if not the major cause of CAD.
In overlooking disease causation, we implement therapies that have high morbidity and mortality. The side effects of a plethora of cardiovascular drugs include the risk of diabetes, neuromuscular pain, brain fog, liver injury, chronic cough, fatigue, hemorrhage, and erectile dysfunction. Surgical interventions are fatal for tens of thousands of patients annually. Each year approximately 1.2 million stents are placed with a 1% mortality rate, causing 12,000 deaths, and 500,000 bypass surgeries are performed with a 3% mortality rate, resulting in another 15,000 deaths. In total, 27,000 patients die annually from these two procedures. It is as though in ignoring this dairy, oil, and animal-based illness, we are wedded to providing futile attempts at temporary symptomatic relief with drugs and interventional therapy, which employs an unsuccessful mechanical approach to a biological illness with no hope for cure. Patients continue to consume the very foods that are destroying them. This disastrous illness and ineffective treatments need never happen if we follow the lessons of plant-based cultures where CVD is virtually nonexistent.
2. Treating the cause
In 1985, I initiated a small study utilizing WFPBN in 24 patients who were severely ill with CAD. The moment of truth came a year later for a patient in his 50 s with significant vascular disease in his heart and right leg. At study onset, while crossing a skyway into the Cleveland Clinic he experienced claudication that forced him to stop and rest five times. Results of a pulse volume study revealed a markedly diminished right ankle pulse. Following nine months of WFPBN, all claudication had resolved, and a repeat pulse volume was double that of his baseline. As statin drugs were not yet available, this was proof of the concept that WFPBN alone can halt and reverse CVD.
After 12 years, we reviewed the CVD events of our 18 adherent patients. During the eight years prior to entering our study, while in the care of expert cardiologists, they had sustained 49 cardiac events, which was indicative of disease progression. In contrast, 17 of the 18 patients sustained no further events during the 12 years they spent in our study.
One patient who was initially adherent developed angina and required bypass surgery six years after resuming a Western diet. These findings illustrate the need for close adherence with WFPBN.
Twelve patients in our initial group had a follow-up angiogram. There was significant disease reversal in four of them, which suggests that WFPBN could not only eliminate future cardiac events but could also reverse angiographic disease. Even if significant angiographic reversal does not occur, patients can still benefit from more subtle improvements in the overall health of their endothelial cells and their capacity to produce nitric oxide, eliminating angina and future CVD events. Additionally, the robust antioxidant value of WFPBN diminishes oxidative inflammation in plaques and foam cells, thus strengthening the cap over the plaques.
A strengthened cap is unlikely to rupture, and adherent participants have been empowered to make themselves “heart attack proof” without the additional expense or risk of ineffective drugs, stents, or bypass surgery. In 2014, we conducted a second larger study of 198 patients with significant CAD. Of these patients, 119 had undergone a prior coronary intervention with stents or bypass surgery, and 44 had a previous heart attack. There were multiple comorbidities including hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. During four years of follow up, 99.4% of the participants who adhered to WFPBN avoided any major cardiac event including heart attack, stroke, and death, and angina improved or resolved in 93%. Of the 21 non-adherent participants, 13 (62%) experienced an adverse event. When comparing these results to the well- known COURAGE, and Lyon Diet Heart Study, which consisted of conventionally treated participants, there is beyond a 30-fold difference in major cardiovascular events favoring WFPBN.
In 1990, Ornish, et al.,, utilized a low-fat vegetarian diet without added oil and stress management instruction to arrest CAD and reverse angiographic disease, which was confirmed in subsequent publications. Earlier, in 1951, Strom and Jensen reported a profound decrease in circulatory diseases in Norway during WWII when the Germans confiscated the country’s livestock, forcing the Norwegians to subsist mostly on plant food. Results from both the On-Target Transcend trial investigators, and the Epic Oxford Study with more than 75,000 participants support the power of nutrition for primary and secondary CVD prevention.
In the early 1970s, Finland (and especially its eastern province of Karelia) was the heart disease capital of the world. Health authorities and local officials there became intent on educating the public on how to reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and intake of animal foods and stop smoking. This group reduced their intake of dietary saturated fat, increased vegetable consumption, and decreased their smoking rate from 52% to 31%. During the next 30 years, Karelia’s CAD disease rate plummeted by 85%. For Finland as a whole, CAD decreased by 80%.
Researchers at Cleveland Clinic under the direction of Stanley Hazen, which included Tang, Koeth, and Wang, studied the metabolism of lecithin and carnitine found in eggs, meat, milk and diary products, liver, shellfish, and fish. The intestinal microbiota of omnivores metabolizes these substances producing trimethylamine oxide (TMAO), which causes vascular injury. This investigation was a powerful validation for WFPBN because ingestion of these animal foods by persons who strictly consume plants produces no TMAO. In fact, plant eaters do not have intestinal bacteria capable of producing TMAO.
The totality of converging lines of evidence, including epidemiology, wartime deprivation, large nutritional cohort population transitioning studies, and randomized and non-randomized investigations point to nutrition as the principle etiological factor in atherosclerotic CVD.
3. What is withholding the cure?
For years, I have resisted making the suggestion that compensation could be an issue in decision-making. However, multiple lawsuits have arisen in cases where unnecessary stenting or bypass surgery was performed for nonexistent or minimal lesions., Results of multiple investigations consisting of thousands of patients all show that stenting in an emergency situation is lifesaving while at the same time fails to prolong life or protect against future heart attacks in most patients undergoing elective stent placement when compared with optimal medical therapy. It is particularly disingenuous for physicians to tell patients that they are a walking time bomb—frightening them into accepting a procedure fraught with potential morbidity and possible mortality that is also non-curative—after an angiogram confirms a 90% blockage. Present day angiography does not identify, and angioplasty does not treat, the lesions that are most likely to cause a heart attack.
Accepting the fact that most cardiovascular physicians are honest, caring, and compassionate, why do they resist WFPBN? Cardiovascular medicine practitioners receive essentially no nutrition education in medical school or postgraduate training. Therefore, they lack not only the skill set needed to help their patients modify their diets but also a basic awareness that plant- based nutrition can halt and reverse CVD. I recall a lawyer with CAD and angina who rapidly improved following WFPBN. He became quite angry after a follow-up visit to his cardiologist who said he knew WFPBN might be successful. The lawyer asked, “Why didn’t you offer it to me many months ago?” and the cardiologist replied, “In my experience patients won’t follow that program.” Where upon the lawyer stated, “That must be my decision, not yours.” It is not the message that is wrong but how and if the message is articulated that determines adherence and success.
Without a randomized controlled trial, can a physician feel secure recommending a plant-based option? Absolutely! Results from the COURAGE TRIAL confirmed that stenting in stable patients was not superior to optimal medical therapy. The prompt, powerful, and enduring effects of WFPBN were recorded by Massera, et al., who reported dramatic reversal of crippling angina in a man who refused medication or surgical procedures but agreed to WFPBN. The man can now run four miles without symptoms.
In summary, current palliative cardiovascular medicine consisting of drugs, stents, and bypass surgery cannot cure or halt the vascular disease epidemic and is financially unsustainable. WFPB can restore the ability of endothelial cells to produce nitric oxide, which can halt and reverse disease without morbidity, mortality, or added expense. As powerful as the data are, it is unconscionable not to inform the cardiovascular disease patient of this option for disease resolution. To begin to eliminate chronic illness, the public needs to be made aware that a pathway to this goal is through WFPBN.
This article is part of a Special Issue “A plant-based diet and cardiovascular disease”.
Guest Editors: Robert J Ostfeld & Kathleen E Allen
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Risks are everywhere. Every time you drive, you’re risking a car accident. Each time you have a conversation with someone, you risk a misunderstanding. In nearly everything we do, we taking a risk. Risks are unavoidable – they’re just a part of life – so the question boils down to what you do with those risks.
Let’s talk about health risks (we are Life & Health, after all). It might be easy to brush risks in this arena aside, given that everything seems to be a health risk. But really, more than anything else, is your health something you should be risking? Risk-taking health can lead to costly, lifelong issues, most commonly with your heart. That’s why we’re here to help guide you to lessen your risk for coronary heart disease (CHD).
You might be relieved to hear that the risk factors related to coronary heart disease are preventable.
The four major risk factors are:
High blood pressure
It’s been shown that, if you have any of the above risk factors, the possibility of having CHD is extremely high. In fact, around 80-90% of CHD patients have one of the four above health problems. Out of patients who have had a fatal outcome from CHD, 95% of those patients had one of those four major risk factors.
Risk #1: Diabetes
Exactly how much does CHD risk go up when we have diabetes? A study of cardiovascular risk of patients with diabetes showed that diabetes can increase the risk of both CHD and ischemic stroke, a blood vessel blockage in the brain, by two to four times.
Risk #2: Smoking
The most preventable major risk factor for CHD is smoking. Just by not smoking, you can lower the risk of CHD, as well as lessen the risk of other diseases, especially lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer. Never smoking in the first place is a great way to avoid one of the “big four” risk factors of heart disease. If you already smoke, don’t sweat it. It’s never too late to quit and the benefits are literally immediate.
Risk #3: High blood pressure
High blood pressure, or what clinicians call hypertension, is usually a diet-caused disease. High sodium in the diet, lack of exercise, and stress, all combine and result in high blood pressure. High blood pressure is the most common risk factor in the U.S. for death among females and comes in as the second leading risk factor for death in males. In short, the risks associated with high blood pressure are far too high to ignore. Blood pressure is very manageable by maintaining a diet low in sodium, refined sugars, and fats. Also, regular exercise will keep the heart in good shape and lower the risk of high blood pressure.
Risk #4: High cholesterol
When we screen for cholesterol, too often we get numbers above where the levels should be. There are many ways we can address high cholesterol, with diet playing a significant role. When we shop for groceries, we can lower our cholesterol levels by cutting out meats, dairy, and processed foods that contain unhealthy fats. Instead of those high-fat foods, choose heart-healthy foods such as fresh fruit, seeds, and tree nuts. These contain vitamins, essential minerals and the healthy fats that our hearts and various cells need.
The American Journal of Cardiology estimated that if just 5% of diabetes was prevented by lifestyle and diet changes, close to 30,000 incidents of heart failure could be avoided yearly. These smaller steps to lower risk can pay off when it matters. So what’s the consensus? Take less risks with your life and health so you can enjoy taking risks in other ways, like going on adventures, traveling to unknown places, and forming new relationships.
Does your faith impact not only your thinking, but also your mental and physical health? Several studies have examined the question, how faith influences our health. Professor Harold Koenig is leading the Centre for the Study of Religion/Spirituality and Health in Durham, North-Carolina. In a meta-study he and his team collected more than 1.200 scientific articles that were published after 1871 and that analysed the connection between faith and health*. 80% of the studies dealt with the question how faith afflicts the soul. He found out, that in most cases believers had a better psychological health compared to none-believers. The majority of believers could handle disappointments better, had a higher self-esteem and more confidence, and were more optimistic. To trust in a higher power can relieve the soul. Even if a person was affected by psychological illnesses, faith in God helped to deal with the situation. 70% of 444 studies showed, that faith can ease depression and can provide help for anxiety-disorders. In addition, believers were more likely to succeed in overcoming addictions than non-believers. With God at their side it was easier for patients to become free from alcohol than without him. So far the vast majority of the studies showed the positive effects of Christian faith on mental health. But Koenig also found out, that believers have advantages concerning their physical health. People who were believers had a lower blood-pressure, a better immune system, less heart diseases and – they lived longer. This was shown in over 82 studies! So this huge meta-study of 1200 studies showed significant positive effects of faith on human health – mental and physical health.
So even from a “worldly perspective” it is beneficial to believe in an almighty, loving God who is in control of our life. And beyond that, how much more hope and confidence brings the thought about God‘s promise to be with us and to provide a new heaven and a new earth for us.
But you may say “Wait a minute” – didn‘t Herold Koenig just speak of the effects of faith in general, no matter what you believe in? Does it matter, what I believe in?
The nature of faith
Nowadays many people think, that it doesn‘t matter what you believe, as long as you believe something. But is this really true? Let me give you an illustration: Imagine you are standing at the shore of a frozen lake and you want to cross the lake to get to the other side. The ice is only very thin, but your faith is very big! You have no doubt, that you can cross that lake and you feel very good about it! You are 100% sure, that you will make it and so you start running across the thin ice – but you don’t get very far until you crash through the ice and sink into the water. Now imagine you are standing at the shore of a frozen lake one more time, but this time it had been colder and the ice is two meters thick. But you are very fearful. You have only little faith. You don’t know if the ice will carry you. You can’t imagine how in the world you shall cross this lake. With trembling knees you put one foot in front of the other and you are sweating and praying to reach the other side. It almost seems like a miracle to you, that you finally crossed the lake and reached the other shore. – But the truth is: The ice was so thick, you could have crossed the lake in an 70 tons Abrams M1A2-battle-tank without any problem! So we see, that it does make a difference, what we trust in. It is important to build our faith on the truth and that is why Jesus said, that if we study his teachings, we will discover the truth and the truth will set us free. So faith and truth must be united. Jesus said, he is the one who shows the truth and he is the truth.
So, how does Jesus describe the essence of faith that he asks us to have?
Characteristics of biblical faith
At one point, when his disciples were struggling with disappointment and discouragement, Jesus told them very plainly: “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Mt 18:4)
So Jesus said, if you have faith, nothing that you ask will be impossible for you. If it is God‘s will, he can even move mountains for us! So biblical faith is believing in the utter power of God and his possibility to act in our lives! But what is special about the faith Jesus wants us to have? You have to believe in something, that you can’t see right now. The mountain is there. It is as big and as steady as before, but you believe that God can move this mountain. Additionally, you haven’t ever heard of something like this before! You believe in something, you can’t see now. The book of Hebrews gives us a definition of faith that expresses this fact. Hebrews 11:1 says: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” And in verse 6 it says: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe, that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
So the nature of faith is, that we put our trust in the promises of God, although we cannot see their fulfilling today! It is like walking with your eyes closed, but hand in hand with a person that you trust. Even though you can’t see the way that is ahead of you, you trust in your companion, and that he is leading you right as he is telling you where to go. As we look back on our experiences with God and on how we took little steps of faith, we can win confidence for the future, although it may be unclear to us. But God has promised, that he will lead us to the end. In Hebrews it also says very clearly, “that anyone who comes to God, must believe, that he exists and that he will reward the ones, who earnestly seek him.” Of course, it only makes sense to believe, if we are sure, that God exists, but the text says, that it is equally important, that we believe in a God who is good and who will reward the ones that seek him. Many people are not sure, if God is good or not, but it is essential to believe in a gracious and loving God! We have the promise, that if we seek, we will find him (Mt 7:7). If we search for truth with all our heart, we will find it! Jesus said, God is like a father who is waiting for us to come home and for this reason he was willing to give his most precious gift for us.
But what does this faith in God‘s promises look like? How does it influence our lives?
Examples of faith
I am so glad, that there are many examples of people in the bible that show us how to grow in faith. We can read many exciting stories, that tell us the experiences, the fortitude and the weaknesses of men and women of faith, and that show how gracious God was with those people and how he led them in their lives. We will notice, that their challenges were in essence oftentimes very similar to ours and that they gave us an example from which we can learn many lessons for our own lives.
One of those examples is Joseph. First he was sold as a slave to Egypt and then he was put into prison because of his loyalty to God and to his master. Surely, it wouldn‘t have been easy for me, if I had been in his position. But the real test came, when the cupbearer in prison promised Joseph to help him to get out of prison as soon as he was free – but then nothing happened. Joseph had to wait in prison for two more years. I‘m sure, that this was a very hard test of faith. Probably Joseph was tempted to give up. I would have asked myself: Why does nothing happen? But Joseph didn’t lose his faith! And God rewarded his loyalty. After many years of endurance, none other than the pharaoh himself called him out of prison and Joseph found himself to become the second most powerful man in Egypt! We also see, that Joseph‘s character changed throughout his life for the good through endurance and trust in God’s guidance, and that God prepared him through all the years for the work he wanted him to do. There are many other examples of faith in the bible: David, who was fighting Goliath, the giant, with just a slingshot and five stones. Or Daniel‘s three friends, who were rather willing to be thrown into the oven, than to worship the golden image of Nebukadnezar. But in the fire Jesus was with them and only their chains burned up. I‘m sure most of you will remember a person in the bible, that is a shining example of faith for you personally.
One outstanding example for me is the widow, that was willing to give her last bread to the prophet Elijah, although she and her son had nothing left for themselves. And even though she only knew very little about God, God rewarded her faith and worked a miracle: bread and oil in her house multiplied from that day on and God provided for her needs. But before this happened, she was tested whether she was willing to give the last thing she had to God. For me this is a good example of living faith. God can only put something into our hands, if we are willing to let go and open our hands first. Only then God can refill them. If the widow hadn’t given Elijah her last bread, probably no miracle would have taken place. If the disciples hadn’t decided to follow Jesus and leave their work and family, they wouldn’t have changed like they did. I think faith always requires to put our life into God’s hand no matter what and to take the risk to obey him.
The greatest example of such faith is found in the life of Jesus. His whole life was a ministry for God and mankind. I am especially astonished by the scene in Gethsemane, when Jesus prayed three times: “My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Mt 26:39). Jesus was terrified when he thought of the sacrifice that he was about to bring, especially that the sin of the whole world should be laid upon him. But he was putting the will of his father first, entrusting his own life entirely to him! Even though his feelings were totally contrary, he was willing to do his father‘s will and to trust him, that his way is the best. I think this simple prayer shows what faith in summary is like – submitting our will to God‘s will: “Father your will be done!” A modern author puts it this way: “Faith means, to lay our plans into God‘s hands” (EGW). – Are we willing to do that today?
We have been looking at the benefits of faith for body and soul at the beginning of this article. As I write I can even feel the benefit of thinking about the principles of biblical faith. It is encouraging to see, that the people in the bible also started with little steps of faith and that their faith grew through persistence, despite of the personal weaknesses they had. And so it is with us: by acting out faith it will grow and show its positive effects in our lives today.
* Harold G. Koenig, “Religion, Spirituality, and Health: The Research and Clinical Implications”, ISRN Psychiatry Volume 2012, Article ID 278730, 33 pages