Men experiencing a high level of erectile dysfunction may hold the secret to dramatically reducing our nation’s health care costs and the burden to taxpayers. It’s a lot more than ED, of course, but ED is one of the early warning signs of cardiovascular disease, which has been a leading cause of death in most of the industrialized world. Bypass surgery, where a vein from the patient’s leg is removed and placed into the patient’s heart, can help extend a patient’s life, but is extremely costly: at about $100,000 per surgery. And both sexual dysfunction and cardiovascular disease can be traced back to our diets.
The documentary Forks Over Knives chronicles one of the biggest studies of human health in our history, an epidemiological masterpiece, covering decades and millions of people, and looking at the association between diet and disease. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, found astounding results looking at health care costs associated with poor diets. The accolades for the data-intensive epidemiological study:
The New York Times has recognized the study as the “Grand Prix of epidemiology” and the “most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease.”
What the study found was that health could be substantially improved simply by eating a plant based diet. The data were astoundingly clear, and the documentary shows that it cuts across people, geography, and other factors. It was true looking at wealthy vs. poor people in Indonesia, Chinese consumers first introduced to a western diet, or European countries which had to give up meat because of war. Factors associated with cardiovascular disease, as well as diabetes and cancer rates, drop when a processed foods and meat-based diet is replaced with a whole food, vegetable based one.
In Forks Over Knives, the storyline follows multiple people transitioning to a plant based diet. Among the benefits? 20, 30, and 50 pounds lost excess weight, greater energy, survival well beyond a doctor’s declaration of “you have a year to live”, lower cholesterol rates, and…superior performance.
Campbell’s study is quite simply one of the most conclusive studies every done, with clear benefits to society, taxpayers, and every person’s individual health.
The Times also notes: “Eating a lot of protein, especially animal protein, is also linked to chronic disease. Americans consume a third more protein than the Chinese do, and 70 percent of American protein comes from animals, while only 7 percent of Chinese protein does. Those Chinese who eat the most protein, and especially the most animal protein, also have the highest rates of the ‘diseases of affluence’ like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.” And, along with these, the less measured effects such as erectile dysfunction and sexual performance.
The findings also indicated incremental improvement, meaning that switching 100% to a diet of whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables might be the ideal, but that switching mostly to that sort of a diet also had great benefits. For instance, one major finding that has far reaching effects was that diet was singlehandedly a much stronger factor in cancer cell growth and development than ever before imagined possible. The growth of cancer cells were found to come and go with animal-based protein intake. As mice were fed a diet lacking casein (5% or less), the main protein found in milk, cancer cell growth simply abated. As they were then fed a diet with 20% casein, cancer cell growth sped up. When the mice were then fed 5% casein again, their cancer cell growth abated again.
When it comes down to economics, according to an analysis of the study by the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, “If we are looking to curb the high costs of health care in the U.S., it would seem that a first order of business is to increase our intake of whole fruits, vegetables and grains.” The physicians in the documentary believed that we could be looking at reductions of health care costs of 70-80%.
So obviously, we will be hearing this win-win breakthrough from our public health officials very soon, right? Not a chance. Consider the firestorm set off when the US Department of Agriculture tried to enact a “Meatless Monday” in their own headquarters. The National Cattlemen’s Association, one of the powerful lobbying organizations that has held the reins behind the scenes at USDA since the 1950s, virtually called for their heads, and the USDA quickly retracted the idea. According to the documentary, it’s these powerful lobbying organizations on behalf of factory farms and big agriculture that have pushed a meat and dairy intensive diet on us, demanded (and received) huge subsidies to keep corn, meat, and dairy cheap, and blurred the message of good nutrition by influencing everyone from the USDA down to scientists and professors teaching nutrition in schools across the country. As a personal side note, my nutrition professor my freshman year in college told us that vegetarianism was quite simply nutritionally inadequate. In addition, we got a full lecture on how feeding your children McDonald’s Happy Meals was full of the protein and iron they’d need to get through their day.
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