Dr. NEAL BARNARD, first speaker interviewd today, the 5th day of the summit.
On Diabetes: "It was an entirely plant based diet, loaded with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and rice as part of it. It was very low in fat and the animal products were gone. Several things happened. People lost weight very well. Their cholesterol levels improved but what the diabetes community cared about a lot was that their blood sugars improved so much that many people ended up reducing their medications and in some cases the diabetes was no longer even detectable. I think it was 2009 The American Diabetes Association started siting two of our research studies actually in their clinical practice recommendations that go out to clinicians every year. So they recognize that this is a good way to go and we are grateful for that. We have a long way to go though, giving clinicians these tools and helping people understand it, but we hear every day from people whose diabetes is improving just dramatically. More important, when people make diet changes, it can be that they can even prevent this disease from starting in the first place." ~ Dr. Neal Barnard
Words of the Food Revolution Summit:
Dr. Neal Barnard, who serves as founder and president of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), is an esteemed clinical researcher with a particular expertise in plant-based nutrition. Here are a few highlights from his interview:
“When women consume soy, their risk of breast cancer is reduced by about 30%. And women who have had cancer and consume soy have a 30% reduction in their rates of the cancer coming back.”
“We have to think big. We need to make personal choices, but we also need to think societal change. The price we’re paying is enormous… The environment is deteriorating more rapidly than anyone had thought. And too many people are dying.”
Towards that end, Dr. Barnard described several societal changes that could have huge impact.
“The Geico insurance company has instituted plant-based diets at 10 of their 13 facilities across the US, and we’re tracking the results,” he commented.
What would happen if corporate America recognized the health insurance savings that could be realized by encouraging healthy food choices? Could it save money and improve employee productivity? Could it help to reduce skyrocketing healthcare costs, make businesses more competitive, and even improve the economy?
Dr. Barnard also has a prescription for uplifting the health of America’s poorest, and least healthy, communities: “We want to stop food deserts by limiting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamps program to cover foods that are healthy. That will force retailers to stock healthy foods in low income communities.”
Forty six million Americans now depend on the SNAP program. Many of the convenience stores in low income neighborhoods stock only highly processed and packaged foods with long shelf lives. If SNAP was amended to exclude purchases of junk food, just as it already excludes purchases of alcohol and tobacco, the health outcomes for the lowest income communities could improve dramatically.
(If you’re interested in knowing more, check out this recent article about a bill in Florida intended to accomplish just that): http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jan/29/nation/la-na-food-stamps-20120130
The following is an excerpt of the interview:
Ocean Robbins: Welcome to The Food Revolution Summit where we explore how you can heal your body and your world with food. This is Ocean Robbins and I am joined now by my dad, John Robbins, in welcoming our guest Dr. Neal Barnard. Clinical researcher and author Dr. Neal Barnard is one of Americas leading advocates for health, nutrition and higher standards in medical research. He is the President of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine and an Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC. Dr. Barnard has authored dozens of scientific publications as well as fifteen books for lay readers including The New York Times bestseller, 21 Day Weight Loss Kick Start; Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol and Dramatically Improve Your Health. So now, Dr. Barnard, my dad and I are so excited to have this time with you. Here to welcome you onto this call and interview you is my dad, John Robbins.
John Robbins: Thank you Ocean and I join Ocean and I join all of our listeners, Neil, in welcoming you. I feel privileged to know you as a friend and a colleague and I am really grateful to have you hear with us on The Summit.
Can you tell our listeners about the overall work and the mission of PCRM?
Dr. Neal Barnard:Yes, well we got started in 1985 and we promote preventative medicine which really means for us good nutrition. We also do clinical research studies as you mentioned. We have done quite a lot on diabetes and weight loss and cholesterol. We have done studies on the applications of it, how do you make this work in your work place for example? Or how can you make this work in an office practice? We have done a number of pain studies as well; headache pain, joint pain, menstrual pain those kinds of things. We also want research to be done better, meaning more ethical. So we promote alternatives to the use of animal research and we really are trying to push that enterprise. Those are all things that we are involved in.
John Robbins: Have you ever been question on the grounds that you advocate a vegan diet because of your concern for the animals, regardless of the actual health finds? Do you ever get that type of an attack?
Dr. Neal Barnard: You mean when we publish in the medical journals or something like that?
John Robbins: Yes.
Dr. Neal Barnard: No. No we don’t and there are a couple of reasons for that. By the way, let me say that concern for animals is a really good thing and I wish everybody had it because it would be a better world. I wish that I had it earlier in life because I have often reflected about the times when I drove cattle to slaughter as I mentioned and then we hunted as kids. We did a lot of things that frankly now that I am a little older and maybe wiser I really wouldn’t do. But concern about animals is a good thing and having said that, when we do a clinical trial and if we are using a vegetarian diet and if somebody were to say, “Well you are concerned about the animals.” When NIH looked at our protocol, it all goes through a process of independent peer review that is extremely rigorous and our statistics and our results are all done by people who are unbiased and we would say that are masked to the research. When they are evaluating the blood tests and so forth, they don’t know who is in what diet group. So it is without bias and then when we publish, that particular trial yielded I think six or seven separate research publications in the top journals, The American Diabetes Association published it in its journal first followed by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and The American Dietetic Association journals and several others. It all goes through rigorous peer review and you have to do your work objectively.