Plant-Based Medicine

2014 Paff AwardLike many physicians, I learned nothing about the possibility of disease prevention and treatment through diet in medical school. Actually, that is partially false; I did learn a couple things, but the things I learned were incorrect. In medical school, Dr. Arthur Agatston, creator of the South Beach diet, came to our class and lectured to us about the importance of meat based on the idea that cavemen ate meat several millenia prior. Immediately, the idea that ‘cavemen ate meat and because of that we should too’ was unsettling for me. The cavemen did a lot of things that we shouldn’t reenact today because they did (like incest, infanticide, murder, rape, theft, etc.). And what about our primate heritage? What happened to being 99% similar to chimpanzees, who eat a diet primarily of fruits and foliage?

It wasn’t until after I had finished medical school that a professor told me about a book called The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. After that conversation, I had even more cognitive dissonance: on one hand, Dr. Agatston said meat was good for health and even necessary, but on the other hand, The China Study said it was bad and superfluous for survival. At the same time, being in Miami, I was surrounded by the Paleo diet, which is like the South Beach diet except for the extent to which it excludes dairy, processed foods, and legumes. Over the ensuing months, I read The China Study along with many other books (including Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer), journal articles, and anything else I could find my hands on related to the subject. Given the stakes (for myself and potentially a lifetime of patients that I would encounter) and the diametrically opposite suppositions, I cross-checked the citations of any statements that were even remotely dubious. My bedroom in those days looked akin to a scene from A Beautiful Mind, with books laid open, papers strewn everywhere, and notebooks packed full with musings. Over time, I had amassed a small library of knowledge that was leading me to the same conclusion: meat is not part of the natural human diet and plant-based foods are the healthiest.

My foray into the subject started in the summer of 2012 and continues to this day. Although I am not looking up the same things I did back then, I continue to find new and controversial statements that occupy my time. Many of the articles (links below and here) that I have written are reflections of the understanding I’ve reached after delving into the literature for extended periods of time. I hope this blog, the articles I have written, and the resources that others have created assist you in your journey towards being healthier (and hopefully more plant-based!).

 

Advertisements