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Dr. Ayala

Dr. Ayala
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
V.P. Product Development
Herbal Water
I’m a physician (Pediatrics and Medical Genetics), artist, and mother of 3 school age active kids. I recently co-founded Herbal Water Inc. (www.herbalwater.com) with my husband, Albert. I am a serious home cook, and love to entertain. My expertise is vegetarian food (I have been a vegetarian all my life). I strongly believe that eating healthy and enjoying good food go hand in hand. My main interests are science, nutrition and art, and I am overall a very curious person that tries to learn something new every day. Dr. Ayala (Ayala Laufer-Cahana M.D.)


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Editor’s Pick
JUNE 15, 2011 9:22AM

Forks Over Knives: Can a Plant Based Diet Reverse Disease?

Rate: 8 Flag
“Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” Douglas Adams

There’s no doubt in my mind that the western diet – characterized as highly processed, animal product rich, sugary, fatty and salty – is bad for our health. Its spread is closely followed by a huge rise in the incidence of obesity and several “western” chronic diseases such as heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

Traditional diets and especially plant based diets are associated with much healthier populations and lower risk of many diseases. Ample amounts of evidence show that.

Since I know that a whole foods, plant based diet is the best nutrition advice we can come up with, and I’m a lifelong vegetarian (for a multitude of reasons, the main one being animal welfare) I expected Lee Fulkerson’s documentary “Forks Over Knives” to be music to my ears.


Forks Over Knives

Forks Over Knives follows the research and personal journeys of nutrition scientist Dr. T. Colin Campbell (The China Study) and surgeon Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. Campbell and Esselstyn independently came to the conclusion that abandoning the American diet and maintaining cholesterol levels well below those historically recommended by health policy experts on a plant based diet can prevent and even reverse heart disease and other illnesses.

The movie is peppered with engaging personal tales of people whose lives were changed by a plant-based diet: A diabetic mother, a diabetic, hypercholesterolemic meat-loving landscaping company owner, a vegan mixed martial artist, and the film’s writer and director, Fulkerson, himself – his Red Bulls and soda habit lead to less than stellar lab results. Vegans, we learned, not only are healthy, some of them are really cool and really strong.

The vibrancy on the 70 something year-old vegan doctors and their plant-eating patients and the beauty of the rainbow-colored veggie fruit and grain dishes are in sharp contrast to the footage of obese, sickly, tired people and greasy super-sized unappetizing meaty food.

Forks Over Knives advocates an idea I generally believe to be true. It is a rather entertaining film, and definitely good food for thought.

However, it falls short on nuance, balance and hard facts and pushes a strict vegan way of life beyond what the science presented can support. Here are a few of my qualms:

• Where are the nuts?

The first question that comes to mind when watching a movie about food-as-cure is what’s the recipe? Forks Over Knives isn’t very clear on what the various people shown in the movie are eating. Prominent in their visual absence are the nuts – a mainstay of many plant based diets. I suppose nuts and seeds aren’t mentioned because Dr. Esselstyn’s diet, which arrested and even reversed severe coronary disease, I found out when I pulled out his study, is a very low fat vegan diet, which eliminates not only all animal products including eggs and dairy (except non-fat milk and yogurt), but also nuts, avocados and all vegetable oils. No extra virgin olive oil in this one. Perhaps sharing these details would have made this food-cure less tenable and less of a no-brainer, and that’s why the details weren’t presented.

Dean Ornish’s study, not mentioned in the movie, is an interesting comparison. Ornish’s regimen, which includes stress reduction through yoga and meditation, a low-fat vegetarian diet, smoking cessation, and regular exercise, also not only stopped the progression of coronary artery disease in the 20 patients in the treatment group, but also reversed some of it. The Ornish diet is very similar to the Esselstyn diet, but allows for some nonfat dairy products -- skim milk, nonfat yogurt, nonfat cheeses, nonfat sour cream, and egg whites. (Nuts and oils are out in the Ornish regimen, too.)

What the Esselstyn and Ornish diets have in common is not only very low intake of animal products and lots of wholesome plants – they’re both very low fat diets.

• Could food be the only medicine we need?

Although it is not explicitly said, the movie gives the notion that a plant based diet is all you need to reach a cure. The patients depicted gladly abandon all their diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol lowering meds upon adopting the lifestyle. (Dr. Esselstyn does note that in acute cases a coronary bypass is necessary).

However, in Dr. Esselstyn long term study, on which much of the movie relies, the patients* with severe coronary artery disease were on cholesterol-reducing medications as well as on a plant-based diet. The combination of diet and drugs is what got Dr. Esselstyn’s patients to a blood cholesterol of 150 mg/dL and to no repeat heart events.

• If high amounts of animal food are bad, does it prove that we should eat none at all?

If a little is good, more isn’t necessarily better (think vitamin toxicity), and I don’t think it’s self-evident that if meat consumption is correlated with disease – which is what the China Study showed – consuming any amount of animal products is harmful.

And although Dr. Esselstyn had remarkable results in his study of 17 heart patients on a low fat vegan diet, since there was no non-vegan control group, we can't really conclude that veganism cured his patient’s arteries.

• Can a plant based diet cure metastatic breast cancer?

Perhaps the most disturbing bit in Forks Over Knives was the story of Ruth Heidrich, a breast cancer survivor now in her 70s, 30 years after the diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. Ruth, a six-time Ironman Triathlon finisher, tells a story of miraculous healing through a vegan diet and exercise. This, unfortunately, is an anecdote – there are no studies showing that a vegan diet alone can treat breast cancer. Suggesting a vegan diet can cure cancer is dangerous and irresponsible, especially when the movie features several authoritative medical doctors and scientists.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants

I was glad I came to Forks Over Knives already “sold” on a plant-based diet, because the movie oversold plant-based diets to the point in which those of us not already in the choir might not think of joining.

Michael Pollan’s less assured and more moderate recipe for healthy eating, summed succinctly in “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”, has, I think, much more of a chance of changing people’s mind and behavior.

Between the convenience-foods/fast-food diet and the strict vegan diet there are many shades of green. Adopting a more wholesome plant-based diet isn’t an all or nothing choice, and you can definitely eat for pleasure – and not just for health – while eating mostly plants. 

Forks Over Knives reminds us of the prevention and healing powers of a healthy diet – a power that can’t be denied. I’ll need lots more proof before I believe in fairies, but the garden sure is beautiful!

Dr. Ayala

*Dr. Esselstyn’s study group initially included 22 participants, 5 dropped out within 2 years, 11 completed 5.5 years of follow-up; at 10 years 6 people were still on the diet.


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Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn sound like they are more in the business of self promotion than promoting physical fitness. I saw my cousin Sunday who I had not seen in years and he looked at me quizzically and told me I was unnatural. I smoke and am 51 with a full head of black hair, a 32 inch waste, and 16 inch biceps. I do not work out regularly and never have. I eat mostly meat. My cholesterol count was 125 a couple of months ago and now they have found Hepatitis C in my blood that only could have come from a transfusion in 1989. I have never suffered no ill effects from it and only the blood bank picked it up. My point being that metabolism is different for each individual just because a vegetarian diet is good for you it does not mean it will be good for me. In fact it may kill me or worse yet bring about the onset of old age. There is no doubt that Americans eat garbage and are “loving it” that is why we have a 30.6% obesity rate in this country the next runner-up is Mexico’s 24.2%. Americans are disgusting fat body’s (just look at the trailer for the movie featuring the queen of disgusting fat body's Oprah the pig). If Americans ever learned to push their chair away from the table when they were full and only eat when they were hungry they would live far more fulfilling lives.
Thanks for this. I can attest that Ornish's diet is quiet restrictive and I don't think I could stay on it very long. A more moderate approach without meat yet with some dairy, nuts and seeds makes more sense for a long term lifestyle changes.
The following points and facts are excerpted from Please Don't Eat the Animals (2007) by the mother-daughter writing team of Jennifer Horsman and Jaime Flowers:

"Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."

--Albert Einstein

"Each year, the meat industrial complex abuses and butchers nearly 9 billion cows, pigs, sheep, turkeys, chickens, and other innocent, feeling animals just for the enjoyment of consumers.

"Each year, nearly 1.5 million of these consumers are crippled and killed prematurely by heart failure, cancer, stroke, and other chronic diseases that have been linked conclusively with the consumption of these animals.

"Each year, millions of other animals are abused and sacrificed in a vain search for a 'magic pill' that would vanquish these largely self-inflicted diseases."

--Alex Hershaft, PhD, president, Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM)

When analyzing 8,300 deaths in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany among 76,000 men and women in five different, large studies, researchers concluded that vegetarians have a 24 percent reduction in death from heart disease.

Similarly, in the famous Oxford Vegetarian Study, where 6,000 vegetarians were compared with 5,000 meat-eaters over nearly two decades, scientists found that the rate of death from heart disease was 28 percent lower in vegetarians than in meat-eaters.

One study analyzed eighty scientific studies in leading medical journals. The analysis found that vegetarians had lower blood pressure, and were less likely to suffer from stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure.

A large German study of nearly 2,000 vegetarians found that deaths from heart disease were reduced by over one-third, and that heart disease itself was far less than that of the general population.

Another large study examined the coronary artery disease risk of young adults ages 18 to 30 and vegetarians were found to have much higher levels of cardiovascular fitness and a greatly reduced risk of heart disease.

"The process of gradual blocking of the coronary arteries begins not in adulthood but in childhood...and the main cause of this arteriosclerosis is the steadily increasing amount of fat in the American diet, particularly saturated animal fats such as those found in meat, chicken, milk and cheeses.

"If there was another disease that caused half a million deaths a year, you can be sure that the public would be acutely aware of the danger, and that the cure or prevention would be universally practiced."

--Dr. Benjamin Spock, author, child expert

"I don't understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic, while it is medically conservative to cut people open and put them on powerful cholesterol-lowering drugs for the rest of their lives."

--Dr. Dean Ornish, author, Reversing Heart Disease

Stroke is the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. Vegetarians have a 20 to 30 percent reduced risk of having a stroke. Stroke, like heart disease, is associated with diets high in saturated fats, and the vegetarian diet is naturally low in these fats.

The Oxford Vegetarian Study found cancer mortality to be 39 percent lower among vegetarians when compared with meat-eaters. The European Prospective Investigation of Cancer found vegetarians suffer 40 percent fewer cancers than the general population.

Studies have shown that decreasing a woman's animal fat intake can reduce the chances that she will die from breast cancer. A large-scale, long-term study in the Netherlands found a powerful connection between the amount of animal fat consumed and the rate of prostate cancer. A review of a dozen studies found dietary fat strongly correlated with prostate cancer.

Ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancers have all been shown to be strongly correlated to the amount of animal fat in one's diet, and vegetarian women have significantly lower rates of these cancers.

"The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all the natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined."

---Dr. Neal Barnard, Executive Director, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)

"Vegetarians have the best diet. They have the lowest rate of coronary disease of any group in the country. They have a fraction of our heart attack rate and they have only 40 percent of our cancer rate."

---William Castelli, MD, Director, Framingham Heart Study

"Human beings are not natural carnivores. When we kill animals to eat them, they end up killing us because their flesh, which contains cholesterol and saturated fat, was never intended for human beings..."

---Dr. William Roberts, editor-in-chief, American Journal of Cardiology

Les Brown of the Overseas Development Council calculates that if Americans reduced their meat consumption by only ten percent per year, it would free at least twelve million tons of grain for human consumption--or enough to feed sixty million people.
Thanks for the comment! I agree that there are many ways to eat healthy.

I feel obligated as a doctor to be a bore and say that smoking – in any amount – is harmful.
I have to again ask, "How are the animals fed?" "How are they raised?" People get sick (and get diseases) from eating sick animals. Eating a plant based diet of conventionally grown produce isn't getting anyone ahead of the game. One has to consider pesticides, genetically modified organisms and the affect they have on the body. Agreed, processed food is the culprit of obesity in this country but not grass fed beef, not organically grown chickens, not pastured pork, not animals free of anitibiotics and hormones, not animals raised in their natural environments eating what they were designed to eat. Not all grains are created equal either. People often wonder why they cannot lose weight, believing counting calories, fat grams, etc. is the answer. They will avoid meat, eating soy and it's products, along with a plant based diet and cannot understand why they cannot lose weight. "They" was "I" at one time.
Educating the public is one thing, but please include all of the facts, not the ones that support a particular lifestyle.
A balanced approach is always ideal. I myself have been flirting with the idea of going veganish for a while now, but balance can be difficult for an all-or nothing type like me. The hardest thing about adopting a healthier lifestyle is getting everyone else on board with you. If your husband/children/friends/etc. either don't believe the "hype" or are unable to change their ways then it's an uphill battle. If there's one thing people can't stand is to be around some do-gooder who makes them feel bad about their own choices...sad but true. However, I am always making small changes and moving closer to a better eating habits even with all my obstacles. Your posts help keep me mindful. Thanks.
for years, I ate a whole foods diet. mostly plants, healthy oils, low sweets. I rode 2000 mi/yr on bike. then I started getting a gut. my triglycerides hit 420. went on low fat whole food diet. trig hit 650 in 3 months. weight went up bu 10ish pounds. switched to low carb diet. ate more meat than usual. trigs come down, weight came down felt better. but still weight was hard to manage. turned out to be pre-diabetes. my failure to process insulin and carbs raised my triglycerides which gave me the classic "5 months pregnant" look.

great result from eating "mostly plants"

today, I manage my blood sugar by limiting carbs. almost any seed based food is off limits. I eat 80-100 gr of animal protein/day 20-40 gr of carbs per meal and 1800 cals/day.

1/2 cup cooked brown rice = 22 carbs 100 cals

if one eats "mostly plants" the carb limit is reached but there is a 350+ calorie deficit. 9 tsp of olive oil can make up the calorie shortfall but I'd rather enjoy eating.

I assert those advocating vegetarianism for health conditions are putting religion before science. when dr's do this, it is malpractice. learn how the body works before planning your diet.
The health advantages of a vegetarian diet are well-known in the American medical community, but are just beginning to gain acceptance in mainstream society.

The ethical, nutritional and environmental arguments in favor of vegetarianism have been well documented by author John Robbins in his 1987 Pulitzer Prize nominated book, Diet for a New America, which makes veganism seem as reasonable and mainstream as recycling.

It’s healthier to be a vegetarian. During the period of October 1917 to October 1918, war rationing forced the Danish government to put its citizens on a vegetarian diet. This was a “mass experiment in vegetarianism,” with over three million subjects.

The results were astonishing. The mortality rate dropped by 34 percent. The very same phenomenon was observed in occupied Norway during the Second World War. After the war, heavy consumption of meat resumed, and the mortality rate shot up. again.

Studies done at Yale University by Professor Irving Fisher demonstrated that flesh-eaters have less endurance than vegetarians. A similar study done by Dr. J. Ioteyko of the Academie de Medicine in Paris found that vegetarians have two to three times more stamina than flesh-eaters and they take only one-fifth the time to recover from exhaustion.

In recent years, there has been widespread concern about osteoporosis, which is epidemic in America, especially among older women. The popular myth has been to solve the problem by consuming more calcium. Yet this doesn’t attack the root of the problem.

Osteoporosis is caused by excess consumption of protein. Americans overdose on protein, getting 1.5 to 2 times more protein than their bodies can handle. The body can’t store excess protein, so the kidneys are forced to excrete it. In doing so, they must draw upon calcium from the bloodstream. This negative calcium balance in the blood is compensated for by calcium loss from the bones: osteoporosis. The calcium lost in the bones of flesh-eaters is five to six times greater than that lost in the bones of vegetarians.

Excessive protein intake also taxes the kidneys; in America, it is not uncommon to find many over 45 with kidney problems. A strong correlation between excessive protein intake and cancer of the breast, prostate, pancreas and colon has even been observed.

It must be pointed out that meat, fish, and eggs are the most acidic forming foods; heavy consumption of these foods will cause the body to draw upon calcium to restore its pH balance. The calcium lost from the bones gets into one’s urine and often crystallizes into kidney stones, which are found in far greater frequency among flesh-eaters than among vegetarians. Studies have found that vegetarians in the United States have less than half the kidney stones of the general population.

The high consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol leads to artherosclerosis—more popularly known as “hardening of the arteries.” Plant foods contain zero cholesterol and only palm oil, coconuts and chocolate contain saturated fats. Lowering the cholesterol and fat intake in one’s diet lowers the risk of heart disease—America’s biggest killer.

As far back as 1961, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported: “A vegetarian diet can prevent 97% of our coronary occlusions.”

So much has been said about the advantage of polyunsaturated fats as a means of lowering cholesterol in the blood. Unfortunately, this also has the adverse side effect of driving the cholesterol out of the blood and into the colon; contributing to colon cancer. The only realistic way to prevent heart disease is to avoid foods high in fat and cholesterol.

Up to fifty percent of all cancers are caused by diet. Meat and fat intake are primarily responsible. The incidence of colon cancer is high in regions where meat consumption is high and low where meat consumption is minimal. A lack of fiber in the diet also contributes significantly to colon cancer.

Unprocessed plant foods are high in fiber and carbohydrates, while animal flesh has none. The highest incidence of breast cancer occurs among flesh-eating populations; meat eating women have a four times greater risk of developing breast cancer than do vegetarian women. There is also a greater risk of cervical, uterine, and ovarian cancer—all linked to diets high in fat. Men who consume large quantities of animal fat also have a 3.6 times greater risk of getting prostate cancer.

Diabetes is known to be treatable on a low fat, high fiber diet. Incidence of diabetes balloons among populations eating a rich, meat-based diet. Hypoglycemia is caused by the excessive consumption of meats, sugar and fat. Multiple Sclerosis is also treatable on a low-fat diet. MS is prevalent among populations where consumption of animal fats is high and is least common where such consumption is low. A brain tissue analysis of people with MS found a high saturated fat content.

Ulcers occur most frequently in diets which are acid forming, low in fiber and high in fats. Meat, fish, and eggs are the most acid forming of all foods, and animal flesh has no fiber and excess fat. Low fiber, high-fat diets are the principle cause of hemorrhoids and also diverticulosis—which affects 75 percent of Americans over the age of 75. Similarly, 35 percent of Americans are afflicted with some form of arthritis by the age of 35. Over 85 percent of all Americans over age 70 have arthritis, yet it is treatable on a fat free diet.

Excess cholesterol forms gallstones. Gallstones, as well as gallbladder disease and gallbladder cancer are usually found in people with low-fiber, high cholesterol, high fat diets. Hypertension is virtually unknown in countries where the intake of salt, fat and cholesterol is low. At the University Hospital in Linkoping, Sweden, even severe asthma patients were found to be treatable on a vegetarian diet. Flesh foods in America are also contaminated with coliform bacteria and salmonella. Much healthier alternatives exist.

William S. Collens and Gerald B. Dobkens conclude: “Examination of the dental structure of modern man reveals that he possesses all the features of a strictly herbivorous animal. While designed to subsist on vegetarian foods, he has perverted his dietary habits to accept food of the carnivore. It is postulated that man cannot handle carnivorous foods like the carnivore. Herein may lie the basis for the high incidence of arteriosclerotic disease.”

The Ladrone Islands were discovered by the Spaniards around 1620. There were no animals on the islands except birds, which the natives did not eat. The natives had never seen fire, and they lived entirely on plant foods—fruits and roots in their natural state. They were found to be vigorous, active, and of good longevity.

In a 1979 interview with vegetarian historian Rynn Berry, Dr. Gordon Latto notes that carnivorous and omnivorous animals can only move their jaws up and down, and that omnivores “have a blunt tooth, a sharp tooth, a blunt tooth, a sharp tooth—showing that they were destined to deal both with flesh foods from the animal kingdom and foods from the vegetable kingdom...

“Carnivorous mammals and omnivorous mammals cannot perspire except at the extremity of the limbs and the tip of the nose; man perspires all over the body. Finally, our instincts; the carnivorous mammal (which first of all has claws and canine teeth) is capable of tearing flesh asunder, whereas man only partakes of flesh foods after they have been camouflaged by cooking and by condiments.

“Man instinctively is not carnivorous,” explains Dr. Latto. “...he takes the flesh food after somebody else has killed it, and after it has been cooked and camouflaged with certain condiments. Whereas to pick an apple off a tree or eat some grain or a carrot is a natural thing to do: people enjoy doing it; they don’t feel disturbed by it. But to see these animals being slaughtered does affect people; it offends them. Even the toughest of people are affected by the sights in the slaughterhouse.

“I remember taking some medical students into a slaughterhouse. They were about as hardened people as you could meet. After seeing the animals slaughtered that day in the slaughterhouse, not one of them could eat the meat that evening.”

Author R.H. Wheldon writes in No Animal Food:

“The gorge of a cat, for instance, will rise at the smell of a mouse or a piece of raw flesh, but not at the aroma of fruit. If a man can take delight in pouncing upon a bird, tear its still living body apart with his teeth, sucking the warm blood, one might infer that Nature had provided him with carnivorous instinct, but the very thought of doing such a thing makes him shudder. On the other hand, a bunch of luscious grapes makes his mouth water, and even in the absence of hunger, he will eat fruit to gratify taste.”

Some argue that human intelligence has enabled man to transcend his physical limitations and function as a “natural” flesh-eater. If this is true, then we must also classify napalm, poison gas, and nuclear weapons as “natural,” too, because they are also products of (misused!) human intelligence.

Agriculture , cookery, transportation, refrigeration, etc. aren’t found in nature, either. One might therefore argue if human technology is “natural,” then human ethical behavior is equally natural.

“I am the very opposite of an anthropomorphizer,” said writer Brigid Brophy, who passed away in 1995, and was known for her formidable intellect, especially with animal rights issues.. “I don’t hold animals superior or even equal to humans.

"The whole case for behaving decently towards animals rests on the fact that we are the superior species. We are the species uniquely capable of rationality, imagination and moral choice, and that is precisely why we are under obligation to respect the rights of other creatures.”

Predators exist in the wild, but should man imitate them? Anglican priest Reverend V.A. Holmes-Gore, author of Those We Have not Loved, noted in the middle of the 20th century, that if we humans imitate everything that goes on in nature, we'll find ourselves practicing cannibalism and rape.

Robert Louis Stevenson, in his book, In the South Seas, wrote that there was no difference between the “civilized” Europeans and the “savages” of the Cannibal Islands:

“We consume the carcasses of creatures with like appetites, passions, and organs as our own. We feed on babes, though not our own, and fill the slaughterhouses daily with screams of pain and fear.”
@Vasu Murti

"""Diabetes is known to be treatable on a low fat, high fiber diet. Incidence of diabetes balloons among populations eating a rich, meat-based diet. Hypoglycemia is caused by the excessive consumption of meats, sugar and fat. """

this is a blatant lie. Research shows that it is excessive carbohydrates that lays the groundwork for diabetes. consuming less than 180 g of carbohydrates per day is a key component in delaying or preventing diabetes.

high carbohydrate consumption causes a rapid swing in blood sugar levels, insulin production and cell reactions. It can cause hypoglycemic events and high triglycerides which in turn creates excess body fat. high levels of carbohydrates can also cause systemic inflammation which can lead to thickening of the arteries and plaque formation.

Research by real medics published in high-quality peer reviewed journals can educate you about this and other properties of the human body. Like I said earlier, vegetarianism is religion disguised as science. It appears to use "proof by repeated assertion" to justify its points.

If you follow journals, here's a couple of upcoming surprises. Whole fat dairy products contain elements that help coronary health. Fat in general is not the "bad" thing it used to be because it only makes you fat because it's calorie dense not because it has some sort of magical "law of similars" property. It doesn't increase cholesterol, it doesn't increase coronary problems. Research showing that systemic inflammation is the foundation for circulatory problems. Apparently the Framingham study had some problems and measured the wrong thing.

Choose science over religion and you will do much good in the world.
I think that people facing very serious disease are willing to take pretty drastic measures. A strict low-fat vegan diet in that situation seems like a good and benign thing to try.

Otherwise, I agree that the Ornish or Esselstyn diet is difficult, and food choices become the centerpiece of your life.
I believe there to be a pronounced economic factor when it comes to food choices. Often the best choices are too expensive for some. This is an issue that needs to be addressed.
I am all for this POV. Thanks for all the info here, eat green and be Happy& healthy& Humerous
RwOO59 (and everyone else),

I agree humans are genetically closer to chimpanzees than to any of the other great apes (although humans are very close to gorillas). However...

Chimpanzees, our closest relatives are "omnivores"?

But don't they eat each other, including their young?

Cannibalism and rape also occur in nature.

My understanding is that humans are suited for a plant-based diet, but we can adapt to flesh-eating if our survival depends on it.

In his 1978 book, The Vegetarian Alternative, Vic Sussman writes:

"We are all mammals, but humans belong to the order Primates, suborder Anthropoidea, family Pongidae. Our immediate relatives are the great apes: chimpanzees, gorilla, orangutang, and gibbon. If we want to consult the animal kingdom for clues to our true nature, we should turn to the apes rather than to carnivores or herbivorous animals.

"Humans are not direct descendants of apes, of course; ape and hominid branched off at some point within the last twenty million years, each going in its own evolutionary direction. Precisely why and how that branching occurred is still a mystery, but the divergence of man and ape happened late enough -- perhaps within the last five million years, according to some theories -- to leave definite links between humans and apes (not monkeys).

"Humans and African apes, say physical anthropologist S.L. Washburn, 'are biologically so close as to be nearly inseparable in many essentials.' The DNA structures of human, chimpanzee, and gorilla are almost the same; the amino acid structures of hemoglobin (the blood's oxygen-bearing protein) are identical in man and chimpanzee; immunological studies show man, chimp, and gorilla alike with correspondingly wider differences between humans and other primates; the alimentary system, skeletal structure, and central nervous system in humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas are virtually identical. Almost every one of our organs correspond; we all share the characteristically mobile face and grasping hands...

"For a long time, vegetarian theorists used the startling similarities in man and ape as prima facie evidence that humans were vegetarian by design. Since our nearest relatives didn't eat flesh in their natural state, went the logic, neither should humans.

"The argument suffered a bit when Dr. Jane Goodall conducted her famous field studies of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania. Dr. Goodall saw that chimps ate a diet of fruits, buds, leaves, seeds, larvae, termites, ants, honey, birds eggs, and fledgling birds.

"Her observation that chimpanzees ate flesh startled primatologists and vegetarians alike. Wild chimps had never before been seen eating flesh. Yet Dr. Goodall watched chimps kill and eat monkeys, infant bushbucks, bushpigs, and small baboons. Chimpanzees have also been known to kill and eat human babies. 'Horrible,' says Dr. Goodall, 'but understandable. Baby humans are no less appealing than baby baboons.'

"Besides, 'It should be equally horrifying to reflect on the fact that in a great many places throughout their range, chimpanzees are considered a delicacy by humans.'

"But chimps are hardly as rapacious meat eaters as the average North American. Dr. Goodall reported that the chimps she observed seemed to eat flesh only in cycles or crazes that were stimulated by an accidental or chance capture of prey. This incident then triggered a period of deliberate hunting and flesh eating."After a month or two, the craze seemed to wear off, the result of a 'satisfaction of [their] craving' or a loss of interest due to the difficulties of hunting. The chimps then returned to their staple diet of vegetation, insects and fruit.

"Such meat-eating crazes are infrequent, according to Dr. Goodall. The chimpanzees she studied only made about twelve kills a year. Nor do the Goodall observations prove that all chimps eat flesh. Vernon Reynolds, who carried out a similar study of wild chimps in Uganda's Budongo Forest, never saw them eating meat or using tools.

"The other of our close relatives, the gorilla, has an undeserved reputation for being a ferocious beast with a murderous temper. While a few gorillas may learn to eat meat in captivity, in their wild state, they are shy, peaceful eaters of plants and fruits. George Schaller, whose two-year study of mountain gorillas in East and Central Africa is described in The Year of the Gorilla, says, 'I never saw gorillas eat animal matter in the wild...no bird's eggs, insects, mice, or other creatures...even though they had the opportunity to do so on occasion.'"

Vic Sussman admits:

"Humans and chimpanzees are capable of flesh-eating, but nothing in their anatomy compels them to do so...

"Hunting may have been necessary for one group and rare for another, depending on the distribution of food and prey...

"The idea that our ancestors lived by their wits and weapons has an undeniably romantic appeal, however. How much more exciting to think of our antecedents as Pleistocenic Nimrods rather than as grubbers of roots.

"And which tales are more worthy of recounting around the sputtering campfire? Would our kin glorify the monotony of berry picking and the gathering of fallen fruit and nuts?

"Or would they regale each other with thrilling tales of stalking prey, danger, breathless moments, bravery, the savage power of beasts, and the magic forces governing a hunt's success or failure?

"Oral tradition may have contributed to an over-emphasis of hunting's significance, while minimizing the coequal or predominant importance of foraging.

"The full story of human evolution remains clouded. Anthropologists and paleontologists are constantly sorting through old and new evidence, discarding theories almost as fast as they devise them. They admit that speculation and hypothesis about our past far outweigh hard facts.

"How can we speak authoritatively about what we ate, when who we were is still largely unknown?

"Reams of material have been written about the habits of our ancestors, the Australopithecines, who roamed the African plains fourteen million years ago.

"Yet Australopithecine remains amount to only about a dozen bone fragments. Ramapithecus, an earlier hominid, is represented by only half a palate bone."


Is refraining from unnecessarily taking the life of a fellow creature going above and beyond the call of duty?

Or is it morally equivalent to refraining from cannibalism, rape, or domestic violence?

And are humans the only species on the planet capable of making moral choices, practicing altruism, etc.?

As always, I'm not going to speculate, but defer to those with greater knowledge than I.

Dr. Milton Mills classifies humans with the herbivores!

According to Dr. Milton Mills, a graduate of the Stanford School of Medicine, and a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (which advocates a vegan diet, an end to animal experimentation, etc.) humans are not natural omnivores.

See below:

Excerpted from The Comparative Anatomy of Eating, by Milton R. Mills, MD

Which category are humans most suited for?

*Facial Muscles*
CARNIVORE: Reduced to allow wide mouth gape
HERBIVORE: Well-developed
HUMAN: Well-developed

*Jaw Type*
CARNIVORE: Angle not expanded
HERBIVORE: Expanded angle
OMNIVORE: Angle not expanded
HUMAN: Expanded angle

*Jaw Joint Location*
CARNIVORE: On same plane as molar teeth
HERBIVORE: Above the plane of the molars
OMNIVORE: On same plane as molar teeth
HUMAN: Above the plane of the molars

*Jaw Motion*
CARNIVORE: Shearing; minimal side-to-side motion
HERBIVORE: No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back
OMNIVORE: Shearing; minimal side-to-side
HUMAN: No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back

*Major Jaw Muscles*
CARNIVORE: Temporalis
HERBIVORE: Masseter and pterygoids
OMNIVORE: Temporalis
HUMAN: Masseter and pterygoids

*Mouth Opening vs. Head Size*
HUMAN: Small

*Teeth: Incisors*
CARNIVORE: Short and pointed
HERBIVORE: Broad, flattened and spade shaped
OMNIVORE: Short and pointed
HUMAN: Broad, flattened and spade shaped

*Teeth: Canines*
CARNIVORE: Long, sharp and curved
HERBIVORE: Dull and short or long (for defense), or none
OMNIVORE: Long, sharp and curved
HUMAN: Short and blunted

*Teeth: Molars*
CARNIVORE: Sharp, jagged and blade shaped
HERBIVORE: Flattened with cusps vs complex surface
OMNIVORE: Sharp blades and/or flattened
HUMAN: Flattened with nodular cusps

CARNIVORE: None; swallows food whole
HERBIVORE: Extensive chewing necessary
OMNIVORE: Swallows food whole and/or simple crushing
HUMAN: Extensive chewing necessary

CARNIVORE: No digestive enzymes
HERBIVORE: Carbohydrate digesting enzymes
OMNIVORE: No digestive enzymes
HUMAN: Carbohydrate digesting enzymes

*Stomach Type*
HERBIVORE: Simple or multiple chambers
HUMAN: Simple

*Stomach Acidity*
CARNIVORE: Less than or equal to pH 1 with food in stomach
HERBIVORE: pH 4 to 5 with food in stomach
OMNIVORE: Less than or equal to pH 1 with food in stomach
HUMAN: pH 4 to 5 with food in stomach

*Stomach Capacity*
CARNIVORE: 60% to 70% of total volume of digestive tract
HERBIVORE: Less than 30% of total volume of digestive tract
OMNIVORE: 60% to 70% of total volume of digestive tract
HUMAN: 21% to 27% of total volume of digestive tract

*Length of Small Intestine*
CARNIVORE: 3 to 6 times body length
HERBIVORE: 10 to more than 12 times body length
OMNIVORE: 4 to 6 times body length
HUMAN: 10 to 11 times body length

CARNIVORE: Simple, short and smooth
HERBIVORE: Long, complex; may be sacculated
OMNIVORE: Simple, short and smooth
HUMAN: Long, sacculated

CARNIVORE: Can detoxify vitamin A
HERBIVORE: Cannot detoxify vitamin A
OMNIVORE: Can detoxify vitamin A
HUMAN: Cannot detoxify vitamin A

CARNIVORE: Extremely concentrated urine
HERBIVORE: Moderately concentrated urine
OMNIVORE: Extremely concentrated urine
HUMAN: Moderately concentrated urine

CARNIVORE: Sharp claws
HERBIVORE: Flattened nails or blunt hooves
OMNIVORE: Sharp claws
HUMAN: Flattened nails
@ vasu
Humans are the only animal that hunts with tools and cooks meat and has for tens of thousands of years. That means we've evolved so that we don't need to kill with bare hands or or teeth (unlike lions). Nor do our teeth or digestive systems need to cope with raw meat.

We don't cope well with all sorts of aspects of animal food, like water from less than pristine sources.
The problem with this kind of stuff is that it is too often propaganda. It's really easy to pick and choose studies to support what you want to show, particularly when there are many studies where only 6 participants managed to make it to ten years.

We know the McDonald's diet is bad. More fruit and veggies is good, but too strict fructarian diets can be dangerous. The jury's out for the huge range of everything else.

There's clearly variation in human metabolism. Some people can digest lactose, others can't. Some recycle vitamin B12 well others don't. Some can process alcohol, others can't. All of which points to the theory that the ideal diet for one human is not necessarily the ideal diet for another.
Where can I find a book of recipes for a whole food plant based diet?
Ayla I'm surprised by your comments. I would have expected more well developed critical thought. The film is hardly intended to be a meta-analysis of the latest nutrition research, nor does it prescribe a fixed menu of what to eat for what disease. It is an insight into research that has been skipped over and pushed aside by a government that is controlled by industry. For those wishing to know more about a plant-based diet, one would then pick up a book, educate themselves on the work of people like Dr Klaper, Esselstyn, Campbell, Ornish & many others, & look at the research literature oneself. The published epidemiological, prospective and meta-analysis literature on its own will show provide anyone with the ability to critically analyse concepts that the benefits of a plant-based diet are not mythical 'fairies'. The benefits are real, measurable and repeatable.

Ayla if you are, as you say, so concerned about the welfare of animials, perhaps it might be more constructive to point to the research that backs up the film, rather than pointing to the parts you feel it lacks. In the current climate of unprecedented environmental degradation, abuse of animals and skyrocketing disease rates, the potential benefits of this movie cannot be overstated. How many people have you heard of who have become seriously ill or died from consuming a well organised plant-based diet? Zero. How many from consuming the cholesterol of animals (heart disease)? Millions every year.
eat when they were hungry they would live far more fulfilling lives.Studs
I do not work out regularly and never have. I eat mostly meat. My cholesterol Studs
I do not work out regularly and never have. I eat mostly meat. My cholesterol
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