Plant-Based Diet Key to Better Health

By KEVIN PROFT/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — “I’m here to talk about your health, your neighbors’ health, the country’s health, the health of the whole world,” said an ambitious Jackson Foster at a recent Sustain lecture, part of a series being held at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Foster, a RISD student interested in nutrition, said human health is maintained and lost by what we eat. He claimed many of the top killers in America, such as heart disease, cancers and stroke, are derivatives of diet rather than bad luck or family history.

Foster also said obesity is not a matter of genetics, but a matter of improper nutrition. According to Foster, 36 percent of Americans are obese, up from 10 percent in the 1950s. “Genes don’t change like that in 60 years,” he said.

The root of the problem is modern medicine’s disregard for nutrition as a pathway to good health, he said. Medical students, he said, are only required to take the equivalent of eight three-hour classes about nutrition.

Foster noted that Americans spend 18 percent of GDP on health care, the highest rate in the world, yet consistently rank near the bottom in terms of quality of care.

“Despite advances in medicine, human health is getting worse,” Foster said. “We’re treating symptoms (not diseases.)”

Foster’s solution better nutrition habits. According to Foster, a plant-based, unprocessed diet can help prevent sickness and disease.

Foster cited a stable of vegan standard bearers to support his thesis. Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of “The China Study,” was recognized as the doctor who realized that animal protein is directly correlated to many serious diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn was credited with discovering the correlation between heart disease and animal-based diets.

Esselstyn conducted a study in which 18 patients, who had collectively suffered from 49 heart-related events such as strokes and heart attacks, switched to a plant-based diet. During the next decade, only one heart-related event occurred among all of the patients.

Foster also asserted that milk consumption increases the risk of osteoporosis. He cited studies that showed that in countries where milk consumption is high, so too are the cases of osteoporosis. In countries where milk consumption is low, bones deteriorate less, according to the studies.

We are told that our diet is normal, but we are the only species that drinks the milk of another species, Foster said, while displaying a slide depicting a man suckling milk from a cow’s udder. He said that slide always gets laughs, but the box of milk in the standard American refrigerator is not so different.

Here is a quick rundown of Foster’s diet dos and don’ts:

Do eat fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes and whole grains.

Don’t eat meat, animal products, refined carbohydrates (white bread or white flour) and oils (olive, flax, hemp, fish, coconut, vegetable).