Many modern medicines are simply plants that have been used in medicine for centuries. Aspirin, for example, is found naturally throughout the plant kingdom. Supplements can never hope to approach the number and complexity of phytonutrients that are found in whole food fruits and vegetables. Ground flax seed consumption appears to control prostate enlargement just as well as the leading prescription drug and is much cheaper. ½ a cup of vegetarian baked beans or pinto beans a day for 2 months has been found to result in a 20 point drop in cholesterol. Cocoa powder is packed with phytonutrients that lower our bad cholesterol and boost our good cholesterol; the drug by Pfizer that claimed this capability has been pulled from the market for increasing the odds of death by 60%. Rheumatoid arthritis has been linked with meat consumption so eating vegetarian may reduce the chances of getting it and also appears to treat it. Oral lichen planus has been found to be successfully treated with the common plant purslane. Soy appears to be protective against breast cancer; Tamoxifin users who ate the most soy had a 60% reduction in breast cancer recurrence. Saffron has been shown to treat Alzheimer’s just as effectively as the leading drug, Aricept. The anti-invasive effect of Indian gooseberries on breast cancer metastasis appeared comparable to that of chemotherapy drugs. Fat blocking diet drugs have some unhappy side effects (like anal leakage); vegans have been found to be leaner than everyone else and get less age related weight gain. Nuts have been found to possibly help us lose weight (as well as suppress cancer growth). A vegan diet can also prevent and reverse diabetes. And Indian gooseberries have been found to work as effectively in treating diabetes as a leading drug. Heart disease, the number one killer in the US, may be preventable with a low enough cholesterol; consequently, heart disease can be avoided by cutting cholesterol and saturated and trans fat from the diet or going on high dose statin drugs. Side effects of statins can include: memory loss, confusion, risk of muscle injury, increase in blood sugar levels, and increased risk of new onset diabetes. This makes the idea of providing statins (or a polypill) with fast food sound like a less desirable solution than lifestyle changes. Dr. Ornish has reversed heart disease for 20 years with a plant-based diet (see also here, here, here). Foods that help to lower our cholesterol include: almonds, Cheerios, oatmeal, flax seeds, kiwis, and red yeast rice. Vegetarians have been found to have lower levels of anxiety, stress, and depressed mood, possibly due to lower levels of arachidonic acid (and resultant brain inflammation) in their systems. A study of 15,000 American vegetarians found significantly lower use of medications such as aspirin, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, antacids, pain-killers, blood pressure medications, laxatives, and insulin. Drugs excreted in our urine can pollute our waterways and the fish swimming in them. They can then bioaccumulate in fish, although primarily in their brains. Some Ayurvedic medicines have been found to be contaminated with heavy metals (lead, mercury, arsenic) (see also here). Three fourths of arsenic in the American diet may come from animal product consumption.
Topic summary contributed by Claire.