One in a Thousand: Ending the Heart Disease Epidemic

One in a Thousand: Ending the Heart Disease Epidemic
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Many of our most common diseases found to be rare, or even nonexistent, among populations eating plant-based diets.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

This is a list of diseases commonly found here (and in populations that eat and live like the U.S.), but were rare, or even nonexistent, in populations eating diets centered around whole plant foods.

These are among our most common diseases, like obesity. Hiatal hernia, one of the most common stomach problems; hemorrhoids and varicose veins, the most common venous problems; colorectal cancer, the #2 cause of cancer death; diverticulosis, the #1 disease of the intestine; appendicitis, the #1 cause of emergency abdominal surgery; gallbladder disease, the #1 cause for nonemergency abdominal surgery; and ischemic heart disease, the commonest cause of death here, but a rarity in plant-based populations.

This landmark study, suggesting that coronary heart disease was practically nonexistent among those eating traditional plant-based diets in Africa, claimed that there was adequate autopsy evidence to confirm that fact. Let’s look at it.

“Doctors in sub-Saharan Africa during the …30s and …40s recognised that certain diseases commonly met in Western communities were rare in rural African peasants. This hearsay talk greeted any new doctor on arrival in Africa. Even the teaching manuals…stated that diabetes, coronary heart disease, appendicitis, peptic ulcer, gallstones, hemorrhoids and constipation were rare in African blacks who ‘eat foods that contain many skins and fibres, such as beans and [corn], and pass a bulky stool two or three times a day.’ Surgeons noticed that the common acute abdominal emergencies (like appendicitis) in Western communities were virtually absent in rural African peasants.”

But, do we have hard data to back that up? Yes. Major autopsy series were performed. First thousand Kenyan autopsies—”not a single case of appendicitis,” not a single heart attack, three diabetics out of a thousand, one peptic ulcer, no gallstones, and no evidence of high blood pressure—which alone affects one out of three Americans.

Maybe, the Africans were just dying early of other diseases, and so, never lived long enough to get heart disease? No; here’s age-matched heart attack rates in Uganda versus St. Louis. Out of 632 autopsies in Uganda, one myocardial infarction. Out of 632 Missourians—same age and gender distribution—136 myocardial infarctions. More than a hundred times the rate of our #1 killer. In fact, they were so blown away they did another 800 autopsies in Uganda, and still, just that one small healed infarct (meaning it wasn’t even the cause of death) out of 1,427 patients. Less than one in a thousand, whereas in the U.S., it’s an epidemic.

How do the doctors even know what to look for over there, then? Though practically unheard of among the native population, the physicians are quite familiar with heart disease, because of all the folks that immigrate to the countries in Africa.

The famous surgeon, Dr. Burkitt, insisted that modern medicine is going about it all wrong: “A highly unacceptable fact that is rarely considered yet indisputable is that with rare exceptions…, there is no evidence that the incidence of any disease was ever reduced by treatment.” Improved therapies may reduce mortality, but may not reduce the incidence of the disease. Understand what he’s saying? 

Take cancer, for example. “[T]he vast majority of effort [is] devoted to advances in treatment,…the second priority given to screening programs attempting [early] diagnosis. [But] [i]s there any evidence that the incidence of any form of cancer has ever been reduced by improved treatment, or [by] early detection? Early diagnosis may reduce mortality rates, and medical services can [certainly profoundly benefit] sick people—but have little, if any, [effect] on the number of people becoming ill [in the first place].” No matter how fancy heart disease surgery gets, it’s never going to reduce the number of people falling victim to the disease.

He compares it to an engine left out in the rain. “If an engine repeatedly stops as a consequence of being exposed to the elements, it is of limited value to rely on the aid of mechanics to detect and remedy the fault. Examination of all engines would reveal that those out in the rain were stopping, but those under cover were running well. [So,] [t]he correct approach would then be to provide protection from the offending environment. However, considering the failing engine as the ailing patient, this is seldom the priority of modern medicine.”

He sums it up with the “cliff or the ambulance:” “If people are falling over the edge of a cliff and sustaining injuries, the problem could be dealt with by stationing ambulances at the bottom or erecting a fence at the top. Unfortunately, we put [way] too much effort into the provision of ambulances and far too little into the simple approach of erecting fences. And then, of course, there are all the industries enticing people to the edge, and profiting from pushing people off.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to chickadee23 via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

This is a list of diseases commonly found here (and in populations that eat and live like the U.S.), but were rare, or even nonexistent, in populations eating diets centered around whole plant foods.

These are among our most common diseases, like obesity. Hiatal hernia, one of the most common stomach problems; hemorrhoids and varicose veins, the most common venous problems; colorectal cancer, the #2 cause of cancer death; diverticulosis, the #1 disease of the intestine; appendicitis, the #1 cause of emergency abdominal surgery; gallbladder disease, the #1 cause for nonemergency abdominal surgery; and ischemic heart disease, the commonest cause of death here, but a rarity in plant-based populations.

This landmark study, suggesting that coronary heart disease was practically nonexistent among those eating traditional plant-based diets in Africa, claimed that there was adequate autopsy evidence to confirm that fact. Let’s look at it.

“Doctors in sub-Saharan Africa during the …30s and …40s recognised that certain diseases commonly met in Western communities were rare in rural African peasants. This hearsay talk greeted any new doctor on arrival in Africa. Even the teaching manuals…stated that diabetes, coronary heart disease, appendicitis, peptic ulcer, gallstones, hemorrhoids and constipation were rare in African blacks who ‘eat foods that contain many skins and fibres, such as beans and [corn], and pass a bulky stool two or three times a day.’ Surgeons noticed that the common acute abdominal emergencies (like appendicitis) in Western communities were virtually absent in rural African peasants.”

But, do we have hard data to back that up? Yes. Major autopsy series were performed. First thousand Kenyan autopsies—”not a single case of appendicitis,” not a single heart attack, three diabetics out of a thousand, one peptic ulcer, no gallstones, and no evidence of high blood pressure—which alone affects one out of three Americans.

Maybe, the Africans were just dying early of other diseases, and so, never lived long enough to get heart disease? No; here’s age-matched heart attack rates in Uganda versus St. Louis. Out of 632 autopsies in Uganda, one myocardial infarction. Out of 632 Missourians—same age and gender distribution—136 myocardial infarctions. More than a hundred times the rate of our #1 killer. In fact, they were so blown away they did another 800 autopsies in Uganda, and still, just that one small healed infarct (meaning it wasn’t even the cause of death) out of 1,427 patients. Less than one in a thousand, whereas in the U.S., it’s an epidemic.

How do the doctors even know what to look for over there, then? Though practically unheard of among the native population, the physicians are quite familiar with heart disease, because of all the folks that immigrate to the countries in Africa.

The famous surgeon, Dr. Burkitt, insisted that modern medicine is going about it all wrong: “A highly unacceptable fact that is rarely considered yet indisputable is that with rare exceptions…, there is no evidence that the incidence of any disease was ever reduced by treatment.” Improved therapies may reduce mortality, but may not reduce the incidence of the disease. Understand what he’s saying? 

Take cancer, for example. “[T]he vast majority of effort [is] devoted to advances in treatment,…the second priority given to screening programs attempting [early] diagnosis. [But] [i]s there any evidence that the incidence of any form of cancer has ever been reduced by improved treatment, or [by] early detection? Early diagnosis may reduce mortality rates, and medical services can [certainly profoundly benefit] sick people—but have little, if any, [effect] on the number of people becoming ill [in the first place].” No matter how fancy heart disease surgery gets, it’s never going to reduce the number of people falling victim to the disease.

He compares it to an engine left out in the rain. “If an engine repeatedly stops as a consequence of being exposed to the elements, it is of limited value to rely on the aid of mechanics to detect and remedy the fault. Examination of all engines would reveal that those out in the rain were stopping, but those under cover were running well. [So,] [t]he correct approach would then be to provide protection from the offending environment. However, considering the failing engine as the ailing patient, this is seldom the priority of modern medicine.”

He sums it up with the “cliff or the ambulance:” “If people are falling over the edge of a cliff and sustaining injuries, the problem could be dealt with by stationing ambulances at the bottom or erecting a fence at the top. Unfortunately, we put [way] too much effort into the provision of ambulances and far too little into the simple approach of erecting fences. And then, of course, there are all the industries enticing people to the edge, and profiting from pushing people off.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to chickadee23 via flickr

Nota del Doctor

If all a plant-based diet could do was reverse our #1 killer (see Cavities and Coronaries: Our Choice), then shouldn’t that be the default diet, until proven otherwise? And then, the fact that it also appears to reverse other leading killers, like diabetes and hypertension, just makes the evidence overwhelming. See my last two live presentations if you haven’t yet: Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More than an Apple a Day.

So, why doesn’t the medical profession embrace it? See The Tomato Effect.

So, why don’t many individual doctors do it? See Lifestyle Medicine: Treating the Causes of Disease.

So, why doesn’t the federal government recommend it? See The McGovern Report.

But, you can take your destiny into your own hands (mouth?), and work with your doctor to clean up your diet, and maximize your chances of living happily ever after.

For further context, check out my associated blog post: We Can End the Heart Disease Epidemic.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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