This article was originally published as an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post on 28 June 2023: https://www.jpost.com/opinion/article-747957
History is about to be made here in Jerusalem. It’s a “first-ever” event and it is far more significant that one might think. I’m talking about the first-ever Whole-Food, Plant-Based (WFPB) conference for kosher consumers. Before we talk about the upcoming conference, let’s go back about a hundred years in history and put this event into context.
Sometimes, in order for the truth to come out, people need to go against the grain. We need people who are willing to look at the science and not just do what everyone else does. In the late 1940s, Dr. Walter Kempner was at Duke University when he developed The Rice Diet. Dr. Kempner had many patients with malignant hypertension and kidney failure and there really weren’t any great treatment options back then. The diet consisted of white rice, sugar, fruit, and fruit juices. All animal proteins were removed. The results were amazing. Dr. Kempner turned around hypertension, kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and obesity. He was a true pioneer. Dr. John McDougall points out that all present-day pioneers of lifestyle medicine really owe a debt to Dr. Kempner.
In 1957, a surgeon named Dr. Denis Burkitt began looking at large medical epidemics. He noticed that the great bulk of diseases occurring in the Western world—heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and many others—were surprisingly rare in rural Africa. During 20 years of surgical practice in Africa, he removed only 2 gallbladders, something he might have done every morning in any London hospital. Other conditions, from appendicitis to colon cancer, were rare in Africa, but common in Europe. He ruled out genetics and proposed that the culprit was diet. In Europe and the Americas, diets were low-fiber as opposed to the fiber-rich African diet. He was one of the first to suggest that it wasn’t our genes that were causing chronic disease, but rather our diet.
The Center for Longevity
In spite of Dr. Kempner’s and Dr. Burkitt’s discoveries, modern medicine continued to depend on drugs, surgeries, and procedures to treat various chronic diseases. While Dr. Butkitt was making his discoveries, Nathan Pritikin (not a medical doctor) was trying to figure out his own health problems. He researched thoroughly, and met Dr. Lester Morrison who was using a very low fat diet to treat many of his cardiac patients. Nathan Pritikin then developed his version of Dr. Morrison’s diet. His cholesterol dropped and his ECG became normal. In 1975, he opened his Center for Longevity. He used a low fat, low cholesterol, high fiber diet that he developed and his results were truly amazing.
Over a 3-weeks (looking at 4,587 participants) they saw averages of:
- 23% drop in total cholesterol
- 23% drop in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
- 24% drop in non-HDL cholesterol
- 33% in triglycerides
In his book, How Not to Die, Dr. Michael Greger recounts his grandmother’s experience with Nathan Pritkin. After being told by her cardiologist to go home and “get things in order” as there was nothing else to do, she went to Pritikin. She arrived in a wheel chair and, after switching to the Pritkin program, walked out. She lived another 29 years. Keep in mind that Nathan Pritikin had no medical training. He followed the research and look what happened. This was the first popularized use of a WFPB diet to reverse disease.
During the mid 1980’s, Dr. Dean Ornish was putting his heart trial together to test the power of lifestyle, primarily with nutrition, to reverse heart disease. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn was persuading the Cleveland Clinic to send him patients with heart disease to see if diet could also bring reversal. Both doctors succeeded, using a whole-foods, plant-based diet to reverse heart disease. Just look at the angiograms before and then going forward into the trials and you can see it for yourself.
It was during this period of time the Dr. T. Colin Campbell was involved in his 30+-year study of the effect of animal proteins on cancer. This became known as The China Study. All of these trials and research clearly showed that the single best diet to prevent and reverse chronic disease was WFPB eating. Really, as Dr. Greger points out time and again, since 1990, we’ve had that answer to heart disease. We just haven’t implemented it.
Impact of documentaries
The single biggest turning point occurred 12 years ago. On May 6, 2011 an empowering documentary called Forks over Knives was released. I don’t think anything has brought more awareness to the power of plants as this movie did. Featuring Drs. Barnard, Ornish, Campbell, McDougall, Pulde, Lederman, Popper and others, this documentary put all the research out for the public to consume. It’s still amazing to me that research that would benefit mankind in so many ways managed to be so suppressed for so long. More than 20 million people have viewed Forks over Knives. It’s positive impact is really immeasurable. (It certainly started me on my own plant-based journey.)
Many other documentaries have come out since, including What the Health, Diet Fiction, Eating you Alive, Plant Pure Nation, The Game Changers, and now many, many more. In addition, numerous books, all well researched and well sourced, have hit the market. The authors include Dr. Greger, Dr. Saray Stancic, Dr. Campbell, Dr. Ornish, Dr. Esselstyn, Dr Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Brooke Goldner, Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, and many more.
Lifestyle Medicine as treatment
The awareness of lifestyle medicine has grown exponentially and more and more physicians are being trained in it. We are now in the next generation of plant-based health providers. Although we are still a long way away from lifestyle being a standard front-line treatment, there are now more than 10,000 physicians members of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. In Europe and Israel PAN is guiding doctors on how to use nutrition and showing them that it is indeed the most powerful tool we have to treat and prevent chronic and autoimmune diseases. This is a slow and arduous process, however, it is progressing!
Conferences abound yearly on Lifestyle Medicine and WFPB. They are attended by thousands of people, doctors and laymen alike. These have turned out to be a major event where new research papers are presented. New ideas on how to transition patients from SAD—standard American diet–to a plant predominant diet are discussed. So that brings us up to July 11th at Nefesth B’Nefesh in Jerusalem.
Thanks mostly to Debbie Ezra, the very first conference for Whole-Food, Plant-Based and Vegan Kosher eaters is about to take place. Two major plant-based doctors will be speaking. Dr. Miriam Maisel from Tel Aviv and Dr. Malka Mann from N.Y. Workshops will be taking place—I hope to be giving one. Many vendors will be there showing their healthy vegan products. Now here’s the clincher-IT’S FREE!
Get ready to gain
It’s been a long journey but it’s really happening. BE A PART OF HISTORY-register online for the conference. You don’t have to be a plant-based or vegan eater to attend. Just come. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the information and knowledge you will gain, can have a positive impact on the quality of your health for the rest of your life. I am looking forward to seeing you there. Your attendance will “add hours to your days, days to your years, and years to your life.”