In Honor of Kim Howe

My colleagues and I are deeply saddened by the tragic death of our longtime friend and supporter Kim Howe.

She passed away several days ago in the unfortunate four-car accident involving Bruce Jenner. In light of the very public media coverage of the accident, we wanted to publicly honor Kim’s life and her dedication to our mission.

Kim was a compassionate person and a dear friend—to me personally and especially to animals. She was especially troubled by the use of animals in laboratory experiments and was eager to replace them with other research methods.

We met in 1989, shortly after I founded the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Kim became one of my biggest supporters right from the start. She and her husband Bob visited our offices, and we remained friends ever since.

Kim spoke frequently with her congressional representatives and even joined Toastmasters to develop her speaking skills in order to offer the strongest support possible to our campaigns to improve medical research and education. In Kim’s own words, “Most people think of animals as things to be used and thrown away. They do not stop to think that they have feelings and that we do not have the right to inflict pain on them and abuse them.”

Dr. Barnard and Kim Howe at a Physicians Committee event in 2013.

Dr. Barnard and Kim Howe at a Physicians Committee event in 2013.

We want her memory to live on and will continue to work toward the goal she believed in. Thank you, Kim. You will be missed.

Kale by the Pound: Beyoncé Promotes Plant-Based Foods

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How does Beyoncé wake up like that? She loves vegan food! Earlier today, the singer announced her partnership with 22 Days Nutrition’s plant-based home delivery meal service. And it’s not the first time she’s raved about the power of plants. Over the past year, Beyoncé has thrived on multiple vegan challenges and has helped push plant-based diets into the spotlight. On Instagram alone, she’s inspired more than 24 million fans with photos of colorful vegetable stir fries, nutrient-packed leafy green salads, and creative breakfast berry tortillas.

Research shows that when celebrities talk, people listen. By using her platform to show others how easy and appealing it can be to follow a plant-based diet, Beyoncé is helping to spread a message that will save lives.

Around the world, more than 1.4 billion adults are now overweight or obese. Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other lifestyle-related diseases are ravaging our health care system.

Fortunately, plant-based diets can help. Research shows that diets centered on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes have the power to prevent, and sometimes even reverse, serious chronic diseases.  In recent studies, plant-based diets have proven effective at reversing heart disease, boosting brain health, treating type 2 diabetes, reducing migraine pain, and leading to the most weight loss when compared to other diets. Plant-based diets can even help keep energy levels up and stress levels down.

And even if you thought you’d be weak without meat, you’ll be stronger: Studies show that plant-based diets can strengthen your bones and reduce the risk for hip fractures.

Eating a vegan diet rich in vegetables can also keep you looking flawless by making your skin glow and keeping acne at bay.

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With such all-encompassing benefits, it’s no wonder that plant-based diets are taking center stage in 2015. Like Beyoncé, celebrities including Jennifer Lopez and Ariana Grande are raving about the power of plants. Public figures like Sen. Cory Booker are touting the many benefits of vegan diets, while entire cities are challenging themselves to eat plants to get healthier. More and more schools are taking meat off the menu by adopting Meatless Mondays, while MUSE School CA in Calabasas, Calif., is set to become the nation’s first vegan school later this year. Prominent doctors, like Kim Williams, M.D., president-elect of the American College of Cardiology, are now prescribing plants to their patients, while famed chefs are revamping their menus to move vegetables to the center of the plate.

Who runs the world? In 2015, the answer may very well be vegans!

 

We Must Address the Nutritional State of our Union

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Tonight, President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address. It is my hope that the President will lay out a bolder vision for improving America’s health and combating childhood obesity.

A study released this week shows that pizza is the largest source of saturated fat, salt, and calories in children’s diets. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since pizza one of the top sources of saturated fat for America overall—second only to cheese. What is shocking is that pizza is still commonly served in school lunches.

One-third of children are overweight, one-fifth have high cholesterol, and one in three children born since 2000 will develop diabetes at some point in his or her life. Obesity raises the risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and cancer and contributes to lower academic achievement and increased school absences that will make it more difficult for youth to succeed in school and ultimately in their careers.

While the Obama Administration has expressed interest in improving health through a heavy focus on the Let’s Move program, the Physicians Committee is alarmed by the poor state of health of many Americans, the glaring health disparities between people who are economically challenged and those of means, and the continuing poor diet habits in children and the lack of progress in preventing childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic health conditions directly linked to poor diets.

This year, Congress must reauthorize the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act that contains several child nutrition programs set to expire September 30, 2015. In the process, many in Congress are eager to weaken school nutrition standards—in particular, the fruit and vegetable requirement. The losers in this Congressional food fight will be low-income children who rely on these programs and continue to live with or be at risk of chronic health conditions.

We must not only maintain the nutrition standards in school breakfast and lunch as set by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (PL 111-296), but go further to ensure low-income children have access to the most healthful foods by making these changes to all child nutrition programs:

  • Eliminating processed meats, which significantly increase the risk of colon cancer such that the American Institute on Cancer Research found no amount is safe to eat.
  • Requiring the option of a healthful plant-based meal.
  • Encouraging Congress to increase funds to schools and increase the reimbursement for breakfast and lunch to cover the increased cost of labor, school kitchen upgrades, food products, nutrition education for both food service workers and students, and ancillary costs to reinforce a healthier lifestyle in the school environment.

Encouraging healthier eating at an early age instills healthier habits for a lifetime and can be reinforced at school, at work, at home, and in the community. If the Administration is serious about improving the health of our nation, now is the time for action.

It’s not too late to sign our petition: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/lay-out-bold-plan-state-union-address-improving-america%E2%80%99s-health/ffnGXVPM