Tag Archives: Documentaries

Do a World of Good by Quitting Meat

cowspiracy

As a doctor, I focus on removing meat and dairy products from the diet for disease prevention, but many folks choose to eschew meat to reduce their carbon footprint. Just as we can no longer ignore food’s impact on our own health, we can’t ignore food’s role in climate change either.

For your eco-conscious friends who still chow down on cheeseburgers, there’s a new documentary emphasizing the meat industry’s global environmental impact. Cowspiracy slams home the fact that meat production is the number-one source of greenhouse gases and deforestation. And while parts of the United States are facing a drought, it takes 660 gallons of water to produce a single hamburger.

Al Gore, Bill Gates, and James Cameron have all been decidedly outspoken about how meat production and consumption affect both health and the environment. Research shows that animal products are bad for humans—leading to an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. Moving meat products off your plate—for whatever reason— will have a lasting impact on your own health and the environment.

Reduce Diabetes Risk for Native American Heritage Month

November is both Native American Heritage Month and National Diabetes Month. Though the two may seem unrelated, it’s possible—even beneficial—to acknowledge both at the same time.

A traditional Native American diet incorporates corn, beans, squash, fruits, and grains—all foods that can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. However, Native American communities have moved away from these plant foods toward the standard American diet full of meat and dairy products, which increase the risk of diabetes.

Chefs Lois Ellen Frank and Walter Whitewater making Indian No-Fry Bread.

Chefs Lois Ellen Frank and Walter Whitewater making Indian No-Fry Bread.

For all Americans—no matter which race—diabetes statistics are far too high. Forty percent will have diabetes in his or her lifetime. Ten percent of Americans overall currently have diabetes. But for Native Americans in particular, the rate rises to 16 percent.

To cut diabetes rates, we need to cut out high-risk foods. Dairy products are the main source of saturated fat and cholesterol in the American diet, and diets high in fat can increase insulin resistance and increase the risk of heart disease. Meat-eating is also considered a risk factor for diabetes. A study out of Taiwan shows that women and men who avoid meat entirely reduce their diabetes risk by 70 and 45 percent respectively. The Physicians Committee’s own research has found that a low-fat vegan diet improves glycemic control and heart health in patients with type 2 diabetes.

The alarming diabetes statistics for Native Americans prompted us to visit the Navajo Nation and work with community leaders to implement nutrition programs to help Native Americans manage and reverse their diabetes. The Physicians Committee recently released Food for Life in Indian Country, a documentary detailing the progress and successes from our program. The film shows that a return to traditional plant-based meals can help Native American communities reverse their diabetes and experience a boost in overall health.

We brought in Native American chef Lois Ellen Frank to create recipes that incorporated cultural tradition alongside disease-fighting ingredients. The Food for Life in Indian Country booklet has several recipes for every course, along with a sample daily menu. This month, try the Posole Harvest Stew or the Indian No-Fry Bread. Spread good health—and promote diabetes awareness and Native American heritage—by bringing traditional Native American recipes to your next potluck and sharing our booklet with friends and family.

For more information, visit PCRM.org/Diabetes.

Fed Up: Let’s Really Move Big Food Out of School Lunches

Sugar Isn’t the Only Villain in our Surging Obesity Epidemic

Katie Couric’s new documentary Fed Up is an eye-opening experience for most Americans. As the film shows, it’s nearly impossible to exercise your way out of eating pepperoni pizza, greasy fries, and a glass of low-fat chocolate milk—typical fare in K-12 school lunch rooms and family restaurant chains throughout the country. Exercise isn’t enough. We need to change what we’re eating.

healthy-school-lunches
But that’s where Fed Up misfires. It takes aim at sugar as if it is the sole devil in the lunchroom. But scapegoating sugar removes the much-deserved blame from the avalanche of meat and dairy piling up on the center of our plates – and school lunch trays. No amount of sugar reduction is going to help if people are still going for the meat and dairy.

A gram of sugar has only 4 calories. A gram of fat—from cheese, chicken, beef, or anywhere else has 9.

Compared with a century ago, Americans now eat 75 pounds more meat and 30 pounds more cheese per person, per year. In the last 30 years, consumption of cheese has tripled, fueling our childhood obesity epidemic.

Meat and cheese are the fatty staples of the standard American diet. The same diet has a hold on the National School Lunch Program: The sugar industry spent $9 million dollars lobbying in 2013, compared to the combined $17.5 million from the meat, dairy, and poultry industries.

Local beef burgers, pulled barbecue chicken, and turkey sausage need to come with parental permission slips. Countless research studies, including a recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health, show consumption of meat doubles diabetes risk. One in 3 children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes at some point in their life. One in 5 now graduates high school with a diploma and high cholesterol, an early marker for heart disease, which remains the number one killer worldwide.

While we work relentlessly to teach our students about strong work ethics, academic integrity, and kindness, I can’t say we offer the same when it comes to federal subsidies and nutrition education programs.

The good news is leading medical organizations, including Kaiser Permanente, and political figures, such as former president Bill Clinton, are revolutionizing the way we think about diet and health. Science continues to show that when we make fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes the center of our plates and remove the meat and dairy, our waistlines dwindle, our health rapidly improves, and our need for medication plummets.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest organization of nutrition experts, updated its 2009 position paper to say that well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence. AND also finds people who follow vegetarian diets have a lower body mass index, lower risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of overall cancer.

Let’s really move plant-based foods to the center of our plates and see what happens.

Let’s Really Move School Lunch Ads
Op-Ed: Are Sugar and Sloth the Causes of Obesity?
Dr. Barnard’s Studies on Dietary Trends in America

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