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The Physicians Committee

Prevention Over Pharmaceuticals

April 19, 2016   Dr. Neal Barnard   ,

The pressure is on in the pharmaceutical world, after Eli Lilly announced that its new cholesterol-lowering drug failed to prevent heart disease. The drug—which was pulled from clinical trials in October—had looked promising: It lowered patients’ LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, while boosting their HDL (“good”) cholesterol numbers. But as the trial went on, patients continued to suffer from heart attacks at the same rate as a placebo group.


The pharmaceutical industry has long been searching for a magic pill to halt heart attacks and cure heart disease. In fact, more Americans than ever before now take cholesterol-lowering drugs. Millions of lives and trillions of dollars later, heart disease remains our nation’s top killer.

So what’s the problem? While medications are sometimes necessary, our health care system’s approach to treating heart disease is upside down. When patients have high cholesterol, doctors are quick to search for a solution in a pill bottle. But many doctors never ask: Why is the patient’s cholesterol high in the first place? In most cases, the answer is a diet based on meat, dairy products, and eggs.
When we ignore diet and treat heart disease with medication alone, we might be able to mask symptoms here and there—like lowering blood pressure or cholesterol—but we fail to treat the underlying issues that caused the disease to begin with: years of damage caused by a diet rich in animal products.

Meat (including fish), dairy, and eggs are packed with fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. These substances damage our cardiovascular systems, clog our arteries, and increase cholesterol levels in the blood. On the other hand, diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol can prevent—and sometimes even reverse—heart disease.

In fact, studies show that a healthy diet and lifestyle can prevent up to 80 percent of all heart attacks—something no drug can accomplish.

Fortunately, the tide is starting to turn as more and more doctors recognize the power of prevention. Under the leadership of president Kim Williams, M.D.—who adopted a vegan diet in 2003 and lowered his own cholesterol—the American College of Cardiology is working to improve cardiovascular health with a renewed focus on prevention and nutrition.

Are you a physician, registered dietitian, nurse, or certified diabetes educator? At the Physicians Committee, we have all the resources you’ll need to emphasize prevention over pills. Our website NutritionCME offers free online continuing education to health care professionals interested in using nutrition for health promotion and disease prevention. You can also read about how the Barnard Medical Center embraces the power of food for health.


Diabetes Here I Come

April 13, 2016   Dr. Neal Barnard   ,

Diabetes here I come.” Controversy quickly brewed this week after a Starbucks barista wrote those four words on a customer’s grande white mocha. But rather than put those words on a specialty coffee, let’s put them where they really belong. With 422 million adults worldwide living with diabetes, I’d like to see the blunt warning on packaging for the most diabetogenic foods exacerbating this global epidemic.


  • Red Meat: Diabetes here I come. An increase of more than half of a serving of red meat per day increases the risk for type 2 diabetes by 48 percent, according to one study. Decreasing red meat intake resulted in a decreased risk for diabetes. Many other studies show the same.
  • Eggs: Diabetes here I come. Another recent study found that consuming three or more eggs per week increases an American's risk for type 2 diabetes by 39 percent. It’s just one of many studies linking egg consumption to diabetes.
  • Dairy, Chicken, and Fish: Diabetes here I come. A study released earlier this month found that those who consumed the highest amount of animal protein increased their risk for type 2 diabetes by 13 percent. But participants who replaced 5 percent of their protein intake with vegetable protein decreased their risk for diabetes by 23 percent.

There’s plenty of other evidence showing that animal products increase diabetes risk, while plant-based diets can often prevent and reverse diabetes.

Diabetes here I come. It’s a message many don’t want to hear. But with about 1.5 million newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes cases and nearly 250,000 diabetes-related deaths in America each year, it’s an easier pill to swallow than the consequences of getting the disease.



Keep Hot Dogs Off Your Plate this Baseball Season

April 5, 2016   Dr. Neal Barnard   ,

This week, Major League Baseball teams are celebrating Opening Day—and kicking off a season of increased colorectal cancer risk for baseball fans. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, baseball fans are expected to eat more than 19 million hot dogs during the 2016 season. But even eating just one hot dog a day can increase the risk of colorectal cancer, which kills more than 50,000 Americans per year.


Late last year, the World Health Organization released a report declaring hot dogs and other processed meats “carcinogenic to humans.” Studies show that consuming one daily 50-gram serving of processed meat—about the size of a typical hot dog—increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent.

Unfortunately, some stadiums have taken baseball’s deadly hot dog addiction to a new extreme this year. The Atlanta Braves recently debuted “The Everything Dog”—a foot-long hot dog piled high with french fries, popcorn, chips, chili, and beer cheese. The Arizona Diamondbacks are offering a deep-fried Cheeseburger Dog made of ground hamburgers, bacon, and cheese, while the Pittsburgh Pirates are selling a Cracker Jack & Mac Dog—a hot dog topped with Cracker Jacks, macaroni and cheese, salted caramel sauce, and fried jalapeños.

Fortunately, other teams are stepping up to the plate and offering more health-promoting options. The Texas Rangers recently unveiled a brand new all-vegan concession stand for the 2016 season, which sells black bean burgers, spinach wraps, fresh fruit, and veggie hot dogs.

At AT&T Park in San Francisco, Giants fans can sample fresh strawberries, avocados, lemons, and other produce grown in a vegetable garden in the outfield. The fresh fruits and vegetables are incorporated into vegetable flatbreads, strawberry smoothies, and kale salads sold at the stadium.

As some teams begin to offer healthful, plant-based options, it’s time for the rest of Major League Baseball to start incorporating our country’s health into our national pastime—and to strike out hot dogs for good.

Alec Baldwin’s Radical Nutrition Plan: Replace Meal Replacement Bars

April 1, 2016   Dr. Neal Barnard   ,

Hooked on meal replacement bars? Alec Baldwin has revolutionary nutrition advice for you:

Try a Meal Replacement Bar Replacement Meal.

Today, Mr. Baldwin teams up with the Physicians Committee in a new PSA to raise awareness of the benefits of the Meal Replacement Bar Replacement Meal. Not only will you save time and money when you ditch the bland, beige bars, but you’ll reap the benefits of filling your plate with real, whole, plant-based foods.

And the Meal Replacement Bar Replacement Meal is not just backed by Mr. Baldwin, but science, too. A new study finds that eating more fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes could save millions of lives and trillions of dollars.

Watch the new PSA and visit MealReplacementBarReplacementMeal.org to see some of our favorite Meal Replacement Bar Replacement Meal recipes!



Death by Deli Meat? Keep Cancer-Causing Foods Out of Schools

March 30, 2016   Dr. Neal Barnard   ,


Do you live in a cancer hot spot?

Colorectal cancer kills more than 50,000 Americans per year, making it the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. But the toll is especially high in certain regions of the country. Recently, researchers with the American Cancer Society discovered three geographic regions in the U.S. with exceptionally high death rates from colorectal cancer—up to 40 percent higher than the national average in some cases: the Lower Mississippi Delta, west Central Appalachia, and eastern Virginia and North Carolina.

But what if these deaths were preventable?

Late last year, the World Health Organization declared that processed meats such as hot dogs, pepperoni, bacon, sausage, and deli meats are carcinogenic to humans. The authors highlighted a meta-analysis that found each 50 gram portion of processed meat—approximately the size of a hot dog or two strips of bacon—eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.

For the month of March—which is also Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month— the Physicians Committee sought to raise awareness of the link between diet and colorectal cancer in the regions of the country most affected by the disease. We placed billboards in 12 cities located in the six states with the highest colorectal cancer death rates: Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nevada, and West Virginia.


In an effort to prevent future fatalities, the campaign focuses on school districts who routinely serve hot dogs, deli meat, bacon, sausage, and pepperoni pizza to students. The billboards feature the image of a skull and crossbones formed from a sausage patty and hot dogs and warn “Cancer-Causing Foods Don’t Belong in Schools. Processed Meats Cause Cancer. DropTheHotDog.org.”

The Physicians Committee also reached out to the food service directors in each of the 12 cities and sent them a toolkit with information on the dangers of processed meats, tips for removing processed meats from school meals, and recipe swaps.

Would you like to join us in preventing future fatalities from colorectal cancer? Share our processed meat toolkit with your food service director and sign our petition asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop offering processed meats in the National School Lunch Program. And once you’ve dropped the hot dog, be sure to celebrate by making a healthy, fun alternative: the banana dog!



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