Measuring the weight of the nation or considering your weight is not necessarily a comment on whether skinny or portly looks better. Rather, it is a fact that your body weight serves as a relatively easy measure of a potential host of problems.
Without question, diabetes, high blood pressure, certain cancers, dementia, arthritis, and heart disease afflict more people who are obese. To decrease your risk of chronic illness, to lower your health-care costs, and to enjoy the best odds of avoiding illness and hospitalizations, we have to talk about your weight.
The Centers for Disease Control has been publishing state-by-state graphs of the number of obese citizens as a percentage of the total population since 1985. When I began practice in 1990, only one state classified over 20 percent of its adult population as obese (Mississippi). Now there are only five states with 20–25 percent obesity, with all others being higher than that! Obesity exceeds 30 percent of the adult population in half of the states in the United States.
The equation for why obesity is skyrocketing is complex. The widespread availability of cheap processed foods in stores, fast-food restaurants, school vending machines, and even hospitals and gyms is surely a major part of the problem. Sedentary lifestyles, where people are glued to smartphones, tablets, and game stations, is another big piece of the problem. Environmental toxins from plastics, pollution, linings of cans and fast-food containers, and other sources is part of it by introducing endocrine disrupting chemicals into the bodies of young children. Poor sleep contributes to some of the problem. Stress is a factor too.
While the cause of the rise of obesity is complex, a solution that is supported by a large and robust amount of literature is the Plant-Based Solution. This is truly a secret that needs to be shared. The solution is in the produce department at your local grocer. The Plant-Based Solution can return your waistline to a healthier and smaller state. But will it work for you? It worked very well for Allan:
The Round Podiatrist Who Learned to Run. I have known Allan for over forty years. We grew up in the same neighborhood a few years apart. I went on to medical school, and Allan pursued training in podiatry. Over the years, we lost touch but reconnected on social media. Since we had been in contact many years earlier, Allan’s weight had increased to 284 pounds on a five-foot, seven-inch frame. His joints ached from the statin drugs he was using to lower his cholesterol, he was winded walking up a flight of stairs, and he was taking blood pressure medicine daily. He wore a mask on his face at night for sleep apnea. He knew he was on a path to disaster and was looking for a way out that would work long term. Allan decided to make a New Year’s resolution and go for a health change after reading my social media posts every day praising the Plant-Based Solution. He bought a vegan cookbook and a few new items like kale, quinoa, steel-cut oats, and farro, and Allan started cooking.
When I last talked with Allan, he said, “It’s coming up on three years now, and I have lost 110 pounds. My waist is thirty-two inches, and my shirts are now M instead of XXL. I am off statins, and my cholesterol is 137. No more blood pressure pills. No more need to wear a CPAP mask for sleep apnea either. I had an overnight sleep study done, and my sleep apnea has disappeared. After losing about 100 pounds, I started running. I got my distance up to 5K and have moved that to 10K distances. I kind of look forward to it now.” Allan’s low cholesterol level is impressive and meaningful because several doctors, including world-famous pathologist William Roberts and Cleveland Clinic legend Caldwell Esselstyn, indicate that a total cholesterol under 150 mg/dl, like Allan’s, can make you essentially heart attack proof.
Study In-Depth: The National Cholesterol Education Program Diet Versus a Vegan Diet. Can you really trust the science that the Plant-Based Solution is the answer to your weight issues? You may recall the name Neal Barnard, of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Dr. Barnard contributed to another landmark paper regarding plant-based nutrition, this time on long-term weight loss. Sixty-two overweight, postmenopausal women followed a plant-based diet for fourteen weeks. Individuals in the vegan group lost more weight than those who followed a diet endorsed by the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP). The authors concluded that a vegan diet was associated with significantly greater weight loss than the NCEP diet at one and two years. Both group support and meeting attendance were associated with significant weight loss at follow-up.
This is science at its best. A tough problem, a well-designed study, and meaningful results. If you will ditch the meat, add the veggies, and get some friends doing the same, you will see your waistline decrease. And wouldn’t that feel nice?
Excerpted from THE PLANT-BASED SOLUTION: America’s Healthy Heart Doc’s Plan to Power Your Health, by Joel K. Kahn, MD. Sounds True, January 2018. Reprinted with permission.
Joel Kahn, MD is one of the world’s leading cardiologists, a bestselling author, and a popular lecturer who inspires others to think scientifically and critically about the body’s ability to heal through proper nutrition. Dr. Kahn serves as Clinical Professor of Medicine at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit and is founder of the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity. His first book, The Whole Heart Solution, was the basis of a national public TV special. Dr. Kahn lives with his wife and three children in the Detroit area, where he has recently opened the popular health food restaurant, the GreenSpace Café. Visit drjoelkahn.com.