Are you or a loved one suffering from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, or chronic pain? Has anyone ever told you how these conditions (and more) can be prevented as well as reversible in many cases? And when you've heard about a vegan (or plant-based) diet, have you ever wondered if it's actually a good fit for everyone, or if there's anybody who should not eat this way?
Dr. Neal Barnard is one of the world's leading medical experts on type 2 diabetes, with a ground-breaking study funded by the National Institutes of Health showing how this condition can be reversible for many patients. He is the author of over 100 scientific publications, 20 books for medical and lay readers, and has produced award-winning work that has also contributed key nutritional resolutions that are now part of AMA (American Medical Association) policy. He has hosted 4 PBS television programs on nutrition and health, as well as appearing in documentaries like "What the Health" and "Forks Over Knives."
Dr. Neal joins Katie Kurpanek, Eco-Living Coach and Podcast Host, to share about benefits and risks of the vegan / plant-based diet to our physical health, how we can prevent and/or reverse the most common medical conditions, as well as clearing up LOTS of misinformation and myths about nutrition, diet, and physical health.
"We never take anything on faith. We have reasons for doing the studies we do, we put things to the test, we submit them to peer reviewed journals. And I mean, we have to be right. And then when we are right, we make sure that the medical community knows about it."
- Dr. Neal Barnard, Episode 20 of the "All Things Sustainable" podcast
BRAND NEW video course: "Caring for the Earth & Kids"
Empower yourself and your family with a lifestyle that will sustainably save your time, money, and the earth around you! Whether you’re pregnant or just had a baby, you’re navigating the first couple years or early childhood, we’ve got support for you!
- Includes: 4-part video course (all 4 or individual), private online community for support, several PDFs of resources as well as a bundle of unique discount codes to 20+ sustainable products/services
This show is brought to you by listener support, and I'm sending a huge shout-out to these patrons for making it happen: Elizabeth R, Nancy K, Sarah W, Jodi S, Julia B, Liliana S, Karyn W, Linda M, Detlef K, and Kelly K!
To become a patron and receive all the perks of this community, visit www.patreon.com/allthingssustainable and join for as low as $3/month!
To learn more with your host and Eco-Living Coach, Katie Kurpanek, visit www.thatminimallife.com for blog posts and personalized coaching info!
TRANSCRIPTS FOR EACH EPISODE can be found here: https://allthingssustainable.buzzsprout.com
You're listening to all things sustainable, where we unpack topics related to sustainable living, as well as how to apply specific actions to your own life. I'm your eco living coach and podcast host, Katie Kurpanek. Let's jump in. Hey, real quick before we dive into our show today, I want you to know that I've recently launched a brand new video course called caring for the earth and kids. Have you ever thought about the connection between eco friendly habits and financial savings, lots of people think living sustainably is expensive, because you have to like go out and buy all these special eco friendly products. But that could not be further from the truth. In my experience, and countless others, you can literally save 1000s of dollars by adapting your lifestyle to become more sustainable, especially when it comes to having kids. raising families can be so expensive. I have already saved over $6,500 in the past couple of years since having our toddler and that's honestly on the low end as I keep on realizing ways that we've saved even more money. All by following the sustainable hacks that I share in this video course, whether you are pregnant or you're expecting a baby, if you're in the postpartum or newborn phase, or you're navigating baby's first year or even toddlerhood or even into young childhood, I've got you covered. This four part video course will teach you how to care for your family, yourself the planet and save money, time and stress in the process. Plus, it comes with a private online community to continue supporting you beyond the video course and a bunch of digital resources and discount codes. If you're looking to raise a sustainable family, what are you waiting for this is for you head over to that minimal life.com/shop. Again, that's that minimal life.com/shop. And all of that is linked in the show notes for you to start this video course today. Alright, let's get back to our show. Hello, my friends welcome back to the All Things sustainable podcast. We are in season three. And I am just so delighted to have you here today. In season three, we are covering all things vegan and if you missed the introductory episode right before this one, you're going to definitely want to go back and give that a listen. The beginning of it kind of gives you like the direction for the entire series. And then we have our very first interview which was with vegan psychologist Claire man. In this episode today you will be hearing from a true icon a world leader in the medical field. I honestly still can't even believe that I had the privilege of interviewing him sometimes it just blows my mind. And I'm so thankful for the incredible connection from Dr. Joanne Kong that led me to this interview but Dr. Neil Barnard, he is let me just give you a brief bio, but he is the real deal y'all. He is an adjunct professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington DC and he's the president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. But he has led numerous research studies investigating the effects of diet and nutrition on diabetes, body weight, chronic pain, and more. And that includes a groundbreaking study of dietary interventions in type two diabetes that was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and it has so much evidence to show that type two diabetes can be a potentially reversible condition for many patients. Dr. Barnard has authored more than 100 scientific publications, and 20 currently books for both medical and lay readers. He is also the editor in chief of the nutrition guide for clinicians, which is a textbook made available to all US medical students being the President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Dr. Neil Barnard is leading programs that advocate for preventative medicine, good nutrition and higher ethical standards in research. All this is coming from his website by the way PC R m.org, which stands for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. His research contributed to the acceptance of plant based diets in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In 2016 he founded the Barnard Medical Center in Washington DC, making nutrition a routine part of all medical care. Dr. Neil Barnard works with the medical society of the District of Columbia and the American Medical Association AMA and He has authored key resolutions which are now part of the AMA policy, calling for a new focus on prevention and nutrition in federal policies and in medical practice. He has hosted four PBS television programs on Nutrition and Health. In 2018, he received the medical society of the District of Columbia's Distinguished Service Award, you guys, I could just go on and on he is the real deal. If you are looking for an expert to weigh in on the connection between nutrition and diet and physical health, this is the person. And on top of that the greatest part I think of this conversation is just how relatable Dr. Neil is. I mean, he is an amazing storyteller. First of all, you're going to hear some incredible stories in this episode, but he's just a really down to earth relatable person. This episode to me did not feel like it was full of medical jargon at all. And a lot like his books that he's written that are also for the lay reader, he just puts things into a language that is so simple and easy to understand. So in this episode, I really took the time to craft as many challenging questions as possible that I could think of that I've thought of myself or that I have heard in my own circles, wondering, you know, is a plant based diet truly for everyone? What are the potential health benefits or risks? You know, there are so many questions about protein and iron deficiencies, and you know, your blood type, and what kind of diet should you be giving your body we talk about preventing and reversing common diseases and health conditions, especially diabetes, through diet and nutrition, we talk about its connection to other conditions of you know, just the human condition like your menstrual cycle and menopause, we talk about heart disease, cancer, there's just so much here, I can't wait for you all to dive into it. I will give you a bit of a heads up that, you know, in some of the stories that Dr. Neal shares, there is a little bit of some graphic medical talk. So there's one story in particular right toward the beginning of the episode. And then another story a few minutes after that, that, you know, might feel a little unsettling if you don't really like that sort of graph, medical talk. So there is your heads up, but it doesn't last very long. And it's definitely not the entire episode, you will for sure want to listen to the end, because at the end, Dr. Neil gives a very simple and powerful step by step plan to better your health. So it is doable for absolutely anybody you're not going to want to miss it. So stay tuned for that. I am just incredibly honored to have had this conversation and to share it with you. Let's dive into this chat with Dr. Neil Barnard. Dr. Neil Barnard, it's really a privilege to have you on the podcast, I am so excited that I just get a chance to interview you and share your insights with all of our listeners. You are a leading expert in the medical realm of vegan diet and nutrition. And I've already told my listeners a little bit about you in the intro, but just re emphasizing the fact that you've led numerous research studies on like the effects of diet and nutrition on things like diabetes and body weight and chronic pain and more. I know that you're looking into finding research that shows that type two diabetes could be a potentially reversible condition for some patients. And then on top of that you have authored so many things like over 100 scientific publications and 20 books. My personal favorite is the vegan starter kit. And I recommend that book to everybody. So it is an honor to have you here today. Thank you for your time.Dr. Neal Barnard:
Well, thank you, it's great to be with you today,Katie Kurpanek:
we are going to cover the benefits and potential risks, if any of a vegan or a whole foods plant based diet today. And then whether or not you think this is the healthiest choice for everyone. My goal with this podcast series, the whole series in season three is about veganism. And so my goal is to lead from a place of empathy, and respect and compassion because we both know that shame tech tactics are never like a healthy or effective motivator. So based on what I've read from your work, I know that you will be an excellent person to talk to with that in mind. But I would love if you could just start by sharing a bit about yourself, who you are, what you're passionate about, and who are some of the beloved people in your life.Dr. Neal Barnard:
Yeah, well, first of all, thank you again for including me in this you know, everybody's sort of rethinking the foods they're eating, how they affect their health, we're learning new things or new products that we become aware of new ideas and so it's, it's really a cool time, I have to say, to be able to do this kind of reflection and it's true that the foods that we've been using in our research studies are plant based foods and we take people who've got diabetes, lots of extra weight and and they really want to improve and we put them on a vegan diet. However I got to tell you, that is not how I grew up at all. I grew up in North Dakota. I don't know if you've ever been there but I grew up in Fargo and about as far back as I can trace my family was in the cattle business, my, my dad grew up raising cattle, his father, pretty much everybody. And although I gotta get my dad some credit, as soon as he grew up into adulthood, pretty soon he started saying, This is not for me. The cattle business that is, and so he went to medical school, and he became the diabetes expert for Fargo. And really all of Eastern North Dakota, somebody had diabetes, they would come and see my father sooner or later. But I have to tell you, he would come home, six o'clock, 630. He'd sit down his medical bag, and he slumped down in a chair. And I never, ever heard my father say that anybody with diabetes ever got better. His job was to try to slow down the damage of this disease. So okay, it's going to attack your heart. But let's try to not have that happen anytime soon. If it's attacking your vision, let's try to delay that. Let's try to not use more medicine than we need. It was kind of this war of attrition. And when I went to medical school, he didn't encourage me to get into diabetes at all. Because this just, it wasn't really sort of as hopeless and hopeful place where you can really make a big difference. Anyhow, I want to say, as soon as we started looking at how foods can influence the physiological processes that go into diabetes, suddenly the clouds parted. And we had the most optimistic Vista really, that we could apply and, and not just to diabetes, but all kinds of other things. But anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself, you asked me kind of like how I got into this year, I gotta tell you just one quick story. The year before I went to medical school, I was living in Minneapolis, and there was a hospital there called Fairview hospital. And I had a job in the basement of the hospital, I was in the hospital morgue. And when when a patient died, my job was to take their body out of the coup. I know, forgive me for thatKatie Kurpanek:
my dad works in that industry, actually.Dr. Neal Barnard:
So you know what I'm talking about. And it was an important thing, we had to determine the cause of death. And so the pathologist would come in, and they would do an autopsy. And they would examine the body and they would figure out, you know, what, it killed the person. And it was an important thing to do. And my job was just to assist. And I would waive the organs and hold this and hold that. But the pathologists all knew that I was going to be going to medical school the following year. And so they used this as an opportunity to teach me things. And I was kind of soaking up what they were saying. Anyhow, one day, we had a person who died in the hospital of a heart attack, you know, probably from meeting hospital food, but that's another story. So the pathologist had to examine the heart, obviously, and you don't do this with great delicacy, you take what looks like a garden clipper, and you just cut through the ribs. And you get this big pie wedge of ribs off the chest, and you set it on the table. And then suddenly, there's a heart. And so he took a scalpel, and he cut into one of the coronary arteries and explained to me, they're called coronary because they crown the heart, these arteries bring bring blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. I'm kind of getting these like medical lectures as I'm helping. So he says, I feel that are, you know, I got gloves on. So I feel this artery, and instead of it being this rubbery tube, it felt like a clay pipe stem or something, it was hard. And he said that's calcifications that's atherosclerosis. And he said that that's, that's basically your bacon and eggs. That will do that. And what he was getting at is that people who grew up the way I grew up with a diet that frankly, has a lot of animal fat in it and a lot of cholesterol. And this is what happens. And so then he proceeded to look at the neck where the carotid arteries go to the brain. And we found exactly the same process in those arteries. He said, if this person had not been killed by a heart attack, he was headed for a stroke. And then we found this in the arteries to the kidneys and all sorts of throughout the body. Okay, the exam is finished, he writes up all his findings, you know, systemic atherosclerotic disease, died of a myocardial infarction that he leaves, I gotta clean up. So I put the organs back in the in the body cavity, and then I put the ribs back in the chest, and I sewed up the skin. And it was it was a long exam, and I finally finished and then I went up to the cafeteria for lunch afterward. They were they were serving ribs for lunch.Katie Kurpanek:
Oh my gosh,Dr. Neal Barnard:
yeah, exactly. And I looked at it looked like the body and I could smell it. Oh my god, it smelled like his body. And I did not become a vegetarian on the spot. But I looked at that and I thought, I am not my mouth. I just, it was just, I won't call it an ethical thing or a health thing. It was just this kind of revulsion. But But I kind of I, I had prior to that, eating meat every day I had hunted, you know, we had guns, we would shoot, you know, ducks and me. Things I now regret and would never do but, but I have driven cattle to slaughter myself. And I just suddenly, in this moment was thinking, Wait a minute, I'm not sure I want to eat that. So anyhow, I then moved to Washington, DC, where I am now went to the George Washington University School of Medicine, and there you started learning. Okay, what is cholesterol? Where does it come from? How does it affect your body? And I started to learn that, well, frankly, I started to learn that a lot of our notions were wrong. I thought you had a heart attack because you're old, you're 55, You know, that's to be expected. But wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, no. First of all, 55 is not so old. And secondly, secondly, these are diseases that are so often engendered by by food choices. And the good news is that as researchers like Dr. Dean Ornish, and others with whom you're familiar, they have shown that these processes not only can be slowed down, it can be reversed. And so then we started putting our attention to things like weight issues, can the weight come down? Diabetes, can diabetes improve or go away? Recently, we've been doing a work with hormonal conditions like menstrual pain or, or menopausal symptoms, which you wouldn't think in a million years would have anything to do with what you eat. But we have found those connections, we've put it to work, we do careful research studies. And for me, personally, it's been just a life changing. To see, diet changes are not just some little thing, where oh, maybe it'll help your cholesterol a little bit, maybe you'll feel a little bit better. It is integral to what makes you healthy. And it is so powerful that it's just been changing the way people practice medicine. So anyhow, that's kind of what we're about. And so now I run the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, we do research studies here, we have a really terrific team. And then the things that we are able to establish in research studies we put to work at our medical centers called Barnard Medical Center. And people either come here physically, or they go to our website, and they say, I want to see a doctor by telemedicine or we want to see your dietician. And so our staff now sees people from California to New York to Florida, whatever, and they're putting to work the things that we've done in research. So so it's been, well, it's not what I expected it to be doing and growing up in Fargo. But that's the trajectory that we're onKatie Kurpanek:
here. Wow, that is incredible. Everything that you shared all the different dots that were connected and at different points, and then what's come of it. And so this the work that you do with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, that's open to anybody, I understand that you also do a lot of work with just medical students, but anybody can access, like you said, go onto your website. And like if they need to speak with a dietitian or a doctor, and they're interested in a vegan or plant based diet, they can find those resources.Dr. Neal Barnard:
Yes, um, the PCRM is, the site is just pcrm.org. And there's lots of information and recipes and everything else there. And then our medical center, Barnard Medical Center is is an actual medical center where people come with a twisted ankle, or pneumonia, or diabetes, or hypertension, or whatever it is, and then we're treating them for those conditions. And then we do a conference as well, which is, comes up every year. And people get together either virtually or in person. And we share the latest science and we have lots of programs to first of all, to help people in day to day life. But I gotta tell you, in some ways, our most important customers are doctors themselves. Because you know, they just don't learn about nutrition very much in medical school that really needs to change. And so they get educated, they get inspired, they get pumped up, and then they in turn, start sharing this information with with the people who come to see them and, and then their patients share it with their kids, their spouses, their families. And my hope is that that will change the world that there.Katie Kurpanek:
That's amazing. I remember learning just a few years ago that nutrition was not a critical component of what it takes to become a doctor and in typical, like medical scientific studies, and that blew my mind. I couldn't believe that that wasn't like one of the top things that people would be studying. And so I'm happy to hear that that the trajectory of that seems to be changing. What was your particular tipping point? Do you have just like one tipping point into a vegan diet for you personally? Or was it just like everything that you learned kind of accumulating?Dr. Neal Barnard:
It's been a bit of a gradual process. At the my rib experience, played in my mind quite a bit. And then right after that, I began medical school and in Medical School, we started to learn why, for example, you don't want to be eating cholesterol. And you learned that cholesterol is an animal products, it's not in plants. But many other things played into it. And they and they weren't all related to the science of nutrition. Some of them were related to ethics as well, which is kind of not what I was expecting, because I thought of myself as a smart and ethical person growing up. But when I was in medical school, in the second year of medical school, we were supposed to do a dog lab. And this was part of our pharmacology class. And so the way the lab has done is you get four or five, six students, and a dog. And the next table, it's got another four or five, six students and their dog and all around this huge room are students and dogs. And the dog is scared. And you put the dog on the table and you take them down. And then you anesthetize the dog, and then the lab manual says, inject norepinephrine, and the dog's heart goes faster. And you record this on the EKG. But you frankly, this was not a big surprise, because you knew it anyway. And that's what it's for. And then you give propranolol and the heart slows down, and you do various things. And then in this, you're supposed to be learning about the cardiac physiology. And then at the end of the day, it's just you can __ your dog. And what that means is that you have a big enough catheter in a vein that you can let the blood all drain out bit by bit by bit by bit. And then as the bl- blood drains out of the dog's body, eventually the EKG goes flatline, flatline. And then at that point that the students look at each other. And one of them says, Is it dead. And they all look at each other. And about an hour later, that room is empty. And there's all these trash bags up and down the hallway that used to have these are dogs bodies, and all the people who participate are now at home with their spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, parents, whoever, and they're talking about what they did that day. And they're supposed to, as you did, what? Why did you kill the dog? You know, what are you doing? Anyway? So that lab came up in my medical school. And the instructor said, Get your groups together, we're going to do dog lab next week, we all knew exactly what it was. It's sort of 50% education, 50%, hazing. And I said, I wasn't, I wasn't a cocky student. But I said, I'm not going to do this, I won't do it. And he said, I'm not asking you. This is a course requirement. And just as those words are coming out of his mouth, there was a student next to me, he said, he's not doing it, I'm not doing it. Okay. Suddenly, instructors confronting this movement of two people who are going to be the refused, thanks for the document. So anyway, we didn't do the document. And we wrote up the results, and we both passed the course, you know, without killing anybody. And I have to tell you, your mind just starts to work on you, you think what are the things that we do in medical practice, that sometimes have not benefited from as much ethical thinking as we need to apply to it, and not just in medical practice, but in day to day life, and I found myself reflecting back on the cows that I had driven to St. Louis, to the ducks and geese that I had shot. And I found myself as time goes on, I thought, you know, getting the animals off your plate isn't just good for your own coronary arteries. It's good for them, too. And then, of course, nowadays, we all know the environmental parts of it, that people think you're an idiot, if you're not rethinking your diet, or that you're not not an environmentalist. So I mean, there's every reason to go to it. The problem is that our culture weighs on us. Our culture introduced us to prejudices of all kinds, some of which are healthy, but others of which hold you back. And so we have to do kind of a rethink of all these but I have to say, when I got all the animals off my plate, and that for me was not an extreme thing. I found it really easy to have spaghetti marinara instead of spaghetti with meatballs. I didn't find it hard at all. I still don't find it difficult. But I also realized something else. For me that was not an extreme end of it, some kind of exploration. That for me, that was the beginning. And here's what here's what I mean. When I was growing up in Fargo every day of my life, roast beef, baked potatoes and corn. That's what we ate. Except for special occasions. It was roast beef, baked potatoes and peas. It was not a very adventurous diet. And then now I live in Washington, so I can go in my building and go down stairs, and there's an Italian place that will make me an angel here. Pasta with marinara sauce or an arrabiata sauce that's Italian for angry, it means it's this spicy vegan sauce that they deserve. And next to it, there's a Mexican place where I can get beans and rice or bean burrito or I can get veggie fajitas being Tostada us. And then across the street is an Indian restaurant where they make a veggie samosa and spinach curries. And I mean, just delight. There's a couple of Chinese restaurants, there's a Japanese sushi place, every single one of these will make totally plant based food. And then you said, Oh, forget it. No, you can't have any of that anymore. Forget it, you gotta go back to Fargo, and have you roast beef, baked potatoes and corn. My point is that what you discover is that when if you make an ethical choice to change your diet, or a health choice to change your diet, at first, we see this with our patients who have diabetes, or whatever. And they follow a plant based diet, and they get dramatically better. But they start to discover all the choices that they had never started to explore before. We hear this every week, I went to the store. And do you know, Dr. Barnard? Do you know what they have? You know, and they're talking about dairy substitutes, and meat substitutes, and spices and sauces and recipes and online resources programs like yours, where they think this is just so cool. Why didn't I hear about this before. So my point is, is a diet change feels to people extreme. And it may feel like that way a little bit before you get into it. But after a while, it's like learning to swim or, or learning to fly or whatever, it's liberating, and you start to discover all the things that you wished you had done before. So anyway, that's that's kind of my story.Katie Kurpanek:
I love all of that. And so much of what you shared resonates so deeply on a personal level for me and thinking about how people may view your dietary choices and you know, the the new adaptations that you're bringing into your life, kind of challenging the cultural norms and pressures around you as extreme. But in my mind, it's more extreme to be eating things that we know are ultimately bad for our health and going to cause a lot of long term medical problems later, like that's more extreme in my mind. But you kind of lead into the next question I have for you really well, which is how would you best summarize the benefits to a vegan diet or lifestyle? And I know that there are countless the more I've been vegan for coming up on five years, and I continue to learn about the benefits to this lifestyle. But do you have like a just well rounded summary that you could share with our listeners?Dr. Neal Barnard:
Yes, let me mention a couple of things. And in some ways, we're really just kind of turning back the clock because most cultures, a few generations ago, or maybe many generations ago had a lot of plant based things that were their staples, I'm talking about, say in Japan, Japan 1970. It was a rice based diet, some animal products, but it was rice and vegetables making up most of what they and then when McDonald's came in, and a Western diet started to come in, they started to get several things cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, menopausal symptoms became much more common diabetes, weight problems, even hair loss, depression, mood changes, a lot of things started to be accentuated with these diet changes. So you're just turning the clock back to things that our grandparents knew about. Now, in in North America, that's not exactly the case, because we've been on a pretty bad diet for a really long time. But when when people change their diets, the things that that we see as benefits. Top killer in America is heart disease. And we learned that the arteries can open up again when a person changes to a completely plant based diet. And that's the work of Dr. Dean Ornish, and Caldwell Esselstyn and others. And that has been life changing. So you can have a person who may even be up in years may have already had their first heart attack. If they make these changes. Heart disease is a reversible condition astoundingly enough. Okay, number two killer's cancer. And if we look at hormone related cancers, prostate cancer in men, breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer in women, to a degree, these are driven by food choices, a particularly a dairy based diet for prostate cancer, and to some extent breast cancer. Meat plays a role and the absence of vegetables and fruits is part of that problem, too. And then diabetes, which we had thought of as well, that runs in families that must be genetic, and partly it is, is driven very much by diet choices, and it too is reversible. Oh back on cancer, I forgot to mention that diet plays a role not only in reducing cancer risk, reducing the risk of cancer will start. But let's say a woman has been diagnosed with breast cancer. If she changes her diet now that healthy foods can make it more likely that you'll survive this. And that's true of prostate cancer for men and other forms of the disease too. And And of course, America's favorite preoccupation is trying to lose weight. And we do it with all kinds of challenging things like, you know, cutting calories so that you're hungry every day. You know, by Wednesday, you're ready to eat the sofa when people make a qualitative shift in what they eat, not worrying about the quantity, but But focusing on the type of weight loss becomes really, really easy, and automatic and effectively permanent. And our team has done a lot of work into why that is. And what does a plant based diet do for you not not just taming your appetite, but also stimulating your metabolism. So you burn calories a little bit more like a teenager. So those are some of the things that started us off cardiovascular disease, cancer, risk, diabetes, and so forth. And then more recently, we've been looking at hormonal conditions, which started just as a complete accident. Women who had really bad menstrual pain, I'm talking about just cramps, we started to discover that if you change the diet in the right way, and the right way, is no animal products, and also keep oily foods really low. That changes the hormonal activity in the body, and can make those cramps improve, or sometimes just go away. It makes heavy flow and get get in all the things that go along with it, including things like PMS, all those things get tackled to a degree. And then just in the past couple of years, we've been looking at menopausal symptoms. So for women in their 50s, were hot flashes, driving them crazy. I'm trying to have a board of directors meeting people, and suddenly I'm sweating. You know, I'm trying to get through the night and trying to sleep. But every two hours I'm waking up in a pool is what women can can get real power from a diet change, which was not the case prior to the research that we were doing, because we found how to how to do this right, and how to make it really powerful. So anyway, um, those are some of the things that are perhaps most impacted. But we never take anything on faith. We have reasons for doing the studies we do we put things to the test, we submit them to peer reviewed journals. And I mean, we have to be right. And then when we are right, we make sure that the medical community knows about it.Katie Kurpanek:
Exactly. And that's something that I appreciate so much about the work that you do with the books that you've authored, because at least the ones that I've read, they're very digestible, pun intended there. They're very easy for the Layperson to read and not need to have a bunch of, you know, medical knowledge or background. And so you lay a lot of that out very clearly in like the vegan starter kit, for example. But I mean, clearly, people have been studying this for a very long time for years and years. And like you said, this goes back into our entire history in cultures and people groups around the world. So this is nothing new. But would you say I mean, I know that the China study is that what one of these huge case studies is called?Dr. Neal Barnard:
That's right. Yeah, that was Colin Campbell's work. At Cornell University working with the government of China, they looked at a vast territory, where individuals followed different kinds of diets. In the north, they might eat one way and the South ate in a different way. And so what they looked at was dietary patterns, and discovered that if you're on a in a part of China, where pork chops are everyday fair, the health measures were nowhere near as favorable as parts of China, where people ate a diet that was very rich in vegetables and grains, or maybe almost entirely plant based.Katie Kurpanek:
So that I mean, that study alone comes to my mind, because it was a huge study. I mean, 1000s upon 1000s of people. But I mean, would you qualify the amount of like case studies done on a vegan or plant based diet being like in the hundreds of 1000s? In the millions? I mean, do you have an idea of how many studies have even been done to like, make this so credible?Dr. Neal Barnard:
There have been studies that have followed a couple of couple of different strategies. And one strategy is like the China Study, you're tracking people who are choosing their own diets, and you're looking at different health measures. And there have been many of these. The Nurses Health Study at Harvard University is an example where they're not telling the nurses what to eat. They're just saying, you tell us what you're eating. And now tell us about your health measures as time goes on. Or the physicians Health Study. Also at Harvard, 20, some 1000 doctors, they're not telling them what to eat, but they're tracking. And what these observational studies allow us to do is to look at how foods seem to be associated with different risks. The physicians Health Study was one of the first ones that said there's a link between dairy and prostate cancer. And that just shocked people and what happened was that the doctors who were drinking a fair amount of milk including skim milk, at much higher risk of prostate cancer than the other men. Men who avoid Did milk had much lower risk. And then other studies show the same thing. And then we started to understand why that might be because milk increases something called IGF one in your blood that drives cancer cell growth, but it started with observations. The other kind of study is what I'm gonna call a randomized trial. So people come in, and now we're going to randomly assign you to a group or we're going to change your diet, or a control group where you don't. And there, I might need a much smaller number, I don't need 20,000 people, I can do this with 100 people, or 50 people or 40 people, sometimes, depending on what we're looking at. And so I've got 50 people, 25 of them are going to go vegan, the other 25 do not. And everyone is overweight, everybody wants to lose weight. And now I'm gonna put you on the scale every week, and we're gonna see what happens. I'm gonna put a needle in your arm, and I'm gonna draw your cholesterol. Or I'm going to ask you to track your hot flashes on an app on your phone. And we're going to see if that gets better. And so there, I'm controlling for things. I know that the two groups are the same age, same time, kind of demographics, and so forth. And so we use both of these techniques. And to answer your question, the evidence for certain areas is absolutely conclusive. A plant based diet without question will lower your cholesterol level, reduce your risk of heart disease, lower your blood pressure, lower your body weight, even without calorie counting, we've shown that it's extremely effective for hot flashes, which is a big surprise before diabetes, it's clearly the treatment of choice. But there are other areas where I think we need more work, we found some really tantalizing leads with migraine headaches, with acne with rheumatoid arthritis, but and with things that autoimmune conditions like lupus or sjogrens, disease or others. But I think we need more work there. I think we need more research in some of these other areas.Katie Kurpanek:
Okay, that's so good to know. And that, again, brings me to my next question for you, which is, do you feel like a vegan diet is realistic and possible and like the best option for everyone? Or maybe a better way to word that question would be the inverse, which is Do you think that there's anybody who would not benefit or shouldn't have a vegan diet?Dr. Neal Barnard:
A vegan diet means you're eating vegetables and fruits and whole grains and beans, And that's good for everybody. And there is nobody who needs meat, who needs dairy products, or who needs eggs, or who needs anything from an animal. So so the answer is, yes, a plant based diet is for everybody. And there is nobody who needs to have meat products. And for people are wondering what does that really mean? It means those four groups that I mentioned, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, and beans, those are the ingredients. So whether it turns into pasta, or a curry, or a chili, or, you know what, however you whatever you make it into, those are the four groups. And you should take a supplement of vitamin B 12. And that's I say, a supplement. Because vitamin B 12 is a funny vitamin, you need it for healthy nerves, and you need it for healthy blood. And it isn't made by plants. And it's not made by animals. It's made by bacteria. And back, prior to the advent of modern hygiene, there were bacteria in the soil, on plants in our mouths on our fingers, and you would presumably get the 2.4 micrograms that you need for healthy nerves and healthy blood, those days are gone. And so people really should be supplementing vitamin B 12. But but that's easy to do. And yes, preside is for everybody, including children, including women at conception so that your baby is getting the benefits that plants provide and not getting the the risks that come from adding animal products into your diet.Katie Kurpanek:
Okay, thank you. I feel like it is worth so much more having somebody as qualified as yourself to be able to say that rather than just me, you know, telling my own little community around me that this is what I believe but there is substantial evidence to back this up. And and yet at the same time, I know that there are a lot of just misinformation and myths that are continuing to circulate no matter how much information seems to continue to come out to prove them wrong. They're still there. And so among those, what I hear all the time, and I know that there are going to be so many listeners to this podcast that are thinking the same things. I hear that people struggle with iron deficiencies, and therefore they need the red meat in their diet. Or it's very, very common in my circles to have people who said that while I tried being vegetarian, I tried being vegan, you know, even for a couple of years or longer, and I ended up having to change and go back to eating Animal products because you know, my iron was too low or I was anemic. There's also people in my circles who say that it's incompatible with their blood type, like, you know, I'm just gonna leave that there. I know that there's so many more, but what would you say in response to all those thingsDr. Neal Barnard:
I would use the word ridiculous comes to mind. And forgive me for saying that. But the blood type diet is ridiculous. It was made by a well meaning ill informed doctor named [Peter] D’Adamo, who said, If your blood type, if you're blood type O you, you need meat. And a vegan diet is not for you, and if you're type A, a vegan diet is for you, you should have plant plant based foods. And it would, I mean, it was not based on complete nonsense, because it is true that different blood types do have slightly different risks and different different health risks. For example, a person who was typo has a modestly lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to other people for completely unrelated reasons. But that doesn't mean that a pork chop is safe for them. And, and the reason that I'm saying this so confidently, and using a kind of a mean word like ridiculous is because we have put this to the test. We have brought in human beings, and we have tracked their blood types. And we have put them on plant based diets. And you know, what we have, we have found that the people with blood type O do every bit as well on a completely plant based diet, as the people who are type A, and the people who are type B and the people who are Type A B, there is absolutely no difference that you can show whatsoever. We publish those findings, they are there in the peer reviewed literature. And but people I think people I kind of let me come to it a little bit of conjecture. There are some people who I mean, everybody kind of likes a hot dog, or a burger or some bacon or something like that. We grew up with it. It's familiar food. And if someone's got a rationalization, like, I'm blood type O, I have to have a hotdog. You know, that's kind of like saying, Well, I'm, I'm under stress. So now's a good time for me to have a cigarette. You know, we like to have a cigarette. And if I can find some rationale for it. Let me bring that into my diet. And let me bring that into my back into my life. And I can say this because I am a former meat eating smoker. I'm gonna Yes, it's true. When I was a medical student, I had my merit Menthols and my burgers and all this unhealthy stuff that you learn about. With regard to other things, so many people, I think people are right to be skeptical about a vegan diet. Because there's, there's a lot of nonsense out there. There are many fad diets that people hear about, you can lose weight with just cabbage soup, and then and then people have a right to be skeptical. So you say to them, you know, plant based diet is good for you plant a vegan that will help you Why should a person believe that they hear all kinds of things, I think people are absolutely right to challenge this. However, the evidence has come in. And it's extremely clear that your protein is abundant in a plant based diet, which is why a bowl a cow and elephant, a giraffe and these are vegan animals and they have no trouble building muscle. And you won't either there's the all the essential amino acids that build protein are in plants. And the variety of things that you include in your routine will give you those amino acids in more than more than enough for you as a man or woman a growing child, whoever you may be with regard to iron. Yeah, the 1950s idea was you need red meat or liver for iron. But I gotta tell you something a cow doesn't make iron. Okay, counts down an iron manufacturing plant account eats iron in grass, green vegetables, take the iron, it's in the earth, it's an element in the earth it comes goes through the roots of the grass, the cow eats the grass, the iron gets in the meat, you will do the same hopefully you're not eating grass. But if you're eating broccoli, spinach, anything else. These are this is the iron source that Mother Nature thought you were gonna have. And they work very, very effectively. Now, women who are in their reproductive years will lose a little bit of iron every month. And so they can sometimes run low. But a woman who is on a plant based diet is no more likely to be iron deficient than a woman who's on a meat based diet and if she is running low because she has extra menstrual flow or she's an athlete and whatever it she is running low on iron. The thing to do is to increase the healthy sources of iron in your diet. And we do see some people who are super athletes, marathon runners and whatever who occasionally even supplement but the you don't want to be adding meat to your diet as a source of iron because then along with you're getting cholesterol and saturated fat and salmonella and the things you don't want.Katie Kurpanek:
Yeah, thank you. Okay, that's good to know. And so for the people who feel like you know, they have been vegetarian or vegan for so long. They feel like they gave it a good shot and the They felt like, you know, their body was responding in a negative way towards it, would you recommend that those people, you know, if they were to give it another shot? Should they try to differentiate more of the food groups? You know, the out of the for the fruits, vegetables, legumes or beans and grains? Should they differentiate more of what is, you know, on their plates? Should they work with like a nutritional coach, if they feel like they were, you know, not getting enough iron? What would be your like, go to resource for them?Dr. Neal Barnard:
Yeah, they should, they should definitely give it another shot and do it with some guidance for somebody who has been there before. And by the way, I should say that those cases are quite rare. The reason I say that as we bring hundreds of people into our research studies, it is quite rare to see a person who really has much trouble with it. No, no, no, don't get me wrong, everybody has a little trouble at the beginning. Because it's week three, they're losing weight, they're feeling great or energy is good, but they've got a wedding they have to go to in South Carolina. And they think, oh my God, what's my cousin gonna think when I show up, and I don't want to eat the data that you got those kinds of problems that you got to deal with. Or my friends invited me to come out to their birthday, and it's at the steak house or you know that you have the cultural problems. But the food choices, you sort of sorted themselves out pretty well. But But keep in mind, when if we had a omnivorous upbringing, as most of us did, you were born into a culture that had already kind of figured out which foods you can digest and which foods you prefer, and how to make them. And so you've got to have it laid out for you. And you have that path. If you're suddenly going to decide I'm not going to eat animal products anymore. And everything is new and unfamiliar. You don't even know how to pronounce quinoa, let alone how to cook it. So it's kind of a strange world that you're thrown into. And you're not sure, should I look at Asian foods or Indian foods or European foods or Latin American foods, I don't know. It's like, let's say you got off the plane and you're in Paris. Beautiful area. But you walked out of your hotel room, and you don't know what to eat, and you don't know what the restaurants are or anything. And you go to the first restaurant and it wasn't so hot. And you know, it's awkward at first. But oh, you find a guy who says don't go to that restaurant, go to this one. This will change your life. And as time goes on, you find the foods that work with you. So for that if there is a person who has any kind of issue, they should work with a registered dietitian, or they should work with a health coach or somebody else who can maybe guide them to some choices, try them out, try different things. And it 100% of the time. It works out. Some people will say I think I need a little more protein. Okay, you may not but if you do fine. Have you had grilled tofu to go tempeh a? Have you had beans? Do you want to have just do you want to have even a protein supplement? They've got the vegan ones right now. It's funny you go to the drugstore. And you've got ensure you know, which is the stuff that they serve for older people to give them more protein. Well, right next to it is vegan ensure same stuff, just plant. I'm not saying you need it. But what I am saying is there are always plant based solutions every every time.Katie Kurpanek:
I love it. Okay, thank you. I feel like that clears up a lot of the misinformation. And one more bit of misinformation that I have also heard that I forgot to mention is that a lot of people I talked to who are like you, like you said rightfully so skeptical of a vegan diet, they are talking about how like today, our grains, our soy, the way we grow our produce a lot of it being done with pesticides or GMO, they claim that that is no longer such a healthy choice, you know, compared to how it may have been grown, or the types of grain that it was like way back when. So in their mind, it's not a healthier dietary choice compared to eating animal products because you're still ingesting a bunch of something, you know, that's going to be bad for your system. So what would you say to that?Dr. Neal Barnard:
Yeah, it's a great issue. And it's a really important one. When I go back to Fargo and I, I'm driving from the airport, you know, to see a friend or my family, whoever's there. You look out on the field. And on one side, it's all corn. The other side, it's all soybeans. And it's beautiful as far as the eye can see it's corn, and then you look a little closer. Every plant is identical. This is GMO corn. No human is going to eat one ear of that corn and all the soybeans over here that's GMO to no human is going to eat that either. That's not going to your tofu. That's going to hogs. It's going to cattle and it's going to chickens. So every burger that everybody ate at McDonald's came from a cow who is fed GMO soy GMO corn. And this if you're eating a chicken sandwich or something like that you are eating animals were fed GMO stuff and pesticide treated grains all their lives and You're getting those traces in what you eat. And the worst of it all is fish get the fish sandwich that came from a fish, the tuna sandwich. The little fish eating the mercury on the ocean floor is consumed by a bigger fish who's consumed by a bigger fish and a bigger fish. And finally, the big tuna ate it. And the bio concentration of mercury, pesticides, industrial chemicals, all goes into you. And if you are a breastfeeding woman, straight into your baby's mouth. So when people eat, let's say I want to have soybeans and want to have soy milk. And the magic word on the carton is organic. US law says cannot be GMO. If it is you can't label it organic. Look for the tofu organic, it is not GMO. So you can avoid the GMO foods really very easily. And if you're eating the plants directly, researchers have looked at this and your diet is so much cleaner. If you're eating plants, right, in fact, even if they're not organic, even if you're eating just the regular broccoli, I mean the organic stuff is there, it's widely available, it's really easy to find it, it doesn't cost that much more. When even if you're eating the non organic things. The pesticide load that you're getting is much lower than you'll get if you're eating than you would if you're eating animals who are eating pesticide treated grains all their lives. So it's a very good question people are right. And yet, it's really quite easy. No matter where you live in the US or in any other country. It's not a difficult thing to get healthy. beans, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and other products.Katie Kurpanek:
Okay, awesome. Thank you for clarifying. clarifying that. And that brings me to one other thing I had thought about thinking about this diet being accessible to as many people as possible, if not everybody, a lot of what I have also seen trending as an argument against a vegan diet is that the global impacts of certain plant based foods becoming more popular and in higher demand is that that is now ethically, you know, socially hurting people across the globe. So for example, there's, you know, reports of people in Bolivia who can no longer afford to eat quinoa, due to its high demand everywhere else, or similarly, with like avocado groves, now taking up so much land space and so much water to meet the demand that now it's causing desertification in the surrounding areas. Do you feel like one that there's truth there? And two, do you feel like we can find a balance somehow if we are continuing to push for a more plant based world?Dr. Neal Barnard:
Let's be clear about this. And Francis Moore, Lupe wrote a book a generation ago called diet for a small planet. And she said, How are we going to feed a hungry world? Are we going to grow crops and feed those crops to chickens, and then eat the little bit of protein that you get out of? Or are we going to eat the crops directly? Animal agriculture is a nutrition wasting system, you have to put so much water and so much food into a cow to get a little bit of meat out of it, that it's done, not for nutritional reasons, it's done for cultural reasons. And for tastes and preferences. It's a luxury item that people have, go to the Amazon and ask anybody in the government there, how many acres are being burned every day, so that you can remove the jungle and grow crops to feed cattle for beef. That's what's happening. A meat based diet is I'm sorry to say despite the fact that it's my extended family's business. It's an ethical slap in the face to people all around the world. And the sooner that we realize that and eat simpler foods, the quicker that we can provide a diet to feed everybody that said, economic issues and political issues do come into it. And that's food distribution is an issue and it's it's it occurs at time of war in times of civil strife. And just by economics, all these things weigh in. But that is not a reason to go and have a pork chop. That's a step very much in the right direction.Katie Kurpanek:
Okay, thank you. Well, then bringing it in for a landing here. It has been so wonderful to talk with you and to clarify so many of these misconceptions. What would you suggest could be one, two or three actionable steps that our listeners can take as soon as today to learn more about like a healthy and sustainable vegan diet and to start to take steps in those directions if they're curious or if they're just like ready to go, you know, let's let's start today.Dr. Neal Barnard:
Three things. The first thing is I the kind of work that you're doing's so important, people need to just learn some of these basic facts because we all had impressions that may have been right or may have been wrong. But the more that we learn, the better off we're going to be. As an example, for many people, they think, well, I won't eat meat, but I'll eat cheese because they don't kill a cow, you know, then I'll just drink the milk. And then the more you learn about it, which you can learn this in about five minutes, you'll learn that every cow that ever gave you milk for any, any purpose, was artificially inseminated. And she gave birth to a calf, who if he was male was killed for veal. And if she was a female calf, she was raised in isolation until she could be artificially inseminated and have her calves taken away. And then mom, who normally in nature would live to be 20. She's killed at age four. That's right, dairy cows live to be about four, because they're just not worth it anymore. The farmers figure, well, you're taking too much feed to produce milk, I'll kill you. I'll milk your daughter. The dairy industry turns out to be a meat industry. It's just that you, you impregnate the females kill the males, then you have a ventually kill everybody. As time goes on, and it the beauty of knowing as disturbing as that is, and as creepy as those images are. They happen to be honest. And they are motivating. And you start to also connect it to then what happens to you. Wait a minute, they artificially inseminate her every year? They're milking her when she's pregnant, the pregnancy hormones, are they getting into the milk? And if they are, this isn't just ethical. This is a health issue. I'm giving them to my seven year old son, I'm giving that to my four year old daughter is their estradiol and it from the cow. The answer is absolutely there is you're no smarter than you were before. So getting educated about these things, the ethical side and the health side is so important. Step two. If you're thinking okay, all right, you're right, I you know, I'll try it. But I don't know what to do. Take seven days a week. And just check out the possibilities. What I mean is take a piece of paper and just write down things that you might eat if you were following a vegan diet. So different breakfasts, different lunches, different dinners, don't take anything out of your diet, but take a week and just check out the possibilities. Okay, vegan sausage, my sister and I was always telling me about the vegan sausage, okay, you gotta we go to the store, buy it and see if you liked it. If you like it, put it on your list. I eat at taco bell, they got a bean burrito, I guess that's vegan if they leave the cheese off. Will I like that? I don't know, I never tried it, I always eat the meat taco-- go there and try it. Okay, so you're taking seven days to try the options. Step three, you've now got a list. And you've got some knowledge. Now take three weeks, and do it all vegan all the time, but only for 21 days. And that's super easy now, because you can do anything for 21 days. And secondly, you've got your list, and you already know what you like. So you think, okay, I can do this easily. Now, at the end of 21 days, two things will happen. Number one, you are physically changing, you're losing weight, if you got diabetes, your blood sugar is coming down, your mood is better. Your digestion is suddenly sorted itself out, you look in the mirror and my skin is clearing up a little bit. Okay. And then but the other thing is that your tastes have changed. And you find I haven't had chicken wings for three weeks. And you know what, I don't care, I really didn't miss it. And you have you have found new websites, new products, new tastes, new seasonings, other people who have kind of wondered where you've been. And it's just exciting. And you think, well, I want to keep going. So get educated, learn everything you can be a good be skeptical. Test out the foods to find the options that you like, and then eat him. And in the future, you are in charge. You can stop anytime you want. Just like a ex smoker can light up anytime he wants or she wants you can do it. What happens is you don't want to because you've learned you're a different person. And then as time goes on, something else happens. The weight of the world settles on your shoulder. You think Americans eat a million animals every hour, we're destroying the environment. And I'm not doing any favors for my community or my kids, if I'm not part of the solution to this. And with that comes meaning, that we're here for maybe a reason to spread some useful information that in turn will save other people's lives. So those are my three.Katie Kurpanek:
I love it. That's so inspiring. And it just like fills me up with so much hope and joy that anybody can really start with one of those steps and just like you said they will feel the difference in themselves. I definitely did like when I first became vegan, it was completely for health reasons. And within 10 days I was feeling like a totally different person. And then after that came all the learning about the environmental impacts and then the animals themselves and so on and so on. So I am so grateful for you sharing those resources, I know that on your PCRM website, there's also that 21 Day Kickstarter program to help people walk through starting to be vegan, basically everything that you just outlined, but if they need a little extra support, I can link that in the episode description. But this has been so wonderful. Are there any other ways that you would recommend them connecting with you other than that website directly?Dr. Neal Barnard:
Oh, there's there's so much there. My most recent book is called your body in balance. That's the one that talks about reversing diabetes and tackling your hot flashes and your menstrual pain or thyroid issues or whatever. We have a on your iPhone, or your Android. It's the 21 Day Vegan kickstart app. It's free. It's not commercial, it's not promoting anything. It's in English, it's in Spanish. We made it for doctors to give to patients. But people now are just downloading it on their own. And it's got 21 days of menus and recipes and cooking videos. And it's it's really fun. So I hope people have a chance to try it and then share it around with with other people who need it too.Katie Kurpanek:
Wonderful. Well, thank you so, so much for providing all these resources. It's definitely changing countless lives and I'm so appreciative of that.Dr. Neal Barnard:
Great. Well, thank you so much. It's been great talking with you.Katie Kurpanek:
Same to you. I hope you enjoyed today's episode, and if you did, I would love it if you would share it with a friend. Spread the word over your social media, or simply leave a review wherever you subscribe to this podcast to help others find it as well. Thank you so much for being here. I'll catch you next time.