Montgomery Heart & Wellness
Food as Medicine | Montgomery Heart & Wellness
Separate fact from fiction with credible information about the causes and symptoms of chronic
illness as well as valuable insights into how food affects your overall health and wellness.

Food as Medicine

The Truth About What Causes Chronic Illness

America’s health care system is one of the hottest topics debated today. We as a society are concerned about skyrocketing costs, reductions in services and burdens placed on the system to cover emergency needs of the uninsured.

We spend incredible amounts of money annually to get the best health care we can afford. With all the money we throw at it, we should expect to be some of the healthiest people in the world. Sadly, that is not the case. We keep spending more money, only to find ourselves getting sicker. It feels at times like we are paying to become ill.

Chronic illnesses, and acute illnesses for that matter, are primarily due to biochemical and physiological imbalances.

Studies have shown that chronic illnesses are the direct result of our poor lifestyle choices, the most damaging of which is our food choices. We eat too many unnatural, processed foods that are toxic to our bodies in place of foods that are natural and supply what our bodies need.

We need a paradigm shift in our approach to healthcare. Our efforts need to start with removing unnatural foods from our diet, and replacing those foods with ones that are “natural,” as a way of reversing illness and facilitating health. This new approach would be a shift away from the standard approach of using medical and surgical interventions as our primary protocols.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the major risk factors influencing mortality today are our patterns of living and consumption. In countries like the United States, Canada and Western Europe, people die from complications related to the fact that we simply eat too much, drink too much, and exercise too little1. Despite our overconsumption of food, our poor health is primarily because of what we eat more than how much we eat.

Being overweight or obese has reached epidemic proportions globally. WHO estimated in 2014 that more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these, more than 600 million were obese. In fact, more people now die worldwide for being overweight and obese than underweight2.

In 2013, WHO estimated 42 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese worldwide. That’s an increase of more than 20 million from 2005, when WHO estimated there were at least 20 million overweight children under the age of 53. In April 2006, WHO released new child growth standards that included BMI (body mass index) charts for infants and children under the age of five to address this growing epidepic.

This sobering evidence should serve as a wakeup call to the potential broad impacts of our eating habits. We have to realize that poor eating habits do not just impact our health. We are in fact poisoning our children with the standard American diet, turning a blind eye to the problem of childhood obesity, and as a result, subjecting the ones we love to a ripple effect of health and social consequences.

It’s possible that our poor diets are contributing to our sedentary lifestyle. One study based on research of animal behavior suggests a diet low in animal protein results in more voluntary exercise4. In addition, an unhealthy diet that causes obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease would not support regular exercise. Hence, our poor exercise habits may actually be the result of our poor diets!

The leading causes of death in this country might not come as a surprise, but the fact that these causes are the result of choices largely within our control may be new information for some. The following chart shows the leading causes of death in the United States in the year 20075.

food as medicine

Heart Disease in America6

Cardiovascular disease statistics from the American Heart Association, based on 2007 data, show some interesting facts:

  • Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • 1.26 million Americans are estimated to suffer an initial or recurrent heart attack each year.
  • About 452 million people die each year from CHD.
  • Over 10 million people suffer from angina pectoris—symptoms caused by poor blood circulation to the heart.
  • It is estimated that 500,000 new cases of stable angina occur each year.
  • 17.6 million people alive today have a history of heart attack, angina pectoris, or both.
  • Approximately 7.9 million Americans, age 20 and older have experienced a prior heart attack.

The irony of chronic diseases is that they are the most common and most costly of all health problems in America, while at the same time being the most preventable.

The CDC identifies four common habits that are damaging but modifiable behaviors that influence chronic diseases. These behaviors are:

  • Tobacco use
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Insufficient physical activity
  • Poor eating habits

We need to face the reality that while 50 percent of American adults suffer from at least one chronic illness, we also hold in our hands the key to avoiding this outcome! We need to take ownership for making better choices to help ourselves and the people we love.

We have come to accept the first two causes of chronic disease — tobacco use and excessive drinking — to be the most damaging lifestyle choices. Certainly, these habits are tied to life-threatening diseases, like lung cancer, emphysema, cirrhosis of the liver and more. Nevertheless, data from the CDC showing the extent of these habits falls short of fully explaining widespread nature of chronic illnesses in this country.

In general, people who suffer from high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and hypertension often maintain these chronic disorders despite getting regular exercise. It is only when they nourish their bodies properly that they get significant results.

Therefore, poor nutrition trumps tobacco, alcohol and sedentary lifestyles as the primary cause for the development of chronic illnesses. We cannot ignore the reality that what we eat is totally within our control, and our choices are what determine the level of risk we have of becoming ill.

Nutrition Basics

Today, most Americans agree, in theory, that following a diet based on good nutrition is important and has a significant influence over their health and well-being. Unfortunately, too many do not recognize what a nutritionally sound diet consists of. They have bought into the ageless perception that anything taken in moderation is okay.

However, moderation is inadequate at best, and potentially even deadly. Furthermore, achieving optimal nutrition goes beyond keeping track of calories, protein, fats, carbohydrates and portion sizes. Although these are important aspects of how we nourish our bodies, our nutritional health is based on factors that are more fundamental.

Food, by definition, is a material substance that consists of essential body nutrients. These nutrients are commonly known as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, water, phytonutrients and minerals. They are ingested and assimilated by the body to produce energy, stimulate growth and carry out many other functions to maintain life.

Nutrients have various chemical properties. Some are mostly structural in nature, while others are more functional.

There are six known types of nutrients:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Proteins
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins
  • Water
  • Phytonutrients

Carbohydrates, proteins and lipids are digested by protein structures, known as enzymes. This primarily occurs in the gastrointestinal tract. The end products of these molecular compounds as they reach our cells in their various molecular types form the building blocks of different body parts.

Although we commonly think of nutritional substances as sources of energy, they serve a large variety of other needs for the body. Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for the human body; however, fats and proteins can also be used for energy. Amino acids, on the other hand, are the structural in nature and are the building blocks of protein that exist in various tissues, cells and organs. Other types of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients allow the body to facilitate numerous other complex functions such as DNA repair, cell regeneration, immune system maintenance and much more.

What is important to understand is that food consists of a variety of complex chemical substances that the body utilizes to maintain its structural integrity, as well as its delicate biochemical and physiological balances. Therefore, nutrients must have similar basic properties as the human body itself, and these properties must be complementary to the body.

Eat Your Fruit and Veggies

Epidemiological data strongly shows that individuals can live on diets consisting of plant-based foods alone7. Furthermore, scientific studies have strongly indicated that individuals who live either solely or predominantly on plant-based diets are actually healthier than individuals who live on mostly animal flesh diets8.

Much media attention has been given to the pursuit of low-carb diets. Two studies were done to track the long-term impact of low-carb diets. A total of close to 130,000 adults, ranging in age from 34 to 75 were tracked for an average of 23 years. Participants all ate low-carb diets, with some choosing animal-based sources of protein and fat, while others chose vegetable-based sources of these same nutrients. None who participated in the study started with any clinical evidence of heart disease, cancer or diabetes.

The results showed that those who chose animal-based low-carb diets had higher mortality from all causes than those participants who chose vegetable-based low-carb diets. This was true for both men and women participants in these studies9.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study10, clearly defines the importance of plant-based nutrition over animal-based nutrition. There is strong scientific evidence showing associations with chronic diseases, such as an increase in cholesterol11, elevation of blood pressure12, osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes with the consumption of animal flesh in any form, whether it is beef, chicken, turkey or even fish13.

The evidence is clear. When it comes to healthy eating, fresh fruit and vegetables are essential. A natural plant-based diet can not only help prevent heart disease and other chronic illnesses, but help to reverse it, even in its most advanced forms.

It is only when we start making fundamental changes to the way we view our health ― preventing illness with diet and healthy lifestyle choices rather than treating illness with medicine and surgeries ― that we will begin to see a society recovering from decades of obesity, heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

  1. World Health Organization. The World Health Report 2002. Geneva, Switzerland. 2002. Accessed www.who.int/whr/200/en. Accessed 07/29/10.
  2. World Health Organization. Obesity and Overweight Fact Sheet. January 2015. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/ Accessed 07/09/15.
  3. World Health Organization. Obesity and Overweight Fact Sheet. September 2006. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/index. Accessed 10/14/10.
  4. Krieger E, Youngaman LD, and Campbell TC. “The modulation of aflatoxin (AFB1) induced preneoplastic lesions by dietary protein and voluntary exercise in Fisher 344 rats.” FASEB J. 2 (1988): 3304 Abs
  5. Jiaquan Xu, M.D.; Kenneth D. Kochanek, M.A.; Sherry L. Murphy, B.S.; Betzaida Tejada-Vera, B.S.; CDC—Division of Vital Statistics. Deaths: Final Data for 2007. National Vital Statistics Reports. Vol. 58, No. 19. Pg 13-14.May 2010. www.cdc.gov/NCHS/data/nvsr/nvsr58/nvsr58_19.pdf. Accessed 09/01/10.
  6. American Heart Association. http://americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4478. Accessed 08/17/10.
  7. Chang-Claude J, Frentzel-Beyme R, Eilber U. Mortality patterns of German vegetarians after 11 years of follow-up. Epidemiology 1992;3:395-401
    Phillips RL. Role of lifestyle and dietary habits in risk of cancer among Seventh-Day Adventists. Cancer Res (Suppl) 1975;35:3513-22.
  8. Campbell, TC, Chen J. Diet and chronic degenerative diseases: Perspectives from China. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59:1153S–61S.
    Esselstyn CB Jr, Ellis SG, Medendorp SV, Crowe TD. A strategy to arrest and reverse coronary artery disease: a 5-year longitudinal study of a single physician’s practice. J Fam Pract. 1995;41:560-8.
    Salie F. Influence of vegetarian food on blood pressure. Med Klin 1930;26:929-31.
  9. Fung T., ScD; van Dam R, PhD; Hankinson S, ScD; et al. Low-Carbohydrate Diets and All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality. Annals of Internal Medicine Abstract. September 7, 2010; vol. 153 no. 5 289-298. http://www.annals.org/content/153/5/289.abstract. Accessed 9/24/10.
  10. Campbell, T. Colin, PhD, and Campbell II, Thomas M. The China Study. Dallas: BenBella Books. 2006.
  11. Marc Fisher, Peter H. Levine, Bonnie H. Weiner, Ira S. Ockene, Brian F. Johnson, Mark H. Johnson, Anita M. Natale, Christine H. Vaudreuil, and James J. Hoogasian. The effect of vegetarian diets on plasma lipid and platelet levels. Archives of Internal Medicine 146.6 (1986).
  12. FM Sacks and EH Kass. Low blood pressure in vegetarians: Effects of specific foods and nutrients. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 48, 795-800. The American Society for Clinical Nutrition, Inc. 1988.
  13. Barnard ND, Scialli AR, Bertron P, Hurlock D, Edmonds K, Talev L. Effectiveness of a low-fat vegetarian diet in altering serum lipids in healthy premenopausal women. Am J Cardiol. 2000;85:969-72.
    Salie F. Influence of vegetarian food on blood pressure. Med Klin 1930;26:929-31.
    Hegsted DM. Calcium and osteoporosis. J Nutr 1986;116:2316-9
    Nicholson AS, Sklar M, Barnard ND, et al. Toward improved management of NIDDM: A randomized, controlled, pilot intervention using a low fat, vegetarian diet. Prev Med 1999;29:87-91.
    Strip C, Overhand K, Christensen J, et al. Fish intake is positively associated with breast cancer incidence rate. J Nut 2003; 133(11):3664-3669. J Ural 2004 Apr; 171(4):1402-7.
    Gellar E, Sans-Gallardo I, Van’s Veer P, et al. Mercury, fish oils, and the risk of myocardial infarction. N Eng J Med 2002; 347:1747-1754.

Other Resources

PCRM: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutritional Studies
Neal Barnard, M.D.
Dr. Esselstyn’s Prevent & Reverse Heart Diseased Program
Rawfully Organic
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Montgomery Heart & Wellness Website Refund Policy

If you desire a refund for a product from Montgomery Heart & Wellness, you can return the unused and unopened product and receive credit for the amount you were charged for that product. You can use this credit for any product or service we offer. We do not give monetary refunds.

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