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Public Health

Staving Off Disease With A Plant-Based Diet

A man sitting in front of a microphone in a radio station.
Anh Gray
Dr. Michael Greger explains why scientific evidence shows that a whole food, plant-based diet is the most beneficial for human health.

The leading cause of death in Nevada is heart disease. Some medical facilities around the country, including Renown Health in Reno, are incorporating whole food, plant-based nutrition in their treatment plans. To learn more about the science behind this way of eating, KUNR's Anh Gray sat down with Dr. Michael Greger. He’s the author of the bestselling book How Not To Die and a leading expert on how nutrition can prevent premature death.

The standard American diet, which consists of too many animal-based products and processed foods, has been harmful to human health, Greger explained in his interview with KUNR. He says that this way of eating is contributing to the top causes of death, such as heart disease and cancer in the U.S. On this typical Western diet, people generally consume less than 10 percent of foods from plant sources like fruits and vegetables.

Greger said that scientific evidence over time has repeatedly shown that a whole food, plant-based diet can stave off numerous disabilities and diseases like heart disease, cancer and chronic illnesses, including type 2 diabetes.

“According to the Global Burden of Disease study, the largest study of human risk factors for disease in history, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the number one cause of death in these United States is our diet,” Greger explained. “The number one cause of disability is our diet. Currently, cigarettes, now only kill about a half-a-million Americans every year, whereas our diet kills hundreds of thousands more.”

There are a variety of diet books and trends in the market touting varying dietary recommendations, making it confusing for consumers to comprehend what is the healthiest way to eat. 

“People love hearing good news about their bad habits,” Greger said. “So you sell lots more books with bacon and butter on the cover than you can with broccoli on the cover.”

Greger explained that muddied nutritional information inundates the public, but he argues that the majority of clinical studies demonstrate that a whole food, plant-based diet is the best for the prevention of disease. This diet contains primarily fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans and legumes.

“Things like fruits and vegetables are good for you; they may not get a lot of click-bait clicks, don’t sell a lot of books, but these are truly life-and-death decisions,” Greger said. “And if there’s any decision to be made on evidence, it should be the health and well-being of ourselves and our families.”

He said that the typical medical training of physicians does not adequately provide nutrition education as a disease prevention tool. Both doctors and patients, Greger said, could make better life-saving decision by learning more about how food can prevent and reverse disease.

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