Since last year’s lockdown, I have been doing grocery and drugstore runs for my immediate and extended family. It never fails to shock me, the staggering cost of maintenance medication for diabetes, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, uric acid and cholesterol.
These medications can buy time till you get better enough to get off them, but that is hardly ever discussed during a consult.
“People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food,” observed writer, environmental activist and farmer Wendell Berry.
In this year’s Truth about Weight Loss summit, Dr. Steven Lawenda noted: “Of those hospitalized with the flu, 93 percent have preexisting conditions: cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Obesity prolongs the shedding of the virus.”
Lawenda is a board-certified family medicine and lifestyle medicine physician. After learning about plant-based nutrition in 2013, he turned around his own health and his practice.
He was obese (BMI 33) but is now at a normal weight (BMI 23), losing 75 lbs in eight months. He has kept off the excess weight for seven years now. His prediabetes, fatty liver, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and sleep apnea were resolved, and his blood pressure dropped 20 points. He loves his health and food and has increased his joy of living.
When he yo-yo dieted, he felt like a failure and was worried he could die suddenly, with his family history of early heart disease (his father died at 45, his grandfather at 38). His father was taking a lot of medication and had a false sense of security (“my insulin will take care of it” while eating pastries).
‘The Magical Buffet’
Lawenda extolled the benefits of what he called “The Magical Buffet”: weight loss without portion control, prevention and reversal of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and erectile dysfunction, lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, less GERD, constipation and fatty liver, less need for medication, longevity and a better quality of life (improved mood, less pain and inflammation).
“Caloric density is the principle behind the magical buffet,” he explained. “Fiber and water means bulk and weight, feeling full with zero calories. Stretch receptors are located throughout the stomach. When they are triggered by food, they send signals to your brain to tell you to stop eating. With high fiber, whole plant foods, you can eat the most quantity for the least amount of calories.”
Lawenda shared success stories of patients who followed his prescription for a whole-food, plant-based diet:
Janet, 76, weighed 234 lbs, had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) from smoking. Required oxygen (84 percent saturation) and a walker/scooter to get around. After: 150 lbs, oxygen at 94 percent, no more need for walker/scooter, “feels 25 years younger.”
Kim, 54, weighed 248 lbs, had gastric sleeve in 2014. Weight lowered to 170 lbs but regained to 189 lbs. Fatigued and sleepy with sciatica and borderline high blood pressure. After: 127 lbs, has lots of energy, no more sciatica after a year, lowered blood pressure. Thought she couldn’t do it, loves it and never going back.
Julie weighed 270 lbs. Had a gastric bypass in 2003. Weight went down to 170 lbs, but regained to 245 lbs. After: 160 lbs, with 27 percent drop in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
Elizabeth weighed 310 lbs. Hemoglobin A1c (A1c) test was 6.5. LDL was 136. After: 157 lbs. A1C went down to a normal 5. LDL dropped 26 percent to 100. Canceled weight loss surgery.
Jerry had angina, chest pain from mowing his lawn and walking across a parking lot; two major heart vessels with significant lesions. Medications had many side effects, diet of chicken and fish and exercise weren’t working. Was told he would need heart bypass surgery. After: In one month, no more chest pain, no need for surgery.
Mark, 56, weighed 280 lbs. Had early and aggressive heart disease despite intervention with coronary artery stenting and bypass grafting. At 40, had a heart attack and a stent.. At 50, had angina, coronary artery bypass grafting. At 53, had cardiac arrest playing basketball… Three months later, another cardiac arrest playing basketball… After: 221 lbs. LDL lowered by 26 percent. No longer prediabetic. Now organizes plant-based potlucks at work.
Ignacio weighed 134 lbs. Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2019 with A1C of 12.4. Started metformin and insulin. After: 118 lbs. No more medication. A1C down to normal 5.1, BP at 125/70.
“Studies show that statin users eat worse and gain more weight over time, similar with blood pressure medication users. We underestimate the impacts of illness: physical, psychological, financial, social, family, community. We are too reactive when we can be proactive instead,” said Lawenda.
He quoted Ann Wigmore, holistic health practitioner, naturopath and raw food advocate: “The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”
Lawenda contributed his own: “Eat more plants and you’ll need smaller pants! You’ll have less ills and you’ll need less pills!” —CONTRIBUTED INQ