Vegan, No Oil No Salt? No Kidding

Yep. I’ve become a vegan with no salt or oil added to my food. I never thought I would do it, and in fact I used to think vegans were the wackos in my yoga classes. But now I’ve seen the light.

My daughter Chelsea introduced me to it. She showed me the work of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a former cardiac surgeon at Cleveland Clinic who quit practicing to preach this gospel after keep a group of 25 end-stage heart disease patients alive over decades this way.

It made me remember the 80s, when Nathan Pritikin introduced the Pritikin diet, and my mother went to his Pritikin Longevity Center to go off her blood pressure medication. She was 50 when she went, and 84 when she died, and not of a stroke or a heart attack. But Pritikin never caught on; it was a very extreme program. I went with her to the Center once, and after a lecture in which slides of arteries clogged with cholesterol and narrowed by plaque were shown, followed by an in-person closeup of beef fat, I gave up meat.

In the 90s, Dean Ornish tried to deliver the same message: you can prevent or reverse heart disease by eating a plant-based diet. But he fell victim to the popularity of the Atkins and South Beach diets, which emphasized eating more protein and fat.

Now, in the next century, there’s another lonely voice crying out in the wilderness – Caldwell Esselstyn. You can go to his site, Heart Attack Proof and see the research. How many times do I have to hear this message before I get it?

Research doesn’t change behavior, although this time it seems to have changed mine. What may make Esselstyn more successful than his predecessors is Obamacare, health care reform, rationing, death panels, or personal responsibility – whatever you choose to call what is happening to us with the escalating cost of health care. The era in which you can walk into a doctor’s office after a lifetime of poor eating and exercise habits and say “fix me” is over. We’ve fixed too many heavy drinkers, smokers, and eaters. And I do mean heavy.

In the future, Americans are going to have to pay, financially or with early deaths, for their own sins. I am a firm supporter of universal health care. But my form of universal health care would teach people how to start the journey that ends up with a more effective lifestyle for the long lives we all desire. It would not enrich the drug companies, insurance companies, malpractice attorneys and hospitals by giving them the opportunity to make a living fixing what we the obese people have broken.


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