Last weekend was the third annual Plant-based for Prevention of Disease conference, hosted by NC State in Raleigh. I attended last year and was blown away by the number of doctors (M.D. and Ph.D), dietitians, and researchers who spoke about the many benefits of a plant-based diet. It was also a great opportunity to commune with like-minded people and discuss the challenges of convincing people to change their diets.
So of course I was excited about returning this year with my mom, even though I heard many of the same presentations as last year. The conference was one day longer than last year’s, which allowed for a total of 31 speakers! It was an excellent learning opportunity, but it was also exhausting. The only things that kept me going were the constant supply of coffee and the delicious plant-based meals they provided every day.
By Saturday morning, my mom and I needed a break. We decided to take the morning off and roam around downtown Raleigh. We had to check out the shopping situation, of course! We ate a late breakfast at the Tupelo Honey Cafe, which turned out to have no healthy options. That night there was a reception and dancing, so we decided to punt and go out to eat at Irregardless Cafe, which is known for its fantastic vegan menu. I highly recommend it to anyone in the area!
One of the highlights from this year’s conference was seeing Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. M.D. A cardiovascular surgeon who routinely reverses heart disease by putting his patients on strict plant-based diets, “Essy” is quite the celebrity in the plant-based world. He’s such a good speaker that I didn’t mind hearing the same presentation he gave last year!
Dr. Esselstyn wasn’t the only great speaker from the weekend though. If you’re interested in seeing the list of names and credentials, go here.
Lucky for you, I took plenty of notes and took a few photos of slides (a trend that drives me crazy, but it took months to receive the slides from last year).
Here are some bullet points from my notes:
- There is a gradual movement toward increased quality of care in hospitals, because the current healthcare system is broken (cost does not affect quality of care). The “Triple Aim” of healthcare consists of better health, lower cost, and better care. – Kumara Sidhartha MD, MPH
- Studies indicate that insulin is the most effective type 2 diabetes medication, yet it increases patients’ risk of cardiovascular death and does not preserve beta cells as previously thought. Solution? Put patients on a whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet and ease them off of insulin over time. – Caroline Trapp, DNP
- Of all of the disease risk factors, diet is #1. The vast majority of Americans are not getting the nutrients they need to prevent disease. For example, only 3% are reaching the adequate intake for potassium (4,700 mg/day). – Cheryl Anderson, PhD, MPH, MS
- Diet can negatively or positively affect mood. Deficiencies in folate, iodine, iron, magnesium, omega-3, selenium, B12, zinc, or vitamin D can contribute to depression and anxiety. A WFPB diet is a good adjunct treatment option for those suffering from mood disorders. – Ulka Agarwal, MD
- Despite what we’ve heard about fish oil supplements, research suggests that there is not enough evidence to recommend supplementation to vegans. Safer sources of omega-3 include flax, Chia seeds, purslane, and walnuts. – Timothy Radak, RDN
- LDL cholesterol exists in small and large particles, which can contribute to atherogenesis. The small particles are much more dangerous because they are more “sticky” in arteries and contribute to plaque buildup. People consuming a WFPB diet typically have fewer small LDL particles than those on a standard American diet, and thus less plaque buildup in their arteries. – Janahardan Srinivasan, MD, FACC
- Medications = sick care, good diet = healthcare – James F. Loomis, MD, MBA
- The federal government funds “checkoff programs,” which promote increased intake of meat and dairy. Examples include the “Got milk?”, “Beef: It’s what’s for dinner,” and “Pork: The other white meat” campaigns. The USDA also spoke with representatives of many big chain fast food restaurants and encouraged them to put more cheese in/on their products. Remember, these are the same people making our nutrition guidelines. – Susan Levin, RDN
- Dr. Esselstyn’s prescribed protocol to his cardiac patients (many of whom have already suffered cardiac events), is to thoroughly chew 6 fist-sized servings of dark, leafy greens (cooked) with balsamic vinegar every day for a few weeks. This combination increases the arteries’ production of nitric oxide, which strengthens their cell lining and allows them to heal.
- Sixty-five percent of 12-14 year olds in the U.S. already have signs of coronary artery disease. – Robert Ostfeld, MD, MSc
- The average healthcare expenses of a diabetic in one year is $13,243. – Kumara Sidhartha, MD, MPH
- Taking a mean of 111 hospitals, the average cost of a coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) is $151,000. – Thomas M. Campbell, MD
- We can prevent 80% of diseases with a healthy lifestyle. – Saray Stancic, MD, FACN (Cured her own MS by switching to a WFPB diet and walking every day)
What is great about the P-POD conference is that it is not funded by any companies, and none of the speakers have any financial conflicts to disclose. The collective goal is to spread the word about the health benefits of a WFPB diet. And although many of the speakers were very scientific and technical in their presentations, the overall message was the same: A WFPB diet is the healthiest lifestyle for people, and is kind to the environment and the animals.
Remember: Your genes load the gun, but your environment (diet) pulls the trigger!
The weekend was a huge success and great motivation. I encourage everyone who is interested in a plant-based diet to attend the conference next year!
I had fun, but I was happy to be back home with my family on Sunday evening.
Back to reality!