CINCINNATI—What are the merits of a whole food largely plant-based diet?
The documentary film, "PlantPure Nation,” tries to answer that question by focusing on the efforts of nutritional scientist and author T. Colin Campbell, PhD, who inspires Kentucky State Rep. Tom Riner to propose a pilot program documenting the health benefits of a plant-based diet.
When industry lobbyists kill the pilot program, Campbell’s oldest son, Nelson, decides to try his own grassroots approach in his hometown of Mebane, North Carolina. The documentary features segments from physicians and authors from across the nation including Rekha Chaudhary, MD, associate professor in the UC Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology Oncology and UC Health Integrative Medicine physician. It also includes images of University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
The UC Center of Integrative Health and Wellness will host a public screening of the film Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. The movie will begin at 7 p.m. in the College of Medicine’s Kresge Auditorium, 231 Albert Sabin Way. Please register for the free event.
Space is limited so please register early and bring your ticket. Attendees are invited to participate in a panel discussion with Dr. Colin Campbell and director of the film Nelson Campbell on the issues raised in the film after the screening event.
Chaudhary, a neuro-oncologist at UC Health, says she was inspired to be part of the documentary after hearing Campbell come to UC to discuss the link between cancer and nutrition in March 2014. Campbell is the author of the best-selling book "The China Study” and starred in the 2011 American documentary "Forks Over Knives.” The creators of "Forks Over Knives” also produced "PlantPure Nation.”
Chaudhary says she was a skeptic initially.
"I was one of those physicians that was always very pharmacotherapy based and didn’t put much basis on food is medicine and wellness,” she says. "Then I started treating brain tumors and I was seeing these people who had really never done anything wrong in their life. They didn’t smoke. They didn’t do drugs or alcohol. They lived this normal life and they were developing brain tumors.
"I kind of had to find a way to help them and help myself deal with this,” she says. "I think it is intuitive that food makes a difference in terms of heart disease. If you eat well you will not have fat clogging your arteries. I think it is intuitive that food makes a difference with diabetes. If you eat less sugar you are not going to get diabetes.
"But I don’t think it is as intuitive that food makes a difference with cancer. You have never really heard it before that if you eat right you won’t get cancer. I didn’t have that connection either and then I started reading and we invited Dr. Campbell. … When he came and spoke I was like, Wow.”
Support for Campell’s vision of a whole food majority plant-based diet definitely has passionate supporters, but it also attracts some critics. He has argued that the diet can be used to prevent as well as reverse cancer and heart disease.
In a trailer for the "PurePlant Nation,” Chaudhary is quoted as saying, "Physicians don’t know how to prescribe a diet, but we have been taught how to write prescriptions.”
But what exactly is a whole food majority plant-based diet?
"Eating plant-based is easy,” says Chaudhary. "What is hard is eating whole food and not eating the white flour and not eating the white sugars. It’s easy to be vegetarian or vegan. People are so focused on the plant part, but the whole food part is really what is difficult and challenging and really makes the most difference.
"You eat non-processed food. Some people might even argue that an apple that you cut up is processed. It’s mainly referring to grain and corn that it is unprocessed. Anything that is made into a flour is probably not good for you.”
Chaudhary says the reason processed grain is bad is because it raises you blood sugar level too quickly.
"If you eat a grain, wheat from the stalk, by the time your body digests that it is not going to spike your blood sugar levels. But if you eat the flour, eating a piece of bread is sometimes like eating a piece of cake in terms of your insulin levels. We have to be really careful about that.
"The whole point of the movie is if you eat a whole food and majority plant-based diet you will be healthier, remarkably healthier, and not just a little bit healthier,” says Chaudhary.
She says the whole food majority plant-based diet is better received among her cancer patients.
"Patients who have cancer have motivation,” says Chaudhary. "It’s really scary and the patients need some sense of control because your life spirals out of control when you get that diagnosis. You don’t want to keep doing what you have been doing because that hasn’t work so well obviously.
"People want that control and they feel better. Not only does it help you live longer you might feel better too. It reduces inflammation and helps with arthritis and any kind of pain. It helps with allergies. In Cincinnati, a city with a lot of allergies, we might want to try changes in diet to help us.”
"I had a patient that went whole food plant-based diet completely and she had terrible allergies before it, but after going whole food she had no allergies. It’s not just cancer this diet may help, but it’s any kind of inflammatory condition including arthritis and sinus issues.”
For more information please watch a trailer of PlantPure Nation.