Last April, I was in Denver attending the National Organic Standards Board meeting and went to dinner one night at True Food Kitchen.
Sitting at a community table, I struck up a conversation with a woman across from me and she proceeded to tell me that she had recently switched to a vegan diet.
“So, do you know Dr. Joel Kahn? The cardiologist from Detroit,” I asked.
Given that the plant-based world is a tight community and that Dr. Kahn is a social media star, I had a feeling that she might have known him.
“Do I know Dr. Kahn?” she responded with her face completely lit up. “He’s the reason I am a vegan today! Everything he talks about online and in his books convinced me to go plant-based!”
With the release of his excellent new book The Plant-Based Solution, Dr. Joel Kahn is looking to make a similar impact on many more people.
I recently caught up with my friend, and here is what he had to say.
Numerous cardiologists that I have come into contact with lately are vegans, yet many prominent functional medicine doctors that I know do not advocate for a plant-based diet. They think eating meat is important. In your opinion, what are these doctors not understanding?
The functional medicine world is often stuck in the concept that a plant diet is nutritionally deficient even though the USDA, AND, and other organizations say otherwise.
Animals eat plants, break down their proteins into amino acids, and incorporate those back into animal proteins. Plants are the source of these proteins, and they provide all amino acids and have the minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients, polyphenols, and fiber that animal foods do not.
Animals do not make B12. Animals are not made of fiber. Plants do not have cholesterol. These basic facts are crystal clear.
The love of animal products raised on grass or grain-fed is a dinosaur that will be soon be considered barbaric and primitive, like 8-track tape players. Slowly the functional medicine world will get it.
Why do you advocate for no added oils in our diet — olive oil, coconut oil, etc — and how do these oils, which we are so often told are healthy to consume, negatively impact our arteries?
If you study the history of nutritional cardiology, at least back to 1951, an internist in Los Angeles, Lester Morrison, MD, developed a diet free of added oils and other high-fat foods like creams and organ meats and recommended this diet to half of his large cardiac practice. The other half ate their usual diet.
The half on the no added oil program lost weight and lowered their blood cholesterol by 100 mg/dl. He followed these patients for 12 years, and none of the heart patients on the standard diet were alive while 50% were on the no oil diet. He published these data in a major journal.
This pattern was continued by Nathan Pritikin, Dean Ornish, MD, Caldwell Esselstyn, MD, Joel Fuhrman, MD and others with similar astounding results. No one has shown that a diet enriched with oils can reverse heart disease, so if the goal is a big one — heart disease reversal — oils are out.
Saying that, for the public free of advanced heart disease, the Harvard School of Public Health has shown convincingly that replacing animal fats, like lard and butter, with vegetable oils reduces the risk of heart disease.
One criticism of plant-based diets is that plants do not contain B12. How do you respond to that?
This objection to a plant-based diet comes up over and over.
At the trivial expense and inconvenience of taking B12 3 or 4 times a week, the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancers, hypertension, and other chronic disease is lowered.
Which is better? Taking a B12 supplement a day to support a whole foods plant-based diet or taking an oral diabetic medication, insulin, chemotherapy, gastric bypass, and other therapies?
The decision is easy, and the argument is hardly worth the response. Take B12.
What do you tell a Baby Boomer, who has blood pressure issues and takes multiple medications, when he or she walks into your office?
I discuss why they have high blood pressure and that it is unlikely to be genetic but related to lifestyle.
They are overweight, which raises their pressure. Because they are overweight, they snore and have sleep apnea, which raises their blood pressure.
Their waistline and visceral fat are increased, which raises their blood pressure.
Why are they overweight, snoring, and bulging at the waist?
Because they eat plenty of calorie-dense, animal foods and consume low amounts nutritionally-dense plant foods. Their Plant to Animal ratio is too low.
They need to raise it to 90-100%, throw in time-restricted feeding and fasting, and they will get back to that inner skinny person with normal blood pressure without medication.
How do you address the widely held belief that embracing a plant-based diet will leave a person deficient in protein?
Our movement has been assisted by the Nobel prize nominated science of Valter Longo, Ph.D. and others.
Dr. Longo is one of the world’s leaders in nutritional science and the study of aging on a biochemical, epidemiological, and clinical trial basis.
He has demonstrated that protein, particularly the amino acids found often in meat like leucine and methionine, trigger activity in pathways that age our cells at an accelerated rate and promote chronic disease including cancer. Plants do not do that.
He has recommended a protein intake until older years of about half of the usual amount. His longevity diet is almost entirely a plant diet with a few fish meals a week. This profound science of aging pathways is strong support, what he calls The Five Pillars of Scientific Support, for eating plants not animals.
I use his Fasting Mimicking Diet, a plant program, in my clinic with profound improvements in weight, visceral fat, inflammation, blood pressure, and pain control. It is an ultra-low protein program 5 consecutive days a month to trigger stem cell release, regeneration of tissues, and repair. Plants have that power.
Dr. Kahn is one of the most caring doctors that I have ever met, and his patients have no idea how lucky they are to have him. His concern is so strong and genuine that he opened a plant-based restaurant in Detroit, Greenspace Cafe, so all his patients and friends could have a healthy place to eat.