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Food as medicine: How this Newfoundland community got ‘hooked’ on plant-based eating

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The three-day workshops allow the doctors to clear 'the confusion about what is healthy'. They recommend no animal products — plus no oil (animal or vegetable), and minimal use of processed plant foods.

CBC RADIO: ‘In 2011, the Rayapudis moved to Burin, a town of about 2,500 people, where Arjun started working as a general surgeon at the local hospital. He said he was “surprised and shocked” at how busy his clinical practice was from the beginning. He also learned that the province ranked highest in the country in terms of heart disease, hypertension, obesity and diabetes. Shobha Rayapudi, an epidemiologist, found that there were not many existing resources to reduce this burden. “What they have here, they call it … [a] health-care system, but it’s basically a sickness care model,” she said.

The Rayapudis found that 80 per cent of the diseases they were seeing in patients were related to diet and lifestyle — and changing these two factors was more effective and safe than treating chronic diseases with drugs and surgery. “We are seeing a large number of people in our practices that are suffering — people suffering from preventable diseases,” said Arjun. They decided to run regular workshops for patients with a variety of health problems to teach them how to follow a plant-based diet…

Studies have cited the benefits of a plant-based diet, and Canada’s revamped food guide recommends eating “plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods. Choose protein foods that come from plants more often”… In their workshops, the two doctors present studies “to show that the more animal-based foods we eat, the more chronic disease we have”…

The three-day workshops allow the doctors to clear “the confusion about what is healthy” and show participants how to cook, shop and eat at restaurants. “We’re giving them skills that they need to make … a sustained change,” said Arjun… The Rayapudis recommend no animal products — no meat, chicken, fish, seafood, dairy — plus no oil (animal or vegetable) and minimal use of processed plant foods…

The doctors are skeptical about those who tout popular low-carb, high-fat regimens such as the ketogenic and paleo diet, saying there is not enough long-term evidence to support their effectiveness… Shobha, who is also a clinical researcher, is tracking workshop participants in a study to be published later this year. She said they saw “stark difference” in health with many patients eliminating or cutting down on medications for conditions, such as acid reflux, hypertension and diabetes’. SOURCES…

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