The Bill Clinton Diet
The Bill Clinton Diet - ever heard of it? Actually, it is not a new fad someone just made up. The Bill Clinton diet is simply what Bill is eating and he is following the plant-based diet that many people used to (and in many non-North-American cultures still do) thrive on.
In a televised interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Clinton was asked, "How did you lose so much weight? What kind of diet are you on?" The reply of the much-trimmer-looking former president was:
"I went on essentially a plant-based diet. I live on beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits... I drink a protein supplement every morning, no dairy, I drink almond milk mixed in with fruit, and a protein powder."
Bill Clinton took the advice of Dr. Esselstyn after heart surgery and said that "it has changed his life, maybe saved it."
Below is an article describing the Bill Clinton diet and its benefits. This is the first half of a Radio New Zealand interview (November 27, 2010) with Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn who was a researcher and clinician at the Cleveland Clinic in the United States for over thirty-five rears. He is a highly-regarded member of the medical establishment even though his nutritional theories about the benefits of an entirely plant-based diet are less mainstream. The following is the first part of Dr. Esselstyn's remarks during the interview, slightly edited. Watch for the remainder of his remarks about the Bill Clinton diet to be posted here within a few weeks.
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn on Heart Disease
Dr Esselstyn: In the late 1970s and early 80s my principal duty was chairman of our breast cancer task force, and while I was perfectly content to do the best I could with breast surgery for the women who had cancer, it was increasingly disenchanting to me that I was doing absolutely nothing for the next unsuspecting victim. That sort of initiated a global research effort on my part to learn a little bit more about the epidemiology of breast cancer, and it was quite striking to find that breast cancer in Kenya, for instance, was twenty to thirty times less frequent than in the United States, and by looking at the Japanese women during World War II and thereabouts, it was very infrequently seen in rural Japan. Yet as soon as the Japanese women would migrate to the United States, by the second and third generation, still pure Japanese American, they now had the same rate of breast cancer as their Caucasian counterpart.
Perhaps even more compelling [evidence of an environmental influence] was cancer of the prostate. If you look at the data, how many autopsy-proven deaths were there from cancer of the prostate in the entire nation of Japan in 1958? Well, the grand total of eighteen. That is about one of the most mind-boggling public health tickers I think I have ever encountered, but by 1978, twenty years later, they were up to 137 deaths. Well, that still pales in comparison to the 28,000 that we will see in the United States this year from prostate cancer. So, it was getting to be pretty exciting. At that point I made a decision that might have been incorrect. I felt that my bones would long be dust before I could do a study on cancerous diseases and nutrition. In hindsight I think that that may have been incorrect; nevertheless, I felt that we could get at cancer through heart disease because here was the leading killer of women and men in western civilization, which in part of this global review it was very apparent that there were many cultures on the planet where cardiovascular disease was then, and is even now, virtually nonexistent because of their plant-based nature.
For instance, even today, if you were a heart surgeon and you decided you were going to take your trade to rural China or to the Papua highlands in New Guinea or to central Africa or to the Tarahumara Indians in northern Mexico, forget it. You had better plan on selling pencils. You are not going to have any business. They don't have heart disease in those areas. They are largely plant-based, and that was sort of the background on what inspired my research.
There has been a very interesting study done to look at the causes of death and cardiovascular disease in the Papua Highlanders who have died, and this was an autopsy study of only those who were over the age of sixty. And it is interesting that their principal cause of morbidity seems to be pulmonary. They have a very interesting habit of smoking a very harsh tobacco, which they raise, and they often will smoke this tobacco in these communal hutches, so you not only get your own smoke, but you also benefit from that of all your neighbors. Well, this has given them quite a toll of pulmonary disease, but despite the fact that they have smoked this much, when they autopsy those over sixty, there is not a whiff of any cardiovascular disease because of what they eat, and this was about nineteen different varieties of sweet potato!
If we look carefully even at our 12-year-olds in school today and measure the carotid artery to the brain, it is already starting to get a certain amount of thickening. If we survive into the warranty period, into when we are in our 20s, we know from the autopsy studies that we have done on our GIs who died in combat in Vietnam and Korea, that fully 80% of these 20-year-olds will already have gross evidence of coronary artery disease that you can see at autopsy without a microscope. There are some who might say, "Well, maybe it is the stress of the military," but if you did the same with the Koreans and the Vietnamese, it was only 1-3%, not 80%.
Interestingly enough, we now have another study, forty years later. No military, and this was done on thousands of young people between the ages of seventeen and thirty-four, who died from accidents, homicides, and suicides, and now the disease is ubiquitous. Everybody, even at this young age, has it, not enough to have their clinical cardiac events yet, which are probably still a couple of decades down the line, but there it is, already established. We are obviously doing something that isn't correct.
So, let's look at another interesting observation where we as a medical community really blew it, and that was in World War II. It was characteristic of the Axis powers of Germany, when they overran the low countries of Holland and Belgium and when they occupied Denmark and Norway, that they took away their livestock for their troops; that is to say, their cattle, their sheep, their goats, their pigs, their chickens, their turkeys - gone. Largely these cultures now became plant-based over the war years, and in 1951 a couple of scientists sat down, Drs. StrØm and Jensen, and wrote a very fascinating article in the Lancet Journal, which is Britain's primary medical journal, where they clearly showed how in Norway, from 1939 to 1945 during the German Occupation (a time of the greatest stress with the enemy in their backyard) that on this plant-based type of nutrition, the deaths in Norway from strokes and heart attacks absolutely plummeted. It's very prompt. It's a very powerful study, and really the disappointing side of it was as soon as there was a cessation of hostilities in 1949, we had the immediate resumption, of course, of meat and dairy, and back came the strokes and back came the heart attacks within two years to what they were in the prewar era.
The heart itself, the muscle of the heart, which is what comprises our wonderful pump, that's okay. It is the vessels that are going to it that are succumbing to this disease, the blockages and the plaque, and so forth. What actually we do is we injure the life jacket or the guardian of our blood vessel, which is that tiny, little, single layer of cells, which has a name, the endothelial cells, and they produce nitric oxide.
Now the endothelial cells make this wonderful nitric oxide, and we like to have nice high levels of that because of the functions that it does for us. Let us take them one-by-one. Firstly, nitric oxide keeps our blood flowing smoothly, like Teflon rather than like Velcro. Secondly, when we climb up stairs rapidly, the arteries to our heart widen and dilate, as do the arteries to our legs. That is due to nitric oxide. Thirdly, nitric oxide will prevent the formation of inflammation in the walls of our blood vessels. Fourthly, most importantly, adequate levels of nitrate oxide will prevent the formation of plaque or blockages in our artery. This is the absolute key because you can gather from what I just said earlier that these young GIs who have this coronary artery disease when they lose their lives in combat at age twenty, they already now had their nitric oxide levels lowered so much through the food that they had been eating, as they grew up, that they were no longer able to protect themselves from the inception of this disease.
The research has gotten sophisticated enough so that we can actually now measure the actual output of nitric oxide indirectly. We can measure this so that we can tell literally, within minutes, what the foods are that, once they pass our lips, are going to impair, compromise, and injure the endothelial cells so that our ability to make nitric oxide is diminished.
So there are some of the benefits behind the Bill Clinton diet. If you are already following a similar diet - congratulations. At least this may give you something you can share with someone else to encourage them to consider a healthier way of eating. Tell them about the Bill Clinton diet- at least they will recognize Bill.
Statistics About Heart Disease
for the interesting conclusion of Dr. Esselstyn's remarks.
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