Dr. Dean Ornish on

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Stop wringing your hands over AIDS, cancer and the avian flu. Cardiovascular disease kills more people than everything else combined — and it’s mostly preventable. Dr. Dean Ornish explains how changing our eating habits will save lives.

NEW: Read the transcript>>

With all the legitimate concerns about AIDS and avian flu, and we’ll hear about that from the brilliant Dr. Brilliant later today, I want to talk about the other pandemic, which is cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension- all of which are completely preventable for at least 95% of people, just by changing diet and lifestyle.

“Globalization of Illness
-Countries are beginning to eat like us, live like us, and die like us
-In one generation, Asia has gone from one of the lowest to the highest rates of chronic disease
-Cardiovascular deaths equal HIV/AIDS deaths in most African countries”)

And what’s happening is that there’s a globalization of illness occurring, that people are starting to eat like us, and live like us, and die like us. And in one generation, for example, Asia’s gone from having one of the lowest rates of heart disease, and obesity, and diabetes, to one of the highest. And in Africa, cardiovascular disease equals the HIV and AIDS deaths in most countries.

“Globalization of Illness
-Thus, intervention now can make a powerful difference
-Preventive medicine on a global scale”)

So there’s a critical window of opportunity we have to make an important difference that can affect the lives of literally millions of people, and practice preventive medicine on a global scale.

Heart and blood vessel diseases still kill more people, not only in this country, but also worldwide, than everything else combined and yet it’s completely preventable for almost everybody.

(slides: “Cardiovascular diseases are completely preventable for at least 95% of people just by changing diet and lifestyle.- Yusuf S et al. Lancet, 2004 Sep 11; 364(9438):937-52”; then “Coronary heart disease is not only preventable, it is usually reversible by changing diet and lifestyle.”)

It’s not only preventable, it’s actually reversible. And for the last almost 29 years,

(slides: “Can Lifestyle Changes Reverse Coronary Heart Disease?”; then a slide showing sample angiograms)

we’ve been able to show that by simply changing diet and lifestyle, using these very high tech, expensive, state-of-the-art measures to prove how powerful these very simple and low tech and low cost interventions can be like. (refers to slide) Quantitative arteriography, before and after a year, and cardiac PET scans.

(chart: “Change in Prostrate Tumor Growth”, shows 70% decrease in tumor growth with diet/ lifestyle changes)

We showed a few months ago, we published the first study showing you can actually stop or reverse the progression of prostate cancer by making changes in diet and lifestyle- and 70% regression in the tumor growth, or inhibition of the tumor growth, compared to only 9% in the control group.

(slide: MRI images of prostate tumors: “Baseline- PSA- 6.4 ng/ml; 1 year later- PSA- 4.5 ng/ml”)

And in the MRI and MR spectroscopy here, the prostate tumor activity is shown in red, you can see it diminishing after a year.

“Obesity Epidemic
-65% of adults and 15% of children are overweight or obese
-Diabetes has increased 70% in 30-year-olds in the past 10 years
-This may be the first generation in which children lead a shorter life span than their parents”)

Now there is an epidemic of obesity. Two thirds of adults and 15% of kids. What’s really concerning to me is that diabetes has increased 70% in the past 10 years, and this may be the first generation in which our kids live a shorter life span than we do. That’s pitiful, and it’s preventable.

(map: “Obesity Trends Among U.S. Adults, 1985”
obesity defined as “BMI >= 30, or ~30 lbs overweight for 5’4″ woman”
map shows rate as less than 10% for California, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, Illinois, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, New York, and Connecticut/ Rhode Island; 10%-14% for North Dakota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina)

Now these are not election returns, these are the people- the number of the people who are obese by state, beginning in ’85, ’86, ’87- These are from the CDC website-

(map changes to color more states in the 10%-14% range, adding a 15%-19% category in 1991, a >=20% category in 1997, and a >= 25% category in 2001, with only Colorado at 10-14% and all other states greater than 15%, most even higher)

-’88, ’89, ’90, ’91- you get a new category- ’92, ’93, ’94, ’95, ’96, ’97, ’98, ’99, 2000, 2001- it gets worse. We’re kind of devolving:

(slide showing cartoon evolution of primate to man to pig: “Well-Adapted to Starvation: Poorly adapted to Overnutrition- Evolution of Man”)

(laughter and applause)

Now what can we do about this? Well, you know, the diet that we’ve found that can reverse heart disease and cancer is an Asian diet.

(slide: “Globalization of Health
-An Asian diet can reverse heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases
-Develop and market foods in countries that reflect local cuisines and tastes”)

But the people in Asia are starting to eat like we are, which is why they’re starting to get sick like we are.

(“Globalization of Health
-Food companies can make it sexy, hip, cool, sexy, and fun to eat and live more healthfully
-If it comes from the U.S., people will value their own cuisine/ lifestyle”)

So I’ve been working with a lot of the big food companies, they can make it fun, and sexy, and hip, and crunchy, and convenient to eat healthier foods, like- I chair the advisory boards to McDonald’s, and PepsiCo, and Conagra, and Safeway, and soon Del Monte- and they’re finding that it’s good business.

(“Globalization of Health
-Good food=Good business
-Last year, McDonald’s sold 800 million salads
-Asian Salad will be introduced next month by McDonald’s
-67% of revenue growth at PepsCo last year was from healthier foods”)

The salads that you see at McDonald’s came from the work, they’re going to have an Asian salad, at Pepsi, two thirds of their revenue growth came from their better foods.

(“Globalization of Health
-Using diet and lifestyle changes to prevent and treat chronic diseases can free up precious resources for treating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB and preventing avian flu”)

And so if we can do that, then we can free up resources for buying drugs that you really do need for treating AIDS and HIV and malaria and for preventing avian flu. Thank you.