More cabbage, fewer CABGs

Last night I saw Forks Over Knives, a new documentary promoting a plant-based, whole foods diet. It makes the case that such a diet can increase health, lower health care costs, and do less environmental damage relative to the current western diet. If the film went too far it may have been in the sense it gave that diet can cure cancer. That’s not to say diet may not be related to cancer incidence and growth. It’s just that the degree of control we have over cancer through diet may have been oversold in the movie. But I don’t really know.

One physician in the film suggested we could cut health care costs by 70% through dietary changes alone. A strong claim, to be sure! Even saving half or a quarter of that would be tremendous.

Against the charge that the dietary changes required to do such a thing are viewed as “extreme” by some, another physician had a great retort. In the US alone, hundreds of thousands of people a year receive coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) procedures to address angina and coronary artery disease, both related to diet. Each CABG procedure costs at least $100,000. Is a plant-based, whole foods diet extreme? Some people would view the cracking open of the chest cavity to graft a vein from one’s leg to one’s coronary artery as extreme.

Yeah, it really is. To be sure, it is amazing medicine. But, if diet could dramatically reduce the need for a CABG, it is not crazy to view dietary changes as the less extreme approach.

If you see the film, let me know what you think. As for me, I’ll be eating a bit differently from now on. I was already 90% there anyway. Another carrot or two won’t hurt.

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