Following a whole food plant based diet

By Dr. Walter Vermeulen. 17 September 2023, 11:00AM

In our previous column, we discussed the dangers caused by the gradual and insidious build-up of cholesterol deposits (also called ‘plaque’) within the inner lining of the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle, eventually leading to a heart attack or worse. 

METI has been promoting the whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet for the past decade for the arrest and eventual reversal of such acquired heart disease. The WFPB diet is so effective that one of the pioneers of the Lifestyle Medicine movement, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, has written a book about it with the provocative title ‘The End of Heart Disease’! Strictly following the WFPB diet will reverse the build-up of ‘plaque’ and through the mechanism of ‘cholesterol efflux’ (explained previously) make these arteries healthy and clean again in a matter of a few years. 

As an extra bonus, by strictly following this diet, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes that commonly accompany the acquired heart disease, will also be reversed. You might have noticed that we highlighted the strict following of the WFPB diet. And that is for a reason: the WFPB diet doesn’t work if one follows the diet half-heartedly or finds excuses to legitimize breaking the simple rules of avoiding the consumption of all animal products and cooking oils. 

At the moment, about 30 per cent of the patients who come to METI’s weekly Health Seminar and subsequently follow the WFPB diet will stick with the diet and immediately reap its awards, even in a matter of a few weeks. We constantly emphasize the importance of following a few strategies that if followed guarantee a greater chance of being successful in achieving the goal of reversing heart disease. 

In this and the following columns, we will devote some time to highlight those strategies that we, at METI, have found effective to help patients to stick to the WFPB diet. One must realise that one faces a major behavioural challenge to interest the population in adopting changes in lifestyle and eating habits when 85 per cent of adults are overweight as a result of consuming the fatty, animal-based Western diet. 

Social scientists have studied this problem for decades and useful lessons can be learned from these studies. For example, in 2007, the Harvard Obesity study summed it up as follows: “You change your idea of what is an acceptable body type by looking at the people around you.” And -as a result- that “we take on the moods (and behaviours) of the people around us.”

At first glance, in light of this study, any effort to change the mindset of such a large population and convince them to adhere to WFPB nutrition to reverse obesity would seem to be doomed. However, as Dr. Joel Fuhrman (quoted earlier) notes: “…understanding how powerful bad influences can be, especially with society’s approval and promotion of addictive eating, leads to the inescapable conclusion that healthful behaviours can be just as contagious if you are surrounded by health-conscious people. One powerful secret to a slim body and good health is to cultivate friends who are supportive and can share a healthy eating style with you.” 

This is then the major ‘prop’ if you want to be successful in following the WFPB diet and reap its benefits: rally the support of your immediate family and designate one member as the ‘Good Samaritan’, who will help you to stay on track! One must understand that the introduction of the WFPB diet in this society is like introducing an innovation: it takes time for people to adopt this innovation. In the meantime, METI’s weekly Health Seminars are producing ‘converts’, some of whom are passionate promoters of the new lifestyle and eating habits that they have adopted and that have led several of them to a reversal of their obesity and diabetes. 

In addition, METI’s Taiala programme is successful in instilling such ‘contagious healthful behaviours’ into the Samoan society at the grassroots. In a recently completed 6-village Primary Health Care project to control NCD, we recorded that of all the individuals suffering of NCD who were explained and instructed about the WFPB diet, 30 per cent strictly followed the diet to the point of improving or reversing their medical conditions. In the specialised literature on the ‘diffusion of innovation’ this is well beyond the percentage (15 per cent) after which the innovation spontaneously gets adopted by ‘word of mouth’. 

METI is confident that this adoption percentage will continue to grow provided the population is given the needed information to become aware of the benefits of the WFPB diet. We invite you to visit METI’s Healthy Living Clinic at House No. 51 at Motootua (across from the Kokobanana Restaurant) to become further acquainted with METI’s whole food plant-based diet and Lifestyle Change programs. Or call us at 30550. Learning how to follow these Programs might be your ‘game changer’!

By Dr. Walter Vermeulen. 17 September 2023, 11:00AM
Samoa Observer

Upgrade to Premium

Subscribe to
Samoa Observer Online

Enjoy unlimited access to all our articles on any device + free trial to e-Edition. You can cancel anytime.