We all want to lead a long, healthy and active life. What we eat is a major contributor to our health and longevity.
But what exactly should we eat? What should we avoid? And why?
Dr Alan Desmond "the Devon gut doctor" is here to help us out.
Dr Orlena chats to Dr Alan Desmond about how what you eat affects your health, your gut and your biome. And how all three are inter connected.
Dr Alan Desmond is a wealth of knowledge and generously shares it with us today.
Hello and welcome to the Fit and Fabulous podcast with me, Dr. Orlena Kerek. I hope that you are feeling fit and fabulous.
I am feeling fit and fabulous and a little bit stressed. I have to confess we're in the middle of moving, except we don't have a date, but as you all know, moving is super stressful. Not super stressful, but just that added stress.
My house looks like a bomb has hit because there are bits that have been packed and bits that haven't been packed and all that kind of stuff. Hopefully soon in a month, life will go back to a little bit of normality, albeit in a new and exciting and tiny house. It's going to be a fabulous adventure for the next year, a tiny house near the sea, which is going to mean us cycling to school and back.
Fit And Fabulous Has A Lot Of Amazing Things In Store For You Next Year.
On top of the move, I am organizing Fit and Fabulous International, Fit and Fabulous Family Summit, which is super exciting. It's going to be taking place from December the fourth to the sixth. Totally, you are free to sign up and attend between those dates.
I've got some amazing speakers who are talking about wellness including parenting. I think parenting is a big part of Fit and Fabulous family. You can sign up and attend to that, drorlina.com Fit and Fabulous Family Summit. At the moment, there's just a sort of holding page before I get all the details of all the wonderful speakers.
There'll also be the option to buy a lifetime ticket, which will be either 47 or $97, depending on when you buy it. And then you will have access to all those wonderful talks for as long as you want.
I have other things to say before I tell you about today's exciting podcast. I am still reaching out to people and wanted to chat to you about your issues in leading your fit and fabulous family life. My aim is that you all lead a long and healthy life and really enjoy your healthy lifestyle.
I want to chat to you what’s stopping you, what's holding you back and how you can overcome that. So if you're interested in chatting to meet 30 minutes, just reply to one of my emails or email me at [email protected]
Today I have an amazing treat for you, a really fabulous interview with an amazing doctor. I will tell you a little bit of a story about how I managed to get Dr. Alan Desmond to come and chat on my podcast.
My sister keeps saying to me, “oh, Orlena, my friend, Hannah, her husband is this amazing doctor. He's been on the Doctor's Kitchen podcast. He talks about the biome. You'll love him, he's absolutely great.” You know what it's like in families and I'm like, “yeah, okay, I'll check him out”. After she said this to me so many times, I've realized that he was actually an old friend of mine, many, many, many moons.
We were both in Brisbane, in Australia at the same time, and we hung out. We were actually at different hospitals, but he was a good friend of a couple of close friends of mine and we knew each other.
I think the last time I saw him was probably where my oldest child was a baby, probably around 12 years ago, which feels like an eternity ago.
Dr. Orlena: I'm super excited to present this interview with Dr. Alan Desmond. He's going to be answering this question, “what is healthy to eat?” He has such a wealth of knowledge.
As I say on the podcast, he knew about the biome back in those days, when we were all at medical school and nobody else had ever heard of the biome. And since then he's gone on. He works in Devon. He has an illustrious career as a gastroenterologist. He's really keen on the plant-based diet and he can talk about the biome and essentially what is a good diet for us.
He's also about to publish a book. So I will let him tell you all about the book.
So let's dive in and chat to Dr. Alan Desmond.
Dr. Orlena: Welcome and thank you so much for being here on the Fit and Fabulous podcast.
Dr Alan: Well, thanks for inviting me Orlena. It's lovely to see you again and lovely to be connected with your listeners. So thank you
Dr Orlena: Now I am super excited to dive in. You're going to tell us all about your book, your work, the plant-based diet, and the biome. I'm so fascinated about biomes. I was listening to your podcasts that you gave me.
Dr. Orlena: When you were at medical school, you knew all about the biome. Now, how is it possible? I didn't know anything about the biome until a few years ago. So do you want to jump in and start telling us all about this amazing thing called the biome?
Dr Alan: Yep. The gut, the human gut microbiome. The good news is we are not alone. We think that we are single people, single animals walking around the place. But in fact, we're carrying around with us hundreds of trillions of microorganisms that are on our body. It's everywhere on our body. But in particular, they're in our bowel, and most, especially in our very lower bowel and the large bowel or colon.
Dr. Alan: The colon is the home to the human gut microbiome, which is made up of hundreds of trillions of bacteria, yeasts viruses, and archaea. These are microscopic organisms that are actually incredibly important to our health.
So just think about those numbers, hundreds of trillions. So we've got more little bugs in our large bowel. Then there are stars in the Milky way or trees on planet earth. While human beings are incredibly complex organisms, who've been around for maybe 200,000 years.
Dr. Alan: The bugs that we carry in our gut microbiome are actually very primitive and they're the ancestors of the earth. The very first, inhabitants, these little microscopic organisms.
They're not just sitting there. They're biologically active, they're metabolically active. They're producing hormones and vitamins and minerals and proteins. Biologically active substances, which directly influence our health just like any symbiosis.
Dr. Alan: Their health depends on our health and our health depends on their health. Sadly, in the last 30 to 50 years, our approach to food has become dominated by the standard Western diet which is a highly processed high junk food, high meat, high dairy high-fat approach to food. It's doing our human gut microbiome no favours when it's trying to keep us healthy.
In humans, you want a really healthy and functional gut microbiome because in its very essence, the microbiome wants you to be healthy. It wants to help humans to stay healthy. So you can very much influence what your microbiome does, how it's made up and how it functions and the influence that has on your health by changing the way you eat.
Dr Orlena: Absolutely fascinating. It's fascinating that we have so much inside of us. You kind of think when you make that analogy to how many stars there are. I kind of think, wow! I've got this almost universe inside of me.
Dr Alan: We've got more microbial cells and much more microbial DNA inside our bodies. then we have human cells or human DNA. So it's incredibly important. It's been described as a regulator for human physiology. This also has been described as an unlicensed drug factory. The stuff that it produces is biologically active and has a real impact on your health.
Dr Orlena: It's just incredible. So I know that you're talking about keeping our bodies healthy and we want to keep all biomes healthy by eating healthily. I know that you have a book coming up. So how about you give us the secrets of how we're going to do this?
Dr Alan: Well, to really inspire people and get them aboard is called The Plant-Based Diet Revolution. The whole goal of the book is to help people to learn how to build their meals from the same foods that humans have thrived on for generations and it's not complicated. Those food groups are not complicated. These are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. If you are making your meals completely or predominantly from these healthy plant-based sources of nutrition, you will help not only to optimize your gut microbiome but also optimize your health, your performance.
Dr. Alan: In the book, we break it down. In fact, we go through the science initially. But we also reveal exactly why that leads to a healthier gut, healthier heart, a healthier body, and even a healthier mind. So one key thing in the book was about keeping us accessible and actionable. So we go through step by step, looking at the science in a very easily understood way. Cutting through the diet confusion to explain why eating plants is a healthier option.
Dr. Alan: The book also provides easy, beautiful and illustrated plant-based recipes. So, as I said to you earlier, before we started recording at its very heart, it's really a healthy cookbook. But then alongside the recipes, we have for people who have tried eating these delicious completely plant-based recipes, they want to push it a little bit further. They want to experience the benefits of eating a completely unprocessed whole food plant-based ice themselves.
We have within the book The 28-day Revolution. It basically provides the shopping lists, the day-to-day guide to buying, storing, prepping, and cooking healthy whole food plant-based meals every day for 28 days. And after enjoying 28 days of eating things like spicy baked beans with sweet potato, farro, a cauliflower butter bean, and charred dial or banana pecan ice cream, all these lovely, familiar, easy to prepare recipes, People can decide for themselves whether they're going to maintain a completely plant-based diet and lifestyle.
I would recommend that on a person on a medical basis, or whether they're just going to continue 90% or 80%. But really, I just want people to have a book that cuts through the diet confusion. It Makes the science easily understandable but then provides all the lovely recipes and the plan.
Dr. Alan: I guess the final component of the book is some extra resources of tips for shopping and little of what we call them, the plant-based Q and A, which goes through all of those questions that always come up like, will I get enough protein? Will I get enough calcium? Do I need to worry about soy?
All these questions that come up time and time again over the last few years, through my practice, through my public speaking and through various online courses that I've run in. I run online courses with Stephen and David Flynn at The Happy Pear who were plant-based chefs and educators.
Dr. Alan: I've really been privileged to help at this point, genuinely thousands of people make the change to a whole food plant-based diet. So really the book is kind of a distillation of everything I've learned over those years between two covers. So it's really great having worked on it for over a year, to have it very close to being on bookshelves.
I've been able to talk to people like you about it. So again, thanks for having me on.
Dr Orlena: Congratulations. It sounds marvellous. I am all about the vegetables. I think people get a bit bored of me going on and on and on about like how can you teach your children to eat healthily? I'm like, just give them more vegetables.
Another thing that I really see, and I think is really important is this idea of keeping it easy as well, because let's face it, we're all busy. We've all got lives that we have to lead. And as much as I would like to say, you need to spend hours and hours creating amazing food, the reality is we don't have time.
I think we don't need to. I know I'm lucky. I live in Spain and we have beautiful vegetables here. Actually, vegetables are really easy and really simple when you've got those amazing recipes at your fingertips. So I'm super excited to delve in.
Dr Alan : You'll see that the recipes we do, we had this thing. I worked for COSI with an old friend of mine called Bob Andrew, is a really experienced chef. He worked with Riverford Organic Farm for years over here in the UK.
For anyone who is familiar with the Riverford cookbooks or any of their products or their veggie boxes. When we were designing the recipes, we wanted them to meet the criteria for being healthy on processed or completely plant-based.
We wanted to make sure that when we designed the 28-day revolution meal plans. It would be nutritionally complete in terms of calories which actually is very easy to do on a plant-based diet. The numbers kind of all fall into place. As long as you're eating three meals a day, you're nutritionally complete. But when we were designing them, we had this rule of thumb, which we call the Sainsbury's test. So we wanted to make sure that you could take our shopping lists and go to local Sainsbury's. And for anyone not living in the UK, Sainsbury's is just a kind of middle of the road high street supermarket here where a lot of people do their weekly shop.
We just wanted to keep it really simple and every recipe just makes two servings. So there's enough for now and enough for later or enough to share with one person, or it's quite easy to double it up and cook a family meal for four or six people.
Dr. Orlena: It sounds absolutely amazing. Now, one thing I do want to talk to you about is this idea with plant-based. I think it's an interesting conversation about, do we need to cut out meat? And another question I really have is this idea about veganism and cutting out all dairy products. So regarding meat, I've seen lots of articles about how bad meat is.
Regarding veganism, I see so many people on either side of the fence. It feels like it's a very polarized argument. Some people like yourself and the gentleman who wrote back. Valter Longo is another one who wrote the longevity diet sort of in the vegan camp. But then other experts, like for example, Dr. Michael Mosley, who's less in the vegan camp advocates, things like eating some Greek yogurt and all those blue cheeses. And I guess, really my question is, what exactly do you recommend and why?
Dr Alan: You just said, what should I eat? And that's a really important question. In fact, it could be one of the most important questions of the 21st century because in the last 50 years as human, food has been replaced by the standard Western diet.
Dr. Alan: As I said so, in the UK now 55% of calories come from highly processed foods. So junk foods that look nothing like the food that you must have thrived on for generations. Things that our great grandparents wouldn't even recognize as foods that count for 55% of calories consumed in the UK. One in five people get 80% of the calories from highly processed food" junk food in the UK.
Dr. Alan: We consume more meat, eggs and dairy than we ever have in the history of humanity in the US. The average adult consumes about a hundred kilograms of meat per year. They've hit what they describe as peak meat. Every year, meat consumption is going up and up and up. Alongside this change in our dietary practices, where we have moved to eating depending on processed food.
Animal products and dairy for the majority of our calories, we have seen an incredible rise in chronic diseases, which are driven by largely , or sometimes completely by our dietary intake. So obesity type two diabetes, heart disease, diverticular disease. In many cases, colorectal cancer, things like, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or fatty liver disease is fast on becoming the number one cause of cirrhosis in high-income countries.
Dr. Alan: These are diseases driven by food. So if we look at the UK, for example, the dietary factors account for more illness and disability that alcohol use and drug use combined in the US. Dietary factors are the number one cause of illness and disability.
Why? Because the standard Western diet drives all of those illnesses that I just talked about. Those are the things that are reducing our life expectancy, our quality of life, and our healthy years lived now a few years ago.
Dr. Alan: Well, first we'll just say there's so much confusion out there, right? Cause you've just, alluded to some of the confusion. There's so much confusion out there, both for medical doctors and people who aren't medically trained.
In the newspapers, you are constantly seeing various dietary approaches being advocated. So, the question is, is it high, fat, low carb? Should we be recommending paleo or vegan or the Mediterranean? Should we be recommending moderation? So what's the answer? What should I eat? It's the same question. Right?
Dr. Alan: Last February, February 2019, the Lancet Medical Journal, one of the world's oldest and most respected medical journals published a report, the result of a review of the evidence. They had appointed a commission called the EAT-Lancet Commission at 38 world-renowned experts on food, human health, epidemiology medicine and also food production, they asked them to answer that same question, "what should I eat?"
The answer they wanted needed to be irrelevant to the almost 10 billion people who live on earth, including the 720 million who have poor health because they can't get enough calories, cause they're living in an environment where they don't have access to food. And that three and a half billion people who are living in poor health because they have too much access to food, and they're living on a standard Western diet.
They asked this commission of experts to just go and look at all the evidence and come back with a blueprint for a healthy diet.
Dr. Alan: They published last February 2019, the EAT-Lancet report. So I would completely recommend that to all of your listeners. Google the EAT-Lancet report and just have a look at what they recommended. It's a really interesting, detailed document. I'll tell you exactly how they described a healthy diet.
A healthy diet should be consistent by volume of approximately half fruits and vegetables. The other half should consist of primarily whole grains, plant sources of protein, unsaturated, plant oils. Optionally modest amounts of animals, sources of protein. When they talked about it, the optional or the option of including modest amounts of animal sources of protein. They were very clear that choosing plant-based sources of protein first is your go-to. That's how you're going to be healthier.
Dr. Alan: If you live in an environment where you don't have access to things like beans and nuts and legumes and you are living in a situation where you've got food scarcity. If you do have access to animal-based sources of protein, then yes, that's important to eat because humans need protein to live. But we need quite a lot of protein.
Dr. Alan: They suggested that you might like to eat seven grams of red meat per day, 30 grams of poultry or fish per day, or I think it was about 54 grams of egg per day. And these suggested keeping your consumption of animal products to those what they were called modest amounts. But when you compare it to how we eat in countries like the UK, the US, those are actually very low amounts of food of animal-based sources of counters.
The reason they recommended keeping the consumption of those foods so it was because you eat more than that. They start to drive disease, things like obesity and heart disease, colorectal cancer, et cetera.
Dr. Alan: They were very, very clear that they were recommending that people eat whole food and, or almost completely plant-based diet.
That's what I recommend and that's the structure that we've built the book around. But we have a section at this at the near the start of the book called “How To Eat Like The Healthiest People In The Planet”. This is the approach that we recommend but every single recipe in the book is completely plant-based.
Dr Orlena: Happiness and it's absolutely amazing. When you say seven grams of red meat, that's like a teaspoon of red meat
Dr Alan: Well, that's important though. So, they recommended and they're not alone on this. I mean, this approach to food has become endorsed in recent years. Like multiple authorities, for example, the American Cancer Society, the official guidelines for treating type two diabetes in the US recommend taking a completely or mostly a plant-based approach.
The UK’s dietary guideline, the Eat well guide, which is a little bit out of date right now. But if you look online, you'll see that it's almost exactly the same. It's about fruits and vegetables and whole grains are when it comes to protein-rich foods, choosing plants.
Dr. Alan: First, if you look at the Canadian Healthy Eating Guide published last year in 2019, it looks the same fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, rich foods, prioritizing plant-based protein.
The Canadian healthy eating guidelines actually, really interesting because the Canadians and Canadian style very politely declined to be lobbied by any food-producing industries when they designed their healthy eating guide last year. They didn't have the egg industry or the dairy industry or the meat industry or the broccoli industry lobbying them.
They just looked at the science and they came to some very similar conclusions to the EAT-Lancet report. The Canadian healthy eating guide doesn't have a dairy section. It doesn't have a meat section. It says drink water at each plant. So to quote, it says, eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains at plant-based protein sources. And it's almost compliant with the US Dietary Guidelines for America.
Dr. Alan: The US dietary guidelines for America still include dairy whereas a lot of other dietary guidelines are removing dairy. In August of this year, the AMA, the American Medical Association, one of the world's oldest, most respected professional organizations for doctors wrote to the US Department of Agriculture who write the US dietary guidelines, asking them to stop listing dairy and meat as mandatory food groups in the US dietary guidelines.
Dr. Alan: I've got the quote here in front of me. I'll read it too. I think it's worth reading. It says:
“Dairy and meat products are promoted federal nutrition policies, even though they are not nutritionally required. The AMA notes that black Americans are particularly high risk for prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and cardiovascular mortality and prostate and colorectal cancers are strongly linked to dairy processed meat and red meat consumption. Such products also contribute to cardiovascular risk and are not nutritionally indicated for all diets.”
So I imagine, in the future, we will see meat and dairy becoming optional in the US dietary guidelines as well.
Dr Orlena: That's very interesting. Now I would like to flip the coin a little bit and talk about those processed foods and why they are so incredibly bad for us. And when I was listening to one of your protocols, can you talk about emulsifiers being one of the sorts of evil culprits? So could you tell me a little bit about emulsifiers and really importantly, where do we find emulsifiers?
Dr Alan: Yeah, so emulsifiers, I told earlier about highly processed foods. So your junk foods, your store-bought cakes and bars and Mr. Whippy ice cream, anything that has a shelf life beyond what you would normally expect food to last, basically, a slice of cake that comes in a plastic wrapper and stays fresh for nine or 12 months. These are highly processed foods.
Dr. Alan: When you talk about whatever you describe, how they processed, would people kind of smile and throw their eyes up in the air. But the fact is for most people in the UK and the US know, these are their main sources of calories. These are where people get their calories from. I guess they're not really food. Are they?
Dr. Alan: They're produced industrially and they are filled with chemicals and other emulsifiers and preservatives and flavour answers to make them taste delicious. So that you will keep coming back for more and to make them taste fresh and moist and yummy.
So one of the things you heard me talk about was emulsifiers. These are chemicals that are added, for example to like cream cheese, to make it even creamier. They're also added to things like Mr. Whippy ice cream. They’re added to some plant-based milk. They're added to processed meat products, like pepper, raw, medium to all these things. It makes them a little bit soft and a little bit creamy and approves their mouthfeel.
Dr. Alan: You're talking about chemicals like polysorbate, carrageenan, carboxymethylcellulose and the names alone give you the clue that these things have no business in the human digestive tract. One of the illnesses that I spend all my time treating is Crohn's disease. A form of bowel disease were sections of the bile become inflamed and unhealthy.
It's a condition that's incredibly debilitating, lifelong takes an awful lot of treatment. And for patients diagnosed with it and about 50% of them actually ended up having parts of their bowel removed surgically because the disease has gone so far that a part of the gut is no longer functional. It really can be a very debilitating disease.
Dr. Alan: So if I give you the example of how emulsifiers are linked to that condition, it gives you an idea of the effect emulsifiers can have in your gut. So in patients with Crohn's disease, the human gut microbiome contains a particular bug called adherent invasive e coli.
You don't generally see it in healthy people. It seems to be very especially linked to Crohn's disease. What it does is it sticks onto the gut lining, gets through the protective mucous layer, gets itself brought in to the body to get in contact with the immune system. And it generates an immune response, which then causes damage to the lining of the gut, making it red and sore and dysfunctional.
Dr. Alan: Maltodextrin, which is an artificial carbohydrate or sugar, which is added to almost every processed food you can imagine. Next time you see a chocolate bar or anything like that on a supermarket shelf, pick up and flip it over. You'll find maltodextrin listed because 90% of Americans consume it more than once per day.
Maltodextrin promotes the growth of adherent invasive e coli and other damaging bacteria within the human gut microbiome. Not only that, it also degrades the protective mucous layer that protects the gut lining from coming in direct contact with the contents of the gut.
Dr. Alan: The emulsifiers like polysorbate AC also degrade that protective lining, allowing the bacteria to come in direct contact with the lining of the gut. Not only do they come in direct contact and get in and get exposed to the immune system, but it also causes an abnormal immune response. These artificial foods also degrade the integrity of all the important intestinal barrier. It is designed to keep the contents of the gut separate from our bloodstream and our immune system. So you end up with what's colloquially referred to as a leaky gut where contents of the gut bacterial products, even food products are able to enter the bloodstream, producing space, which we refer to as chronic inflammation. Because it drives chronic inflammation within the body.
Dr. Alan: As you know, early in the chronic inflammation, isn't just associated with things like Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease. It's also a common, causative and things like heart disease even depression, stroke and numerous medical conditions, including obesity and type two diabetes.
Dr. Alan: These processed foods, these highly processed foods, which I get, they're yummy. they're tasty. They're nice occasional treats. They should definitely be occasional treats. When I'm recommending to individuals that they eat a plant-based diet, the first two words are a whole food plant-based diet. So you're talking about fruits and vegetables and legumes and whole grain. You're just avoiding at least highly processed foods, as much as you can.
Dr. Alan: I guess the secret about adopting that way of eating is about making that kind of mindset change and getting used to these new recipes. I guess in most households, people probably have eight or nine or ten recipes that they keep coming back to and they kind of rotate those through a week or two.
Dr. Alan: In my book and in many other lovely plant-based books, we've got dozens and dozens of yummy plant-based recipes. I'm hoping that people will buy the book, read the science and then explore the recipes and that they'll certainly have a new nine or 10 recipes that they have on rotation and are the favourites in their house.
There'll be things like the goulash hot pot or the cola bean burgers with sweet potato chips and Rosita, etc. These are just yummy, familiar dishes. Also, tick all the right boxes in terms of improving your gut microbial health and your overall health.
Dr Orlena: I think it's all just about habits and systems and creating these healthy habits and systems. What I hear you saying about these processed foods, I find it really, really scary on one hand, but on the other hand. I find it actually that the alternative is healthy eating and it's actually just so easy.
There's nothing difficult to grasp. What you're basically saying to us is, “hey, eat lots of vegetables." And that is just doable. It's not like, we have to get up at five o'clock in the morning and run a marathon and do a bit of meditation or, you can if you want to. The essence of healthy living is just simple and easy and has amazing results.
Dr Alan: Absolutely. This stuff that we're not taught very well in medical school. These are the things that I guess we just view as outside of our purview. We don't think we have enough time to speak to our patients about, or there's a sense of nihilism. That even if I tell someone or give them some tools to do this healthy change, they probably won't do it because they're too busy. And so it's just something we don't really learn about, or that we're not really taught about.
Dr Alan: In the book, I give details of this great challenge that we run right here in Southwest Devon at the start of the year, just before the pandemic. So I spoke at a few conferences for doctors. I spoke about all of these benefits of a whole food plant-based diet, in terms of preventing and helping to treat even sometimes reversing so many of the chronic diseases that GP's and frontline doctors end up spending the time treating all the time.
I then challenged my audience to discover the benefits for themselves. So we signed up over a hundred health professionals, about half of them were doctors, mostly GP's. We had clerical staff, dieticians, pharmacists, etc, and over the course of 28 days and bearing in mind that coming into the challenge.
Dr Alan: Well, nobody was eating a plant-based diet. This is the Southwest of England after all. So things like processed meat, red meat, coated cream Kerry, pretty much on the menu heading into this challenge. We challenge them to eat a whole food plant-based diet for four weeks. And I teamed up with my friend, Steven and David Flynn at the Happy Pear.
So we were able to give them all of the recipes and shopping lists and. So they were eating beans, greens, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains for four weeks. Things like hand fried mushrooms with spinach, tofu with greens and quinoa, lentils, spaghetti bolognese, black beans, vegetables, beans, and rice. But importantly, we asked them to embrace this way of eating for just 28 days to eat as much food as they like with no calorie counting and no portion control for just 28 days.
Dr Alan: Now. heading into that challenge. I'm just going to talk about a few metrics. High blood pressure, really important major driver of heart disease and stroke.
When we went into the challenge with pretty healthy group. These are kind of middle-aged health professionals. So they're doing a lot of the right things already, but their diet isn't whole food plant-based. So we're heading into the challenge. Only 37% of the challengers had completely normal blood pressure.
The remainder had prehypertension or hypertension. So only 37% up to 28 days of this way of eating 58% of challengers had a completely healthy blood pressure. In fact, among the challengers who had an early or established high blood pressure, we saw an average drop, a 13.7 millimetres of artery. It is about the same as going on one or two tablets for your high blood pressure heading into the challenge.
37% of the challengers were either overweight or obese which, actually compared to the UK average, which would be 64% is really good. So 37% of challenges were overweight or obese at the start of the four weeks. At the end of four weeks, we'd reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity from 37% down to 27%.
In fact, those who entered the four week period living with obesity dropped an average of five kilos or 11 pounds. I saw colleagues, fellow doctors who'd been living with obesity for years often for most of their adult lives dropping into the non-obese category. And those numbers are incredible.
But actually to see the smiles on their faces, as they realized how making this one extra change, just changing their approach to food. Just seeing them at that realization among my medical colleagues who were often the most difficult people to convince was really rewarding. And the results that we saw in terms of cholesterol were extremely impressive.
Dr. Alan: Obviously, when you're eating a whole food plant-based diet, you're eating a naturally cholesterol-free diet because cholesterol is not made by plants. It's made by animals. So if you don't eat any animals, you don't eat any cholesterol. So again, heading into that challenge, one-third of the people in the challenge had an elevated non HDL or atherogenic or bad cholesterol.
So one third at high bad cholesterol, having it after just four weeks, we saw an average 30% drop. In bad cholesterol after 28 days, 94% of the group had reduced their cholesterol to the help they range between that drop in blood pressure. And that drop in cholesterol and drop in body waste, we had significantly reduced their risk of heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes and other lifestyle-related diseases moving into the future. So, I mean, that's pretty impressive right? for four weeks.
Dr Orlena: It's absolutely amazing, and again, the really good news is how easy it is and how the results are basically pretty much instantaneous.
Dr Alan: You start to see the changes in your human gut microbiome within days. So the number one determinant of the makeup of your human gut microbiome as an adult is the food that you consume.
So when you switched to a whole food plant-based diet, which is naturally higher in fibre, with a greater diversity of plants high in naturally occurring, healthy plant-based sources of protein, within days you see an increase in the fibre loving bacteria within your gut microbiome that produce a short-chain fatty acid. It helps to control your appetite up to control your blood sugar. It helps to maintain the integrity.
Your gut epithelial barrier starts repairing the damage that your previous approach to food may have been imposing on your system within days, within 28 days, within that first month.
Dr. Alan: There's plenty of studies out there showing. including the one I just described to you, published studies showing how you can reduce gut inflammation, kickstart healthy weight loss and normalized blood sugars over the years.
I've helped lots, thousands of people to make this change and whatever their entry point, whether they were adopting this approach to food to help with gut health issues are type two diabetes or hypertension, obesity, or if they were coming into this from a different perspective. It may be the perspective of planetary health and reducing their personal carbon footprint and impact on the environment, et cetera. within those first four weeks, you just see so many beneficial changes.
Dr. Alan: I'm often asked, Do I recommend a whole food plant-based diet because of the health benefits? Because it can help to prevent and reduce and treat so many gastro health issues?
Do I recommend it because it improves your cardiac health, your heart health? Do I recommend it because it helps to prevent type two diabetes? A condition that's going to affect one in 10 UK adults within the next few years.
Do I recommend it because it substantially reduces a person's impact on the environment? It helps to reduce your personal carbon footprint or do I recommend it because of animal welfare?
Is it because I'm concerned with the way in which the 60 billion animals a year who were raised in slaughter to be eaten are treated?
Do I recommend it because the United Nations Organization has identified an increasing demand for animal protein as the number one driver of zoonotic pandemics, like the coronavirus?
Which of those is my number one reason for recommending a whole food plant-based diet? I guess it's all the above or whichever appeals to you the most because what have you got to lose?
It's just about changing your approach to food to this evidence-based healthier approach to food. You've got all these incredible side benefits and if animal welfare and global health and environmental concerns and preventing the next zoonotic pandemic are things that excite you as much as they excite me, then great.
Dr Orlena: I think we would all like to avoid any more pandemics. So let's just go back to your book. First of all. Which is your favourite recipe or the book. And secondly, when is it out and where can people get
Dr Alan: My favourite recipe in the book, that's like you asked me to pick my favourite child. We've got these lovely, savoury farinata in there. So farinata is kind of a Mediterranean or Spanish style omelette or crepe which is traditionally made with gram flour or chickpea flour. And those are just really yummy and delicious and filling.
We also have these lovely, spicy beans. So you're, you're using haricot beans with a little bit of balsamic and a little bit of turmeric and you slow cook down some onions and some garlic, and then you add some pistachio. It takes about 20 minutes to make. And you've suddenly any little bit of harissa, if you want to make it spicy or some chili flakes and within 20 minutes. Instead of just cracking open a can of beans, which is fine, do that too, if you're in a hurry. But if you've got the time to sit an extra 20 minutes and you've got these lovely, spicy, fresh baked beans, which we serve with this farro. So if you don't want farro that's just got some potato, you cook it quickly, you could microwave it or boilers, and then you work it into a dough with flour.
We use whole grain flour in the book because it increases the dietary fibre. And then you turn that into like a nice wedge and you just heat it up on the pan back and forth, it makes this lovely, lovely potato farro. So that's potato farro, spicy beans. Those are two that come to mind right now, but those are two of my favourite recipes.
Dr Orlena: Guess that sounds amazing. I'm going to get my children to make that. I give them recipes that they can make things. They'll really enjoy making this and it's going to be a bit of a treat like cakes, any cakes that are in our house have to be made by my children because I refuse to buy them.
Dr. Alan: My middle girl Naomi, who is, seven, loves making those beans. So we do the "un-spicy" version for her. Just getting the kids involved is so important. My 4-year old boy was up early this morning. I helped him to make a big bowl of porridge with apple sauce and grated apple. And because he was involved in stirring it and mixing it and all that, he sat down and enjoyed us.
It's just we didn't quite get around to talk about how to get your kids to eat healthy food, but I think surrounding them by healthy options and get them involved in the process.
In our dining room, we've got a shelf with maybe 30 plant-based cookbooks on there, and we just let the kids browse through them and find stuff that they think they would like. And that we make an effort to go cook them and get them involved. If they like it, they like it. If they don't like it, that's fine. But it's just about putting the options in front of them and helping them to find their own way.
Dr. Alan: If they would look to order now The Plant-based Diet Revolution, 28 Days To A Happier Gut And A Healthier you. You could pre-order it on Amazon. It'll be in your hands in hardback on January 7th.
You can also order through bookshop.org, which is a nice way to buy the book online but also support your local independent bookstore. It will be available in the UK, in Ireland in hardback on January 7th. It's also going to be released in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere.
It will be an e-book on January 7th, but in those territories, the hardback will be available early.
Dr Orlena: Fabulous congratulations. Where can people find you online?
Dr Alan: The easiest thing is Instagram. So if you just search Instagram for Alan Desmond, And you'll see, Dr. Alan Desmond would pop up
Dr Orlena: Happiness. Thank you so much for being with us here.
Dr Alan: Oh, it's been lovely. Yeah, we could do another hour.
Dr Orlena: There you go. Thank you so much, Alan for your time.
Dr. Orlena: Remember you can pre-order his book, which is available from January the seventh on Amazon. I will leave a link in the show notes. What a fabulous gifts that would make to your family and to anybody else who is thinking about enjoying plant-based food.
Dr. Orlena: Now just a reminder, my Fit and Fabulous Family Summit is going to be from December the fourth to the sixth. You can sign up at drorlinas.com Fit and Fabulous Family Summit.
If you would like to chat to me about your healthy living journey, because you want to lead a long and healthy life, then just reply to one of my emails or email me at [email protected]
I will also leave a link in the show notes to my calendar, where you can just book a 30-minute session.
Have a fabulous day. I will see you next week.
Connect with Dr Alan Desmond
Released in the UK Jan 7th. Preorder his book at amazon UK:
Released in the US April 20th. Or from amazon US:
Also mentioned in this Episode
The Eat Lancet Report: https://eatforum.org/eat-lancet-commission/
Dr Orlena's Fit and Fabulous Family Summit Dec 4th-6th: https://www.drorlena.com/fit-and-fabulous-family-summit/
Request a "virtual coffee" with Dr Orlena. Email [email protected]
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