What if I told you there was a miracle pill that could drastically improve your health and the length of your life?
What’s more, this life-saver is cheap, readily available and comes with no debilitating side-effects. It’s been rigorously tested (including by a Nobel Prize-winning scientist) and almost every doctor in the world should be ready to attest to just how extraordinarily effective it is.
It could slash your risk of developing diabetes by 90 per cent, reduce the likelihood of a heart attack by 80 per cent, halve your chance of having a stroke — and reduce your overall cancer risk by more than a third.
If I told you all this, you would, of course, be hounding me for a prescription.
A plant-based diet may help prevent, treat, or even reverse each of the three leading causes of death in the UK today: heart disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s, and stroke
Well, today, I’m offering it to you on a plate. Quite literally.
I have dedicated my career as a doctor at some of America’s top medical institutions to the study of evidence-based links between disease and nutrition — and now I have come up with a diet plan that is truly a ‘miracle pill’ for illness.
A team of researchers and volunteers last year helped me dig through 24,000 papers published on the subject. And the results have been quite astounding.
It’s now clear, for example, that the vast majority of premature deaths could be prevented.
Many people assume the diseases that kill us are pre-programmed into our genes, but in fact, for most of us, our genes usually account for only 10 to 20 per cent of risk.
And the other 80 to 90 per cent? It comes from our lifestyles.
Dr Michael Greger dedicated his career to studying how diet can protect us against killer diseases
According to the Global Burden of Disease Study — the most comprehensive study of disease risk factors to date — the number-one cause of death and disability in the UK is the British diet.
In an analysis of the lifestyles of 35,000 adults, their diets were scored from zero to five to see if they met a bare minimum of healthy-eating targets — which included fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
How many people do you think scored even four out of five? About 1 per cent.
But you can change this — if you know how.
I have worked for years to identify the perfect combination of foods and nutrients to maximise our protection against disease, and have created a simple dietary prescription — my Daily Dozen — which anyone can take to reduce dramatically their risk of dying.
It has been expertly refined and calibrated to take into account the very latest scientific findings, and to maximise the benefits of the most important health-giving plant nutrients.
Tick off the 12 items on my list (shown on page 46) every day and you can be confident you are doing the utmost to protect yourself against the ravages of disease.
Dr Greger works to identify the perfect combination of foods and nutrients to maximise our protection against disease
A plant-based diet may help prevent, treat, or even reverse each of the three leading causes of death in the UK today: heart disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s, and stroke.
Today, I will explain this vital revelation and introduce the concept of my Daily Dozen — your simple and concise blueprint for a new, healthy future.
Turn to the mouthwatering recipes in the centre pages of today’s Weekend magazine to get started on your new, life-lengthening plan immediately.
And every day next week in the Daily Mail, a special four-page pullout will be dedicated to the powerful foods and nutrients known to protect against specific conditions.
On Monday it’s heart disease; Tuesday dementia; Wednesday cancer; Thursday diabetes; and Friday lung disease.
Packed with delicious meal ideas and healthy food swaps, they are magazines that anyone who cares about their health cannot afford to miss.
WHY A PLANT-BASED DIET REALLY WORKS
Let’s talk a little more about ageing — and the Nobel Prize-winning research on which my diet is based.
In each of your body’s cells you have tiny strands of DNA coiled into chromosomes.
At the tip of each chromosome there’s a small cap called a telomere, which stops your DNA from unravelling and fraying — like the plastic tip on the end of your shoelaces.
As you age, however, the telomere starts to flake away — when it’s completely gone, your cells can die.
Some people like to think of telomeres as life ‘fuses’: they can start shortening as soon as you’re born — and when they’re gone, you’re gone. So what would you have to do if you wanted to prevent this telomere cap from burning away?
Well, smoking cigarettes is associated with tripling the rate of telomere loss, so the first step is obvious.
Dr Greger’s Daily Dozen programme has been expertly refined and calibrated to take into account the very latest scientific findings
But the food you eat every day may also have an impact on how fast you lose them.
Consuming fruits, vegetables and other antioxidant-rich foods has been associated with longer, protective telomeres.
By contrast, consuming refined grains, fizzy drinks, meat (including fish) and dairy has been linked to shortened telomeres.
What if you ate a diet composed solely of plant foods and avoided processed and animal foods — could cellular ageing be slowed?
The answer was discovered by pioneering researcher Dr Dean Ornish and Dr Elizabeth Blackburn, who was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine for her discovery of telomerase — an enzyme that was found to help repair telomeres.
Dr Ornish and Dr Blackburn established that just three months on a whole-food, plant-based diet, coupled with exercise, could significantly boost telomerase — the only intervention that had been shown to do so.
What’s more, a five-year follow-up study found that while the telomeres of those in a control group who did not change their lifestyles predictably shrank with age, the telomeres of those who had changed their lifestyles had actually grown.
Five years later, their telomeres were even longer on average than when they started — suggesting not only that a healthy lifestyle can boost telomerase enzyme activity, but that it can reverse cellular ageing, too. It’s a medical miracle. And now it couldn’t be easier to do, thanks to my Daily Dozen.
MY DAILY DOZEN PRESCRIPTION
My Daily Dozen prescription is the culmination of a medical career dedicated to the ongoing study of the disease-fighting power of plants.
I have been inspired throughout my research by my grandmother, who was told, at 65, that her life was over.
Diagnosed with end-stage heart disease, she’d already had so many bypass operations that the surgeons had run out of options. Her doctors told her there was nothing else they could do, and she was sent home in a wheelchair to die.
But as she sat slumped in front of the TV, she spotted a programme about nutritionist Nathan Pritikin, who was an early pioneer in reversing heart disease through eating a plant-based diet.
She contacted him, became one of his first patients and, within weeks, was not only out of her wheelchair, but walking ten miles a day.
My grandmother went on to live 31 happy, healthy years beyond that original death sentence.
It was her miraculous recovery that inspired me to go to medical school and later to study nutrition.
The one unifying ‘magic bullet’ which has been shown time and again to help prevent, arrest or even reverse each of the major killers — heart disease, dementia and stroke — is a plant-based diet.
Studies show that even if you’re born with high-risk genes — which might mean members of your family are struck by the same debilitating and life-limiting conditions — you can regain control of your medical destiny.
Food reversed my grandmother’s ‘fatal’ heart disease
Being healthy, protecting yourself against disease and striving to live longer doesn’t mean you can never eat steak again. It matters less what you have on special occasions and more the food choices you make day to day.
My prescription for if, or when, you do enjoy a steak is to accompany it with a large side order of broccoli (which has been shown to help negate the cancer-causing effects of meat) and perhaps have berries or other fruit for dessert.
The best available balance of evidence suggests that the healthiest diet is one that minimises the intake of meat, eggs, dairy and processed junk, and maximises the consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes (beans, split peas, chickpeas and lentils), whole grains, nuts and seeds, mushrooms and herbs and spices — real food that grows from the ground.
Those are the healthiest choices, and that message forms the basis of my Daily Dozen.
I’m sure you’ll notice that the recipes in today’s Weekend magazine, and packed into the pullouts all next week, are vegetarian, but you might be relieved to hear that you can enjoy the benefits of a plant-based diet without having to adopt a strict vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
Be reassured that on my plan, nothing is banned and it really doesn’t matter what you eat on birthdays, holidays or special occasions.
If you stick to my Daily Dozen most of the time, the protective health benefits will accumulate nicely.
Adapted by LOUISE ATKINSON from How Not To Die by Michael Greger with Gene Stone, published by Pan, priced £9.99. To order a copy for £6.99, visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640. P&P is free on orders over £15. Offer valid until February 17.