Burden of Disease Study, published in 2012, is the most comprehensive and
systematic analysis of causes of death undertaken to date, involving nearly 500
researchers from more than 300 institutions in 50 countries, and starting with
almost 100,000 data sources. What did the researchers find? Here in the U.S.,
they determined that our biggest killer was our diet.
Number 1 on their list of the most important dietary
risks was not eating enough fruit,responsible for an estimated 4.9 million deaths a
year around the world.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists:
“If Americans ate just one more serving of fruits or
vegetables per day, this would save more than 30,000 lives and $5 billion in
medical costs each year.”
One antidote for individuals is easy, painless, and even
pleasurable: exploit the multiple nutritional and protective benefits of fruits
How Plants Help Prevent Disease
One way plants protect us may be their antiplatelet
effects. Platelets are what trigger the blood clots that cause heart
attacks and most strokes. And beyond their obvious function in blood clotting,
platelets are now considered to play a pivotal inflammatory role in the
hardening of the arteries in the first place, and in allergies, rheumatoid
arthritis, and even cancer.
Normally, under healthy conditions, platelets circulate in a
quiescent, inactive state. But once they become activated, they can emerge as
culprits in inflammation. Platelets transport a vast amount of inflammatory
chemicals, and upon activation they release these chemicals, which can recruit
the inflammatory cells that form the pus pockets within our arterial walls that
can eventually burst and kill us.
This involvement of platelet activation in atherosclerosis
development is well established. We’ve long recognized the platelets’ role in
the final stages; however, a growing body of data indicates that platelets may
also play an important role in the initiation
and propagation of atherosclerosis in the first place.
How can we prevent the excessive activation of platelets?
It’s generally recognized that platelet hyper-reactivity is associated with
high levels of cholesterol circulating in the blood; so we can cut down
on foods that have trans fats, saturated fats, and dietary cholesterol.
We can also eat more fruits and vegetables —
For example, different varieties of strawberries have shown
a significant antiplatelet effect in a petri dish and in people. How
did researchers figure it out?
In my video, Inhibiting Platelet Aggregation with Berries, you can see a
platelet in a resting state, packed with little round granule grenades of
inflammatory chemicals, which fuse together and are released when the platelet
Because resting and activated platelets look so different,
we can just take blood from people and count how many are resting and how many
are activated before and after people eat more than a pint of strawberries
every day for a month. From just adding strawberries to people’s diets, there’s
a small but significant drop in the percentage of activated platelets
circulating throughout their bodies.
Other berries had a
similar effect, even at a more modest two servings a day. Drinking orange
or grapefruit juice doesn’t seem to help, but purple grape
juice successfully reduces platelet activity on the same order that
Studies have shown that
daily aspirin can reduce heart attacks and strokes; however, aspirin can also
cause severe gastrointestinal disturbances and bleeding problems, and so should
not be used for the primary prevention of heart attacks and stroke as the
benefits don’t clearly outweigh the serious risks. It’s nice to have safe,
side-effect free alternatives.
One of the ways plants help keep platelets in their place
may actually be their aspirin content!
See the Aspirin
Levels in Plant Food in this video.
Why would a plant make a human drug? It’s so cool, check
out Appropriating Plant Defenses.
Is the Standard American Diet really so bad that we could
save 100,000 people by just getting up to minimum fruit and veggie recommendations?
Even cynics might be surprised: Nation’s
Diet in Crisis. Even more plants may cut deaths even more, though.
See One in a Thousand: Ending the Heart Disease Epidemic.
Berries are the healthiest fruits, shown to maintain
our brain power (How to Slow Brain Aging By Two Years) and improve our
immune function (Boosting Natural Killer Cell Activity). That’s one of the
reasons we want to eat Antioxidant Rich Foods With Every Meal.
Why You Need to Eat Plants at Every Meal
Check out Dr. Greger’s
As Dr. Greger’s video says:
We can’t just have a bowl of berries in the
morning to meet our minimum daily antioxidant needs, and call it a day.
Each and every meal should contain high-antioxidant
foods, which means plants because antioxidant-rich foods originate
from the plant kingdom.