Power of plants: Documentary will launch plant-based nutrition campaign
August 25, 2015 12:00 AM
Colin T. Campbell, and his son Nelson Campbell, on a family farm in North Carolina in a scene from the documentary "PlantPure Nation."
Aimee Girod poses for a portrait in her kitchen with her kids, from left, JP, 6, Lilly, 10, Emma, 9, and Laura, 10, on August 19, 2015. Ms. Girod will lead a "pod" of people who eat plant-based diets and will be part of a group being formed by the creators of the movie, "PlantPure Nation."
By David Templeton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Campbells, father and son, call it the most important health breakthrough of all time.
But it’s no magic bullet or amazing new technology. And yet the science is crystal clear: Whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and grains have healing powers and serve as the world’s best medicine.
That’s the message of a documentary movie, “PlantPure Nation,” to be shown at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the SouthSide Works Cinema. The movie tells the story of noted nutrition scientist T. Colin Campbell and his son Nelson who tried having the Kentucky State Legislature adopt a “resolution of fact” stating that whole plant foods are healthy with potential to treat and cure disease. But that straightforward, science-based statement becomes the victim of corporate power and politics, including a call for meat to be added to the resolution.
“The movie is intended fundamentally to answer the question of why for decades people in the mainstream haven’t heard this incredibly powerful message before,” said Nelson Campbell, who directed the documentary and serves as its central figure. “As individuals, we have increased power over our diet through our dietary choices, but many folks still don’t understand that, and quite frankly, when they hear about the health benefits of plants they are incredulous.”
The elder Campbell, an emeritus professor of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University, authored seminal studies and best-selling books, including “The China Study,” on plant-based nutrition, which provide the foundation for the documentary.
With the movie being premiered nationwide, the Campbells said they want to expose the great American secret that whole plant foods prevent, treat and heal, while meat, eggs, cheese and sugar contribute to an overfed, undernourished nation saddled with obesity, chronic disease and cancer. Only a small fraction of Americans follow a whole food plant-based diet.
So boosting those numbers defines their mission — with some frustration. Taking inspiration from peas and beans, they are creating PlantPure Pods in cities where the movie is playing, with seeds from the newly formed Pittsburgh pod already taking root. The official launch, or sprouting, will coincide with the documentary.
The groups, with support from the nonprofit PlantPure Foundation, will involve knowledgeable, plant-food advocates and advisers who will organize events, help educate people, and promote the lifestyle.
Prior to the screening, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., the public can visit the Schwartz Living Market, 1317 E. Carson St., South Side, to enjoy raw plant foods, and also take part in an “ExtraVeganza,” with a chance to interact with people established in the lifestyle. Everyone will be invited to walk 13 blocks to the cinema. An RSVP on the PlantPure Pod Facebook page is suggested, with a suggested $5 donation at the door.
“It’s a kickoff party for the whole community,” said Elisa Beck, market owner and a pod organizer. “I’m interested in meeting like-minded individuals, and people interested in taking responsibility for themselves and researching their own health. I’m excited about being with these people, educating others and offering a venue for pod meetings.”
Pittsburgh pod leader Aimee Girod had good reason to adopt a whole food plant-based diet, commonly called a vegan diet. Her husband, cardiologist John Girod, had dangerously high cholesterol levels with a family history of heart disease.
So Ms. Girod, a 41-year-old Mt. Lebanon resident and nurse, adopted the lifestyle and began her own “Meatless Mentor” service to educate others about the plant-food regimen. With the diet, Dr. Girod reduced his cholesterol levels to a point where he’s now on a minimal dose of statin drugs. “People don’t realize the dramatic results,” she said. “He now recommends it to his patients.”
But it’s not an all-or-nothing ordeal, she said, although best results occur with exclusive plant consumption. Even her four children, 5 to 11, are vegetarian, with her 11-year-old daughter now a vegan. They are encouraged to eat the vegan diet, but never punished when they don’t.
“The big disconnect is that parents are so concerned about their children’s health but don’t realize their No. 1 exposure is food.”
Core organizers of the initial Pittsburgh pod include M.J. Costello, who operates the nutrition adviser service Wynk, Nutrition Knowledge, based in Mt. Lebanon with a focus on whole food plant-based nutrition; Urmi Ashar, a physician on the board of trustees of Excela Health; and Sally Lipsky, a cancer survivor from Murrysville who operates the service Food for Health with the motto, “Eat as if your life depends on it.”
”More and more people are looking for alternative ways to get better because traditional health care is failing them,” Ms. Girod said. “Medicines aren’t working. But we’re not talking about voodoo, but simple dietary changes that are showing success. And we’re not saying there’s no place for traditional medicine.
“For me, this was all about my husband, with four children and the clock ticking. How can I change this?“ she said, noting her interest in sharing the knowledge. “We want the average Joe to know what is available, and how they can do this without costing them money.
“We will be sharing success stories like my husband’s.”
Pods, seeds and sprouts
Multiple National Institutes of Health studies, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Heart Association, the Mayo Clinic among others all recognize the health benefits of whole food plant-based diets in reducing consumption of saturated fats, lowering cholesterol and the risk of obesity, with reductions in heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.
The PlantPure Foundation will support its pods with strategies and resources, with local organizers free to sprout their own plans. Other pods are encouraged to form in neighborhoods, businesses and organizations.
“We do have great reason for optimism — the optimism in seeing the tide turning,” the younger Campbell said. “We feel the timing couldn’t be better to launch a strategy to awaken people to this power they have over their health, and also motivate them to help promote the idea and help others to stay on this path. This is where the PlantPure Pod comes in to harness this energy in a more organized movement.”
“We have secured our first partner to help develop, implement and validate strategies for bringing the message of plant-based nutrition into low-income, food-desert communities,” Nelson Campbell said. There’s interest in establishing pods in churches of low-income communities lacking grocery stores and farmers markets.
They also are recruiting volunteers nationwide to prepare legislation similar to what they submitted in Kentucky, to persuade state governments to acknowledge the established science of plant-based nutrition, with adopted resolutions serving to guide state policies.
“We want to figure out how to get foods, culinary support and recipes into communities for people who need it where health statistics are most dire,” Mr. Campbell said. ”The whole thing is mind-blowing when you learn that nutrition is a preventive measure that now has so much clinical research showing it is a treatment for heart disease and diabetes, with tantalizing evidence for cancer — the curative benefits of a whole food plant-based diet.”
David Templeton: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1578.
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