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Science proves conclusively that from the moment we’re conceived in our mothers’ wombs, we begin to die. Life is, in reality, simply an ongoing battle with death. That’s what God meant when He told Adam and Eve, “You will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Without the protective, nurturing, and exclusive control of God in a created being, death eats away at it like a slow-spreading cancer.

Therefore, it would behoove all of us to do whatever we can to fight back. But, do we? As a matter of fact, it appears that the opposite is the case: we’re doing everything we can to help death do its job as efficiently and painfully as possible.

The average life expectancy for Canadians is 80.7 years; for Americans, it’s 78.2. But if we fight back, could we increase that to 100 or more?

Ask Dr. Michael Greger, MD, physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker, who spends most of his days scouring the world’s nutrition research for information to place on his wildly popular Web site NutritionFacts. org. Dr. Greger says that death in North America—as well as in most developed nations—is largely a food-borne illness. He insists that in the majority of cases, those who learn to control what they eat can control both how well and how long they will live.

The leading cause of death

Case in point: heart disease, the world’s number one killer.

It’s long been known that a diet that is high in cholesterol is a major cause of heart attack, but just how much of an impact it has on health has only recently come to light. The 35-year Harvard Nurses’ Health Study uncovered some amazing insights. Researchers discovered that, over the course of 15 years, consuming the amount of cholesterol found in a single egg each day shortens a woman’s life as much as if she’d smoked five cigarettes a day!

The most protective behavior was fiber consumption. Eating a cup of oatmeal per day appears to extend a woman’s life as much as does four hours of jogging per week.

Any thinking person would say, “You know what? Cholesterol is found only in animal products. Fiber is found only in plants. If I want to live to 100, I should cut out the cholesterol and boost my fiber intake.” But are we doing that in any appreciable numbers? If we were, heart disease would not stick so tightly to its number one spot on the death hit parade.

The editor and chief of the American Journal of Cardiology summed it up nicely more than a decade ago: “For plaque progression to cease [plaque is what forms inside the artery, which diminishes—and sometimes stops—blood flow], it appears that the serum total cholesterol needs to be lowered to the 150 mg/dl area. In other words the serum total cholesterol must be lowered to that of the average pure vegetarian [vegans]. However, because relatively few persons are willing to abide by the vegetarian lifestyle, most people require lipid-lowering drugs in order reach the 150 mg/dl level.” As with all drugs, such medications come with powerful side effects that present a very real danger to longevity in their own right. Most of us aren’t victims of God’s warning that “you will surely die.” We’re enablers.

What eats us

Leading cause of death number two? Malignant neoplasms—better known as cancer. What are scientists saying about how to mitigate this popular killer?

According to the largest forward-looking health study ever performed—the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC–Oxford), “The incidence of all cancers combined was lower among vegetarians than among meat eaters. . . . The most striking finding was the relatively low risk for cancers of the lymphatic and haematopoietic tissues [tissue where blood cells are made] among vegetarians.”

So powerful is the connection between meat consumption and cancer that in 2011, the Journal of Meat Science published an article entitled “Red Meat and Colon Cancer.” The author, Dennis E. Corpet, asked, “Should we become vegetarians, or can we make meat safer?” He suggested including additives that can suppress the toxic effect of some of meat’s nastiest ingredients. He said that “these additives, and others still under study, could provide an acceptable way to prevent colorectal cancer.” In his mind, simply avoiding meat is completely out of the question (remember, he was writing for the Journal of Meat Science!). He was also concerned that if the FDA recommended a reduction in meat consumption, “farmers and [the] meat industry would suffer important economical problems.”

Anyone who wants to live to 100 isn’t concerned about whether farmers have to learn to raise wheat and corn instead of heifers and hens. He or she isn’t worried about the meat industry surviving at the expense of ill health and shortened lives. Longevity is its own reward.

One of those rewards was dramatically demonstrated in a recent study by the Pritikin Research Foundation. They put people on different diets, drew their blood, dripped that blood on cancer cells growing in petri dishes, and then stood back to see whose blood was better at suppressing cancer growth. The year-long study showed that the blood of those on a vegan diet (plant-based with no animal products, including eggs and dairy) was significantly more hostile to cancer cells than those on the standard American diet.

How significant? Commenting on the study, Dr. Greger reported that “the blood circulating through the bodies of vegans has nearly eight times the stopping power when it comes to cancer cell growth”!

This particular research focused on prostate cancer, the most common malignancy among men. What about breast cancer?

The researchers prepared their petri dishes again, but this time the tests were on women and took place just two weeks after the diet change. Sure enough, there was appreciable reduction of cancer cell growth and an increase in cancer cell death when the blood of vegan women came face-to-face with cancer cells.

Anyone who wants to live to 100 has to have blood that is circulating to every corner of his or her body, and that blood must have the ability to engage those cancer cells in a battle and defeat them. And that kind of blood can only be made using a whole-food, plant-based diet.

Breathe right

Finally, we look at killer number three: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

So overwhelming is the evidence that COPD can be prevented and even treated with plants that the tobacco industry brushed off their ashes, sat up, and took notice. They responded to the landmark findings a little differently than most, though. Dr. Greger uncovered a report prepared by the tobacco industry suggesting that, instead of adding plants to people’s diets to prevent emphysema, the tobacco industry add them to cigarettes. So they did. And, lo and behold! The addition of the acai berry to cigarettes had a protective effect against emphysema—in smoking mice!

While most COPD is the result of dirty or polluted air being taken into the body by the likes of coal miners and smokers, a 2002 study that was reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that an increase in fruit intake was associated with a 24 percent lowering of COPD mortality risk in humans. Then in 2007, an article in the American Journal of Epidemiology concluded that “frequent cured meat consumption was associated independently with an obstructive pattern of lung function and increased odds of COPD.”

Since then, both soymilk and tofu have been added to the “good list” of foods protective against this killer.

But, what if you already have the disease? One hundred and twenty COPD patients were randomized into two groups. Half were told to boost their fruit and vegetable consumption, and the other half were instructed to stay on their regular diet. After three years, the results were tabulated. The “stay on” group continued to worsen—following a familiar trail blazed by millions of COPD sufferers. On the other hand, those who added fruits and vegetables actually improved!

What caused the improvement? The study, as reported in a 2012 edition of the European Respiratory Journal, said, “The addition of fruit and vegetables in the regimen of IG patients resulted in decreased consumption of meat, which is known to increase the burden of oxidative stress. These findings suggest that a dietary shift to higher-antioxidant foods intake may be associated with improvement in lung function, and, in this respect, dietary interventions might be considered in COPD management.”

Anyone who wants to live to 100 must take this information to heart. For COPD sufferers, it can mean the difference between a long life and an early death.

It’s the food

A vegetarian diet is obviously a major contributing factor in living to 100, especially if it’s vegan (no eggs or dairy). And it’s significant that God prescribed that very diet at the time He created the human race. He told Adam and Eve, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food” (Genesis 1:29).

So the evidence is in. Most of today’s leading causes of death hold little danger for those who follow God’s original diet. When we combine this dietary change with exercise, sufficient sleep, and a dynamic faith in God, we not only lengthen our lives but improve its quality as well. We may succumb to other forces, but as long as we make healthy choices at the dinner table, we can continue to outlive those who don’t.

And many of us can live to 100!

How to Live to 100

by Charles Mills
From the March 2013 Signs