Food For Thought
Last week, I was honored to present at the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America’s conference in Arlington, Virginia. While there, I got to spend time with one of my WFPB heroes, Milton Mills, M.D. If you don’t know of him, I suggest watching some of the well-known documentaries like, “What the Health,” “The Invisible Vegan,” “Vegucated,” and, “They’re Trying To Kill Us.” You will be glad you did.
I’ll start by saying Dr. Mills is a brilliant man. He graduated in 1991 from Stanford University School of Medicine and completed his residency training at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. He still practices internal medicine in the Washington, DC area and has been vegan since the age of 16. As such, he is a long-time Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) advocate. With a raucous sense of humor, he is known for speaking his mind. In a world where people frequently don’t say what they mean or mean what they say, his unabashed honesty is both refreshing and eye-opening.
Ok, now to the point. After the conference, a small group of us went to a great little Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. We placed our orders, and the conversation quickly turned to the science of WFPB eating. Yes, I mean science, as in hypotheses, subjects, research, and data.
Knowing that I am most focused on children, Dr. Mills pointed me to a few studies and a video by Geoff Palmer. Talk about eye-opening! Here is Geoff’s video on the studies:
“Fiber, Important for Brain Health?”
Here is the super-short version of the results:
For the last 100,000 years, humans (like you and I) have been eating between 100-200+ grams of fiber per day. During the most recent three generations, however, our fiber intake has decreased by about 80-90%, so now, U.S. residents eat about 10-15 grams of fiber daily. Research shows this decrease in dietary fiber is associated with shifts in the microbiome, changes in the communication between the gut and the brain, and now the increased potential for developmental delays in children of mothers who eat low-fiber diets during their pregnancies.
I have written before about how not feeding children whole plant foods robs them of their human potential. This study, ‘Maternal dietary fiber intake during pregnancy and child development’, drives the point even deeper: www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2023.1203669/full.
The study, which looked at a sample size of more than 76,000 children, indicates, “The lowest intakes of dietary fiber during pregnancy were associated with a 51% increased risk of delayed communication, and a 45% increased risk of delayed fine motor skills, as well as a delayed development in problem-solving and social skills.” The study goes on to conclude that “maternal dietary fiber deficiency during pregnancy might influence an increased risk of neurodevelopmental delay in offspring.”
Most of us WFPB eaters know we only get fiber from plants. Now we also know skipping fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, mushrooms, nuts, and seeds reduces a child’s potential to develop into their own best version of themself, LITERALLY.
Add to that the known benefits of increased dietary fiber for supporting our gut microbiome, keeping our immune systems strong, normalizing bowel movements, regulating the body’s use of sugars, and helping to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. There is an undeniable incentive to pack in the plants at every meal. Yes, even for children, and by that, I mean especially for children, born and unborn.
For the last two years, I have been repeating these two mantras:
“Bright, healthy children grow into brilliant, healthy adults who fight for a vibrant, healthy world.”
“Eat plants. Save the World.”
It is good to know I’ve been making sense.
Let’s encourage pregnant moms to eat more plants and to feed their children the same. Let’s build our menus on increasing amounts of whole plant fiber to ensure the next generation has the best chance to grow into people who can protect themselves and save the planet. Not a small request, I know. Let’s start today and not stop for the next 100,000 years.
Eat Plants. Save the World.