Ed Smith Texas Mayor goes vegan
I came across an exciting article the other day: I am Facebook friends with Amanda Smith, a lovely vegan woman from Marshall Texas who bears a striking resemblance to Christy Brinkley. She shared an article of her husband, Ed Smith, 59, Mayor of Marshall Texas (who knew???) who went vegan and then turned around to try to help his town of Marshall do the same.
Why is this important? Well plant-based diets have been shown to arrest and reverse heart disease, cancer (Ed himself had high PSA levels as you will see in his interview below that came down with his change in diet) and diabetes, not to mention auto-immune disorders and more. Texas has earned the title of being the most obese state in the country. So what he’s doing is HUGE. Pardon the pun, but I admire this guy’s courage. I’m sure you will agree that we need to see MORE of this type of example:
1) What inspired you to go plant-based? Was it a person or health issue?
Amanda and I live in the middle of the stroke/diabetes belt, where chronic ailments and acute sudden deaths are pervasive in the local population. In 2005, I began to eliminate red meat from my diet, because at the time a couple of friends of mine, an attorney and a landman, each fell victim to sudden death by a heart attack while exercising. They each jogged regularly and appeared in good health. You hear so much that red meat is the culprit. Little did I know, that chicken and turkey along with fish have just about as much saturated fat and cholesterol as red meat. In early 2006, Amanda encouraged me to read The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell. After reading 2/3rds of the way through the book, I eliminated all meat and dairy products from my diet. Unfortunately, I was still eating a fair amount of “vegan junk food,” sugar, oil, processed and refined foods. Later, in 2008 I discovered my PSA score was greater than 4, and I was subsequently diagnosed with prostate cancer. After extensive research on available options, we found where Dean Ornish, along with a number of other doctors had some success in their respective clinical practices with slowing and/or reversing the progression of prostate cancer through a strict plant based whole foods dietary approach. At that time, I eliminated all oil, refined foods of any kind, including isolated soy protein and soy protein isolates, and sugar from my diet. No white flour, no white rice, no sugars of any kind or artificial sweeteners. I tried to only eat organic foods when available. I began getting monthly PSA tests in order to determine if my PSA was rising, and to calculate the doubling time, which would be an indicator of disease rate of progress.
2) How long did it take before you saw your prostate cancer gone? What did a typical’s day menu look like for you? Did you exercise? Supplements?
Almost immediately my PSA scores began to go down. Over a period of about 12 months my PSA declined to a low of .98 and has remained either side of 1 from .98 to 1.2 since. I ate a significant amount of foods known to produce apoptosis, and angiogenesis in cancer cells. Foods, like cruciferous vegetables, blueberries, ground flax seeds, mushrooms, and kale. For breakfast, I usually started, and still do, the morning with a green smoothie made in a Vita Mix. It usually consists of a frozen banana, kale, or some type of greens, frozen blue berries,pomegranate juice, ground flax seeds, cauliflower or broccoli. Maybe some apple if needed to sweeten the flavor. Or, I would have steel cut oatmeal, or rolled oats with blueberries, and other berries along with ground flax seed. For lunch and dinner, I would have either a salad full of different leafy green lettuces, topped with steamed or grilled vegetables, beans, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes, or I would have some type of steamed or grilled vegetables or stir fry, along with a bowl of chili, beans, or lentil soup. I also ate a fair amount of fruits and vegetables. I began a workout regimen of about 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hour 5 days a week. I did take Zyflamend as a supplement for a while. Zyflamend is comprised anti-inflammatory herbs that have been shown to cause apoptosis in cancer cells. Since my PSA has leveled at around 1, I have not been taking the Zyflamend. My diet today is essentially the same. Today I eat a wider variety of foods, compared to when I ate typical stroke belt foods before my change. Foods I had never tried, heard of or even been exposed to such as Indian, Thai, Ethiopian and Asian dishes and spices.
3) Texas has earned the reputation of have the greatest percentage of it population as obese. You are trying to reverse that trend in your city. What exactly are you doing to get the word out and how have people responded?
Through becoming involved with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, we met a number of physicians, dieticians, and others involved in promoting a whole foods plant based diet for health reasons. We were inspired by the work of such individuals as Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. John McDougal, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. We saw the positive results in their respective clinical practices. In particular, we were inspired by Whole Foods sponsorship of Rip Esselstyn’s Engine 2 Immersion program offered to Whole Foods employees and store patrons at various stores around the country. We thought, why could this not be done at a community level. So, we decided to bring Rip, his father and others to our community for an “Immersion Program” to see if we could bring meaningful change to a city. This first event was so successful that we formed Get Healthy Marshall, Inc., a non-profit, organized to promote the health benefits of a diet primarily comprised of plant based whole foods. This has grown into an annual weekend “Health Fest” event in our community, where we bring in leading physicians, dieticians, celebrity chefs, physical fitness experts, and noted authors for a three day weekend of lectures, cooking instruction, and fitness classes. We began holding monthly pot-lucks in conjunction with a lecture or DVD presentation. We conduct regular super market tours to show people where and how to shop the local super markets, along with instruction on how to read food labels and tell within 5 or 10 second if product is healthy or not. We have lobbied the local restaurants to add healthy “vegan” options on their menus. We have an active web site (gethealthymarshall.com) and an active Facebook page and group. We have donated books and other literature to our local library. We also have encouraged the local media to cover our events, and have worked with local officials to get the word out in our community. At first the response was somewhat skeptical with some ridicule. After people have seen the positive health results in other peoples lives, they have been coming around, and the positive response is growing. People are getting off of their heart meds (statins and blood pressure meds). Type 2 diabetics are reversing their diabetes and getting off of taking insulin shots and other meds. Other chronic diseases are disappearing for many, and people are losing weight without trying as a side benefit. Because this is not a calorie dense diet, they can eat as much as they want without counting calories and still lose weight.
4) If people want to do something similar in their cities and are feeling alone and discouraged, what would you recommend they do to get things started?
They can follow what we have done as a template. There several groups out there , such as Get Healthy Little Rock, Get Healthy Clear Lake, Get Healthy Sulphur Springs, Get Healthy Rockwall, Get Healthy New Hampshire, Get Healthy Shawnee, and Be Lean Longview, that have sprung up following our lead. Start out with some local events, get the word out through social and printed media, and work on getting public officials and members of the local medical field involved.
5) What do you hope to see for the future of this country and the world?
Simply, a world that becomes educated to the point that chronic food borne disease and the cost to treat the same is no longer epidemic to our country, and no longer a threat to the health and the economies of people around the world. I would hope to see a world that respects all forms of animal life, and values the uniqueness and individuality of each animal around the world.
6) Many politicians including Bill Clinton and Al Gore are going plant-based and you yourself are involved in politics as a mayor. What role, if any, do you feel politics should play considering that GMO crops are getting subsidies and organic farmers are not and food companies often lobby heavily to pass laws that are favorable to their interests?
Politics is in large part the culprit, and as a result, there is a political role to play in order to turn around the devastating consequences we are beginning to see in our food supply and peoples health. The politics of “Big Ag” and “Big Food” is huge, but not insurmountable. We have to make political efforts and inroads to counteract “Big Ag” and “Big Food” industry efforts to prevent disclosure of GMO foods through labeling. Education of political leaders is the key counteracting the undue influence from subsidized industry on the USDA and FDA, which has allowed industry to infuse unhealthy life-threatening foods into our food supply.
7) What are some easy steps that the individual consumer can do and take to make a difference in their own lives and that of others?
Only buy plant based whole foods, and organic foods where possible. Lobby your, state and federal and local officials. Educate your friends and acquaintances by sharing books, literature, and DVDs on the subject. Always be respectful in your approach and not confrontational. It takes time, being consistent with your message, and persistence. Eventually, people will begin to come around.
8) Any thing else that you can think of that we haven’t covered here that you would like to add?
I believe the food industry is where the tobacco industry was 60 years ago. The only difference being that bad eating is more pervasive and addictive to the populous. “Big Food” and “Big Ag” is financially more powerful than the tobacco industry was. Science is on our side, and the negative health consequences and negative socioeconomic consequences of the unhealthy food being marketed in this country is coming to light, as more and more people are becoming educated. As new science and existing science comes to the forefront of public awareness, a grass roots public outcry will occur, such that politicians, government, and even the food and agricultural industry will have to change. It’s a bigger giant to tackle than the tobacco industry. But as the saying goes, “the bigger they are the harder they fall.” It just may take a little longer.