The World’s Oldest Clinical Trial Showed the Value of a Vegan Diet!

Clin­i­cal tri­als are a cru­cial part of the mod­ern sci­en­tif­ic method. Yet the ear­li­est record­ed clin­i­cal tri­al, which inci­den­tal­ly dealt with food, was con­duct­ed around 2600 years ago, in ancient Baby­lon. There were no sci­en­tif­ic jour­nals back then, but we know about the study because it was report­ed in a book that is revered by Jews, Chris­tians, and Mus­lims. I’m talk­ing about the Book of Daniel, which is part of the Hebrew Bible and the Chris­t­ian Old Tes­ta­ment.

The Book of Daniel is about the Baby­lon­ian Cap­tiv­i­ty, when Neb­uchad­nez­zar II of Baby­lon con­quered Judah and Jerusalem and sent the Jews into exile, in rough­ly the year 600 BC. Dur­ing this peri­od, it would have been cus­tom­ary to take some of the sons of promi­nent peo­ple from the con­quered lands and hold them hostage in court. This explains how Daniel and sev­er­al oth­er Hebrews end­ed up in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. They weren’t there vol­un­tar­i­ly. Lat­er on, Psalm 137 described this peri­od as fol­lows:

For there they that car­ried us away cap­tive required of us a song; and they that wast­ed us required of us mirth, say­ing, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

One of the biggest prob­lems that Daniel and his fel­low cap­tives faced in the court of Neb­uchad­nez­zar was the fact that they would have been expect­ed to eat the food that was being served in court. For devout Jews, of course, this was noth­ing short of blas­phe­my. To eat the food at court meant that they would be eat­ing meat from ani­mals that had been sac­ri­ficed to pagan gods and drink­ing wine that had like­wise been offered to for­eign gods. In oth­er words, by eat­ing the food at court, they would be vio­lat­ing their own reli­gion and tak­ing part in the reli­gion of their cap­tors. To refuse to eat the food at court would thus be a risky act of civ­il dis­obe­di­ence.

Daniel’s chal­lenge was to fig­ure out some way in which he could get per­mis­sion for him­self and the oth­er Hebrews to avoid offend­ing either God or Neb­uchad­nez­zar. He decid­ed that he and his friends should eat only “food that comes from seeds” (i.e., veg­eta­bles and fruit and grains and puls­es, such as peas) and drink only water. Thus, they would avoid the meat and wine that were rit­u­al­ly unclean because they had been used in rit­u­als for pagan gods. The over­seer in charge of Daniel and his friends was reluc­tant to let them fol­low this strict diet. He was afraid it would ruin their health, thus land­ing him in big trou­ble. So Daniel sug­gest­ed a sim­ple exper­i­ment. He and his friends would eat plant foods and water for 10 days, and after­ward their health would be com­pared with that of the peo­ple con­sum­ing meat and wine.

Accord­ing to the Book of Daniel, after 10 days Daniel and his friends looked health­i­er than the youths who had been eat­ing the king’s food. It also says that they were “fat­ter,” but it’s more like­ly that they would have been thin­ner than the peo­ple who were pig­ging out on “the king’s dain­ties.” It’s easy to gain too much weight on a meaty diet, but it’s hard to get fat on a starchy, high-fiber diet. How­ev­er, that small inac­cu­ra­cy prob­a­bly result­ed from the fact that the study report was pub­lished rough­ly four cen­turies after the study itself was com­plet­ed. As a recent arti­cle on this study not­ed, “Daniel per­ished, then pub­lished.” [1] With tongue firm­ly in cheek, the arti­cle also not­ed that the method­olog­i­cal weak­ness­es of the study include “prob­a­ble selec­tion bias, ascer­tain­ment bias, and con­found­ing by divine inter­ven­tion.”

About 2600 years after Daniel’s exper­i­ment, a group of researchers in the Unit­ed States did rough­ly the same exper­i­ment, this time com­par­ing Daniel’s diet with the stan­dard dietary rec­om­men­da­tions of the Amer­i­can Dia­betes Asso­ci­a­tion, which allows peo­ple to eat con­trolled por­tions of “the king’s dain­ties.” [2] This study dif­fered in sev­er­al ways from the study report­ed in the Book of Daniel. The mod­ern study involved peo­ple with type 2 dia­betes, which is a dis­ease that is known to be linked to obe­si­ty and a fat­ty diet. The sub­jects were ran­dom­ly assigned to either the Daniel-type diet or the ADA diet. Also, the tri­al last­ed longer than 10 days, to show improve­ments in the sub­jects’ gly­co­sy­lat­ed hemo­glo­bin lev­els (HbA1c) and to pro­vide a clear pic­ture of how much weight they lost and how many pre­scrip­tion drugs they could stop tak­ing.

I was not at all sur­prised to see that a diet like Daniel’s was far more effec­tive than the ADA’s stan­dard rec­om­men­da­tions at improv­ing the health of peo­ple with type 2 dia­betes. What sur­prised me was that the par­tic­i­pants were more suc­cess­ful at stick­ing to the Daniel-style diet. This suc­cess prob­a­bly stemmed from the fact that although people’s food choic­es were lim­it­ed, their por­tions were not. The ADA dietary rec­om­men­da­tions are about por­tion con­trol, which most peo­ple can’t achieve. The Daniel diet lets peo­ple eat to their heart’s con­tent, while still los­ing weight.

Ref­er­ence List
1. Grimes DA. Clin­i­cal research in ancient Baby­lon: method­olog­ic insights from the book of Daniel. Obstet Gynecol. 1995;86(6):1031–1034.
2. Barnard ND, Cohen J, Jenk­ins DJ et al. A low-fat veg­an diet improves glycemic con­trol and car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk fac­tors in a ran­dom­ized clin­i­cal tri­al in indi­vid­u­als with type 2 dia­betes. Dia­betes Care. 2006;29(8):1777–1783.

Pho­to by diff_sky

Clinton’s Heart Problems Really Are a Result of His Diet

Why Won’t More Doctors Tell Their Patients How to Make Themselves Heart-Attack Proof?

Back in 1855, a promi­nent Bap­tist preach­er told his flock, “A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.” Nowa­days, lies can trav­el even more quick­ly, thanks to the mag­ic of the Inter­net. On Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 11, 2010, the Asso­ci­at­ed Press sent around a news item titled “No cure for heart dis­ease, Clinton’s case shows.” Accord­ing to the arti­cle, for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton has just had more surgery to unclog his coro­nary arter­ies. He had a quadru­ple bypass in 2004, and now he has just had surgery to open up one of the bypass­es. Accord­ing to the Asso­ci­at­ed Press, Clinton’s car­di­ol­o­gist, Dr. Allan Schwartz, told a news con­fer­ence, “This was not a result of his lifestyle or his diet.” That’s a lie.

Com­pare what Dr. Schwartz said with the opin­ion of Dr. William Castel­li, who had been chief of the famous Fram­ing­ham Heart Study. When an inter­view­er asked how many heart attacks can we wipe out by changes in lifestyle, Dr. Castel­li respond­ed, “All of them. There are five bil­lion peo­ple on this earth. Four-bil­lion-plus will nev­er get a heart attack. Why can’t we be like them?” Castel­li explained that keep­ing cho­les­terol low through eat­ing a healthy diet has added ben­e­fits: “Stud­ies from Chi­na show that if your cho­les­terol is low, you won’t get breast or colon can­cer or dia­betes either.”

To make our­selves immune to coro­nary artery dis­ease, we sim­ply need to keep our total cho­les­terol below 150 mg/dL. Castel­li explained, “Your cells need cho­les­terol to make cell mem­branes and hor­mones. But when your total cho­les­terol is over 150—or your LDL [“bad”] cho­les­terol is over 90—the cells have more cho­les­terol than they can use and no way to get rid of the excess. They can’t break down or oxi­dize it, so it starts to pile up as a waxy deposit that will even­tu­al­ly choke the cells.”

Pop­u­la­tion stud­ies have shown that peo­ple who eat a low-fat, plant-based diet are “immune” to coro­nary artery dis­ease. Even when a pop­u­la­tion with a high risk of heart dis­ease is deprived of their favorite fat­ty, ani­mal-based foods, as a result of food rationing dur­ing wartime, their risk of heart attack plum­mets. It comes right back after peo­ple resume their old eat­ing habits, so the prob­lem is dietary, not genet­ic. Dr. Cald­well Essel­styn ( has shown that even patients with advanced coro­nary artery dis­ease can make them­selves “heart-attack proof” by switch­ing to a low fat (<10% of calo­ries), plant-based diet.

Bill Clinton’s heart dis­ease could have end­ed his life and may still do so. One promi­nent physi­cian has point­ed out that bypass surgery does almost noth­ing to save lives, and he pro­voked a con­tro­ver­sy by argu­ing that Clinton’s bypass surgery has had a detri­men­tal effect on the for­mer President’s men­tal func­tion­ing. The bypass surgery itself dis­lodges bits of crud from the major arter­ies, which then cause tiny block­ages (mini-strokes) in the brain. The decline in men­tal func­tion­ing after bypass surgery is so well rec­og­nized in med­ical cir­cles that they have a slang term for it: “pump head.”

Like the sex scan­dal that led to his impeach­ment, Clinton’s heart prob­lems result from his indul­gence of unhealthy appetites. Arti­cles about Clinton’s heart prob­lems rep­re­sent a “teach­able moment” to tell the Amer­i­can pub­lic what a healthy diet real­ly is. Yet once again, this oppor­tu­ni­ty is squan­dered.

Pho­to by shared­fer­ret