By Wayne Fulong
- Introduction and “What is Health?”
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Heart Disease and Stroke
- Autoimmune Diseases
INTERVIEW ONE: GENERAL INTRODUCTION AND PHILOSOPHY
We approached Dr Jia Xu to do a series of interviews with us about the biggest health issues facing people today in Asia. Dr. Xu is a Nutrition Program Specialist with The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). He is very well informed on what the latest research is showing in relation to health and diet.
Dr Xu, who has a PHD in Physiology, has been working for PCRM since 2010, firstly in Clinical Studies, now on the Kickstart China Program (21 Day Vegan Kickstart). He travels widely in China to educate people on the importance of a low fat plant based diet.Like many people, Dr Xu’s journey to a plant based diet was a long one that arose from his desire to use his learning in a meaningful way. After his university graduation in 1990, he bought a meat meal and found that he couldn’t finish it because it made him feel unwell. This was the start of his journey and by 1993 Jia Xu was a vegan.
After graduating from University Dr Xu worked in bio-tech industries. He increasingly found the work unsatisfying and wanted to find ways to use his skills to help people. That was why he quit in 2007 and three years later found his way to PCRM.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine was founded by Dr Neal Barnard in the USA. After he graduated as a medical doctor in the 1980s, Neal Barnard’s work acquainted him with things that shocked and worried him- the use of dogs in medical experimentation was one. Another was the fact that many other doctors he met smoked and ate meat even though they knew both were unhealthy. It seemed to him that the medical industry needed more compassion and also needed to be more thoughtful about the causes of ill-health, rather than just treating the symptoms.
Dr Barnard started PFRM to practice medicine with compassion. It had two aims:
1. To support plant based eating with evidence based research
2. To fight against the use of animals in experiments in medicine and other fields.
GoVeg: Hello, Dr Xu and thanks for doing these interviews.
Dr. Xu: It’s my pleasure.
GoVeg: Before we start I will ask a question that I know from experience some people will be asking. PCRM is committed to plant based diets. Can this lead to bias?
Dr. Xu: Most researchers in the field of nutrition are eat meat eaters. The studies that advocate the consumption of animal products are written by meat eaters. In fact our work basically provides people with an opportunity to see data that has been totally ignored by the medical community due to their intrinsic bias. I would let the audience look at that data and draw their own conclusions, rather than pushing it to them.
GoVeg: Let’s move straight onto the meaning of the word “health”. We have all heard of fit people who got sick and smokers who lived to healthy old age. Is good health simply down to luck?
Dr. Xu: No. I look at health as the body’s ability to heal itself. Health is self-healing. Of course most heavy smokers will not live long healthy lives but the reason a few do is because the body self heals so well that sometimes it can even limit the damage of bad habits.
Everybody can self heal. However, today many people are self hurting instead, with bad diets and habits. The result of self hurting habits is that they take away the body’s natural ability to self heal. If we take away the bad food and stop the bad habits, our bodies will begin to self heal.
There is a genetic aspect to health which some people would consider luck. For example, a woman with harmful BRCA gene mutations has a higher chance of getting breast cancer. However, the genetic factor in most illness is generally about 5%. The greatest impact comes from the body’s ability to fight ill-health and to self heal.
GoVeg: Do you think people rely too much on doctors and medicine to maintain their health?
Dr. Xu: Yes I think so. This is a result of viewing health from the outside rather than from the inside. We think that we are unwell because we are lacking something so we add it in the form of a drug. Our thought is, “I am lacking something.”
In fact health works in the opposite way. We heal from within, and not by adding but by subtracting. For example, if we stop eating saturated fats, our blood vessels will begin to heal artherosclerosis that is developing in our arteries.
Sometimes we need doctors and medication but if we want to be truly healthy we must change our thinking from “I lack something” to “I must remove something- diet or habit- that is stopping my body from self healing.”
GoVeg: So can we take this central idea- that health is self healing- and talk about how this applies to some of the common health problems facing people today?
Dr. Xu: Sure. No problem.
GoVeg: In our next interview can we discuss type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Xu: No problem.