Mad Cowboy Interview 08: Dr. Neal Barnard
(Part 01 of 04)



MC: "You advocate or appear to support the idea of "in vitro" growing of meat, animal tissue. And certainly with what's going on regarding factory farming, the industrialization of the process, and what's happening to the environment, there's more then enough reasons to consider that a good thing, on one level. But at the same time, it's seemingly contradictory, as you point out how bad meat is for you (in pretty much everything you write). How do you reconcile these two views?"


NB: "Let me make it clear what my position is on this. If people are able to grow meat from animal cells in a test tube, which they are able to do now (it's not very efficient, but they can do it)..."


MC: "...not to mention quite expensive!"


NB: "...yes, but it solves a couple of problems. It can reduce, or ultimately eliminate the suffering of animals, it can reduce the environmental degradation from the meat industry. The effect on health will be moderate, though, because you could imagine that you could the cholesterol content, you can reduce the fat content, you can even build in things like fiber, if you want. But it's never going to be the same as eating broccoli, or asparagus, or black beans..."


MC: "... you also point out that a million chickens are killed every hour, some 10 billion animals killed for food per year, numbers that more people should know and be appalled by."


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MC: "How do you de-stress in your down time? You run an incredible schedule. What's your favorite way to de-stress when you're not lecturing, speaking, traveling, and trying to help people?"


NB: "I don't think it's a hard life or very stressful life..."


MC: [laughing]: "...you seem unconscionably mellow!"


NB: "...hopefully what we're doing is good, I have a lot of great people here on the team, but you need a life. I play music, go to movies, and enjoy those kinds of things."


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MC: "Any favorite guilty dietary pleasures you'd care to share?"


NB: "No, and I don't think of it that way. I'd rather not think of it that way. In other words, sometimes people refer to foods as sinful, decadent, and such, and to me, that's like the air you breath should never be decadent. It's just air..."


MC: [laughing]: "...my guilty pleasure, I REALLY enjoy breathing.... I get off on it..."


NB: "...so, my feeling is, if you really want a dopamine charge in your brain, don't do it with food. Just eat really healthy food. But get it from strapping on your rollerskates on, you know, and going out at 45 mph, something like that. Not with food."


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MC: "If you could pick four or five people, fictional, alive, dead, to have over dinner, who would they be and why?"


NB: "How nice! Are they going to do the cooking?"


MC: "That's up to you."


NB: "I'll give you a couple of people I'd like to have over for dinner. Bill Clinton is a good one. To tell the truth, to pull together my dinner party, I'd like to have Ben Franklin over, I'd like to have George Bernard Shaw, I'd like to have Plato. And I'd like to have Albert Einstein... the reason, is all of these folks, eventually went on to a plant-based diet.


And I especially want Einstein there, because he's such a sharp guy, and I'd like ask Albert (may I call you Al?), a person like you who's so sharp, why did it take you so long to get to... oh, he was way up in years before he came a very outspoken vegetarian.


I'm always reflecting on how people are very very sharp in so many other ways, but it takes them a long time to accommodate to the idea that you don't want to put an animal on the end of your fork. But I think we'd have a nice discussion

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MC: "You've written 15 books, and when sitting back and looking at them from a broad perspective, and thinking about the titles of your books:

• The Power of Your Plate (1990)

• A Physician's Slimming Guide (1992)

• Food for Life (1993)

• Eat Right, Live Longer (1995)

• Foods That Fight Pain (1998)

• The Best in the World, volumes I, II, and III (1998, 2000, and 2010)

• Turn off the Fat Genes (2001)

• Breaking the Food Seduction (2003)

• Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes (2007)

• The Cancer Survivor’s Guide (2008)

• The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook (2010)

• 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart (2011)

• Power Foods for the Brain (2013)

...in some ways your current book is a summation that integrates the best of your previous work. In many ways, collectively, your books are providing the solutions to which some call "metabolic syndrome," that obesity, Type II Diabetes, Hypertension, Heart Disease, Dementia, etc., are essentially manifestations of the same disease or basic disorder. You properly focus on the dietary component as being critical to preventing and reversing them. The solutions are pretty much the same for all of them."


NB: "It is, it is."


MC: "...makes wonder what you next book is going to be about... heart disease? What other disease that's killing us are you going to tackle next?"


NB: "I think that's a great suggestion, but I have to say that between Dr. Esselstyn's brilliant book, and Dr. Dean Ornish's equally brilliant work, I'm not sure that the world needs a book from me on that. I think the world of the work that Dr. Essestyn's done. Ornish's work meant a lot to me because that was sort of when I was just starting out, I met Dean and his research affected me a lot."

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MC: "I thought your Cancer Project was a very unique and worthwhile endeavor."


NB: "The Cancer Project doesn’t exist as it was originally developed in 2001, it is now merged into what we call the Food for Life Program where we have over 151 instructors teaching in 43 states and the District of Columbia and 87 Educational Alliance Partners in 13 countries. The instructors come and train with PCRM and then they teach in their community or worksite. They select from five different curriculums: Cancer Prevention and Survival, Kickstart Your Health, Diabetes, Kids Curriculum, and Worksite Wellness. "


MC: "Also, the "21 Day Kickstarter Program" seems to be an astounding success."


NB: "...this program originated in 2009, and has had over 300,000 people participate in it. It’s a free online program with menus, cooking demonstrations, nutrition webcasts, and support – it is designed to help people explore the health benefits of a plant-based diet. The program now exists in Mandarin, for Spanish-speakers, for people of Indian origin, and in Japanese."

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MC: "You have a thirty year front row seat on animal rights, on diet, nutrition, you've been an activist --- you've watched what's been going on a long time, and I'm most interested in hearing your perspective on where we were, where we are, and where we are going. What concerns you, and what encourages you?"


NB: "I think you've asked the question in the perfect way. What I would just say is this: overall our population is in the worst shape they've ever been in. If you look particularly at kid's obesity rates and the risks of all of the threats of adulthood, having their roots in childhood... I'm talking about kids with blood sugars that are leading to diabetes, and blood pressures that are leading them to hypertension, they have the beginnings of heart disease before they get their high school diploma, and we're exporting these bad habits overseas. That's the bad news.


The good news, is that the number of people who are interesting in having things go in a better direction is bigger than it's ever been, by far. Health food stores used to be little dark places playing folk music, now they are huge places selling an abundance of products that people are buying, whether they're full-time vegan/vegetarian or part-time. The number of people who are following plant-based diets is bigger than it's ever been.


More and more celebrities , athletes and politicians, are making this change. So I am confident to the extent that we can just get the word out, and give people even the smallest amount of support, in exactly the way the previous generation tackled, successfully, the tobacco threat, to a very large degree. I mean we got it out of hospitals, we got it out of restaurants..."


MC: "... I remember doctors smoking in offices in the 80s... oh, that's right... [laughing]"


NB: "I'm one of them! But in the same way, the previous generation tackled that problem a long time ago, our challenge is to tackle food-related problems. And all the same politics, all the same money issues are all there now as they were with tobacco. And now we can do it. The beauty is that you don't have to eat of the same plate that everyone is, you can make that decision in your own life right now.


Just the other day I gave a lecture at a little place in Virginia, and in the front row was a mother and her little daughter. And her mother's going, "I'm not sure, and I dunno, I don't want to do this," and the little girl must have been eleven or twelve, and she came up to me afterwards and said: "I'm going vegan right now!" And she e-mailed me just now, "tell me my best source of calcium (I told her), what about B12." "This is it," she wrote.


That's just beautiful. The world IS changing, and starts with people going one, by one, by one, by one, adopting a better diet, and then making some noise about it and letting everyone else know. So I think that's going to be our answer."


MC: "Dr. Barnard, it's been wonderful experience to meet you and marvel at what you have to say. Your new book is fantastic. I'm impressed by your dedication and your efforts, and I can understand full well why Howard wants you anointed, ah, admitted into the "Activist Hall of Fame," because your work has just been stunning and you've been fighting an uphill battle for a long time, and it's clear that you're winning."


NB: "Howard has been a hero of mine since the very first day I met him, and he's shined a light that rest of us are following."

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