Over the past months, stories on animal cruelty and the downsides of eating animal products have put the subject of going vegan on the table perhaps like never before.
Whether you’ve already quit meat or not, this is perhaps the perfect time to listen to American doctor Gabriel Cousens. A medical doctor, psychiatrist and family therapist, he has become a household name in the subject of raw vegan food, and even sustains this diet can cure diabetes and depression.Dr. Cousens was trained traditionally but soon realized something very simple yet essential: curing disease is not only about medications, but also about changing habits and looking at the broader picture.
“As a third-year medical student at Columbia Medical School I solved five incurable cases of people who had emotional difficulties that were showing psychosomatically, which made me realize that the mind affects the body”, he explains. “Then I went into psychiatry and family therapy, and realized that an unhealthy body affects the mind too. It works in both directions.”
Cousens went on to found the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center, a retreat center located in Arizona. His seventh book, There Is A Cure for Diabetes: The Tree of Life 21-Day+ Program, comes from the work at the center with one particular disease: diabetes, which he sustains can be cured with a three week detox program.
The doctor was recently in Buenos Aires participating in courses and activities, and TreeHugger had a chance to meet with him to speak about these subjects.
TH: You moved from traditional medicine to a holistic approach. But how did the issue of raw food come into the equation specifically?
Gabriel Cousens (GC): On a medical level, research by doctor Stephen Spindler in 2001 (on mice) showed that a caloric restriction of 40% in diets increased anti-aging and anti-cancer genes. (Editor’s note: there are several studies that link calorie restriction with longevity, take a look at the Calorie Restriction Society). Now when you cook food, you lose 50% of the protein, 70 to 80% of the vitamins and minerals and 95% of certain nutrients, so simply by eating raw or live food, you can eat half as much and you turn on all your anti-aging genes.
On a spiritual level, when you’re eating raw food you’re eating the energy of the earth directly. When you cook the food you’re not getting the energy, and when you eat meat, the cow got the energy, not you. Eating live food connects you with the living planet.
TH: And what would you say are the disadvantages on eating animal products?
GC: In terms of health, meat eaters have 4 times more breast cancer, 3.6 times more prostate cancer, 4 times more diabetes, and much more in general chronic disease. If you’re just having milk, that’s 3 times more leukemia.
In a research called The China Study, they found that the more meat you eat, the more disease, whereas the more plant source food you get, the less disease. It’s just a fact, a scientific fact that meat proteine is cancer producing to you.
In diabetes of course the main cause is sugar, but we know that a meat, fish and chicken diet creates 4 times more diabetes because it creates insuline-resistance, which is called pre-diabetes.
So there are all these connections that are very real, but that’s one thing. There are also other issues like cruelty to the animals, hunger in the world, ecological implications.
“You can be totally healthy on a plant source diet, and in fact you’re healthier and stronger: When I was playing American football when I was 20 years old, I could do 70 push-ups; at the age of 60, having been 25 years on a live food diet, I could do 600 push-ups. You have more strength and a 1/10 amount of heart disease, 1/4 amount of diabetes.”
TH: Why ovo-lacto-vegetarian isn’t good enough?
GC: As mentioned, dairy causes 3 times more leukemia and we don’t know why, but 10 times more lung cancer. It appears that the main proteine in dairy actually activates cancer. Another reason for mothers that are breastfeeding is that animals concentrate pollution in their meat and milk, and that is transmitted to the baby through breast milk (EN. More on that at GoVeg.com).
Eggs have viruses and bacteria in them that are pased on to humans, and women who eat an egg a week have double amount of ovarian cancer.
You can be totally healthy on a plant source diet, and in fact you’re healthier and stronger: When I was playing American football when I was 20 years old, I could do 70 push-ups; at the age of 60, having been 25 years on a live food diet, I could do 600 push-ups. You have more strength and a 1/10 amount of heart disease, 1/4 amount of diabetes and so forth.
With live foods you have also more sex energy, you don’t need Viagra (laughs), because there isn’t heart disease clogging the arteries. With live food, your circulation is good so the sexual energy works much better.
TH: Going to your work with diabetes, How did you link this disease so strongly with raw food and why do you say it can be cured with this diet?
GC: The first record of curing diabetes with live food was with Max Gerson, who cured Albert Schweitzer in the 1920s with live food. However, we’ve refined it and brought it into a system.
In medical school this is taught as incurable because in their way (of treating it) it is: if you’re having meat, sugar and all that. But from our approach it is curable: in three weeks, 53% of type 2 diabetes are off all medication and cured. In type 1 diabetes, 30% of people are off all medication and cured.
It works because it stimulates the anti-aging genes, and diabetes is accelerated aging. Why is it important now? Because today diabetes is an epidemic: there are 246 million people in the world with diabetes, and one person dies from this disease every ten seconds. In Latin America, the rates of diabetes are sky rocketing.
TH: However, Would a person reading the book be able to take the program into their own hands?
GC: Some people with type 2 diabetes will read the book and be able to follow the program and be cured. But if you’re on Insulin, we do not recommend that because it requires medical supervision. We have a medical center in the US and we’re starting one in Nicaragua Spanish speaking.
“In medical school (diabetes) is taught as incurable because in their way (of treating it) it is: if you’re having meat, sugar and all that. But from our approach it is curable: in three weeks, 53% of type 2 diabetes are off all medication and cured. In type 1 diabetes, 30% of people are off all medication and cured.”
TH: You’ve also studied the connections between depression and diet. Why do you link the two?
GC: As mentioned earlier, as a trained psychiatrist I noticed that if the body isn’t healthy, the mind doesn’t work right. Particularly with blood sugar levels: when treating depression, we saw that by stabilizing blood sugar the mind starts to work right, while when the blood sugar is up and down there are certain centers in the brain that get disorganized.
We have a book called Depression free for life, in which we talk about a program that cured 90% of people with depression in our health center without medication. A piece of the treatment is the diet: when you’re on a 80% live food diet, all your neurotransmitters are better. We also use supplements to build up different systems, and there is also a whole lifestyle shift.
Depression also increases the rate of diabetes and heart disease: if you have a serious depression, there’s a 60 to 80% chance of developing diabetes the year later and 4 times the chance to have a heart problem. At the same time, with diabetes you’re more likely to have depression. So it goes both ways.
TH: Do you think all people should go vegan? Is this for everyone?
GC: Yes. In forty years I’ve found only one exception: a lady who lived near the Arctic circle and had to have fish once a week, but that’s it. The other 99.9% of people can easily transition in a year or two.
However, there are different constitutions (some people need more protein, others less) and you have to do it carefully: live food is jet fuel, so you have to go to jet pilot school (laughs). Also, there are certain deficiencies that happen, whether you’re meat eater or not. That’s why we recommend to get a B12 supplement.
TH: How do we get into this type of diet without loosing social interaction with our families and friends? Being that food is usually a way for, say, mothers to show their love.
GC: Go slowly and bring everybody along with you. Also, slowly change the way you make food and don’t be extreme. Go to 80% (live food) and get everybody used to it. And that actually works, it’s enough.
When you go out, pick a place where you can eat a salad; when you go to a reunion, bring a little extra food and get people interested.
The idea is to bring everyone into your world, instead of staying separate. It can actually work that way if you don’t make it an ego trip.
“(To go raw vegan) Go slowly and bring everybody along with you. When you go out, pick a place where you can eat a salad; when you go to a reunion, bring a little extra food and get people interested. The idea is to bring everyone into your world, instead of staying separate. It can actually work that way if you don’t make it an ego trip.”
TH: What would you say to people who are thinking about taking this diet but have not made their minds yet?
GC: Try it for a cycle of four months and slowly increase that. First let go of meat, then chicken, then fish, then dairy and eggs, but one thing at a time, because meat is actually addictive as it stimulates endorphins: even animals who are vegan naturally, can get addicted to meat.
There are emotional things to consider too, because we are used to suppressing our emotions with food: “I’m sad, I’m going to eat” “Let’s celebrate! I’m going to eat.” So when you switch to a live diet, some of the emotions can come up. So if you don’t do it all at once, less comes up and you’re able to handle it.
If you have diabetes, heart disease, cancer, change now. But otherwise, it’s best to do it gradually.
TH: You talk not only about health, but also about reconnecting to nature in order to bring some order to this chaos we’ve created.
GC: Yes, I don’t want this to end up only in the medical implications, because what we teach truly is a spiritual awakening. Today we have a culture in which people are disconnected from the Earth, and therefore create lots of ecological damage to the planet. People need to go back and walk bare feet, reconnect to nature.
TH: Can’t we be in harmony in cities?
GC: It’s much harder, and you already have to have a consiousness to do it in the city. Most people who live in cities don’t have that consiousness, so they have to get in contact with nature. Once you’ve made the connection, you can mantain it in the city.
For more on Dr. Gabriel Cousens and his center enter GabrielCousens.com and TreeOfLife.nu.