When Dane* was diagnosed with diabetes, the idea of taking pills and getting insulin shots depressed him. He still considered himself a young man with a lot of life left to live, but junk food was his weakness. As a person of faith, it was the knowledge of a loving God that led Dane to push past his food addictions and, with the help of George Guthrie, M.D., M.P.H., incorporate a plant-based diet into his lifestyle.
“Many people who embrace the plant-based lifestyle will need less medication, and more than a few may eventually not need medication at all,” said Guthrie. “In our Winter Park practice, over the last three years, we have had 24 individuals diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes who now have normal A1Cs [sugar measure] and no longer need any diabetes medications.”
Dane is a living testament of that transformation, and has said himself, “It is much better to be an evangelist than a diabetic.”
In the U.S., about half of deaths caused by Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease are the result of poor dietary habits, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Guthrie, an AdventHealth physician who specializes in lifestyle medicine, is determined to help reverse this trend. His interest in the area began during his time serving in Guam, when he saw a high incidence of Type 2 diabetes on the island. It inspired him to earn a master’s degree in public health nutrition from Loma Linda University, and eventually work with teams developing several lifestyle-change programs at AdventHealth.
Whole Food, Whole Health
Guthrie uses whole-food, plant-based diets as one of his most common lifestyle prescriptions. Using scientific evidence and his years of expertise, he helps people understand what to eat more of and the reasons why.
“We now have enough evidence and science to understand the body’s miraculous ability to heal itself through whole-person health,” Guthrie said. “This includes proper nutrition emphasizing plants and whole foods, as well as movement and the social and emotional dimensions of life.”
Rather than prescribing only medications to manage certain health issues, Guthrie has found success in addressing the underlying cause of the disease, and in some cases, reversing certain chronic diseases. He uses an approach consistent with CREATION Life, which aims to find balance in eight key areas of whole-person health. Guthrie had the opportunity to assist the AdventHealth team in creating practical tools to apply the CREATION Life principles as a way to heal the body, mind, and spirit. The eight principles are Choice, Rest, Environment, Activity, Trust in God, Interpersonal Relationships, Outlook, and Nutrition. Together, these represent a modern expression of the health message made prominent by Seventh-day Adventist health pioneers in the late 1800s.
Focusing on the Good
Guthrie’s prescription of a plant-based diet is less restrictive than some may expect. Plant-based does not always equate to strictly vegetarian or vegan, but is instead guided by a focus on plants and whole, unprocessed foods as the majority of one’s diet. This back-to-basics way of eating is evidenced throughout the Bible in passages such as the story of Creation in Genesis, and the experience of Daniel and his friends in Babylon in Daniel 1.
“In the biblical narrative of diets, Adam and Eve’s original food was ‘every herb-bearing seed and … the fruit of a tree yielding seed’ (Genesis 1:29),” Guthrie points out. “After Adam and Eve sinned, God added vegetables — roots, stems, and leaves, [and] after the biblical flood, God added this instruction: ‘Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you, even as the green herb have I given you all things’ (Genesis 9:3).”
Inspired by Romans 12:21, which tells us to “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” Guthrie hopes to encourage people to move more toward the good rather than build guilt around the bad and list what is forbidden. The focus of his message is to help individuals make positive, healthy choices.
“Choosing a whole-food, plant-based diet means choosing foods that are lower in calories and higher in water, fiber, and nutrient density,” Guthrie advises. “With this diet and other healthy behaviors, we avoid lifestyle diseases. Importantly, we also age more slowly, and live longer and healthier.”
*Name changed for privacy.
AdventHealth | December 2019