Modern science has come a long way from discovery of the first antibiotic Penicillin back in 1928 to advent of genetic testing and personalized medicine in 21st century. To quote Dr. Alexander Fleming, the Scottish scientist who discovered Penicillin, “I did not invent Penicillin. Nature did that. I only discovered it by accident.”
The approach of killing or attacking the microbial organisms has flourished over time with antibiotics, antivirals, anti-parasitic and anti-fungal agents but using the same approach to tackle the epidemic of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, heart disease, stroke, cancers and dementia has failed miserably as evident from the burgeoning healthcare costs and burden of diseases we are seeing today.
As scientific studies over the last few decades has shown, most of these chronic lifestyle diseases can be prevented and treated and many times reversed with the right lifestyle and nutrition. I started delving in to nutrition during my first year of Endocrinology fellowship but it did not start there. My maternal grandfather, Muljibhai Patel who followed principles of natural hygiene for most of his adult life and lived a very productive and thriving 84 years of life was my first inspiration. He being an avid reader, spent hours and hours in public libraries and gathered a mountain of knowledge that he implemented from that.
In spite of his constant reminders and suggestions to adopt a similar lifestyle I somehow did not seem to get the message into action. But in the first year of my Endocrinology fellowship, it just dawned on me to look at the science of plant based nutrition and to my surprise, I found scientific studies dating as back as 1921 showing benefits of whole plant foods. I came to know of groundbreaking studies undertaken by pioneers of lifestyle medicine like Drs. Dean Ornish, John McDougall, Caldwell Esselstyn, Neal Barnard, Joel Fuhrman and many more. This changed my approach towards medicine. The first step I did was to adopt a whole food plant based lifestyle in Nov 2014 and I have no doubt in saying that this has been the best change I ever made in my life. My energy improved, the flab I had around my abdomen melted, and my sleep quality improved and I felt better. This was just within the first month of the change and since then I haven’t looked back. Over time I have added twice a week high intensity interval exercise, intermittent fasting, better sleep hygiene in my routine and the benefits of all those together have only increased.
In clinical Endocrinology practice since 2015, I have adopted the same approach for my patients, focusing on improving their nutrition and other aspects of optimal lifestyle and the patients who have made drastic changes have reaped drastic results like reversing their type 2 diabetes and coming off medications, coming off insulin and having better blood glucose control, lowering their cholesterol and blood pressure medications. As I tell my patients, I will state it here too, if you need drastic results then go for drastic changes and if you need incremental results then go for incremental changes. Even my patients with type 1 diabetes who have gained weight over years from improper nutrition and needing more insulin on top of the lack of ability to produce insulin when adopt a whole food plant based lifestyle, need half the amount of insulin then before, are able to lose the excess weight, sleep better, feel more energetic.
If we look at the Blue zones, which are regions of world where people life a thriving life closer to 100 years or more, we can get a very comprehensive model of what behaviors can promote health and longevity. I had the opportunity to attend the International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine in Washington, DC in early part of August 2018. The dinner talk was by Dan Buettner, who discovered these regions around the world and undertook the famous Blue zones project by National Geographic. The learning from this project boils down to having the right lifestyle for disease free health and thriving life. If I attempt to summarize the main findings then they would as follows:
- 90-100% plant based whole foods diet (beans/vegetables/fruits/whole grains/nuts with animal food intake more like a flavor once a week and not the main course)
- Daily activity for 45 minutes
- Sleep at least 7.5 hours a day
- Having a purpose in life (In Okinawa, Japan which is one of the blue zones it is called “Ikigai”)
- Having the social support of family and friends
- Having faith (does not matter which philosophy/religion/dominion you follow but having connection with the Divine) and spending some time every day towards prayer/meditation)
- Respect for your elders (not looking onto them as a burden but instead a repository of wisdom and knowledge of the decades of life that they have seen before you)
- Being in contact with nature (spending time outdoors, connecting with mother Earth)
In summary, I would say that being in sync with nature and eating whole plant foods holds the key to addressing most of the chronic lifestyle disease that we are battling as a society. My mission is to keep spreading the power of plants and optimal lifestyle and do my bit in promoting true health and wellness.
Until next blog, in health and wellness!
Soham Patel, MD
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Tan, S. and Tatsumura, Y. (2018). Alexander Fleming (1881–1955): Discoverer of penicillin. SMJ. Retrieved August 25, 2018 from,
Willet, W.C. et al (1970, January 01), Prevention of chronic disease by means of diet and lifestyle changes, Retrieved August 25, 2018, from
The Blue Zones Story. (n.d.). Retrieved August 25, 2018, from