“Moderation in all things….”
This memorable phrase has been quoted for centuries as a motto to live by. The sentiment is reputed to stem from the Greek poet Hesiod in the 7th century BC when he said “Observe due measure, moderation is the best in all things”. Roman politician, Marcus Tullius Cicero, around 60 BC, reiterated the phrase as “Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.”
But human beings have learned some lessons as the decades have rolled by …
“A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.” — Thomas Paine, 1700s
“Moderation in all things, especially moderation.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1800s
We now know that moderation kills.
When it comes to cholesterol, moderation kills. Keeping total cholesterol under the recommended level of 5.2 mmol/l still allows millions of people to develop coronary artery disease. In fact 35% of coronary heart disease occurs in people with a cholesterol level that is between 3.9 and 5.2 mmol/l. Evidence from the Framingham Heart Study tells us that cholesterol should actually be kept under 3.9 mmol/l to prevent coronary heart disease (2,3).
When it comes to eating meat, moderation kills. A meta-analysis completed in 2013 provides clear evidence that both processed meat consumption and total meat consumption are associated with a higher rate of death from all causes. Overall, eating processed meat is linked to 23% increased risk of death from all causes; total meat consumption (both processed and non-processed meat) leads to a 29% increase in risk. Interestingly, the data is not linear. The risk jumps up precipitously at the lower end of the scale, meaning that the change in risk from eating no meat to eating less than one serving of meat a day is much greater than the difference between eating some meat and eating a lot of meat (4).
When it comes to diabetes, moderation kills. Back in 1979 a study was done on diabetic men. They were placed on a plant-based diet and made to eat so much food that their weight stayed the same. This is not as easy as it sounds. Weight can drop rapidly in the first few weeks of starting a plant-based diet and the bulk in a plant-based diet translates into a relatively few extra calories in a lot of food. However, they did it and managed to have no weight loss. The results were simply astonishing. Overall, their requirements for insulin fell by 60% and half of the diabetics stopped taking insulin altogether. Some of these men had been diabetic for as long as twenty years. And how long did it take them to get off their insulin? A startling sixteen days! Improvements were also seen in other areas of their health. For example, cholesterol levels also dropped significantly during the sixteen day trial (5). Another study looking into the dangers of eating meat, eggs and dairy found that people eating a lot of animal protein had a 73 times greater risk of dying from diabetes and those eating a moderate amount of animal protein had a 23 times greater risk of dying from diabetes(6).
With diet, moderate change delivers moderate results.
Finally, a last quote to ponder….
“…maybe your mind can justify moderation, but heart disease doesn’t know moderation, cancer doesn’t respect moderation, type 2 diabetes laughs at moderation, and obesity and metabolic syndrome ridicule moderation. All these diseases begin at the cellular and molecular level, and all can be prevented and reversed at a cellular level with plant-healing food. Instead of nourishing disease, it’s time to nourish your health.”
Rip Esselstyn (1)
1 Esselstyn, Rip. Plant-Strong: Discover the World’s Healthiest Diet–with 150 Engine 2 Recipes . Grand Central Life & Style;May, 2013.
2 Esselstyn, C.B. Jr. In cholesterol lowering, moderation kills. Cleve Clin J Med. 2000 Aug; 67(8):560-4.
3 Castelli, W.P., Garrison, R.J., Wilson, P.W.F. et al. Incidence of Coronary Heart Disease and Lipoprotein Cholesterol Levels – The Framingham Study. JAMA. 1986; 256(20): 2835-2838.
4 Larsson, S.C., Orsini, N. Red meat and processed meat consumption and all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis. Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Feb 1; 179(3):282-289.
5 Anderson, J.W., Ward, K. High-carbohydrate, high-fiber diets for insulin-treated men with diabetes mellitus. Am J Clin Nutr. 1979 Nov; 32(11):2312-21.
6 Levine, M.E., Suarez, J.A., Brandhorst, S. et al. Low protein intake is associated with a major reduction in IGF-1, cancer, and overall mortality in the 65 and younger but not older population. Cell Metab. 2014 Mar 4; 19(3):407-17.