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Nutrition and Heart Health

Plant-Based Nutrition Is Changing How Doctors Talk to Patients

Photo: Courtesy of Laura Carrasco

Dr. Scott Stoll is a co-founder of the Plantrician Project, a not-for-profit organization educating healthcare providers on the benefits of plant-based nutrition. “I spent several years trying to answer the question: Is it possible to prevent, suspend, and even reverse disease?” Stoll said. “After reading all the diet books and thousands of research articles, I discovered that the more plants people consume, the healthier they become and, in many cases, the chronic lifestyle diseases that are an epidemic globally can be suspended.”

Stoll became committed to integrating plant-based nutrition into his practice in 2004, using his prescription pad to prescribe healthier eating along with traditional medicine. “I saw, before my eyes, lives transformed,” he said. “Discontinued medications, disease symptoms reversed, and people’s lives regaining abundance. I was discharging people from my practice and saying, you don’t need to see me anymore.”

It’s a lifestyle change

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 75 percent of the cost of healthcare in the United States is related to “lifestyle diseases,” which are affected by what we eat, how much exercise we get, and unhealthy habits such as smoking. “In the end, this is a collaborative effort,” Stoll said. “It goes all the way from farmers and agriculture to healthcare providers to government to local communities to begin solving this global crisis that really centers around what’s on our plates.”

Stoll noticed that many patients suffering chronic diseases or ailments—including Arteriosclerotic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, ulcerative colitis, asthma, and irritable bowel symptoms—saw dramatic improvements after switching to plant-based nutrition. “In many cases, these same diseases can go into remission with an aggressive intervention of whole food plant-based nutrition and lifestyle.”

The Plantrician Project emerged after Stoll held the first International Plant-Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference. “I started to recognize that there was a real need to educate healthcare providers,” Stoll said. “We hosted our first conference in 2013 and had about 180 people from half a dozen countries around the world.” The success of the conference proved to Stoll and his peers that there was significant interest in plant-based nutrition. “We created a not-for-profit with the mission of inspiring, educating, equipping, and empowering healthcare providers with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to begin implementing food as medicine within their practices to help their patients.”

A buffet of offerings

Along with the annual conferences—which now take place in California, New York, London, Bangkok, and Saudi Arabia—Stoll helped establish an online directory for patients seeking doctors working with plant-based nutrition. “It’s a global directory of allied health care providers that are utilizing a food-first approach to health care,” Stoll said. “Simply by going on and identifying a location, there’s a directory that comes up of physicians locally and also physicians that practice telemedicine, so that people can find a doctor that is integrating traditional medicine, which we still need, and plant-based nutrition.”

Stoll hopes that the benefits of plant-based nutrition will not only be adopted by healthcare providers. “Government should serve an important role in this process,” he said, suggesting changes in the reimbursement model for physicians. “If we could shift the reimbursement model to reimburse value-based care that really focuses on restoring the health of the individual patient, that would incentivize healthcare systems to support doctors that want to invest in whole food, plant-based lifestyle intervention with their patients,” Stoll said.

Because plant-based nutrition is about changing our eating habits, Stoll recognizes that many people dismiss the idea as a diet. “There are so many misconceptions around this,” he said. “It is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. It’s not about sacrifice and deprivation and starvation and all the things we associate with diets. This is really about abundance. Full plates and fulfilled lives.”

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