Welcome spirited viewers to Healthy Living for the conclusion of our interview with vegan nutrition expert and naturopath Dr. Pamela Popper, Executive Director of the Ohio, USA-based Wellness Forum.

The Wellness Forum offers a diversity of services including classes in diet and nutrition, personal health improvement programs, and employer health cost reduction plans. Dr. Popper serves as a model example of how to live a healthy lifestyle through veganism and is the author of several books including “Solving America’s Healthcare Crisis” and “Dr. Pam Popper’s Guide to Family Health and Wellness.” She has appeared in several notable health-related documentaries including “Processed People,” “Making a Killing” and “Forks Over Knives.”

Dr. Popper visits schools, companies and a variety of groups to discuss the tremendous health benefits of plant-based nutrition. She is also an active member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. This week she will discuss children’s dietary and health issues.

I consider obesity a terrible disease. The Journal of the American Medical Association published an article a few years ago that evaluated how children perceive their lives. The obese children rated their quality of life as being worse than the children who had cancer, if that tells you how devastating that is.

In the US, childhood obesity has tripled over the past 30 years and one-third of children are overweight or obese.

We have got to do something about kids. And parents have a lot of erroneous attitudes about food, some of which are a result of advertising. Our kids’ diets are getting worse at younger ages, and so they're getting sicker and fatter earlier. And the ramifications with this are severe because when you start out your adult life sick and overweight, the cost monetarily is outrageous. But the cost in terms of the quality of your life is horrendous.

When I was 20 years old, I thought I was invincible. I don't see a lot of 20-year-olds feeling that way about themselves right now. They're tired, they’re sick, they're overweight. I can outrun most 25-year-olds in the gym and a yoga class.

Dr. Popper is a firm believer that schools influence children’s lives enormously. She has written in an online article: “This influence [of schools] can be used to educate children about the importance of diet, lifestyle and health, which can have the powerful effect of improving the health status of our kids in the future.”

If I'm in the sixth grade, and there are vending machines with Mountain Dew and chocolate brownies, and I'm allowed to eat those things anytime, then the message that's being sent to me is, "Mountain Dew and chocolate brownies are okay to eat." And if I go to the cafeteria, and there's cheese-laden pizza and French fries for lunch, I'm being taught that, cheese pizza and French fries (are) okay to have. So we really have to start looking at the way that we’re approaching children about food and the examples that we’re setting and the messages that we’re sending.

The health status of children is so terrible that the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement, two or three years ago, suggesting that we should start testing children for cholesterol at the age of eight. I can't think of anything worse than doing a blood test for cholesterol on eight-year-olds and prescribing statin drugs. And unfortunately, parents don't understand, and the general population doesn't understand that if you eat French fries and cheeseburgers, you're going to end up with high cholesterol.

So the health status of kids is terrible, and one of the reasons is the school food lunches, and the other stuff that kids buy at school. The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) operates a commodities program where excess food that shouldn't even be produced in the first place, is bought up by the government and dumped into the school food program. So the kids get extra chicken nuggets and extra cheese and all the wrong foods. We're not buying up the excess broccoli and dumping it into the schools. We're buying up excess cheese and beef and meat and terrible foods.

So it's very unfortunate that what our average child is consuming in school is some of the worst food that could possibly be served. And so it's no wonder that children at the age of eight have high cholesterol. And we see high school students having heart attacks. A fast food meal for a child can be up to a thousand calories. In order for an eight-year-old to exercise that away, the kid would have to get up in the morning, eat breakfast and exercise until lunch. Eat lunch and exercise until dinner, and start all over again and exercise till bed (time).

“The Tipping Point,” by Canadian best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, says that little changes, when aggregated, can create a snowball effect. Social changes can become widespread very quickly after a critical mass is reached. Dr. Popper sees Mr. Gladwell’s observations on transforming societies as applicable to the challenge of reversing the declining state of child and adult health in the US.

I said in my book, "If you want to help with this, you become the model citizen and you model the right behavior, so people look at you and say, “I want to be like you. You're lean, you're energetic, your skin looks good,” that sort of thing.

We all have to start with ourselves. And then that becomes the center of influencing other people. And that’s within our own immediate families and then all the other people that we can reach or care about. And there is a tipping point, and I don't know what it is in terms of numbers here, but at some point in time, this is going to catch on like wildfire, and it will completely overpower the existing system.

And I think a grassroots effort like that is going to really change this. I'll continue to work on federal issues, I'll continue to testify in front of committees. Because I think if you don't show up, it gives the other side a reason to say, "Well we asked her opinion and she was too busy that morning." What's going to solve the problem is grassroots, educational programming and getting the word out through media and other opportunities.

I think if you take a look at what our problems are in this country, we have two big problems. One’s financial, and the other is quality of life. And they’re both related to the same thing. It’s our health status. And it is really simple to fix the diet. People think that there’s some high-tech solution or that this is all so unknown and mysterious. It’s not unknown. It’s not mysterious. We know exactly what the problem is. Now we just have to fix it. And the solution’s very simple. It’s very inexpensive. I tell people all the time, "Stop being a patient. Start living your life."

“Forks Over Knives” is an inspirational movie depicting the life journeys of people who started off with various chronic diseases and traveled the road to recovery and vitality. And the amazing fact about their stories is that they did it simply by replacing the animal-based foods in their diets with plant-based ones.

Dr. (Caldwell) Esselstyn makes this very poignant comment in "Forks Over Knives." He says, “The greatest gift you can give to anybody is to show them that you don’t have to suffer from all these conditions. It just doesn’t have to happen. And if you are in trouble already, you can fix it.”

So the whole key is just getting the word out, getting the interest up and then giving people the right tools. And there’s an abundance of help out there. If enough people jump on board, we are going to see this whole thing shift. I’ll change that: When enough people jump on board; to me it’s not an "if."

I think it’s imperative to tell kids about this. We underestimate children. I’ll tell you a great story. One of the very key people in my company came to work for me when her daughter (Kristen) was in the second or third grade. And her daughter went through the programming with her, became very familiar with all this stuff. And in days off from school, Kristen would come to work with her mom.

One day, the schoolteacher in the third grade says, "Who knows how to draw the food pyramid?" Kristen raised her hand, and she draws the Wellness Forum’s food pyramid. There’s no dairy, and it’s a completely different configuration. And the teacher said, "I don’t think that’s right." She said, "Well, it’s absolutely is right." And she said, "Well there’s no dairy," and Kristen tells her why dairy’s bad for people. Kristen had taken up this discussion in the class about the food, this new food pyramid, and the kids were really interested and asking a lot of questions.

And we brought some healthy treats from the Wellness Forum kitchen so that the kids could eat some things that were well prepared. And they loved the food. And so that’s an example. We underestimate these kids and their ability to understand this. They’re perfectly capable of understanding it.

People are ready to embrace better health, which is shown by the growing number of programs around the US that are healing people by helping them transition to a vegan lifestyle.

The Wellness Forum’s obviously done a great job. We’ve been in business for 15 years and we're a huge company. We have members in 33 countries. But we’re certainly not the only ones. The McDougall Program is astoundingly good, and I send people there.

And then there’s TrueNorth (Health) in Santa Rosa (USA), which is the fasting facility, but they also have people come and stay there to learn how to eat a plant-based diet. It’s not just all about fasting. So, there are lots of programs right now. And Dr. Esselstyn's program at the Cleveland Clinic, and Rip's (Esselstyn's) program at Whole Foods. So, I think, there will be more and more cropping up to meet the new demand.

Dr. Pamela Popper, our appreciation for your sharing with us the manifold health benefits of a plant-based diet. May Heaven bless your uplifting work and efforts to create a healthy, vegan society for the benefit of all generations.

For more information on Dr. Pamela Popper, please visit www.WellnessForum.com
Dr. Popper’s book “Solving America’s Healthcare Crisis” is available at www.Amazon.com

Thank you for watching this episode of Healthy Living. May we all enjoy long, active lives.