Plant-based diets can reverse chronic disease

photo of Vesanto Melina

by Vesanto Melina with Agathe Mathieu

People burdened with a chronic illness may think their condition will be a lifelong companion. Yet science is giving strong indications that simple lifestyle changes can rid us of rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and can decrease risk and recurrence of certain cancers.

While it is of course important to follow medical advice, simply changing what’s on our plate, and perhaps adopting a suitable fitness regime, can lead to the most remarkable changes! I recently interviewed Agathe Mathieu, of the delightful Café by Tao in North Vancouver. Here is what she told me.

“Back in fall 2003, I had rheumatoid arthritis, floaters in my vision, skin rashes, plus excess weight. I never thought that changing my diet, which I then believed to be healthy, would change my life. My mother had arthritis, and I believed that I was doomed to follow in her pain-filled footsteps. I learned of the Scandinavian research in which the majority of those with arthritis were able to reverse their symptoms on plant-based diets. Well, within 3 months of switching my family to organic plant food, all of my ailments vanished. Imagine that! I was able to sew again; to lift heavy boxes; to simply close my hands. The swelling was gone; the pain was gone. I was able to read a book without fighting to see the words. My children’s rashes, hyperactivity, and even temper tantrums, vanished too. That was a life changing experience. Physical and emotional challenges were resolved. What more could I wish for?

“Around us was another amazing, heart-warming change. Our garbage, from a family of five, went down from two big garbage bags to one small kitchen bag. Our grocery shopping took half the time; with a variety of produce and seasonings, we were out of the market. It was beyond beautiful to see our footprint shrink by the minute, giving our mother earth a chance to also get healthy again, and a future for my children.

“One might say ‘but I could never do that’.  What if you could?  What if you would give it a try for just one to three months, and experience the vital change flowing in you?  What if you had energy like there is no tomorrow? What if your children would shine with health. I mean, as if you were never sick. What is a month, really, if it gives you back the life you want?”

Agathe now runs the Tao restaurant and store at 210-150 Esplanade West (on the upper concourse), in North Vancouver. It offers the sort of delicious fare that helped her regain her health (

In the 1990s, I had the privilege of being a staff dietitian for retreats held by Dr. Dean Ornish, in Berkeley California. His research definitively proved that heart disease can be reversed simply with dietary and lifestyle changes. Dr. Ornish has continued his effective research on men with prostate cancer.

For anyone with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, or for those who simply want to lose a few pounds, an excellent resource is The Kick Diabetes Cookbook. This book features delicious plant-based recipes (without added sugar or oils) that can help with all of these conditions.

Vesanto Melina is a Vancouver dietitian and co-author of the award winning Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition and other books.


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