Leading plant-based doctor Dr. Neal Barnard says we need to ‘remove the stench of racism’ – which he says impacts on the health of communities of color.
In a statement released last week, Dr. Barnard – who is the president of plant-based nonprofit Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) – said that ‘the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25 was more than an atrocity’ and ‘highlighted the fact that racism is endemic in our culture, taking an ever-greater toll’.
The doctor added that PCRM had issued a statement to show its solidarity – but that ‘a statement of solidarity is not enough’, as the impact of racism is devastating, and causes ‘widespread health disparities among communities of color’.
‘Racism is a stench’
“At the Physicians Committee, we work to save lives. The heart of our organization is to speak out against injustices when and where we see them and to hold those responsible accountable,” said Dr. Barnard’s statement.
“As a health organization, we see firsthand the devastating effects of systemic racism, which has resulted in widespread health disparities among communities of color. We pledge to fight for life-protecting, life-promoting policy changes.
“Racism cannot be cured. It does not go away. It can only be counteracted. Racism is a stench that exudes from human pores and needs to be washed away, every single day.
“As doctors and as human beings, we need to remove the stench of racism, end the damage it has caused, and restore dignity to make the very best of health available to everyone.”
Racism in dietary guidelines
Another plant-based doctor – Dr. Milton Mills – raised one of the ways systemic racism affects the health of people of color when speaking to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee last year.
The Committee, which is comprised of nationally recognized nutrition and medical researchers, academics, and practitioners, updates the dietary guidelines every five years. It invites experts to speak and share current scientific and medical evidence in nutrition.
Dr. Mills said he has seen illness caused by the committee’s guidelines. “The vast majority of people of color in this country are intolerant to the lactose that’s in milk. Yet because they think they have to eat this stuff, they go out, eat it, get sick, and think they have some sort of intestinal problem. When I encourage them to stop eating dairy, their problems clear up.
“It’s really outrageous to encourage people to eat foods we know will make them sick, particularly when the number one reason advanced for dairy foods is its calcium content. But African American women are genetically protected against getting osteoporosis. So we’re making them sick for no good reason.”
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