In Singapore we are well aware of the various lifestyle diseases afflicting our society. One of our volunteers at Animal Allies has a relative in America treating lifestyle diseases with plant-based diets. The following is an interview with this doctor.
Closer to home, Engines of Health in Singapore works with patients to reverse their lifestyle disease through similar approaches.
Introduce yourself, please – who is the woman behind the doctor?
I am Doctor Bharati Kolte. I became a doctor because my uncle was diagnosed with cancer when I was very little and my father always told me that I needed to be a doctor. I pursued that dream. One of the highlights of my profession is seeing patients and really getting to talk to them. I also love to sing and cook!
What is your medical specialty and what does it entail? How long have you been in this field?
I am an internal medicine physician. I got my medical degree in India in 1993 and later did a residency (a specialization) from Buffalo State University in Internal Medicine at Buffalo State University, which essentially means “adult” medicine. I finished that training in 2000 and have been practicing for 17 years.
While you can treat all sorts of illnesses, what are you specialized in?
I am well known for treating chronic diseases in adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, lung disease and some forms of cancer too.
What approach do you use to treat your patients?
Primarily, for chronic diseases, I advocate lifestyle change in the form of a whole foods, plant based diet and physical exercise. These methods have been proven to be a lot more effective than taking pills and injections. We began using pills to treat contagious diseases, such as bacterial infections, but continued using them to treat chronic diseases that are actually caused by bad lifestyle choices. Doctor John McDougall inspired me to make this deviation from the norm in me. He is also an internal medicine physician; he practices in Santa Rosa, California. He has treated patients with this method for over 45 years with immense success.
Was there a certain event that triggered this change in your practicing style?
It was actually a series of events. I was working in a hospital treating really sick patients and gradually saw the average age of hospitalized patients drop from when I started training. I was starting to see younger and younger patients with diseases we thought didn’t occur until old age. I saw a 29 year old with metastatic colon cancer (cancer spread all over the body) and I felt like our environment – the things we interact with everyday – are responsible for today’s prevalence of chronic diseases. I watched a movie called Forks Over Knives, and felt like it answered a lot of my unanswered questions. When I saw the documentary, and also read a book called “The China Study”, my suspicions were confirmed. I found out there was a lot of epidemiological research actually confirming my theory- that the modern diet that is very heavy in animal and processed foods is responsible for this big surge of chronic diseases all over the world. The most convincing fact: as the rest of the world adopted Western diets, the diseases that were common in the Western world started showing up in the Eastern World.
You have loads of success stories, but could you go into detail about a couple of your patients?
I have several patients by now who have achieved better health and actually reversed their diseases by following a whole foods, plant-based diet. One of them – a woman who is now 62 years old – had had diabetes for the last 20 years. She had been using insulin injections the entire time to control her illness. Her doctors at that time kept going up on her doses of insulin to no end, and nobody said anything about her diet full of meat. She came to me two years ago with a lot of pain in her joints and at her wit’s end. She adopted this diet and is now completely off of her insulin; she has reversed her diabetes completely. With no conscious calorie restriction, she has lost about 95 pounds. If she were here now, she would say that if anyone had told her about this diet several years ago, she would have done it a lot sooner. She plans to stick with it for the rest of her life.
Another story is of an older man who is now 73 years old. He started working with me three years ago and had been morbidly obese for most of his adult life. He had been through multiple diet plans and has lost weight on them, only to gain it all back plus a little more- the famous yo-yo dieting. When I explained to him that his body would actually heal from inside on this diet, he started gradually making the change. He has lost about 87 pounds by now and is going to be off all his diabetes medicine by the end of this year. His blood pressure medication has been cut to one fourth of the dose he was at before. He could only walk with a cane very, very slowly; as of now he hasn’t needed a cane in over six months and comes for a mile walk with me every Sunday morning.
Would you like to add any additional information?
I want to point out the veganism and a whole food, plant-based diet are quite different. Principally, they are the same – abstaining from eating any animal foods. The whole food plant based diet extends veganism by eliminating processed foods. It’s a great concept because human carnivory has a lot of negative consequences on the planet. However, people who go from eating lots of animal products to eating coke and chips don’t obtain the same health benefits you could get from a whole foods diet. There’s a difference between naturally occurring foods and processed foods – for example, sugar cane juice versus pure sugar. The less processed foods you eat, the better off you are. One of the other benefits of a plant-based diet is that you can eat a lot of it- it’s very nutrient dense but calorie dilute. If we stop growing so much food to feed the animals, we would be able to produce food for the whole planet effortlessly. It’s our choice whether we eat our food directly from the earth and get the most nutritional benefit or feed it to the animals first, get the least nutritional benefit and increase the toxic value.
“The China Study” by Dr. T Colin Campbell.
“How Not To Die” by Dr. Michael Greger.
“The Starch Solution” Dr John Mc Dougall.
“Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”, by Caldwell Esselstyn.
“Proteinaholic”, Dr. Garth Davis
“The Spectrum”, Dr. Dean Ornish
Dr. Bharati Kolte was born in Nagpur, a mid-sized city in central India. She studied medicine at the Government Medical College, Nagpur and completed her residency from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and has practiced in Texas since the year 2000. For the last 13 years, she practiced hospital-based medicine at the Heart Hospital of Austin, Seton Medical Center, and other hospitals in the Austin area. She was responsible for providing care to patients in Austin Regional Clinic’s Advanced Care Coordination Clinic from 2011 to 2013. While caring for chronically ill patients, she became acutely aware of the need to help patients change their lifestyle to successfully treat multiple chronic diseases. This experience led her to change her career path from hospital medicine to outpatient medicine.