Healthy Living
Dr. Pam Popper on Corporate Wellness and School Nutrition      
Welcome, health-conscious viewers, to this week’s edition of Healthy Living, featuring a two-part 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.

I was fortunate enough to read (Dr.) John McDougall’s book, and decided to change my own diet. That’s really how this all started. I went back to school and how my company started was just offering some informal classes in my house and that grew into the Wellness Forum.

Dr. Popper’s secret to a healthy life is very, very easy for anyone to follow.

The solution's so simple. It’s the food. And it’s so simple that people have trouble believing it. Everybody is looking for some new discovery, some new procedure. (But) it’s the food. All we have to do is teach them how to eat different stuff. And contrary to popular belief, their grocery bill goes down. This is not an expensive way to eat. It’s a very cheap way to eat, actually.

And so, again, it’s back to everybody wins. The stories that make me the happiest are the people that get well. That’s really what this is all about, giving people their lives back. And I think that’s what’s exciting about this approach to healthcare. Nobody’s happy when they're sick. So think about young people today developing serious conditions, diabetes and autoimmune diseases and that sort of thing. Their lives are impaired. They can’t do the things that they want to do. And so we give people their lives back. And I really believe that the salvation for healthcare in this country is in taking this approach.

According to health statistics in the US, for every 100 employees, an employer should expect the following: 25 have cardiovascular disease, 12 are asthmatic, 38 are overweight, 21 smoke, 31 use alcohol excessively, 26 have high blood pressure, and 30 have high cholesterol. Consequently many American businesses are looking for ways to improve employee health.

And how our interest in corporate health developed was we got very successful at helping people to reverse diseases, like diabetes and coronary artery disease and cancer. And we realized that companies pay health insurance premiums, and that is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. So, one thing led to another. It just started with me developing an interest in nutrition, starting a business that catered to the consumer and then finding an application with companies who have serious economic problems as a result of healthcare costs.

I don’t care how profitable your company is, there is a certain threshold beyond which you just can’t pay more money. And that means you have to get rid of some disease, and that’s what we’re capable of doing.

Dr. Popper shows businesses how medical care expenses and health insurance premiums can dramatically drop by preventing, controlling or even completely eliminating the chronic diseases of employees, by having their employees turn away from an animal-based diet.

I'm engaged in these conversations almost every day now. What I tell a CEO is, if you’ve got a type 2 diabetic who is costing US$11,700 a year to care for, which is an average, and we get rid of the diabetes and that cost goes to zero, doesn’t that sound better?? The employer saves money, the employee gets well, and everybody wins. There are no losers in this plan. And so it’s the ultimate way to address this. It’s the only way to actually contain the costs and change the situation.

The first step starts with meeting with employers to get to know the companies and their culture and what types of things they’ve done in the past. And once we get through all of that, we put together a customized plan. All of these plans are designed to meet the individual needs of the company. And we propose a number of different types of interventions for different types of people.

So, the people who have serious illnesses, we'll spend more money on those people because obviously that is where the biggest savings will be. The people who need intervention the most (are) uncontrolled type 2 diabetics, people with high cholesterol, people who are seriously overweight or obese. These are the people that we target first. We need good success stories in the beginning to get other people in the company interested in doing this. CEOs are often worried that nobody’s going to want to do this.

But every time I’ve ever been involved with this, more people want to do it than we can actually take. And what we like to do out of that first group of people that we work on getting healthy, is find some people within the group that can be leaders and really embrace this and become walking examples of it. And that begins to be the nucleus for a wellness committee in the company.

And we institute other programs in addition to peer-to-peer training and workshops and all sorts of things to get to the rest of the population. We teach people in groups. We evaluate biometrics before and after, start with the sickest people, and work within the budget that they have, which varies from company to company. The objective over time is to change the culture, to help employees get healthier with diet.

There are documented, real-world examples of how showing employees a better way to live through a vegan lifestyle enhances their quality of life and is an economically sound investment.

I just did a presentation not too long ago for a group of company owners and we were looking at Dr. (Caldwell) Esselstyn’s research. And I was showing them, he took 24 patients and 18 stuck with it, and so I took those 18 patients and their medical history. How many bypass surgeries they had, and how many stents how many angioplasties they'd had.

And so the cost of the bypass and angioplasties prior to the intervention was US$867,000. The cost of health care for those patients who were compliant afterwards, zero. If we just look at the two procedures alone, not considering anything else, we went from US$867,000 down to zero. And if you were the employer of Dr. Esselstyn’s patients, look at how much money you would have saved.

So the numbers add up really fast, and we have very clear data on the cost of caring for people with various conditions. If you have multiple sclerosis in the United States, it’s about US$50,000 a year to take care of you. So, somebody’s insurance company is paying for that; diabetes, US$11,777; Crohn's disease, 30-some thousand dollars. Those are all diseases we can get rid of. And then what’s the cost? Zero.

Managing a diabetic gives you a temporary reprieve, but their disease is progressing. So the key is to get rid of it. Today, the average employee is costing their company on a family plan, something in the vicinity of US$1,500 a month.

Another advantage of employees who embrace a plant-based diet is that they are better prepared physically and mentally to work each day.

You have a lot of direct costs and then you have indirect costs. If somebody doesn’t show up for work today, that’s one thing, but then if they show up for work not feeling very well day after day, and their productivity is decreased, that’s a little harder to measure. It's the person that calls you at seven in the morning and says, “I’m not coming in today, I’m sick.” Or, “I’m not coming in today because I have a sick child.” And so here you’ve a company with maybe 12 or 15 employees and now we got to scramble around and cover this person’s work and we were going to have a staff meeting today but we can’t do it without this key person. So you get rid of that risk.

I think when people feel better, they work better. And I always just ask this, without statistics, just let me ask you. When you don’t feel well, how productive are you? I know myself how productive I am when I’m really feeling great, and I feel great every day. So we can cause other employees to be in this condition, too. People who feel better, work better. Nobody would really disagree with that.

Whole Foods is the world's largest retailer of natural and organic foods. The company’s chief executive officer is vegan and deeply interested in improving his employees’ health. He has consulted with Dr. Popper about enhancing corporate wellness.

The CEO of Whole Foods, one of the founders, John Mackey, read "The China Study" and got interested in plant-based nutrition. I've heard that Whole Foods' expenditure for health insurance is something like US$200 million a year. He became convinced that if his employees would improve their diets and resolve their health issues with plant-based nutrition, it would lower health insurance costs. So he asked me to be part of the immersion programs that help employees to make the conversion. Basically, the way that it works is employees are brought to a resort for a week.

During that week, they see how good plant-based food can be. And they also go to lectures and they learn about the science behind plant-based nutrition and how their diet has contributed to their illness or obesity, and how they can eat their way out of these challenging situations. And it’s been very, very effective. It’s a great model for other companies to follow.

Dr. Pamela Popper, we truly appreciate your leadership in informing corporate America and individuals about the enormous health benefits of plant-based nutrition. May Heaven bless you for helping lead communities toward the compassionate, vegan lifestyle.

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

Earnest viewers, please join us next Monday on Healthy Living for the conclusion of our interview with Dr. Popper when she will discuss children’s dietary and health issues. Thank you for watching this episode of Healthy Living. May we all live energetic, plant-strong lives.
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
Dr. Popper’s book “Solving America’s Healthcare Crisis” is available at

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

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