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Food as medicine: How this Newfoundland community got ‘hooked’ on plant-based eating

White Coat, Black Art
Originally published on May 25, 2019

Beverly Legge credits plant-based eating for the “dramatic change” in her health.

The Marystown, N.L., school teacher had struggled with medical and mobility issues.

“I used up all my sick leave as a teacher and then because of that I had to go on long-term disability for a while.”

Food as medicine: How this Newfoundland community got 'hooked' on plant-based eating | myfoodistry

Standing at five-foot-one, Legge previously weighed as much as 251 pounds. She’s now back to work full-time after losing 75 pounds and can move around without much pain.

Legge, 50, is one of 300 people who have switched away from eating meat after attending workshops in the Burin Peninsula run by two local doctors who champion a plant-based diet.

Known for its moose, salt beef and cod dishes, rural Newfoundland may seem like an unexpected locale for a growing number of plant-based food converts.

Enter Dr. Arjun Rayapudi and his partner Dr. Shobha Rayapudi, co-founders of the Gift of Health organization that runs the workshops.

‘Burden of disease’

In 2011, the Rayapudis moved to Burin, a town of about 2,500 people, where Arjun started working as a general surgeon at the local hospital.

He said he was “surprised and shocked” at how busy his clinical practice was from the beginning. He also learned that the province ranked highest in the country in terms of heart disease, hypertension, obesity and diabetes.

“So there is a huge burden of disease here,” he told White Coat, Black Arts Dr. Brian Goldman.

Shobha Rayapudi, an epidemiologist, found that there were not many existing resources to reduce this burden.

“What they have here, they call it … [a] health-care system, but it’s basically a sickness care model,” she said.

The Rayapudis found that 80 per cent of the diseases they were seeing in patients were related to diet and lifestyle — and changing these two factors was more effective and safe than treating chronic diseases with drugs and surgery.

“We are seeing a large number of people in our practices that are suffering — people suffering from preventable diseases,” said Arjun.

They decided to run regular workshops for patients with a variety of health problems to teach them how to follow a plant-based diet…

Please visit the CBC Radio website for the full story.