Falmouth doctor brings 'eat plants' message to Portland food festival

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FALMOUTH — Dr. John Herzog, an orthopedic surgeon, has a message he admits isn’t all that popular in the medical field: eat only plants.

Herzog, who has a practice at 202 U.S. Route 1, said people become healthier and live longer when they eat a plant-based diet. He said it is the “simplest medicine,” which helps evaporate the need for expensive medical care.

“It’s an unpopular standpoint for a doctor to take,” Herzog said, because “healthier people mean less income to the medical field,” especially for the health insurance, pharmaceutical and agricultural industries.

The risks of things like high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, inflammation, pain, heart disease and other illnesses can be alleviated by eating healthier and trending away from animal-based products, he said.

Herzog has been delivering this message for the last nine years, and will be speaking at the 11th annual Vegetarian Food Festival on June 6 at the East End Community School, 195 North St., in Portland. He has spoken at the event before, and said there won’t be any big surprises in his speech, just more statistics and facts.

“You have to take care of your own health because that’s where health care starts, with your own decision, which isn’t commonly known because there isn’t a magic pill or shot,” he said.

Herzog said his philosophy isn’t about being an animal activist, but comes from concern about the food we eat.

“As a species,” he said, “we’re threatened by our diets.”

Herzog said he first came across the value a plant-based diet after reading “The China Study,” a book by T. Colin Campbell that had a profound affect on him.

“It was noted that people that ate a vegetarian diet didn’t get obese, didn’t get diabetic, didn’t have heart problems, didn’t have strokes, cancer or high blood pressure,” Herzog said.

He said he was 40 pounds overweight, had a cholesterol level of 250 and ended up requiring serious knee surgery. He said changing his diet was the only thing that really helped. Herzog said he  “experimented” on himself before he began promoting the diet change to medical students, patients and anyone who would listen.

He said the message has become generally accepted by those who come see him.

“The drawing card is that open-minded people who come to see me know they’ll hear truth, become educated and motivated to take better care of themselves,” Herzog said.

And he said this message is slowly becoming more popular in the medical field.

He estimated that when he first began preaching the benefits of a plant-based diet, only 1 percent of doctors were concerned with diet being the primary cause of increased medical problems.

Now, he said, “physicians are jumping on board and patients are becoming much more educated, and consumers will demand better products, because they know the health consequences.”

The message is spreading exponentially, he said, and for the first time in nine years Herzog said he is encouraged that people are beginning to understand the benefits of plant-based, vegetarian and vegan diets.

“It’s health, it’s not a cult,” Herzog said. “It’s sustainable, and people have taken notice.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.