Flying and bad food don’t mix – but not in the way that you are thinking.  I just sent a letter to the editor of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) responding to an article on diabetes by Jonathan M. Sakier, MD.  Since I own and fly aircraft, this article particularly resonates with me. There are two things a pilot must have in order to legally fly an aircraft as pilot in command. One is a valid license and the other is a valid medical certificate. Once your medical is revoked, it is very difficult to have it reinstated, if not impossible. A diagnosis of diabetes will cause your certificate to be revoked. For a commercial pilot, that can mean a career ending event.

Dr. Sakier did a good job of explaining what diabetes is and how it is typically treated within the medical community. He explained the process you must go through to attempt to have your medical reinstated and the necessary treatment protocol. He mentions therapy is directed at reducing obesity, a cautious exercise program, special diets and monitoring portion sizes along with oral medications. He gives the typical standard answer from the medical community for diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, and other preventable diseases. He describes a treatment protocol designed to manage the symptoms and which completely fails to address the cause. Recognizing, our good health is critical to maintaining our medical certificate and the use of our pilot privileges, and in most cases, there is no one to blame but ourselves for losing our medical certificate to type 2 diabetes, and even heart disease. Our dietary choices determine for most of us (regardless of genetic predisposition) whether we will suffer from these diseases.

There is a plethora of evidence and peer reviewed published literature demonstrating that type 2 diabetes, arteriosclerosis and attendant heart disease and strokes are diseases directly caused from eating the standard American diet (SAD), consisting of processed refined food products,  and animal products which are high in cholesterol and saturated fats. This is an eating style composed of foods that are devoid of micronutrients and phytochemicals. Dr. Neal Barnard, (president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine), demonstrated that type 2 diabetes can be avoided and even reversed by changing from the typical diet  to a plant based diet, rich in micronutrients and phytochemicals. He has written an excellent book titled  “Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes” that examines the results of the study and explains the dietary protocol required to achieve these results.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic who has researched the relationship between diet and heart disease for decades often states that heart disease is a paper tiger that need never occur, and can be reversed through dietary change. He has an entire program at the Cleveland Clinic dedicated to reversing heart disease, totally eliminating the need for stents, angioplasty, and by-pass surgery through dietary intervention alone. He has published a book on this subject titled “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.”

Diabetes and heart disease are avoidable and are even reversible. If you fly please check out the above books, along with those by Drs. Joel Fuhrman, John McDougall, and Dean Ornish. You can also visit PCRM.org for more information. Pilots are responsible for  their passengers when they fly, and we all need to think about our families, co-workers and others who are dependent upon us to maintain our good health. A healthy vegan diet goes a long way towards ensuring that we are there for the people who count on us.