The new documentary series “Healthy Long Life” takes viewers on a worldwide journey to explore how various cultures use spices and a variety of fruits and vegetables as remedies for common ailments and to stave off heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
“People of faith can use spices as medicine,” Daniel Kennedy, researcher, creator and director of the series said to The Christian Post.
The “greatest nutrition book in the world is the Bible," he declared. "Medicine and food” are directly “tied to spirituality.”
The five-part docuseries is now streaming on Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime. “Healthy Long Life” explores various health tips from interviews with everyday people as well as doctors, experts on nutrition, Michelin 5-star chefs, cancer survivors and Dr. Francisco Contreras, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Dean Ornish, and others.
The film explores plant-based diets and spices used in several countries, including India, Mexico, Israel, European nations, Japan and China, and discusses the increased risks of cancer, diabetes and heart disease worldwide — what doctors in the film called "lifestyle diseases." The film also promotes Contreras' Oasis of Hope Hospital, an alternative cancer treatment center in Tijuana, Mexico.
Last year, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services released the updated Dietary Guidelines for 2020-2025 which urges parents to avoid giving their infants and toddlers candy, cake and other added sugars for children younger than 2, as obesity and childhood diabetes rates continue to rise.
The following is an edited transcript of CP’s interview with Kennedy, director of the series who's also an ordained pastor in the Wesleyan Church. In the series he documents the health discoveries he made while traveling the world, learning how the foods used by people's great-grandparents and grandparents helped them live healthier lives before later generations began eating mostly processed foods.
CP: Can you share a short summary about why people should avoid certain foods?
Kennedy: Foods that are high in protein, fat and sugar, and low in fiber, such as processed and refined foods, promote the production of the protein NF Kappa B. Multiple clinical studies demonstrate that higher levels of NF Kappa B are found in people who have cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
People with lower levels of NF Kappa B and other proteins stimulated by diets high in animal fats and proteins have less illness and are able to live healthier longer lives.
Most people realize that burgers, fries, milkshakes and pizza won’t help a person lose weight and get healthy. But not everyone knows what we should be eating and doing to promote health. We traveled the world for four years looking for health and longevity secrets in ancient healing traditions, longevity capitals, and top research organizations.
When filming “Healthy Long Life,” we had the opportunity to interview experts at the world’s top research institutions. According to Dr. Francesco Branca, director of nutrition for the World Health Organization, an unhealthy diet is associated with cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. shared multiple studies from the Cleveland Clinic that any type of oil, including oils thought to be healthy like olive oil, cause inflammation of the epithelial cells which leads to heart disease and blockage of the coronary arteries.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell of Cornell University shared that casein, the main protein in milk, promotes cancer. In his 20-year China study that followed 6,500 people for 20 years, it was found that the closer a person is to a vegetarian diet with low content of animal fat and protein, the lower the incidence of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
CP: What are some ways people of faith can use spices as medicine?
Kennedy: The greatest nutrition book in the world is the Bible. We filmed an interview with professor Devorah Dimant who was on the team that received the Dead Sea Scrolls when they were discovered in 1948.
She was a graduate student at the University of Haifa and had to piece bits together and put them in categories. She noted that in Old Testament times, there were strong laws on what to eat, how to eat, and with whom to eat.
References to spices are found throughout the Bible to be used as food, preservatives, fragrances and medicine. The best use of spices and herbs today is for prevention. Many spices and herbs contain polyphenols, which work at the level of the genes to inhibit heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
We found that around the world, including Israel, India and China, spices and herbs such as turmeric, chilis, garlic, coriander, and cumin are included in dishes daily. There are countless academic publications on the health benefits of such spices and herbs.
As a person of faith, one can take inspiration from Scripture that lists spice after spice, herb after herb. Ezekiel 47:12 and Revelation 22:2 point to the tree of life that’s fruit was for food and its leaves are for healing the nations.
CP: If cancer patients changed their eating habits would it help? Can you share statistics that support that?
Kennedy: Many studies on plant-based diets and cancer prevention have been conducted and have concluded that diets low in animal protein and fat can reduce the risk of many types of cancer by more than 60%, such as the study “The role of plant-based diet in cancer prevention” by Madigan and Karhu.
There are insufficient studies that demonstrate that a plant-based diet will reverse cancer, but there are countless journal articles that show how nutrients in plant-based diets inhibit the proliferation of malignant cells by affecting the metabolic traits of cancerous cells. The oncologists and researchers interviewed in “Healthy Long Life” pointed to published studies that indicate that only 10% of all types of cancer are caused by cancer mutated genes.
Lifestyle behaviors account for 90% of cancer. According to Sara Hiom, director of the department of early detection and early diagnoses at Cancer Research UK, diet, obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and excessive exposure to UV rays of the sun [are risk factors].
Hiom states in the documentary that, “A healthy diet for cancer is one that is really a healthy diet for general health. High in fruit and vegetable and fiber, low in processed and high fat, high sugar diet.”
CP: The series featured a Christian father who cried out to Jesus. Why was it important to include both his health and spiritual testimony?
Kennedy: In episode one, the cancer survivor story of Bradley Palmer is shared. He explains how fear gripped him as he faced cancer and didn’t want to die and leave his wife and three young children alone.
He and his doctor at Oasis of Hope Hospital would pray together. Brad explained that prayer gave him the peace he needed to concentrate on getting well. He turned to a plant-based diet and his wife changed to the diet as well and said that by preparing healthy meals for her husband, she felt empowered and was able to help him get well.
Bradley Palmer runs an orphanage and school in India, and the documentary shows him in India with all of the children who are blessed through his ministry. By fighting and surviving cancer, Brad is able to help children in India.
CP: The series also includes mentions of yoga, meditation, and ancient Aztec beliefs. What was your reasoning in exploring these practices in relation to health?
Kennedy: “Healthy Long Life” explores extensively the role of foods, spices and herbs in health. But as we looked for answers from ancient healing traditions for modern healthcare crises, we found that medicine and food are tied to spirituality, be Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism or the Mayan religion.
Though we are not ecumenical, in fact, I am an ordained pastor in the Wesleyan Church, we found that all religions have a significant emphasis on food and meditation. This points to the basic needs of humans to nourish their souls as well as their bodies.
CP: Does one's beliefs or faith in the healing properties of plants mentally play a role in the health effects on that person?
Kennedy: There are no studies to indicate that faith in plants increases the medicinal properties of plants. Studies do, however, explain the psychoneuroendocrinological functions in the body.
In lay terms, this means that a person's thoughts cause neurotransmitters to stimulate the hypothalamus and pituitary glands that release hormones and send messages via the nervous system to the adrenal glands that will release hormones that can boost or depress the immune system. If a person’s faith helps them have thoughts of peace, and those thoughts manage stress, the various glands will release health promoting hormones instead of hormones that depress the immune system.
CP: Should people be on a strict vegetarian diet?
Kennedy: In “Healthy Long Life,” we interviewed researchers in Japan, China, India, Israel, Mexico, Switzerland, France, Italy, Canada and the United Kingdom. Not everyone agrees that a vegetarian diet is the only diet to get a person healthy.
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Michael Greger and T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. won’t even use the terms vegetarian or vegan, as they point out that French fries are both vegetarian and vegan, but terribly unhealthy due to the high level of saturated fats.
The only thing that all researchers we interviewed agreed that would help a person be healthy and live longer is caloric restriction.
Health is promoted by lowering the number of calories consumed in a day. Dr. Sebastian Gronke of the Max Planck Institute in Germany shared findings of studies they conducted showing that caloric restriction, particularly the reduction in the consumption of animal protein, increased longevity and also passed on the benefits to newborn children through epigenetic information.
In lay terms, that means that lifestyle changes can store information on the surface of genes that can override bad genes.
CP: Do genetics play a role in someone's health?
Kennedy: Genetics absolutely play a role in a person's health. For example, if a woman has the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene mutations, that person’s risk for breast cancer can be as high as 72%.
But Dr. Delia Garcia, an oncologist who specializes in breast cancer, shared the clinical data that indicates that less than 10% of women who actually have breast cancer have either the BRCA1 or BRCA 2 genes. In other words, healthy lifestyle behaviors override mutated genes and can help a person live a healthy long life.
CP: Some doctors don't go into detail about nutrition or discuss with their patients what foods they should be consuming. Why do you think that is?
Kennedy: Medical school teaches a doctor to diagnose an illness and prescribe a drug to fight the illness. Here in the United States, our healthcare system is a medical model to fight disease. It is not a system to promote health. In fact, medical insurance and Medicare will not reimburse for health promoting interventions like seeing a nutritionist or even a psychologist. The great news is that this paradigm is slowly starting to change.
One of our experts, Dr. Scott Stoll, founded the Plantrician Project to teach medical doctors how to use a whole food plant-based diet to get people healthy. For the last eight years, he has held the International Plant-Based Healthcare Conference and trained more than 2,000 health practitioners. The conference features speakers such as Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Hans Diehl, Dr. Delia Garcia and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, all of whom appear in “Healthy Long Life.”
The question remains if medical doctors will start prescribing healthy eating.
As a result of Dr. Stoll’s efforts, the HMO Kaiser Permanente has sent hundreds of their practitioners to the annual conference and they are making nutrition counseling an integral part of their health services. This is a big change.
Dr. Dean Ornish’s plant-based heart health program is now approved for reimbursement by Medicare.
If the general public can learn from documentaries like “Healthy Long Life,” and request from their doctors prescriptions for healthy eating and healthy living, eventually more doctors will seek to get trained in nutrition and other natural healing interventions.
CP: Where can people find the spices and recipes they need to help promote a healthy lifestyle?
Kennedy: One of “Healthy Long Life’s” objectives is to connect people to resources. At HealthyLongLife.com, there is a prominent button that will take a person to watch the docuseries. There is also a button for free resources where a person can download the free cooking/recipe app “Healthy Long Life” for both iOS and Android.
There is a third button for people to sign up to receive a free limited supply of Vitamin D3 and Zinc and information about the “Healthy Long Life” Masterclass, which provides step by step instructions on how to develop a healthy lifestyle.
We highly recommend the books “How Not to Die” by Dr. Michael Greger, and the healthy eating books by Dr. Hans Diehl. For people who have cancer, there is an offer for a free ebook titled, “The Art & Science of Undermining Cancer.”
CP: How can we encourage other cultures not to consume processed foods?
Kennedy: Researchers that we interviewed in China, India, and Mexico shared the alarming statistics of the increase of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer as affluence increases and the opening of fast-food chains. It is difficult to combat as high fat and sugary foods are highly satiating, satisfying and addictive.
“Healthy Long Life” makes the effort to celebrate the traditional diets found around the world that are associated with low disease rates. It is our hope by sharing this beautiful cultural aspect, people will be inspired to eat the way their ancestors did.
CP: Is there anything else that you think would be helpful for the Christian audience to know?
Kennedy: Christian living is normally associated with religious gathering, social support, abstinence from tobacco, abstinence or moderation of alcohol consumption, prayer and meditation. One would think that these habits would lead to healthy living.
Numerous studies have been conducted to determine if religion and spirituality reduce the incidence of heart disease and cancer. These studies conclude that people who attend one or more religious services per week, do in fact have less incidence and mortality from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
By embracing the healthy habits of Christianity and eating more God-made foods than man-made processed and refined foods, one should expect to live a longer and healthier life.