My Notes from the Food Revolution Summit
Dr. Michael Greger
Low-Cost Solutions That Save Lives
I think a lot more physicians would be interested in nutrition if they knew the power of diet and lifestyle changes to improve health but it would be about getting it into medical education in the first place. For me it was something I was seeking out because of my grandma, when I was a little kid my grandmother was diagnosed with end stage heart disease she had already had a number of bypass operations and it get’s to the point when you just run out of plumbing. She was confined to a wheelchair, crushing chest pain and the doctors simply just sent her home to die, there was nothing they could do for a person in her critical state. Then she heard about this guy Nathan Pritikin on sixty minutes reversing heart disease with diet and exercise and she was actually one of his first patients and featured on his biography. It talked about how she came in confined to a wheelchair and within a few weeks she was up and walking ten miles a day and she would go on to live another thirty one years thanks to the power of these simple changes in diet and how she was moving. For a lot of doctors they go into medicine after watching a family member get sick for me it was watching my grandmother get better.
This experience as a child I thought doctors cured people so I was a little naïve going into medicine but once I was there I wanted to take this mountain of evidence that had already been compiled and just wasn’t taught in medical education just because there’s no profit motive to get out of it. There’s this new study about broccoli how’s anyone going to hear about it, the latest drug or surgical procedure or medical instrumentation. They send out press releases they have multimillion advertising budgets, you see adds on TV for the latest drug your not going to see an add on TV for broccoli because there’s no mark up there’s no profiteering that can be made and it’s not branded. We never hear about these low cost powerful interventions sometimes more powerful than the latest drugs and surgery just because of the kind of system that we have which seems to kind of prioritize the bottom line rather than working to prevent, treat or even reverse some of our leading causes of death and disability which we all have the power to effect. The optimistic message that our health really is to a great extent within our hands, which means we can do something about it or we can prevent these diseases and in many cases even reverse these diseases by eating some oatmeal in the morning and making other healthy changes throughout the day.
My web page I would like to be the go to place for evidence based information about nutrition, that’s what I hope is that one day the site will be a resource for nutrition. We have about a thousand video’s up there now, fifteen hundred topics. There’s always so much new information out there and I like to have the latest, best science based information out there so were building a database of information that I hope one day will be able to answer anyone’s question about anything nutrition.
I think there is this common misconception that healthy food doesn’t taste good and that’s perpetuated in the system where you make a lot more money selling processed food in a box than healthy food. If you think about it as far as I’m concerned some of the healthiest foods are some of the most delicious foods. Take berries, if they came up with a strawberry or imported it from some exotic country people would pay through the nose, we take so much of what we have for granted. These are just amazingly healthful foods their delicious it’s really this package deal where you get to eat wonderful food and you get to live longer. People just know how healthy foods can be prepared deliciously, we have internet cooking classes, thousands of cookbooks out there, most people only eat eight or nine diner meals that they just rotate throughout the week. When you survey people they think they eat a lot more variety than they actually do it’s just a matter of finding nine things that you really enjoy that are healthy. I’m sure that people can think of three things that they already eat that are healthy so now you just need to think of three things that can be healthified, a beef burrito can be made into a bean burrito you can make these small tweaks to dramatically improve the health of the food. The final three can be to explore cuisines that you may never have heard of, people will find their eating more exciting foods, more variety, more flavorful foods than they ever were before.
There’s actually good science behind this about our taste receptors, there was a famous study done on changing the salt in our diets, changing people to a low salt or no salt diet and everything taste like cardboard just because your taste receptors are used to that high salt in the standard American diet. But after a few weeks your taste buds change and if you give those same people that salty soup that they were eating in the beginning it’s now way too salty so within just a few weeks you change your taste buds so that natural whole healthy foods taste delicious. Our taste buds are no longer keyed up because of the high salt and sugar from the standard diet, once you bring down that threshold then you can get that same burst of pleasure you got from eating doritos three weeks ago. This has a neurological basis our pleasure system, our dopaminergic system is the same for taste for food and other pleasures in life, example alcoholics and cocaine abusers enjoy sex less and have higher thresholds for other pleasures in life. It’s because the dopamine system is so damped down taking huge doses of these chemicals that the other pleasures in life they can’t enjoy. We can get that same enjoyed improvement in our life by staying away from some of these processed foods that were engineered to make us buy more, unfortunately it’s effecting the way we live our lives.
You can do these simple experiments where for instance the plastics where you remove plastic packaging from your life and you make sure the food made from them doesn’t come in contact with the plastics, literally in a day the next day these chemicals flow right through you. You can detect them in your urine and the levels drop practically to zero, then if you go back to eating plastic foods these levels go right back up. Other things take a lot longer to get rid of for example mercury it can take many months to purge it from one’s system, say if someone wants to get pregnant they really need to stop eating fish, seafood months before conception to maximize the neurological protection of their children. Unfortunately some of these persistent organic pollutants like dioxin and PCB’s can take centuries, it’s really about preventing exposure in the first place. We hear a lot about detoxing it’s better not to toxx in the first place the ideal strategy is to lower ones burden of these industrial pollutants. People think wait a second why are there such high levels of pollutants found in the body of people whether it’s liposuction samples or breast tissue that was taken out or blood, hair and toenail samples. Wait a second we just eat plants and plant eaters one step up on the food chain why is the American population so rife with contamination.
People don’t realize or remember the whole mad cow debacle where we learned there are no more herbivores anymore in industrial animal agriculture we feed millions of pounds of fat scraped from the carcasses of these animals from the slaughter plant back into animal feed so now their not only herbivores we have turned these cows, sheep, pigs and chickens not only into carnivores but cannibals as well. This continued recycling of animal fat back into animals into animal feed allows for fat soluble pollutants to build up to very high levels so were actually eating at the apex of the food chain were eating like the bald eagles and the polar bear not the cows. Their so cycled through their system that were actually eating at the top of the food chain which is a bad place to be in terms of organic pollutants that have built up. Even in organic animal agriculture you have a cow that’s eating thousands of pounds of foliage and you can find pesticides, dioxins and PCB’s it just comes down from the snow caps on the Rocky’s in the form of rain. We have so contaminated our planet that even organic crops have low levels pollutants so better to eat the plants themselves rather than eating the animals that are eating the plants because your getting all the contaminants that have built up throughout their short lives with every bite. So low on the food chain and stay away from particularly the aquatic food chain because eventually everything flows into the sea the oceans are sort of humanities sewers.
In this famous international dairy industry summit held in Mexico there was a plan set out figuring, there’s a number of things facing the dairy industry right now such as dairy milk alternatives which they have identified as one of the major threats. The other major threat to the growth of the international dairy industry was saturated fat, dairy products are the number one source of saturated fat in the United States not beef and because saturated fat intake pushes up your LDL bad cholesterol your number one risk factor for our number one killer. That’s why there is this international consensus around the world of health authorities that we need to decrease our saturated fat intake. For example the number one most prestigious academy in the United States the National Academy of Sciences and Medicine says what’s the only safe amount of saturated fat intake – zero. They said push your level of saturated fat as low as possible the same with the FDA of Europe the European Food Safety Authority said as low as possible. The American Heart Association wants people down to five percent of calories which is a ninety percent plant based diet essentially. The reason there’s this international consensus saying that we need to push saturated fat levels down is because of the pandemic of heart disease which is laying to waste more Americans than any other disease. So what did the dairy industry do, it very explicitly, in fact it’s in the proceedings of the meeting where they were going to pour money into research to try to cast doubt on the link to saturated fat and heart disease. That’s all you need the tobacco industry knew this very early on, they didn’t have to convince people it was good for you all they had to do was say some studies say it’s bad some studies say it’s not bad who knows, they knew it only took doubt. So the dairy industry funded researchers to create some very misleading analyses that suggest the saturated fat and heart disease link is more complicated than we used to think. Which isn’t true we have metabolic studies going back decades where you put people in a room and you very tightly control their diet and monitor every drop of food and you give them saturated fat and their cholesterol goes up period. It happened so often you could predict how much it would go up.
There was a study done with nuclear imaging where they measured blood flow within the heart muscle itself they found twelve months on a plant based diet versus twelve months on a low carb diet you could dramatically shift blood flow from the heart, squeeze it off or open it up based on what one was eating. People eating the low carb high saturated fat diets had significantly shorter lifespans compared to people who don’t, specifically it’s the higher animal protein diets not the plant protein diets associated with increased mortality. Look around the world the longest living populations their all eating a 90% or better plant based diet. It all points to the fact that we have control over years of our life and not only the length of our life but how healthy we want to be, how much vim and vigor were able to live our life with or long healthy lives with, we have the power to effect our health destiny.
If anybody had to know anything about heart disease and diet it’s that there has been only one diet ever that has been shown to reverse heart disease in a majority of patients and that is a plant based diet. This is the diet that dissolves plaque away, opens the arteries without drugs, without surgery, if that was all a plant based diet could do shouldn’t that be the default diet until proven otherwise. And the fact that it can also prevent, treat and reverse other leading killers like type 2 diabetes and hypertension would seem to make the case overwhelming.
The moderator John Robbins speaking: Ever since the nineties the American Heart Association has charged manufacturers a substantial fee for the privilege of putting their heart healthy checkmark on products. The heart association label has ended up on some rather dubious food products like frosted flakes, marshmallow crispies, low fat pop tarts and today it’s found on boxes of cereals that have healthier sounding names on those that are actually higher in sugar than frosted flakes. If the American Heart Association can’t be trusted what’s the average eater to do and that’s why I think your nutrition facts .org is so powerful and important.
These refined carbs like sugars really have to go, back in the eighties they were saying we really have to reduce saturated fat intake. We knew these studies that said if people ate less meat, eggs and dairy they would live longer and have better health outcomes. We couldn’t actually say eat less meat, eggs and dairy because the powerful industry interests ended up lobbying the powers in Washington and ended up saying decrease your intake of trans fatty acids and solid fat intake these kind of code words. Then they changed it to eat more fruits and vegetables so everybody’s happy, fruit and vegetable people are happy and no one gets upset. But eat less labeling whether it’s eat less sugar or soda or less anything they don’t actually come out and say it, that would undermine their mandate of the USDA which is to promote agricultural products as well as protect the public health. They told people to eat less fat hoping people would reduce meat intake but people didn’t pick up an apple, industry responded with snack well cookies and made low fat junk food. That’s what the industry does the industry will give you gluten free junk food, they will give you any kind of junk food you want for any kind of craze there is and when people eat junk food then their health is junky. To be healthy as a vegetarian you actually have to eat your vegetables, you can’t live on french fries and beer you have to eat health promoting foods. That’s why I like to say whole food plant based foods because it doesn’t just say what your avoiding it also says what your actually eating and the more we can put in our diet the healthier we may be.
A question that has come up asking is there a difference between industrial sugars, high fructose corn syrup and table sugar sucrose on the body compared to sugars found in whole plant foods. Turns out they have a very different effect on the body. They have done this in studies and it turns out that when you eat fructose in whole fruit form you get protection for the liver and for the arteries the things that are worsened by these industrial sugars. People are concerned about the high glycemic index of certain foods if people take a glass of sugar water, the glucose tolerance test, to see if someone has diabetes and if it goes too high then they have pre-diabetes or diabetes. If you take that cup of sugar water and you add some berries to it effectively adding more sugar because sugar is found in those berries you would think you would get an even higher blood sugar spike. No, you get the reverse you not only don’t get the same blood sugar spike you actually get a lower blood sugar spike. You got less of a blood sugar spike because of a variety of reasons the fiber found in all whole foods actually slows the digestion of sugars in the gastrointestinal tract there’s also these phytonutrients found in berries and other healthy foods that actually block the absorption of sugar through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream. We need to eat food as nature intended and when we strip them away and refine them into table sugar you artificially inflate the sweetness of foods and sell more product, were doing that to the detriment of our health.
Very often people on plant strong diets are asked where do you get your protein but really people on the standard diet should be asked where do you get your fiber. Especially since how many people are dying from protein deficiency in the United States but there’s an epidemic of people dying from diseases associated with inadequate fiber intake. These are critical questions to ask, where do you get your potassium 98% of Americans don’t get the minimum requirement of potassium because their not eating enough good whole healthy plant foods the same thing with fiber 97% of Americans don’t get the minimum daily intake of fiber. It turns out people eating plant based diets in a large survey of 11,000 people across the country they have fewer classes of food yet they have fewer nutrient deficiencies. Their getting more of all nutrients because their eating more of the healthiest foods and eating less than some of the least healthy foods which includes not only animal products but also processed foods. It’s an important message that we really need to eat healthy the healthiest isle in the grocery store is the produce isle. People spend a lot of time reading labels but the healthiest foods don’t have any labels at all because their just healthy fruits and vegetables.
Some of my favorite videos are the practical day to day grocery store or kitchen decisions, it turns out that sweet potatoes are one of the healthiest foods out there and the best way to cook them is whatever way will get you to eat the most of them. But boiling them is the best way to retain the most antioxidant powers compared to roasting or steaming and it turns out that boiling thins out the cell walls, gelatinizes starch, enhances the bioavailability of nutrients, lowers the glycemic index. I would also encourage people to keep the skin on, the peal of the sweet potato has ten times the antioxidant power of the flesh and comparable to blueberries. It takes a hit when baked wiping out about two thirds with baking, there’s about an 80% drop in vitamin A levels about twice as much as boiling does. Steamed broccoli has 15% less vitamin C than raw broccoli but if you like steamed broccoli you can eat six florets of steamed versus five florets of raw. Greens are different you can get a lot of leaching into the water, even when you steam greens you can see the steam water turn a little green and that’s a good thing when they leach into green tea otherwise green tea would be pointless. Boiling greens is fine as long as you retain that cooking water and use it for soup or something but we don’t want to just throw it down the sink and loose a lot of the precious nutrition.
Plaque on your teeth is caused by bacteria there is even a brand of toothpaste that includes antibiotics for this but it has a number of undesirable side effects such as antibiotic resistance and teeth stains. Early research done in vitro in a petri dish found that the phytonutrients in green tea effectively inhibited the growth of the bacteria streptococcus mutans, the one that creates plaque and eats into our teeth and make cavities. So I finally put it to the test and found that just rinsing with green tea as they would with mouthwash strongly inhibited the growth of this bacteria in minutes. Within seven minutes we saw the growth of this bacteria and plaque was cut nearly in half and you avoid all the chemicals in the mouthwash. You can have someone swish with sugar water and normally within minutes the acid builds up on the teeth as the bacteria convert the sugar into acid. If you do that same thing swish your mouth with sugar water after you’ve swished with green tea twenty minutes before you have wiped out so many of that plaque bacteria that you don’t get that drop in PH below which your enamel starts eroding. It was actually put head to head with this antiplaque gold standard agent which is chlorhexidine which is found in antiseptic mouthwashes. They found that green tea reduced plaque better than the chemicals and didn’t have the concerning side effects in terms of DNA damage that’s been detected in individuals that rinse their mouth with chlorhexidine in mouthwash. It works better, safer and cheaper and you find that a lot with the nutrition literature you find that simple things are cheaper, safer and may even work better than some of the things you can get prescribed by your doctors office.
Dr. Greger web page nutritionalfacts.org
Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed physician. It is essential that you discuss with your doctor any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.
M.Scherker medical researcher