How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease
By Michael Greger, MD, FACLM
This New York Times bestseller follows a popular formula for persuasion. First, you need a title that gets people’s attention. Next, it helps to have an author with a good chunk of the alphabet after his name. Letters like MD and PhD are especially good. That means you are looking at the name of an expert, and experts are never wrong. Finally, you need lots of references. This book has all that covered—seven letters after the author’s name and over a hundred pages of references. This formula doesn’t guarantee success, but it can work and obviously did this time.
Greger presents us with chapter after chapter of advice on how not to die from all the chronic ailments that plague modern civilization. Each chapter is riddled with references, yet in the first chapter (which tells us how not to die from heart disease), Greger makes the claim that statin drug benefits outweigh the risks for those with high risk—without any references.
The key point in each chapter is that a plant-based diet is the secret to survival. I would never argue with an expert who has so many studies backing him up, would I? Well, I’ve developed this nasty habit of noncompliance with the popular mentality, so yes I would. How could I do that? Who do I think I am?
I don’t have to be anybody but someone who pays attention. I have seen many experts claim many different, incompatible things. They can’t all be right, some of them must be wrong. Being an expert carries no guarantee of correctness. Having lots of references doesn’t guarantee anything either.
One big name the author refers to more than once is Pritikin, who came up with a diet to prevent or even cure heart disease. That sounds great, but what Greger neglects to mention is that this diet did not help Pritikin himself with leukemia. You have to look at the whole picture, not just the convenient part of it.
Many of the studies referred to take place in a lab, in a test tube or petri dish. While some interesting information might come of such a study, a test tube or dish is not a good simulator of the human body. When isolated proteins or other nutrients are exposed to isolated human or animal tissue, I don’t care what happens. Nothing has been proven about what is good nutrition and what is not. Studies on actual human beings, not test tubes, are better, but even a study lasting several years is short term. And studies comparing McDonald’s high-fat meals to McDonald’s lowfat meals should be dropped in the trash where they belong.
Studies done on factory food may do a very good job of proving factory food is not good for you, but that is not really news and proves nothing about properly produced organic food. There is at least one reference to information from the American Dietetic Association, which is funded by industry, including the likes of Coca-Cola. Studies funded by the factory food industry are not science, they are marketing.
In an apparent attempt to scare us all away from chicken, we are told that the number one food source of arsenic for preschool children is chicken. That may be true as far as it goes, but it leaves out an important detail. Why is chicken so high in arsenic? Because at least until recently, the industry deliberately added arsenic to chicken feed as a preservative.
Any studies—whether lab studies or short-term studies—done outside of the context of what has worked to keep different cultures around the world healthy for generations (like the research done by Weston A. Price) add up to one big nothing-burger. Thumbs DOWN.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2018