Book Summary: How not to die by Dr. Michael Greger

The book is a detailed introduction on how what we eat can kill or save us and how the modern diet is making people sick. This book’s companion website is NutritionFacts.org.

This book and its summary are pretty long, I extracted the useful advice in a shorter article.

Salient Points

  1. Major killers in 1900’s USA were Pneumonia, TB,  and Diarrhea that are pathogen based while major killers in 2000s are heart diseases, cancer, and lung diseases that are lifestyle diseases. The developing world, which has shifted to a western diet, is seeing the same fate.
  2. Aging is tied to Telomeres, a tiny cap at the end of chromosomes, which prevents DNA from unraveling. Some amount of it is lost on every cell division. So, shortening of Telomere indicates aging. Smoking triples that rate. Meat, soda, dairy, fish, and refined foods are associated with shorter Telomeres. Plant diets with rich antioxidants are associated with longer Telomeres. Plant-based nutrition is the only intervention which helps in growing Telomerase, an enzyme which helps in regrowing Telomere.
  3. Vegetarians transitioning to meat once a week experienced a 146% increase in odds of heart attack, 152% increase in odds of stroke, 166% increase of odds of Diabetes, and 231% increase of odds of weight gain. India, despite a low increase in per-capita meat consumption, is facing high lifestyle disease rate due to an increase in refined foods like white rice. So, don’t just go for a vegetarian diet. French fries + Coke is vegetarian but not healthy. Go for an evidence-based diet. The current evidence suggests a whole plant-based diet is healthy. Calories in junk food are cheaper but when you take nutrition beyond calories into account then junk food loses out to whole plant-based diets. Moreover,  farms with animals are associated with a higher rate of cancer. Plant-only farms are not. Poultry farms are the worst. Pet companionship is associated with lower cancer rate though.
  4. A healthy lifestyle is key. Not smoking, not being obese, 30-mins daily exercise, and a plant-based diet is sufficient to wipe out 80% chance of chronic diseases. Non-genetic factors account for 80-90% of the major diseases today. For example, colon cancer rates were 1/5th in Japan compared to the USA in 1950. Now, due to increased meat consumption, they are almost the same. Diet is a gradual process and not all or nothing. If you eat Pepperoni Pizza once a week, going down to once a month is better than not giving it up at all.
  5. Thanks to dairy and meat lobbies, you will hear “eat more veggies” message but no “eat less meat” message. The latter message will be made more cryptic by saying “avoid saturated and trans fat”. But in reality, no amount of trans fat is safe as it always leads to a risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). However, trans fat is unavoidable in a non-vegan diet. Order of nutrition quality: Unprocessed plant food > Processed plant food = Unprocessed animal food > Ultra-processed plant food = Processed animal food.
  6. Patients regularly overestimate the benefits of drugs. Doctors are hesitant, to tell the truth since no patient would take a drug which has only a 5% chance of success. Big pharma spends a lot on advertisements. They advertise drug, not diet changes. Drugs make money for them, diet changes do not.
  7. Washing vegetables remove 50% of pesticides. Washing in 5% vinegar (expensive) or 10% saltwater (cheaper) is much more effective. Rinse again after saltwater though.
  8. After consuming acidic food, rinse the mouth with water to avoid enamel decay. However, don’t brush since that will damage the already softened enamel.

Daily Dozen checklist of Good Health

  1. 3 servings of Beans
  2. 1 serving   of Berries
  3. 3 servings of other fruits
  4. 1 serving  of Cruciferous vegetables
  5. 2 servings of Greens
  6. 2 servings of Other Vegetables
  7. 1 serving  of Flaxseed
  8. 1 serving  of Nuts
  9. 1 serving  of Spices
  10. 3 servings of Whole Grains
  11. 5 servings of Beverages
  12. 1 workout session

Good food – what to eat

  1. Colorful plant foods are higher in antioxidants. Red onion has 76% more antioxidants than White. Red cabbage may have 8 times more antioxidants than green. Kumquat, therefore, is the best citrus fruit since unlike orange, one can eat its colorful peel. Blue corn is better than yellow corn which has more antioxidants than white corn. Red quinoa is better than white quinoa.
  2. Broccoli sprouts, beans, greens, berries, and green tea are good at reactivating tumor-suppressing genes silenced by the cancer cells.
  3. Turmeric, the Indian spice Haldi, has shown great anti-cancer ability in petri-dish, reduction in DNA mutations in smokers, and is as effective as treating pancreatic cancer as Chemotherapy. Consume it one teaspoon a week.
  4. Garlic, Turmeric, Goji berries, and Mint leaves have shown to prevent and fix chromosomal damage. People like X-Ray technicians and airline pilots are at an increased risk of cancer due to X-Ray and cosmic rays, respectively.
  5. Half a cup of beet juice (or 3 3-inch beets) 2-3 hours before a competition maximizes athletic endurance.
  6. Coffee is antidepressant as long as no sweeteners are added.
  7. Cooked vegetables can sometimes be more nutritious than raw ones due to better absorption of nutrients. Boiling and pressure cooking is the worst methods but even there average loss is about 14% of antioxidants. Bell peppers lose 70% of antioxidants on boiling. Artichokes, beets, and onions lose only about 2.5%. Carrots and celery are better eaten cooked than raw.
  8. Tomato juice has five-fold antioxidants compared to Tomato. Cocoa powder is better than Cocoa beans since Cocoa butter is saturated fat. Processing food does not normally lead to enhancing, so, these are more of an exception than the norm.
  9. Tempeh being unprocessed is a better food item than Soy and Soy milk.
  10. Almond butter is a healthy source of fat.
  11. Organic produce does not have more vitamins or minerals than inorganic. But organic produce has more antioxidants and lower levels of toxic heavy metal and pesticides. Prefer organic if you can.
  12. Date sugar and blackstrap molasses are the two good natural sweeteners. In the US, Date People Farm is one of the best ones to buy dates from. Erythritol, a low-calorie sweetener, is a powerful one. It is naturally found in pear and grapes.
  13. Sodium-free canned beans are as good as boiled beans.

Why are antioxidants important?

About 1-2% of free electrons escape the cell’s mitochondria and combine with Oxygen to form free radicals. These free radicals cause strokes as well as aging. Consuming antioxidants reduce the damage by free radicals. Antioxidants, therefore, are anti-cancerous as well as anti-aging. http://bit.ly/antioxidantfoods [pdf] lists food ranked by antioxidants. Plants are way ahead of animal products. Berries, herbs, and spices are the best. Almost any eating produces free radicals. That’s OK as long as food contains some antioxidants. So, orange is fine but Coca-Cola increases free radicals in the body. Therefore, a meal should always contain some antioxidant-rich component.

Is Sugar in fruits safe?

When sugar in the form of sugar cubes or Coke is consumed than in the first hour there is a big spike in the sugar levels. The body releases tons of insulin and then by the second hour, blood sugar falls so low then the body thinks it is in a famine situation and dumps fat into the blood. This fat is what causes problems. Sugar consumed as a part of fruits, due to fibers, is released slowly and no overshoot effect has been observed. In an experiment even when 20 servings of fruits (~8 cans of soda) a day were eaten for a month, no adverse effects were observed.

Bad food – what to avoid

  1. Tuna is the top source of Arsenic in the body.
  2. Dairy is the top source of Lead in the body.  Poor digestion of lactose, the milk sugar, also causes flatulence. Beans are also responsible but to a lesser extent. The smell, however, comes from sulfide, whose biggest sources are Eggs and meat.
  3. Seafood is the top source of Mercury in the body.
  4. When the animal or plant oils are fried then toxic chemicals are released. Meat grilling also releases PAH (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons). Both increase the risk of cancer. So, have good ventilation in the house kitchen and don’t live next to a Chinese restaurant or a Barbecue joint. Frying Soy-based tempeh patties are much less harmful than frying beef or bacon (bacon is worst) but consuming it still leads to DNA mutations.
  5. Cooking meat at a low temperature does not kill pathogens. Cooking meat at a high temperature produces Heterocyclic Amines (HCA) which are carcinogenic. Even plant food is not immune, french fries contain carcinogenic acrylamides.
  6. Animal fat is the prime source of Dioxins. A plant-based diet eliminates 98% of dioxins from the diet. Animal food is also rich in flame-retardant chemicals which though not proven to be toxins can be risky to consume.
  7. Hypersalty and hyper sweet processed food dampen taste buds and after eating that, normal food tastes like cardboard and is not enjoyable anymore. One can blunt or recover taste buds from such foods in a matter of weeks.
  8. High fructose corn syrup is pro-oxidant and therefore, should be avoided.
  9. Excessive salt intake not only causes high blood pressure but also increases the risk of stomach cancer.
  10. Pickled vegetables, due to salt, increase the risk of Stomach cancer. South Korea has the highest rate of stomach cancer because of Kimchi.
  11. Aspartame, the artificial sweetener causes depression.
  12. Stevia can be transformed into steviol by gut bacteria which can cause DNA damage.
  13. Sorbitol and Xylitol are not absorbed by the body, end up in the colon and if consumed too much can cause diarrhea.
  14. Olive consumption is bad since Olives are soaked with brine (salt water). Olive oil is free of Sodium but devoid of nutrition as well. Extra-virgin Olive oil is no better. And Refined Olive oil is the worst. Oil to fat is what sugar to the fat. Avoid consuming it. Use water or vinegar for cooking.
  15. alfalfa sprouts, in the US, have been linked to multiple cases of Salmonella poisoning.
  16. Poppy seeds contain morphine. While one can safely consume a few tablespoons without getting intoxicated, the risk is always there. If you really want to, soak them in water for 5 minutes and cook them.
  17. Nutmeg‘s safe limit is 2-3 teaspoons. It is hallucinating and habits forming.

Major Categories  of Nutritious Foods

Fruits

  1. Blending fruits is preferable to juicing. Fruit juices increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Whole fruits lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  2. Antioxidant power – Banana(40), Apple(60), Mango(110), Strawberry (310), Blackberry(650). In the US, Blackberries provide more antioxidants for the buck than Strawberry. Frozen berries are as good as fresh ones. Eating blueberries are good for reducing exercise-induced inflammation.
  3. Tart cherries can be used to treat gout, a form of arthritis. They reduce inflammation in normal people too.
  4. Goji berries are high on Melatonin, antioxidants, and Zeaxanthin. Zeaxanthin, the compound which makes corn yellow, prevents vision loss. Don’t buy them in normal stores, buy them in Asian supermarkets as “Lycium berries” where they are cheaper than raisins.
  5. Black Currants are good to deal with eye strains caused by the computer. It is believed that the effect is due to anthocyanin pigment which, if true, means that aronia berries, elderberries, black raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and red cabbage should have the same effect. Note that, 97% of the pigment is lost when a jam is made out of these berries.
  6. Crab apples are the most nutritious apples.
  7. In the US, always buy mangoes from Indian grocery stores and not Walmart.
  8. Watermelon contains Citrulline which can cure ED. Two cups of watermelon before workout reduce muscle soreness.
  9. If you are buying dried fruits, don’t take the one with added sugar to increase its weight or the one with Sulphite preservatives which can cause ulcerative colitis. Naturally, occurring Sulphur does not elevate this risk.
  10. Kiwifruit is good for Insomnia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and improved immunity.
  11. Citrus fruits (and not juices) boost DNA repair.

Vegetables

  1. Cruciferous vegetables have Sulforaphane which is anti-cancerous, good for the brain and the eyes control nasal inflammation and manage type 2 diabetes. Broccoli is one of the great sources of it. Wait about 40 minutes between chopping and cooking or Sulforaphane producing enzyme myrosinase would not get a chance to act. Don’t buy these vegetables frozen either since they are flash-cooked before freezing. Or alternatively, put mustard, which contains myrosinase on frozen broccoli after cooking.
  2. Green vegetables contain Chlorophyll, which when exposed to light penetrating through the human body, produces antioxidant CoQ10.
  3. Just two spoons of Vinegar helps with blood sugar control. It helps with losing abdominal fat as well.
  4. Variety is as important as quantity. Different vegetables are good for different types of cancer. Eg. radish works against stomach cancer but is ineffective against pancreatic cancer. Therefore, one should eat a portfolio of vegetables. A great anti-cancer salad is a spinach with toppings of beans, berries, nuts, garlic/green onion/leeks, and Brussel sprouts/cabbage/kale. As a rule of thumb always choose from allium and cruciferous vegetables. The most effective anti-cancer is garlic.
  5. Green Vegetable intake has been associated with reduced facial wrinkles.
  6. Mushrooms should not be eaten raw. They contain a toxin Agaritine which is destroyed by even 30 seconds of the microwave. Cooking does not destroy antioxidant Ergothioneine which prevents DNA damage due to free radicals. Avoid Morel Mushrooms, they are high on Agaritine and further react with Alcohol after cooking.
  7. Eat sweet potatoes without peeling. The peel’s antioxidant capability is 10 times the inner flesh and is similar to blueberries. Stronger the color of sweet potato, more nutritious they are. Due to Sweet potato’s nutritious nature, NASA has considered Sweet potatoes for future space missions. If you going to prefer plain potatoes over the sweet ones then choose purple colored ones. They are effective against hypertension.
  8. Use peanut butter dips to make veggies more palatable for the kids. Even making up names like “X-ray vision carrots” increases the likelihood of kids eating more veggies. Kids mimic parents, so, parents have to eat healthy too.

Nuts

  1. Fruit-and-nut bars with no added sugar are worse than fresh fruits but better than energy bars.
  2. Nuts do not cause weight gain. 70% of fat gets compensated by not getting calories elsewhere, 10% flushed out of the body, and 20% which stays gets compensated by increased metabolism.
  3. Walnuts are the healthiest nuts due to the highest antioxidant and Omega-3 levels. Nuts, in general, are good at reducing the risk of both cancer and stroke.
  4. Peanuts are good against breast cancer.
  5. Pistachios are good at reducing erectile dysfunction in man.

Herbs and spices

  1. Turmeric with soy is great for people suffering from Osteoarthritis. A quarter spoon of turmeric should be part of everyone’s daily diet. While Turmeric can prevent Gallstones, those who already have it should not take Turmeric since it causes Gallbladder to squeeze leading to more pain. Turmeric can also lead to kidney stones, avoid taking more than one teaspoon a day.
  2. Black pepper can boost the absorption of another spice like Turmeric. It contains Piperine which inhibits the Liver’s ability to make foreign particles water soluble. A quarter teaspoon of black pepper causes Curcumin absorption from Turmeric in the blood to go up by 20 times.
  3. Cilantro is good for people suffering from arthritis.
  4. Fenugreek is great for muscle performance boosting, for example, for men doing weight training.
  5. Red hot peppers and chilies are great for people suffering from chronic pains since Capsaicin, the burning substance exhausts the body’s pain neurotransmitters. 1-2 teaspoons are sufficient.
  6. Ginger performs better than Sumatriptan, the leading drug, in curing headaches and that too without any sedative side-effects of the drug. 1/8th of a teaspoon is sufficient.
  7. Ginger is great for not only reducing menstrual cramps but also minimizing the bleeding. It is as effective as Ibuprofen which does not reduce bleeding. Ginger cures nausea as well, so, good during pregnancy, chemotherapy, and morning sickness in general. Ayurveda calls it maha-aushadhi, or mega-medicine.
  8. Peppermint is the most commonly available herb with most antioxidants.
  9. Clove is the most commonly available spice with most antioxidants.
  10. Amla is packed with even more antioxidants but is available only in Indian stores. It is the most important ingredient of Ayurveda. A single teaspoon of it contains 753 antioxidant units, for comparison, an egg has 8 and half-a-cup of blueberries have 323. Buy the powdered ones in an Indian spice store. Stay away from Ayurvedic supplements since they might contain heavy metals, sometimes, even intentionally.
  11. Oregano prevents DNA damage due to radiation exposure. It has anti-inflammatory properties as well.
  12. Marjoram has shown to improve hormonal balance in women.
  13. Salt-free spice mixes like Indian Garam Masala, Chinese five spice powder, Middle Eastern Za’atar, Ethiopian Berbere, and Italian seasonings are a good combination of spices.
  14. Cassia (Chinese) Cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels but contains toxic coumarin. More expensive Ceylon Cinnamon is not toxic but does not seem to have the blood sugar lowering the effect of Cassia. Any unlabeled Cinnamon in the US is the cheaper Cassia which should be avoided.
  15. Aspirin contains Salicylic acid, a blood thinner, which is good to prevent heart attacks and increases the risk of a brain hemorrhage. A normal dose Aspirin, therefore, is good for people at the risk of a heart attack. For a normal person, cumin (Indian spice jeera) is equivalent of taking a low dose of Aspirin. And plant-based salicylic acid comes with in-built protection (nitric oxides), so, it does not cause ulcers. Chilli powder, Paprika, and Turmeric are good as well. Organic vegetables have more of it since once laced with pesticides don’t produce the defense hormone Salicylic acid that often. Whole-grain bread has 100 times more Salicylic acid than white bread.

Whole Grains

  1. Counter to the popular myth, whole grain consumption is anti-inflammatory.
  2. If you have celiac disease as per a formal valuation then go on a gluten-free diet. The general population will make their gut health worse by going gluten-free and thus, should not do that.
  3. Popcorn is good whole grain. Use Chlorella as a seasoning on top. Avoid diacetyl, the artificial butter, which causes lung disease.
  4. Ignore the marketing label while buying whole grains. Look at the label if carbohydrates to fiber ratio are less than 5, its whole grain otherwise it is not.
  5. Try eating whole grains instead of their powdered form. More of it will make beyond stomach into the gut improving gut bacteria.
  6. Oats are classic whole grains. And due to their popularity, it is easy to buy them while traveling.

Beverages

  1. Unsurprisingly, soda is the worst beverage. Beer and milk are one notch above. Milk-free unsweetened tea is the second best beverage after water.
  2. Drink at least 5 glasses of tap water a day.
  3. Persons below 45 should consume less than 4 cups of coffee a day.
  4. People suffering from acid reflux (GERD) should drink tea instead of coffee. People with epilepsy should avoid coffee. People with high cholesterol should drink filter coffee.
  5. Coffee consumption increases fracture risk in women but decreases in men.
  6. Green tea leaves are extremely powerful. They have shown to cure genital warts. Green tea is anti-allergic, anti-cancerous, reduces diabetes risk and tooth loss. Both green tea without lemon and white tea with lemon are better than black tea. Matcha, powdered green tea, is even better, one can make a smoothie out of it. Stay away from Kombucha tea, it has been linked to toxicity in some cases.
  7. Too much tea (20 bags for adults, 3 for children) can cause fluorosis due to the fluoride content of the tea.
  8. Hibiscus tea is the drink with the highest antioxidants.

Physical activity

  1. Sitting increases mortality. Consider using a standing desk.
  2. An hour long walk can reduce mortality by 24%.

Supplements – safe or unsafe?

Issues with taking supplements

  1. Active compounds in food do not work in isolation. So, a pill of the active compound sometimes has reduced or no effect compared to the food.
  2. Sometimes manufacturing of supplements itself leads to the addition of toxin heavy metals.
  3. Sometimes pills contain unusually high dosage amounts of naturally occurring substances which itself can pose a risk.

Supplements are less effective

  1. Hesperidin supplement reduces blood pressure and increases blood flow but Orange which contains Hesperidin is even more effective.
  2. Turmeric whose active ingredient is Curcumin is more potent than Curcumin supplements. Even Curcumin-free Turmeric has shown to have anti-cancer properties, sometimes, even more than Curcumin itself. Turmeric pills contain extremely high concentrations of Curcumin which can itself do DNA damage.

Supplements don’t work

  1. Plant-based high levels of Vitamin E from diet reduces the risk of asthma by 50%. Vitamin E supplements have no positive side-effect.
  2. Naturally occurring antioxidants are good against Lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, but supplements showed no improvement.
  3. Folate cures depression. Folate supplements don’t work.
  4. Antioxidants containing foods like green leafy vegetables cure depression. Antioxidant supplements don’t seem to work.
  5. BroccoMax, a Broccoli supplement when putting to test produced no effects compared to eating Broccoli.
  6. Vinegar helps with blood sugar control. Vinegar pills seem to have no effect.

Supplements are toxic

  1. Metabolife, a supplement was studied only on 35 people. No adverse effects were found. When it was introduced to the market, several had liver damage and deaths due to Hydroxycut.
  2. Antioxidants like Vitamin A, E, and Beta-carotene, when taken as supplements, increase the death risk.
  3. Green tea is good but the green tea supplements cause liver toxicity.
  4. Coca leaves are safe, but their extract, cocaine is addictive. Fruits are safe, but their extracted sugar is not healthy.

Good supplements to consume

  1. Vitamin B12 – Vegetarians must take 2.5 mg cyanocobalamin a day. Methylcobalamin is unproven.
  2. Vitamin D – people living in colder climates should take this supplement.
  3. Iodine – eat rich food like Nori seaweed (2 sheets a day) or take a supplement.
  4. Long chain Omega-3 acids – 250 mg from algae and not seafood since seafood is contaminated with heavy metals.

Killer Diseases

1 – Heart Diseases

  1. High cholesterol causes a heart attack.
  2. Heart diseases are caused by LDL, the bad cholesterol. It comes from trans fat (processed food, meat, and dairy), saturated fats (animal products), dietary cholesterol (eggs). Even fetuses can get this artery-clogging cholesterol from their mother. The goal should be to keep it below 70 mg/dL or total cholesterol rating around 150 mg/dL. US total cholesterol average is ~200 mg/dL.
  3. Statins lower cholesterol but have side-effects including liver damage, muscle damage, and memory loss.
  4. Meat harbors endotoxins, a bacteria which is not killed by cooking temperature, stomach acid, or digestive enzyme. They reach the intestine, absorbed by the blood, and cause artery inflammation.
  5. Decades of research have shown that meat and dairy are responsible for the heart diseases but their lobbies are strong. In 1977, many senators on the Senate Committee on Nutrition needs got a huge backlash and lost re-elections for suggesting a decrease in meat consumption.
  6. In rural China and rural Africa, heart diseases are non-existent. But when Africans transitioned to a western diet, the heart disease rate shot up. So, it wasn’t about the genes.
  7. In the famous DART study, fish oil reduced mortality by 29% but in a follow-on, DART-2 results were reversed. Stay away from Omega-3 fish oil supplements.
  8. Brazilian nuts, just 4 a month, can lower cholesterol levels. The study has not been re-attempted but one should go for 4 nuts a month given no harm. Don’t take too much since they are high on Selenium.
  9. Kale reduces bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and enhances good cholesterol (HDL) levels.

2 – Lung Diseases

  1. As per the American Lung Association, smoking tobacco causes 90% of lung cancer deaths.
  2. Smoking increases cancer risk ~10-20x. Second-hand smoking increases cancer risk by 20-30%.
  3. A plant-based diet helps with the prevention and cure of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as well as Asthma.
  4. Broccoli reduces the harmful effect of DNA mutations in smokers.

3 – Brain diseases (Stroke and Alzheimer’s)

Stroke

  1. Sirtuin enzymes promote healthy aging and longevity. AGE (Advanced Glycation end products) are gerontotoxins cause Sirtuin suppression. Dairy and meat products top the list of AGE-containing food.
  2. 7-8 hours of sleep is best to avoid stroke. The risk increases both for those who sleep less and those who sleep more.
  3. Fiber-rich food decreases stroke risk. 7 gms more of Fiber leads to a 7% reduction in the risk.
  4. Greens, beans, and sweet potatoes are good sources of Potassium which cuts down the stroke risk. 1640 mg of Potassium lead to a 21% reduction in stroke risk.
  5. Citrus fruits like Orange contain Hesperidin which reduces the blood pressure and increases the blood flow. This not only helps reduce the stroke risk but can also help you feel warmer in cold weather.

Alzheimer’s

  1. Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the plaque deposition in the blood-supplying vessels to the brain leading to dementia. A gene ApoE4 produces a protein which carries cholesterol to the brain. 1 in 7 humans has a defective copy of this gene making them susceptible to Alzheimer’s. Genetically speaking, Nigerians should be most susceptible to Alzheimer’s due to the high rate of ApoE4 mutation. However, they have one of the lowest rates due to low consumption of animal fat. Similarly, rural India has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s due to a plant-based diet.
  2. Regular exercising improves cognitive abilities for those with Alzheimer’s.
  3. Saffron is the best cure and is as effective as leading drug Donepezil. This does not mean much since the leading drug is not very effective either.
  4. Cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, and Concord grape juice contains polyphenols which reduce cognitive decline in the elderly.

4 – Digestive Cancers

  1. Meat contains heme iron which the human body is bad at regulating. Excess iron build up leads to cancer and heart diseases.
  2. Animal fat consumption is positively correlated with pancreatic cancer. Plant-based fat is not.
  3. Smoking doubles the risk of Pancreatic cancer. Eating 50 gms of chicken daily increases the risk of Pancreatic cancer by 72%. The cause-effect relation is hard to establish in the chicken’s case but the hypothesis is that antibiotics and cancer viruses in Chicken are responsible for it. Chicken slaughterhouse workers have 9 times the risk of pancreatic cancer.
  4. Esophageal cancer is correlated with red meat and poultry consumption. Acid Reflux (GERD) increases the risk of Esophageal cancer as well. Vegetables, berries, apples, and citrus fruits are best to prevent this cancer. Strawberries cure Esophageal cancer.
  5. Inadequate intake of Fiber causes constipation and Hiatal Hernia. Fibers bind to toxins like Mercury and Lead eliminating them from our bodies.
  6. Phytates found in plant seeds (grains, nuts, and beans) reduce iron excess in the body. Otherwise, this iron forms free hydroxyl radicals. Phytates are as effective against Osteoporosis as the leading drug Fosamax but without the side-effects. A meat-based diet not only misses Phytates but also contains iron (heme).
  7. Nuts, seeds, and dry fruits are good sources of iron. Consuming Vitamin-C increases iron absorption.
  8. Due to Turmeric consumption, India has a much lower rate of colorectal cancer than the US.
  9. Consuming berries reduces rectal polyps.

5 – Infections

  1. Eggs lead to Salmonella poisoning. The most popular cooking method sunny-side up does not kill Salmonella.
  2. Properly cooking eggs or chicken can eliminate food poisoning risk but what happens is that between the time tainted produce is picked up from the store and slid into the oven, it has contaminated kitchen surfaces and utensils. Chicken preparation is the reason why kitchen sinks have more fecal bacteria than toilet seats in the US.
  3. Yersinia bacteria infection is tied to pork. And two-thirds of the pork samples tested by Consumer reports were infected. When sick, always cough or sneeze into the bent elbow to avoid infecting others.
  4. Fruits and vegetables boost the immune system.
  5. Blueberries and to an even greater extent Cardamom is antibody booster.
  6. Cruciferous vegetables like Broccoli boost immune system both against pathogens and pollutants like smoke. Some pollutants like dioxins are blocked not just by Broccoli but also by camel pee.
  7. Kale seems to be pretty promising in labs in antibody production but real-world studies have been limited.
  8. Garlic can be used for pneumonia since garlic gets absorbed in the bloodstream and that’s what leads to garlic breath as it is being exhaled from lungs.
  9. Fiber and beans are prebiotics, that is, what probiotics (good bacteria) eat. Eating prebiotics improves gut flora which in turn improves immunity.
  10. Regular Exercise improves the immune system and drastically reduces ailments like the common cold. Sustained exercise like marathon though hurts the immune system. For the athletes, Chlorella, green color algae, and nutritional yeast are recommended to boost the immune system.
  11. Eating Mushrooms boosts immunity by increasing IgA in saliva by 50%. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect on allergies.

6 – Diabetes

  1. Our Pancreas produces insulin, which along with glucose flows in the bloodstream. When insulin absorbed by insulin receptors, the cells open up to accept glucose. When insulin production is abnormally low, it leads to Type 1 diabetes. Exact causes are unknown but it is believed to be genetic. When insulin production is normal but the fat in the bloodstream interferes with insulin functioning, it causes Type 2 diabetes. High-fat diet, especially animal fat, is correlated to Type 2 diabetes.
  2. Trimming belly fat is the best way to treat Diabetes. Rather than starving yourself, eat more legumes to trim the belly fat since both are equally effective. The other advantage of the plant-based diet is that it is not as calorie rich as meat-based. Since the stretching of the stomach cells signal to the brain that the stomach is full, therefore, humans consume about the same volume of food but much lower calories on a plant-based diet.
  3. Hexachlorobenzene is believed to be an obesogenic chemical pollutant. Sardines and Salmons in supermarkets have found to be tainted with it.
  4. EPIC-PANACEA, a study in Europe, concluded that the same amount of calories consumed from meat leads to more weight gain than those from plants. The worst form of weight gained was caused by chicken meat.
  5. A study in Taiwan demonstrated that vegetarians have a 50-75% lower chance of diabetes than occasional fish and meat eaters.
  6. The human body produces Insulin-producing Beta cells until the age of 20. LDL cholesterol kills them.
  7. Whole grains like brown rice reduce Type 2 diabetes risk. Refined grains like white rice increase it.

7 –  High Blood Pressure

  1. Normal heart rate is 120/80, 120 is systolic when the heart is pushing and 80 is diastolic when the heart is resting.
  2. For 90% of the human history, we used to consume a low amount of salt and therefore body learned to conserve it. Now, when we consume excess salt, the body raises blood pressure to push the excess salt out. High Sodium reduces blood flow in the arteries. The effects can be overcome by consuming Vitamin C. American Heart Association recommends no more than 1500 mg a day (~3/4th of a teaspoon) of salt.
  3. Plant-based diet already contains salt. Avoid salty food and not adding salt to the food can cut down strokes by 22% and heart attacks by 16%. A study of Yanomamo Indians, living inside Amazon rainforest, with no salt intake, have 100/60 blood pressure, the same they infants are born with. Many patients with eye-popping blood pressure, also known as malignant hypertension, were cured by a rice-and-fruit only diet. In the US, vegetarians have repeatedly shown to have the lowest blood pressure. Even marathon runners who run 48 miles a week and are on standard American meat diet have a higher blood pressure than vegans.
  4. Meat companies add salt to the meat since that increases water retention and increase weight by ~20% for a little added cost.
  5. Biggest sources of Sodium in the USA – Pizza for kids, chicken for adults 20-50 years old, and bread for older than 50 years.
  6. When buying processed food, buy food whose serving size in grams > amount of salt in milligrams per serving size, for example, if serving size is 100 gms, buy it only if salt is less than 100 mg per serving size.
  7. Three portions of whole grains a day lower the blood pressure.
  8. Flaxseeds lower blood pressure.
  9. Wine, with the alcohol removed, lowers blood pressure.
  10. Watermelons lower blood pressure too but you have to eat two pounds a day.
  11. Hibiscus tea is best for lowering blood pressure.
  12. NO (Nitric Oxide) signals arteries to open up. Antioxidant-rich food like berries and dark chocolate boost Nitrate production. Beets and greens especially, Cilantro and Arugula are the best sources of nitrate.

8 – Liver Diseases

  1. Heavy alcohol consumption causes fatty liver which reduces its efficacy. Moderate alcohol consumption is good for the heart but increases cancer risk, the overall effect is life-prolonging only for those who are not taking good care of their health.
  2. The most common cause of liver problems though is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Sugar, animal fat and cholesterol cause NAFLD. One can of soda a day increases the risk of NAFLD by 45%. Meat fat causes NAFLD, plant fat does not.
  3. Hepatitis C is another major liver disease. Chlorella, green algae, seems work but the evidence is not thorough enough.
  4. Hepatitis E virus (HEV) comes from pork liver. Proper cooking while avoiding cross-contamination can prevent it. It is not deadly except for the pregnant woman.
  5. Oatmeal and coffee are good for the liver. Coffee has been effective against both liver cancer and hepatitis C.
  6. Berries, grapes, red onions, and plums are good sources of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins, which gives plants their purple, red, and blue color seems to work against fatty cell deposition in the liver.
  7. Cranberry, in a petri dish, has shown to be best for killing liver cancer. Don’t buy processed cranberries or juices, buy frozen ones instead.

9 – Blood Cancer (Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Myeloma)

  1. Leukemia happens when the bone marrow produces too many abnormal White Blood Cells (WBC) which crowd out the healthy ones.
  2. Lymphoma happens when lymphocytes, special WBC multiply too much and accumulate in lymph nodes. This impairs lymph nodes abilities to filter the blood.
  3. Myeloma happens when abnormal plasma cells, special WBCs which produce antibodies, are produced. They clog the kidneys.
  4. Even 50 gm of poultry consumption, most likely because of poultry viruses, is associated with increased risk of various blood cancers by 56-280%. That’s one reason why farmers and butchers have a high rate of blood cancer. Even butchers’ wives have a high rate of cervical cancer. The correlations are strong but the role of poultry viruses in causing human cancer is not established.
  5. Diet coke has been associated with an increased risk of blood cancer in some studies but the correlation didn’t show up in the follow-on ones.
  6. A plant-based diet is effective against blood cancer.
  7. Eat more Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Kale. Sulforaphane, in cruciferous vegetables, is pretty effective against cancer cells. And unlike Chemotherapy, it does not kill normal cells.
  8. Acai berries work on Leukemia cells in a petri dish. Relative ordering by antioxidants per dollar: purple cabbage > cinnamon > cloves > walnuts.
  9. Multiple myelomas are untreatable. 1% of precancerous conditions MGUS proceed to this. Curcumin found in Turmeric seems to be partially effective.

10 – Kidney Diseases

  1. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) degrades Kidneys over time leading to eventual failure. Only 41% of Americans seem to have normal Kidney function.
  2. Animal protein, animal fat, and cholesterol have been associated with kidney degradation.
  3. Animal protein causes inflammation and triggers hyperfiltration in Kidneys. Plant protein does not cause it. Animal Protein causes a higher risk of Kidney stones.
  4. Acid forming foods like meats, eggs, and cheese are responsible for Kidney damage. Base forming foods like fruits and vegetables are not.
  5. High Phosphorus consumption causes kidney and heart failure. Animal food contains readily absorbing phosphate while plant food contains phytate form of Phosphorus. Coca-cola and chicken contain Phosphate to enhance color. Europe has banned the practice of adding Phosphate to meat, the US has not. Don’t buy anything whose ingredients include pyrophosphate or sodium triphosphate.
  6. Meat contains more nitrosamines, a carcinogenic, then cigarettes. Eating one hot dog is equivalent to smoking 4 cigarettes worth of carcinogenic.
  7. Nitrates and Nitrites in plant food are good. But combined with amines and amides from the animal sources they become carcinogenic compounds.

11 – Breast Cancer

  1. Alcohol consumption leads to the production of Acetaldehyde, a carcinogen, which is associated with breast cancer.
  2. Higher cholesterol levels => faster breast cancer growth.
  3. Red wine or purple grapes suppress the activity of the enzyme Estrogen Synthase this suppresses breast cancer growth. Strawberries, Pomegranate, and white Mushrooms have the same effect as well.
  4. Blind women have half the risk of breast cancer due to higher Melatonin production. Working in late shifts decreases Melatonin production. Meat consumption and bad sleeping habits lower Melatonin production.
  5. Walking at least an hour a day is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.
  6. Eating Fiber decreases the risk of breast cancer.
  7. Apple peel turns on Maspin, a cancer suppressor which fights breast cancer.
  8. Sulforaphane, found in Broccoli, fights against breast cancer cells.
  9. Lignans are phytoestrogens which suppress estrogen. Flaxseeds have 100 times more Lignans than other foods. A daily spoon of Flaxseeds shortens the menstrual cycle by a day reducing estrogen exposure and the breast cancer risk. Flaxseeds also increase Endostatin levels which are a protein produced by the body to starve the tumor of the blood supply. Don’t eat ungrounded flaxseed or they may pass through the body without digestion.
  10. Soybeans contain isoflavones which is another class of phytoestrogens. Their intake has been correlated with a lower risk of breast cancer as well as fighting breast cancer.
  11. Eating Mushrooms and Green tea has been associated with lowering the risk of Breast cancer.

12 – Depression

  1. Mental health impacts physical health. Healthy people fall sick less often.
  2. Arachidonic acid increases the risk of depression. Eggs and chicken have it. The body produces this acid already for inflammation, you don’t need it from the diet.
  3. Depressed people have a high level of Monoamine Oxidase (MAO) enzyme in their brain. This enzyme eats neurotransmitters. Antidepressants boost neurotransmitters. Foods like Apples, Grapes, Onion, and Green Tea, clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg depress this enzyme.
  4. Exercise is an antidepressant.
  5. Sesame, Pumpkin, and Butternut Squash seeds are high in Tryptophan, the building block of Serotonin, are good at curing social anxiety and depression.
  6. Fruits and green leafy vegetables have a high amount of antioxidants and Folate which works against depression.
  7. Antidepressant pills, prescribed to 8% of the US population, are no better than placebo but have tons of side-effects like sexual dysfunction, long-term weight gain, and insomnia.
  8. Saffron is as good as Prozac, the leading drug, in terms of curing depression and with no side-effects. The leading drug itself, though, is not very effective. In this rare case, Saffron, the natural remedy is more expensive than the drug.

13 – Prostate Cancer

  1. Cow’s organic milk, in the petri dish, increases the growth of human prostate cancer cells by about 30%. While almond milk suppressed the growth of cancer cells by 30%.
  2. Milk consumption has been associated with a higher fracture rate in women and a higher mortality rate in both men and women.
  3. Egg consumption has been associated with a higher rate of prostate cancer. Choline, a compound found in high doses in eggs, is the cause here. Choline in eggs, like carnitine in meat, is converted to toxin trimethylamine. Carcinogens in chicken and Turkey are the worst.
  4. IGF-1, Insulin-like Growth Factor-1, promotes cell division which is good for children. Lack of it causes Laron Syndrome (Dwarfism). But for adults, it has been associated with cancer. Animal protein promotes it. Plant protein does not. Vegetarians consuming milk and eggs have the same risk of IGF-1 as the meat eaters. Only a reduction in animal protein helps.
  5. Blood taken from men on a couch potato diet killed 1-2% of cancer cells in a Petri dish. For men who exercise strenuously, their blood killed 2000% of cancer cells and blood of those who both exercise and eat a plant-based diet killed 4000% cancer cells.
  6. A plant-based diet not only prevents prostate cancer but also has been shown to put existing cancer into remission. Cruciferous vegetables are the best food to put cancer in remission.
  7. Lignans found in Flaxseed work on suppressing cancer as well.
  8. BPH or prostate enlargement cause trouble urinating and is common in men with aging. Onion and garlic lower the risk of BPH. Three tablespoons of Flaxseed a day have shown to be as effective as leading medicines, Flomax and Proscar, without any side-effects, in terms of curing BPH.

14 – Parkinson’s Disease

  1. Smoking is associated with a lower rate of Parkinson’s and that’s because of Nicotine. One can have the same effect by eating Tomatoes, Bell Peppers and other nightshade vegetables which contain trace amounts of Nicotine.
  2. Dairy consumption is strongly correlated with Parkinson’s. The underlying cause is not entirely clear. Either it is neurotoxins like DDT and PCB. Or it is milk sugar, Galactose. Or the fact that milk suppresses uric acid, an important antioxidant for the brain.
  3. Apples provide protection against Parkinson’s but only to men. Berries protect everyone.
  4. Coffee has shown to not only reduce but even cure effects of Parkinson’s.

15 – Iatrogenic (Medical interventions and mistakes)

  1. Doctors make tons of mistakes. Stay away from the hospital as long as you can.
  2. A chest CT scan ~ 700 cigarettes worth of cancer risk.
  3. For colon cancer detection, stool testing is as good as a colonoscopy but in the US, doctors push for a colonoscopy since they make money from it. If you are really going for it, take peppermint oil capsules since it relaxes the colon.

One Reply to “Book Summary: How not to die by Dr. Michael Greger”

  1. Thanks for writing all of this, it was quite helpful 🙂

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