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

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

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

Salient Points

  1. Major killers in the 1900s USA were Pneumonia, TB,  and Diarrhea which are pathogen based while major killers in the 2000s are heart diseases, cancer, and lung diseases which 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 in every cell division. So, the 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 that helps in growing Telomerase, an enzyme that helps in regrowing Telomeres.
  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 in odds of Diabetes, and 231% increase in odds of weight gain. India, despite a low increase in per-capita meat consumption, is facing a 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 a 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 an 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 the “eat more veggies” message but not the “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 that has only a 5% chance of success. Big pharma spends a lot on advertisements. They advertise drugs, not diet changes. Drugs make money for them, but diet changes do not.
  7. Washing vegetables remove 50% of pesticides. Washing in 5% vinegar (expensive) or 10% salt water (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

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Book summary: Why Nations Fail

Why Nations Fail

The book is a good read on why some nations are rich today while others are poor. While the book Breakout Nations provides useful information on the current situation in many countries, Why Nations Fail offers valuable historical lessons on critical aspects of economy and politics that have shaped countries around the world. The theme of this book includes:


  1. Inclusive vs. Extractive Economic and Political Institutions
  2. The Myth of Geography/Culture
  3. Path-dependence of the Past
  4. Centralization of Power
  5. Creative Destruction
  6. Critical Junctures
  7. Defending Prosperity

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Book summary: Skin in the game by Nassim Nicolas Taleb

Skin in the game

  1. Skin in the game creates a diversity of beliefs and ideas, for example, restaurant businesses. Lack of it creates a monoculture, for example, journalism.
  2. Skin in the game comes with a conflict of interest. For example, a shareholder is more inclined to say positive things about the company, whose shares he holds. Even then, skin in the game is preferable over no skin in the game. A lack of skin in the game, usually, produces a monoculture of beliefs.
  3. Bureaucrats, with no skin the game, usually make the problems worse by deciding things from the top.
  4. Beware of “good” advice where you will get both the good and the adverse outcomes of that advice while the advice-giver will only get a good result.
  5. Metrics puts one’s skin in the wrong game. For example, a doctor who has to optimize for a five-year survival rate of a cancer patient might go for radiation therapy as opposed to laser surgery even though radiation therapy has worse 20-year survival rates.
  6. Pilots have more skin in the game than surgeons. If a plane has a 98% chance of surviving a flight, then all pilots would have been dead for now, while medical science can operate with a much lower survival rate since skin in the game is primarily of the patients and much lower of surgeons.
  7. An academic experiment where one is supposed to wager a bet and hypothetically believe in a specific scenario is devoid of real risk and hence devoid of skin in the game.
  8. Academia, when left unchecked, for the lack of skin in the game, evolves into a ritualistic self-referential publishing game.

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