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Convergence of Evidence

Profile of an editorial published by Dr. Dean Ornish in the American Journal of Cardiology describing the optimal diet and how simple choices can be as powerful as drugs and surgery.

December 29, 2010 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Credit goes to Dr. John Smith. Image thanks to U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Dr. Ornish published an editorial in the American Journal of Cardiology last year that I think really sums up where we are, describing a growing convergence of scientific evidence that an optimal diet is mostly plant based. Make sure it has nuts, soy, and fiber and you can drop your bad cholesterol as much as taking drugs every day for the rest of your life, but without the cost and without the side-effects. Save the country about $20 billion.
Of course most patients aren’t even given the plant-based option because of the patronizing belief among doctors that no one will actually do it. But in reality most people don’t want take the drugs. People hate the side effects. They don’t make you feel any better and it’s scary popping pills every day so you don’t keel over and die —people don’t even want to think about it. However, when people actually improve their diets … You actually feel so much better, so quickly, that it reframes the reason for making these changes from fear of dying, which usually is not sustainable, to joy of living, which often is.
And the diet doesn’t just help your cholesterol. Unlike the drugs, a plant-based diet can also prevent and treat diabetes, hypertension, obesity, prostate cancer, breast cancer, etc. Pills can’t do all that. And instead of being on a list of medications, one drug for this; one or two drugs for that, there’s not one diet for heart disease, another one for diabetes—a plant-based diet covers all the bases. Why? Because plant-based foods contain more than 100,000 different disease-preventing nutrients. Let me say that again 100,000 phytonutrients. Only found in plants.
You know blueberries have the anthocyanins for memory. Tomatoes are rich in the red pigment lycopene, which targets heart disease and cancer. Ginger’s got gingerols for hypertension, pomegranates have some totally different phytonutrients. And let’s never forget kale, the list, goes on and on.
And you can’t just take these phytonutrients in a pill. B-carotene pills may actually increase cancer risk, as opposed to the whole carrot, which may lower our risk. And you probably couldn’t swallow a hundred thousand pills a day anyway.
Then he talks about his work stopping and reversing the progression of even severe coronary artery disease. … Slowing, stopping, or reversing, cancer. Living and eating healthy actually changes you on a genetic level, upregulating disease-preventing genes and downregulating genes that promote breast cancer, prostate cancer, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Drugs can’t do that.
The bottom line: People tend to think of breakthroughs in medicine as new drugs, lasers, high-tech surgery, but they have a hard time believing that simple choices can be as powerful as drugs and surgery, but they often are. Sometimes, even better.
And I will leave you, on that note.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Also, there are 1,686 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

Also, be sure to check out my associated blog posts for more context: Breast Cancer and Diet, The last heart attack, Kiwi Fruit for Irritable Bowel SyndromeStool Size and Breast Cancer Risk, and Generic Lipitor is not the answer to our heart disease epidemic.

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Rebecca

    Thank you for this and the other videos! A Convergence of Evidence, yes. Like the index and all of it. Very nice.

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      Isn’t the index great? I couldn’t be happier with how the site turned out.

  • dilip

    Dr. Greger, thanks for launching such an invaluable resource! Yay! –Dilip

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      I’m glad you found it useful–please help me spread the word.

  • Eric Needs

    And what’s even more amazing is how no one know this… Spread the word!

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    The food and beverage industry spends billions of dollars every year marketing junk to us, to our children, contributing to the public’s confusion about basic, accepted nutrition principles. I’m glad to be one little voice trying to push out some science!

  • yummy

    Is Co-Q-10 necessary for heart health…if so, is ubiquinol so much better than ubiquinone? Or, is this just a lot of hype and another waste of money?

  • Marc Slavin

    Dr Greger: I had artery bypass surgery in 1997 and have a prescription for 40 mg. of lipitor to lower my cholesterol. Three months ago I went to a vegan no oil diet, and even though I cut the lipitor dose in half, I was pleased to learn that my cholesterol measured a mere 97. My LDL reading was also only 50 but my concern is that my HDL level was only a very low 27. Should I be concerned?

    • DrDons

      Congratulations on improving your diet and reducing your medication. You have made great strides in minimizing the chance of recurrent problems. I would not worry about the low HDL. HDL goes down with the other cholesterols when you adopt an improved diet… partly due to the reduction in a transport molecule in your blood so free HDL is not as low as you might assume. The levels of LDL and total cholesterol you report should allow you to further reduce or eliminate your statin. You need to continue to work with your physician(s). I would suggest reading Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s book on Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease… he also has a new DVD out but I haven’t had a chance to view it yet. I would also suggest you read Dr. McDougalls newletter article on Statins, and keep tuned to nutrtionfacts as the science and recommendations keep changing. Good luck.

  • wickedchicken

    Incredible info. It’s such a shame that this info is NOT given attention from the media. One would think newspapers and media would be ALL OVER it. Ground-breaking news that is too practical to make the cut???

    The thing is, vegetarian diets for lipid lowering advice… It’s not first line advice, as of yet anyway, and to suggest it as a healthcare professional, one can be seen as promoting their own lifestyle without sufficient guidelines to back you up. So, when will this get enough regognition to be used as a first-line Rx????


    We too long for the day that healthcare providers will have the majority voice on the optimal diet, but until then, we can have that one voice crying in the wilderness! Even one soul won will put out the word exponentially through their circle of influence, and so on and so on! One patient at a time. People still put a lot of stock on the word of a trusted physician, especially one who practices what he or she preaches. Physicians ought to promote what they have actually experienced. Their message will be that much more impactful.
    Walk your talk, talk your walk,

  • John Duda

    Dr. Gregor, could you please let us know where to find the interesting figure with phytonutrient compounds from different vegetables? I would love to use that when I talk to my patients about the benefits of a vegan diet. 

    • Michael Greger M.D.

       I’ve added the source above and placed the graphic in supplementary materials. Too bad we can’t squeeze all 10,000-or-so in :)

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Also be sure to check out my associated blog post Breast Cancer and Diet!

  • Julia LaCava

    Excellent lecture you gave at the Nat’l Animal Rights Conference!!  Thank you for all you do.  It is very frustrating when I suggest the benefits of a plant-based diet to people, only to hear them reply that their physician tells them to keep eating lean meats and dairy…end of story.  They are done listening to anything I have to say.

  • abeleehane

    B12 is not well absorbed, thus the larger pills. Since it is stored in the liver and there is no known detrimental effect for overdosing, you should be fine with the 1200mcg a few times a week .

  • Leah Stolar

    Dr. Greger, I had the pleasure of meeting you at Health Fest in Marshall, Tx and loved your presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and bought several CDs. I eat a low fat, whole food, plant-based diet but recently my total cholesterol and LDL shot up. A year ago I was at 183 and LDL of 101, not as good as I’d like, but as low as I think I can get. This week I retested and it was 225 and LDL 137, HDL 70. I exercise strenuously 30 minutes/day and my BMI is 21. I am 52 years old. So . . . I’m wondering what other factors are at play and whether stress is a factor. Have you reviewed literature on the relationship between cholesterol and stress?

    • Don Forrester MD

      I have the pleasure of taking care of patients at the McDougall Whole Foods program. One area you might look at is fruit and fructose consumption. Whereas “glucose” is our bodies fuel and burned by every cell in the body… “fructose” is only metabolized by the liver to uric acid, inflammatory aldehydes, triglycerides, cholesterol and glycogen. I have had several patients adjust their fruit consumption down or reduce consumption of recovery drinks or bars which might contain fructose. Even though your LDL is high your LDL/HDL ratio is good. As far as stress goes… it has been linked to a wide range of disorders… in my almost 40 years of practicing medicine I’ve been more impressed by the fact that when patients are under stress they eat and exercise differently. Keep up the good habits and stay tuned to As an athlete you might enjoy Scott Jurek’s book, Eat Run. He has recipes he uses for recovery.

  • judithv

    As a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient, I was hoping to find specific information regarding treatment in this video. I did not.
    I have followed a vegetarian diet for over 15 years, and a mostly plant based diet for the last three. Additionally I take multiple vitamins everyday, go to exercise classes at the gym 4 days a week and do not smoke, drink alcohol, coffee, tea or soft drinks. I still developed breast cancer. Stop telling people that this will not happen if they will only make better choices.

    • GreenLight

      I’m a vegan going on 6 months now. What I’ve garnered from all I’ve read is that it improves your odds against diseases. There are no gaurantees in life. No one here or anywhere has stated illness will not happen. I can tell you since I’ve changed my diet to entirely WFPB I feel so much better on so many levels. For one, I was borderline diabetic with very high cholesterol. Not anymore. That alone makes it worth it to me.
      I wish you well!

  • Maureen

    I have been listening to many of your videos and I´m always impressed and schoked as to why we don´t know so much more. Thank you, thank you, thank you…. What about juicing, which seems to be a new fad?

  • Aqiyl Aniys

    A plant based diet contains over 100,000 different disease preventing nutrients! I love it!

  • Karoline Müller

    I switched to a plant based diet nearly 3 years ago, lost 70 lbs and feel a lot better. One thing is still bothering me: I easily get cold. Right now I’m sitting in 80 degree F in shirt&shorts and feel comfortable. But at work, I’m wearing winter clothes and am still freezing. 2 weeks ago it hit me and I actually got a cold and sick. Any thing I could do?

    • Karoline Müller

      Additional info: I came to healthy eating listening to Dr. McDougall and then many more through his Advanced Study Weekends. I’m eating mostly whole plant and lately really ramped up my green leaves consumption. I’m easily constipated even on a whole plant diet. I’m now thankful for this near instant feedback.