Doctor's Note

Today starts a three-week video series on the elegant sequence of experiments I highlighted in Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, but didn’t have time to fully explore. So, I’m so excited to finally be able to go more in depth. If you don’t recognize the name Pritikin, my video, Engineering a Cure, might help. I first touched on these experiments in Slowing the Growth of Cancer, and Cancer Reversal Through Diet. But because Cancer Prevention and Treatment May Be the Same Thing, these findings are relevant for everyone. I’ve got an ever-growing collection of videos on cancer, including dozens specifically on cancer survival, as well videos on over two thousand other topics.

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: Top 10 Most Popular Videos of the YearCancer-Proofing Your BodyHow Do Plant-Based Diets Fight Cancer?Vegan Men: More Testosterone But Less CancerHow Much Soy Is Too Much?Increasing Muscle Strength with FenugreekPlant-Based Diets for Rheumatoid ArthritisApple Peels Turn On Anticancer GenesFlax Seeds for Prostate Cancer; and Strawberries Can Reverse Cancer Progression.

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  • Today starts a three-week video series on the elegant sequence of experiments I highlighted in Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, but didn’t have time to fully explore, so I’m so excited to finally be able to go more in depth. If you don’t recognize the name Pritikin, yesterday’s video-of-the-day “prequel” might help. I first touched on these experiments in Slowing the Growth of Cancer and Cancer Reversal Through Diet, but because Cancer Prevention and Treatment May Be the Same Thing, these findings are relevant for everyone. I’ve got more than a hundred videos on cancer, including 15 specifically for cancer survivors, and videos on a thousand other things.

    If you haven’t yet, please feel free to subscribe to my videos (for free, of course, just like everything on this site has been and always will be) by clicking here.

  • Thanks for this information!! Be back tomorrow for more health news. 

  • idan

    Their plant based diet was not vegan – It’s a good theory but i would be more interested to see long term vegan diet effect vs other meat eaters control.

    It may give better results and it may be worse but will give a better picture.

    • jojo

      As long as they are eliminating oils and refined vegetable fats, vegans are medially healthier than there meat eating counterparts. Dr. T. Collin Campbell wrote about it in “The China Study”.
      The overall idea is that the body is more acidic when eating animal
      protein, and more alkaline when eating plants. The more acidic the body,
      the faster rates of degeneration. His study was done over a few
      decades, with tens of thousands of people who are genetically the same. Also Dr. Otto Heinrich Warburg discovered that cancer grows in blood that is acidic, and receive a Nobel Prize in 1931. B12 is the only thing missing from plants we eat simply because we get them from bacterial fermentation. Since we thoroughly wash plants, and other animals don’t, we literally wash that vitamin away.

  • BPCveg

    For those who are serious students of nutriton, please note that the bar above Figure 2 at 0:41 of this video that states “vegan” was not in the original paper and the actual experimental group used a whopping 3 grams of fish oil daily, among many other lifestyle changes. Reproduced from Ornish’s paper:

    “Experimental group patients were prescribed an intensive lifestyle program that included a vegan diet supplemented with soy (1 daily serving of tofu plus 58 gm of a fortified soy protein powdered beverage), fish oil (3 gm daily), vitamin E (400 IU daily), selenium (200 mcg daily) and vitamin C (2 gm daily), moderate aerobic exercise (walking 30 minutes 6 days weekly), stress management techniques (gentle yoga based stretching, breathing, meditation, imagery and progressive relaxation for total of 60 minutes daily) and participation in a 1-hour support group once weekly to enhance adherence to the intervention.10 The diet was predominantly fruits, vegetables, whole grains (complex carbohydrates), legumes and soy products, low in simple carbohydrates and with approximately 10% of calories from fat.”

    So to be perfectly honest, the differences could have been due to the fish oil, the yoga, the meditation, the moderate aerobic exercise.  Yet we don’t come away from this video even considering those effects.

    • Veganrunner


      Dr. Barnard was my professor. Very cool!

      But here is my thinking on this–this is a nutrition website, we should all know the importance exercise and stress management plays and the sources are always listed for anyone to read.

      I really don’t think Dr. Greger is trying to be sneaky.

    • Thea

       BPCveg:  I’m torn on the issue and see value both ways.  My opinion is that Dr. Greger has to walk a line between making sure that he presents the information as clearly and simply as possible while at the same time, not having the information be essentially misleading.  I’m not sure if I think that leaving out the fish oil, etc. is misleading or not.  As I say, I see it both ways right now.

      But what I really wanted to point out is that tomorrow’s video is titled, “Is it the diet, the exercise, or both?”  So, while Dr. Greger may not end up addressing all of your points, he may end up eventually addressing at least some of them.  It may just be too hard to get all the points mentioned up-front in a single short video when dealing with a complicated topic like this.

      • BPCveg

        Thea: Let’s not grant Dr. Greger more poetic licence than he deserves.

        “Vegan” has a clearly defined meaning and is not for him to redefine.

        Furthermore, he implictly defined the term “whole foods plant-based diet” as well as simple variations on this term, when he stated [on his optimum nutrition recommendations page]:

        “The balance of scientific evidence suggests that the healthiest way to eat is a vitamin B12-fortified diet of whole plant foods. For optimum nutrition, we should be sure to include in our daily diet not only an array of whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruit, and as many vegetables as we can eat, but also specifically dark green leafy vegetables, berries, and white (or green) tea.”

        To keep from misleading people he must, therefore, use these terms consistently.

        • Thea

           BPCveg:  I understand your point, and I agree with you to a large degree.  Just for the sake of making my opinion more clear:

          Consider this situation:  “John” calls himself vegan and considers himself vegan.  However, John has a hard time swallowing pills.  In order to take vitamin D supplements, which he needs, he chews a gummy vitamin D.  This gummy vitamin has gelatin in it, which is certainly not vegan.  But other than that one pill, he does not consume any animal products.

          Even though I know that John does not fit the technical term of being vegan and even though I know that others might strongly reject John’s self-labeling, I actually would agree with John and call him a vegan.  For all intents and purposes, I believe the term applies. 

          Is fish oil supplements/tablets the only animal products eaten by people on this study?  If so, it’s still not clear to me whether I would consider it to be a vegan diet.  There is a big difference in my opinion between a pill containing gelatin and a pill containing fish oil.  Perhaps fish oil crosses the line.  That said, I could see a case being made for calling it a vegan diet if the only animal products eaten by the study subjects were the pills.

          All of the above text is addressing your comment about the word ‘vegan’.  As for the part about quoting Dr. Greger’s optimal nutrition recommendations:  I don’t see how that applies to this discussion.   Dr. Greger’s statement says that he believes that the “balance of evidence suggests…”  A study that is both high-fiber and low-fat would be consistent with eating a whole plant food based diet.  If this were the *only* study considered, one would not be able to make that claim.  But since we are looking at the balance of evidence, I’m totally comfortable with the idea that this study supports Dr. Greger’s optimal nutrition recommendations.

          • BPCveg

            Thea: Since we are doing thought experiments, let’s try to look at this from the perspective of someone who has grown up as an omnivore and is considering switching to veganism purely based on health considerations. Presumably that person is the target audience of this website.
            They come to this page and see a caption that has both plant and vegan in it and listen to a 3 minute video that mentions vegan 3 times and plant 5 times. 

            Then they look up the source articles and find that the first article by Barnard used milk, fish and chicken and the second article by Ornish uses fish. Furthermore, both articles deal with complex lifestyle changes that include more than just nutrition.

            Based on what that person reads, I have full confidence that they will dismiss this website as pure vegan propaganda. 

            Let’s not forget that user named something like “Sofie” who cancelled her registration to this website in disgust when she felt that eggs were frivolously being compared with smoking 10 cigarettes a day. This person was making a genuine effort to improve her diet. She was looking for a reasonable analysis of nutrition and was deeply dissapointed by this website. Her departure was a shame as there are so many benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables and Dr. Greger has produced far better videos than this one or the one on eggs and smoking.

            If Dr. Greger gave a more nuanced description of scientific articles (e.g. if a diet is lacto-ovo vegetarian than he should state it!  if they fish supplements are used then say that!), this would go a lot farther toward convincing the general public.

        • Leah

           Some people believe that a whole foods plant based diet (as defined by T Collin Campbell) allows for small amounts of fish. Vegan promotes no fish at all. Both terms were used.

        • Julia Goryun

           Thank you for commenting!

        • Lew Payne

          I agree with you, VegAtHeart. There is no healthy line of reasoning that can contradict what you just stated. I, too, believe it is a significant event when a standardized term is used improperly, especially in health and medical subjects. This is not the first time I have seen Dr. Greger reach conclusions not supported by the very same evidence he’s presenting! As a result, I don’t take his conclusions as verbatim anymore. If it’s significant enough, I do the research myself and learn the actual facts.

    • Jim Scotto

      We can take fish oil or go right to the source – the foods that fish eat, which can be found in vegan DHA.

    • R Ian Flett

      These other dietary supplements are quite large, even mega, in regard to selenium, vitamin C, fish oil and soy protein. They cannot be simply ignored as variables and veganism take all the credit.

      The paper’s discussion also states:
      “However, 2 recent articles failed to show any effect of a diet low in fat and high in fiber, fruits and vegetables on PSA after 4 years in men who did not have prostate cancer, perhaps because the diet was not as low in fat and did not include exercise or stress management.”

      The paper is also 7 years old and a lot of research on this issue since then does not support such a strong inverse link between veganism and cancer.
      It may be more important in what you move away from in the Western processed diet, than what you move towards.
      Having said that, I’m still sticking to a predominately plant based diet.

      The soy protein supplement is interesting in the light of recent studies showing that whey protein is a glutathione precursor, hence promoting a master antioxidant. I’d like to hear more about the differences between whey and soy proteins in this regard.

    • DT

      Just to add to your comment:
      1. The diet in the Barnard paper wasn’t vegan either:
      “Fifteen to 20% of the calories were from protein, primarily from a plant source, two servings of nonfat milk, and no more than 3.5 oz of fish or fowl.”
      2. The intervention in the Barnard paper also included exercised
      3. In both experiments, the subject were overweight/obese, and they lost weight during the intervention.

      It is impossible to conclude from neither experiment that the results are due to avoidance of animal food. If someone wants to show that, he should design a randomized controlled trial in which the control and intervention group have the EXACT SAME diet except for the animal food, and no other lifestyle changes should be performed.

      • BPCveg

        Good call. Neither of the sources cited deal with a vegetarian diet and yet the whole video speaks of vegan and plant-based diets.

      • Julia Goryun

        I hope Dr Greger will be more accurate in the future and I will read comments before I repost something because it’s really embarrassing if I try to make people believe something that is not entirely correct…

        And I hope there will be more research on vegans and plant based diets..

    • Inherent in these studies, when all variables are the SAME except for diet, the results demonstrate that a vegan diet does provide significant protection against cancer and other chronic illnesses.

    • tid

      hy! Please, could you tell us where did you get this information, I would like to look into that. thank you !

    • Syd Baumel

      So could that added 3 grams per day of fish oil have had anything to do with the observed effect? Dr. Google says yes: . The good news for vegans is that eating plenty of omega 3-rich plant foods and/or supplementing with plant-based long chain omega-3s might afford the same benefit (e.g. see also, assuming the research wasn’t a fluke or the other lifestyle changes were responsible.

  • Billig

    When I think of helpful ways nutrients can affect cancer, I think of nutrients triggering gene expression, turning on cancer supressor genes or turning off cancer promoter genes.  Is that what is happening; our blood is carrying the products of those genes, a natural, continuous chemotherapy?

  • Doyouknowme

    This is very misleading.  “Plant based diet” does not indicate what the actual consumption is.  Could be chips and non-dairy ice cream.  Certain plant foods are rich in cancer fighting nutrients, like antioxidants, it’s true, but if you’re not eating those specifically, and reducing all consumption of sugars, especially processed, and limiting soy to as close to the plant as possible, 90% or so organic, and cutting out all toxic chemicals, not smoking cigarettes, exercising, etc., “vegan” diet alone will not prevent nor fight cancer.

    I know.  I’m a vegan with cancer.  

    • bruxe

      Sorry you have cancer, and I hope you got over it. That’s a good point. One might assume wrongly that if they were going to control for this they might verify that the diet was sane …. but maybe not. Do you feel you ate a lot of chips, ice cream, junk food stuff? Did you change your diet?

    • Renee Bornfreund

      In my humble opinion, the biggest difference between a vegan and someone who eats a plant based diet is that a vegan doesnt eat animal products for ethical reasons and plant based or Nutritarian’s for health reasons. Technically, a vegan can eat sugar and processed foods, whereas a Nutritarian would not. Playing who is more vegan is subjective.

      Dr. Otto Warburg identified a correlation between an acidic environment and cancer cell growth. The standard American diet tends to create an over acidic environment in the body. Both vegan and plant based diets tend to balance an overly acidic body, thus validating the study.

  • Rainbowocean

    I did notice that the study included “exercise” in the title.  Then after replaying and reading the part of the article that was visible.  I am a vegan woman that eats lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains and beans etc…, but I will admit I rarely exercise.  This is something that he did not mention about the study.

  • Ron

    I am confused by the conflicting information about is it good or bad to be a vegy, such as: 
    mfordebate/2012/04/17/is-veganism-good-for-everyone/meat-is-brain-foodCan someone help me? 

    • Thea

       Ron:  There is a ton of conflicting and confusing information out there.  So, it is no surprise that many people are confused.  I believe all of that confusion would go away if you would read the book: The China Study.  Then watch the movie Forks Over Knives (available in many libraries or cheaply on Amazon).  Then watch more videos from Dr. Greger on this site, and you will be set. 

      One thing that will not clear up your confusion is looking at all of the information out there and treating it all as equally valid.  Anyone can write up anything they want.  And many studies get published which are not as valid as you would expect.  At some point, you have to pick a set of experts who you believe are the real-deal and then look at their body of work. (Unless you are an expert yourself.  In which case, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.)  The list I gave you above (China Study, etc.) would be a great set of experts for you to start with.

      Good luck.

      • R Ian Flett

        You may need to choose your experts more carefully.
        The China Study has been seriously called into question for cherry-picking. The film “Forks over Knives” has many flaws despite probably being on the right general track.

        Anyway, a follow-up study to this topic’s Ornish. et al. paper two years later, using the same total lifestyle change regime, showed that it was effective in relation to delaying prostate cancer treatment. 

        This lifestyle change regime seems to work well, but what is the relative importance of its components of lifestyle change? Choose your prejudice. This is like the Mediterranean Diet and the French Paradox. We know that they work at the gross, statistical, epidemiological level, but we really don’t know why yet.

        • Eliza

          What about the 100% grassfed meat and wild salmon? I had heard from a well-respected cancer specialist that really exercising on a nearly daily basis was what had been shown to reduce a cancer reoccurrence rate. He was referring to a study but I do not know which one. I think that it is time for Americans to look at the quality of the air and water being provided, and the actual quality of the food in general, meat especially, but also pesticide laden and GMO vegetables (banned in most industrialized countries, but not here or in Canada). While everyone is quibbling over meat vs. vegan, the access to REAL quality food is becoming more and more limited. Almost impossible in fact, even in large cities and at high prices. I believe the issue is how much junk are people consuming vs. quality food. Let’s pay attention to the information going out with all of this in mind. 

          • Thea

            Eliza: re: “the access to REAL quality food is becoming more and more limited.”  Wow.  That’s not my experience at all.  Getting organic beans, rice, tofu, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds is easy-smeezy even in my town.  In fact, I’ve been to several cities and had no problems getting real, quality food at affordable prices.

            Toxins has answered the question about grassfed meat etc.  I would not be able to do the question justice.  But I bet you could find the answer snooping around on some more videos.  The bottom line is: The evidence seems to indicate that your best chance at health would be to limit or (perhaps best of all) remove those foods from your diet.  They are not significantly better for your health than their factory-farmed counter parts.

            Concerning the question of quality air, water, and soil, I agree that that those are problems we desperately need to address.  The question is, **how much** do those problems impact our health right now?  The experts I respect believe that diet is the main factor impacting our health.  Not the only factor, but the main one.  IE: That even with today’s levels of bad air, water, etc, you can dramatically improve your long-term health with a whole plant-foods based diet.

            All of which is to say: It’s not about quibbling over some side issue re meat vs plants.  It is the root of the issue.

            Good luck.

        • Thea

           R lan Flett:  I have spent some time studying the criticisms of the China Study.  I found them to be easily dismissible and often times illogical.  Just because someone calls something into question does not mean that there is a legitimate question to be called. 

          You are right that the key to trying to learn about nutrition is to choose one’s experts carefully.  After what I consider to be significant research, I believe I’ve got it nailed.  :-)

  • Can you please make a transcription of your speaking? Since I want to share your videos with translation.

  • Leah

    what I find interesting is that the two cancers discussed are considered diseases of affluence in many studies. New research is coming out pointing to too much fat/protein (which is what makes up meat) and too many calories as well as the wrong foods — low nutrition foods– that are causing increases of these cancers, esp prostate.

    Everything that’s mentioned in the study, including working out, are about lessening the calories and adding food that provide more nutrients and less fat.

    So interesting and so wonderful that people are talking about it! I wonder if these lifestyle changes also lessen toxic foods as well. As a Cancer Support Educator, I focus lots of time on lowering daily toxicity and upping good nutrition on my site Working out is also a big stress relief as well… all of these things must work together to fight cancer, don’t you think? it was an entire lifestyle change… so very interesting!   

  • Shame that doesn’t work out for everyone … Steve Jobs, Linda McCartney. R.I.P.

  • And please understand that regardless of health impacts, animal agriculture is responsible for over half of all environmental destruction, and all farmed animals are greatly exploited then brutally murdered. Veganism is about much more than diet – it is about living in the most compassionate, responsible ways.

  • Noah

    Where can I find the paper that these finding were taken from?

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