Doctor's Note

For an explanation on how and why plant-based diets are an effective dietary methionine restriction strategy, see the last video Starving Cancer with Methionine Restriction.

For background on the free radical theory of disease, see Mitochondrial Theory of Aging.

Plant-based diets can also mimic other benefits of caloric restriction, such as improving levels of the "fountain of youth" hormone DHEA. See The Benefits of Caloric Restriction Without the Actual Restricting.

Americans Are Living Longer but Sicker Lives. That's why we need a diet and lifestyle that supports health and longevity. I have a whole presentation on the role diet can play in preventing, arresting and even reversing many of our top 15 killers: Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, one of my Top 10 Most Popular Videos of the Year.

I've touched previously on the irony that animal protein may be detrimental for the same reasons it's touted as superior in Higher Quality May Mean Higher Risk.

What other properties do magic beans have? See Beans and the Second Meal Effect. What about intestinal gas, though? Check out my blogBeans and Gas: Clearing the air.

For more context, check out my associated blog post: A Low Methionine Diet May Help Starve Cancer Cells and How Plant-Based Diets May Extend Our Lives.

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  • Mr.fungi

    Mushrooms are even better

  • T Colin
    Campbell’s book: Whole: Rethinking the science of nutrition explains why Dr
    Greger reports “The reason why
    plant-based diets are so protective is not known.”

    Nutrition is
    a wholistic idea and cannot be known by reductionist research.

    • Thea

      Calvin: I also thought of Campbell when I saw this (excellent) video.

      Here’s the part that got me (around 4:05): “The idea that the protective effect is not due to any vegetal food components, but to a synergistic (combined) effect is gaining acceptance…”

      This is what Campbell has been saying for *years*!!! And it makes perfect sense to me. It must be a huge relief for Campbell if his points are finally getting some notice.

  • Ronald Chavin

    The plant-based diet that Dr. Greger always recommends in his videos (high in legume protein and dried fruit sugars) greatly increases flatulence and is therefore not practical for most working class Americans. The Japanese in Japan, who typically must live in a room with only one-seventh of the living space that Americans occupy at home, have learned to eat foods that don’t cause anywhere near as much flatulence as Dr. Greger’s recommendations. The extremely healthy foods that the Japanese in Japan eat that don’t cause much flatulence include: natto (fermented whole soybeans), tofu (soybean curd with 90% of the fiber removed), edamame (baby whole soybeans with about half of the flatulence-causing raffinose bred out), unsweetened soymilk (fiber removed), green tea, fish, shellfish, brown seaweeds (wakame, kombu, arame, mozuku, and hijiki), red seaweeds (nori and ogo), mushrooms (fresh shiitake, dried shiitake, maitake, reishi, enokitake, buna-shimeji, bunapi-shimeji, hon-shimeji, hatake-shimeji, king oyster, nameko, hiratake, and matsutake), konnyaku slices (zero calories), shirataki noodles (zero calories), sukiyaki (uses shirataki noodles), brown rice, white rice, wholegrain buckwheat noodles, tomatoes, daikon (giant white turnips), and green vegetables. Strangely enough, rice is the only plant starch that does not cause flatulence:

    • M85

      I eat large quantities of beans and legumes in general and i have very little flatulence: i tend to digest them really well. I’ve heard some people say that legumes cause them flatulence but these are often meat eaters who eat them quite rarely, perhaps the human body gets used to them over time.

      • Tushar Mehta

        Me too – and i also know dozens of vegans who also eat so many legumes and have only some have gas issues. When it happens to me, a good probiotic helps. I choose one with over 10 billion CFU and over 10 different species. I bought a bottle a year ago and still have lots left since a single tab does the job – like hitting a reset button on the gut bacteria!

        • b00mer

          Me three! The only time I have issues is when I go off my usual diet, e.g. during travel (still vegan, but not as whole vegetable/grain/bean-based, and higher fat). During travel I’m fine, but when I get back to my usual diet, I’m off for a day or two. Healthy Librarian shared a study once showing that even just one day of high fat (high sugar too? don’t remember) eating severely disrupted the gut population.

          If anyone’s interested in gut population, the Healthy Librarian (she has a blog and is on fbook) is really into it and posts a lot of interesting studies.

          • cyndishisara

            I eat tons of beans and have no flatulence. As doctor Greger says your body has a fast learning curve when it comes to beans, we adopt fast!

          • b00mer

            I agree. My daily diet includes lots of beans and cruciferous vegetables and my gut bacteria are quite used to it. They only rebel when my diet changes and I’m eating *less* of these foods.

          • val

            Nor am I bothered by flatulence and I prepare a pot o’ beans every Sunday for the week ahead (OR lentils!)…I even will eat beans for breakfast when I want a savory change-up!

          • Judith Paterson

            Most likely it’ll be the sugar that is the ‘culprit’ here. It creates a fermentation effect.
            This is the issue with low fat diets. When fat is removed from foods, sugar is added to enhance the taste. Many studies have now shown that the studies showing fat is a problem in our diets were flawed.

          • b00mer

            Hi Judith, eating large amounts of refined sugars is undoubtedly unhealthy, however that’s not the issue with my situation. When I’m travelling and eating vegan takeout or restaurant food, the amount of refined sugar hardly changes, while the fat content drastically does. I am eating nothing close to a low fat diet when travelling. On my last trip I remember eating veggie burgers and fries, tofu stir fry, falafels and hummus, veggie plantain fajitas, etc, which would be both low fat and low sugar if cooked at home, but in a restaurant are either filled with or cooked in oil. Or both. The only change in simple carbohydrate consumption typically comes from a white bun or bread if I can’t get a whole grain option. It is pretty much impossible to find any vegan dessert while travelling, unless one finds a restaurant or cafe specializing in it, and deliberately alters travel plans to seek out the establishment.

            “This is the issue with low fat diets. When fat is removed from foods, sugar is added to enhance the taste.”

            This is simply not true in regards to those who eat whole foods plant based diets, which is the type of diet promoted on this website. This isn’t the Snackwell’s and pretzels “low fat” diet of yore. Refined sugars and grains and refined fats are excluded or minimized. Taste is “enhanced” by allowing the taste buds to become re-sensitized to the real flavors of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and spices, which occurs when one removes desensitizing and hyper-stimulating refined oils and sugars from the diet. I encourage you to study the recommendations of Greger, Novick, McDougall, Esselstyn, etc, to get a more accurate picture of what a whole foods low fat plant based diet really looks like.

            “Many studies have now shown that the studies showing fat is a problem in our diets were flawed.”

            A couple highly flawed recent studies have been used to popularize the myth that large amounts of fat in the diet is either harmless or beneficial, one being the Mediterranean vs “low fat” diet study of 2013, and the more recent “low fat” vs low carb study. You can read some excellent responses linked to below that detail the incredible incompetence of the researchers who performed those studies and the meaninglessness of the data collected.

            “Diet Research, Stuck in the Stone Age (a review of recent the low carb vs “low fat” study):

            “Does a Mediterranean Diet Really Beat a Low Fat Diet for Heart Health?”

        • Justin Goro

          I’ve gone back and forth on legumes. Everytime, the initial period is flatulent and then it flattens and normalizes.

    • Toxins

      Dr. Greger will cover flatulence of beans in one of his upcoming videos

    • Darryl

      The α-galactosides like raffinose responsible for flatuence also promote beneficial intestinal bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacilus. Given the short generation times and rapid adaptation of gut microbiota to habitual diet, feeding the good bacteria with resistant starches may be a good deal more effective than popping probiotic supplements.

      I found that when I first adopted a vegan diet almost 4 years ago, I indeed produced more gas and had bouts of diarrhea for almost a month, until my digestion and gut microbiota adapted. Thereafter its been smooth sailing, with little more gas than when I was an omnivore.

      Its also plausible that the lower sulfur content of many plant foods compared to animal foods could reduce intestinal production of hydrogen sulphide, dimethyl sulphide, and methyl mercaptan, the compounds most responsible for malodiferous flatuence. It seems opinions on the net markedly on this point, though.

      • Ashwin Patel

        Yes, commensal Bacteria are known to thrive on intestinal mucin which contains Sulphur. In view of this fact, is there any point in worrying about the Sulphur conten of Plant food or Animal protein?

        • sf_jeff

          So… Where does the intestinal mucin get its sulphur? Does this mean that the period of adjustment will be longer if your protein balance in your body is off?

    • Stephen Lucker Kelly

      What? I eat beans all the time and legumes and I rarely fart. I fart more after eating fats to be honest.

    • abstract

      Simply soak the beans/seeds/nuts over night and throw away the water. and u can even freeze them for later use. And remember to chew your food slowly.

  • Steven Christensen

    Doctor, I know this study is way to small to be remotely conclusive, but the results seem very interesting:

    I am interested in your thoughts about it.

  • Ashwin Patel

    Methionine is an essential Amino Acid. Just because it may be pro-oxidant does not mean we should restrict it in our diet. Oxygen is an Oxidant and may be the cause of ageing. Should we all stop breathing?

    • LP

      No, but we only need 21% oxygen, in higher concentrations the negative effects are amplified.

    • fargo_r

      Ashwin: Your logic is loose. These articles are about “restriction” not elimination of Methionine. Oxygen comes to us limited to 21% and there is little can do about that (other than live a very high altitude). Methionine comes to us in a great or lesser amount depending on what we eat. It may be essential…but we don’t need very much. More may be worse….just as more oxygen can be worse. Elimination of either is not good…or advised here.

      • ToBeAlive

        A little goes a long way
        #1: Brazil Nuts

        Methionine 100g Per cup (133g)Per ounce (28g)
        1124mg (154% RDI)1495mg (205% RDI)315mg (43% RDI)
        Other Nuts & Seeds High in Methionine (%RDI per ounce):
        Sesame Seeds (34%), Watermelon Seeds (32%), Pumpkin Seeds & Chia
        Seeds (23%), Sunflower Seeds (19%), Flaxseeds (14%), Pistachio Nuts
        (13%), and Cashew Nuts (11%).
        Click to see complete nutrition facts.

    • Youcef

      “The dose makes the poison” – Paracelsus, 16th century

  • Linda

    Thank you for this enlightening research video summary… I will pass the link for this on to those with cancer!

    Love your sense of humor… “Doctors can now bring their Lab to the lab… gives a whole new meaning to pet scan”! Too Funny!

  • Southlander

    Outstanding information. I’m slowly but surely going vegitarian. Don’t know if I’ll ever be vegan (72 years is a lot to make up for) but we’ll see what the future holds. Don and I CAN! :-))

    • Thea

      Southlander: I wanted to give you some encouragement.

      re: “slowly but surely”

      That’s the way to think of it. You are on a path. I just encourage you not to limit where you will end up. My parents are in their late sixties and early seventies. They went vegan about a year ago I think. For *years* my father swore that he would never go vegan. He wasn’t even vegetarian.

      I kept up a polite sharing of information, including Dr. Greger’s videos. And then both of them started to get some unpleasant health news. They finally got serious about eating a healthy diet. It has been really great for both of their healths. While they could do better about staying away from oils and processed grains (me too for that matter!), both of my parents’ health by several measures have significantly improved since they went vegan.

      So, you don’t have to go cold turkey. And you shouldn’t expect miracles. But I do encourage you to set your end goal to be as healthy as possible. Because I totally agree: You and Don CAN!!!

      • Southllander

        Thea, “Thank you” you so very, very much for your kinds words of support and encouragement. They are definitely appreciated. However, my battle is much larger than changing my diet. Check out my home page (Don S.) at Dr. Greger was, is and will continue to be a guiding force in our family. Don is my name and I CAN is an acronym. Again, “thank you”. Don and I CAN! :-))

      • Stewart

        Thea I know your post is old but still as relevant as ever. Your observation on sharing information, (“I kept up a polite sharing of information, including Dr. Greger’s videos. And then both of them started to get some unpleasant health news.” ) I believe to be very important. I come from a long line of preachers and sometimes have difficulty with preaching myself. I am getting better though.

        Frankly I think we have to look at the determinates of cultural formations of behavior. For some, it is the science of the matter and nothing else need be taken into account. Dr Greger saw his grandmother live thirty some years beyond her MD predicted death. Then he looks carefully at the science. I’m scientifically inclined but it was inflammatory arthritis that dictated that I take that science seriously. For most people, I believe it is the constant bombardment of “information” regardless of the source that will eventually win out. The more scientifically inclined will move faster than others.

        This site is extraordinarily important and the discussions here show a much higher scientific awareness than among the general population. I think the effects are growing and will eventually hit a tipping point when these nutrition facts are truly reflected on popular cooking and dietitian segments on television. I think we can look for something like a healthy menu index in the nation’s restaurants. A great mover of this may come when John Mackey moves Whole Foods Markets to offer a real range of healthy strictly plant based menu offering.

        In the meantime you have certainly given your parents a wonderful gift of better health. I think it is doubly strong because you did it in a form that is empowering though knowledge. It is also a good reminder to not preach. (I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs such a reminder…)

        • Thea

          Stewart: Well said. I appreciate the feedback and how eloquently you made your points.
          FYI: You aren’t the only one who needs reminders not to preach. I have to remind myself constantly and I don’t always listen to myself. ;-) But I make a mighty effort. Good for you for doing so also. All of our efforts together will help move our culture(s) to that all important tipping point.

  • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

    Are there any arguments against a whole food plant based diet? You feel better, you look better, you are more disease free, you smell better, you live longer and the food taste better. The bulk of evidence support a WFPD as the best diet for humans.

    • I know of no arguments against a whole food plant based diet. In my experience it is a journey and changing your behaviors from shopping, cooking and eating out in the world takes time. We also have to reorder our priorities to include setting aside time for our new nutritional behaviors and working on fitness… aerobics, strength, flexibility, balance and stability.

  • Ben

    It take prescribed fish oil. Am I swallowing “methionine bullets”?

    • Toxins

      Fish oil is an extremely concentrated source of pollutants. It is strongly advised against.

    • cyndishisara

      Anytime you extract a fat especially a poly unsaturated fatty acid (PUFAs) you have problems with oxidation. This is why whole foods are best.

  • fineartmarcella

    I am a raw vegan, I was told a few months back that raw beans are toxic, do you know if they are, and if they are, then are kidney, pinto, black beans ok if sprouted?

    • Toxins

      Beans contain many anti nutrients and protein inhibitors when consumed raw, sprouting does significantly reduce these chemicals.

      • Youcef

        @Toxins:disqus I know some people who practice that a bit dogmatically, and I don’t Dr. Greger posted on the benefots of sprouting. Would you have solid references to share to support the benefits of sprouting? Thanks.

  • Enola Knezevic

    The recommended intake of methionine + cysteine for me is 1 g a day. I track my nutrient intake with It’s impossible to get less than 100%. I usually get 1.2 g of methionine a day, and even more cysteine. That’s with a vegan, mostly whole food diet. My protein intake is usually 75 g a day, but even when I get only 45g of protein a day, I get way more methionine + cysteine than recommended.

    The famous life extensionist and calorie restrictor Michael Rae says that methionine restriction is impossible in humans, because plant foods (he is not a vegan, but avoids animal products) still contain too much methionine. He practices methionine moderation as well as cysteine moderation and leucine moderation.

    It would be awesome to be able to buy foods with methionine removed (at least for cancer patients), but I don’t expect it in near future.

    • Tobias Brown

      This seems to be an important point in this discuss which Dr Greger hasn’t tackled yet, or maybe I’ve missed something. If we at the beans and legumes that he recommends, it’s going to be very hard to have “low protein”, say 45 g for a 70 kilo person, and thus of methionine. I’ve been using Cronometer too and after a month set to lose 2 pounds per week (which, BTW, is too fast for me), that is, at a net calorie intake of 1400 calories per day, still my protein level is 66 grams (lost 8 pounds during this period down to 168 lbs). In the last week I tried reducing lentil consumption and protein averaged down only 3 points, with methionine remaining fixed at .8 grams. I would really like to see some commentary on this question. Oh yeah, once I resume eating at maintenance level, I expect protein to be up near 75 grams. I’m on a strict plant-based diet where I restrict nuts, seeds to only 1 oz per day, and when I eat lentils or peas, it’s 5 ounces.

    • Sharon

      Read Sabatini and his work on mTOR pathways…
      — dietary restriction of Methionine really had no impact unless augmented with a specific type drug.

      As usual, very few want to dig through the details.

  • dina

    Good morning,
    Me and my husband are on a daily basis eating brocolli, sesame seeds(in the form of tahini), and pumpkin seeds, in order to protect our selves from heart and cancer problems.
    Now by this new theory of methionine restriction, we will have to take the above mentioned food out of our lives?Is this true?
    Thanks in advance for you reply.

    • b00mer

      Hi dina,

      Methionine is an essential amino acid, meaning it is required that you ingest it, and also, that it is present in all natural whole foods. So 1) you do need to eat some, and 2) you couldn’t completely eliminate it even if you want to. The idea here is just to not go overboard on methionine (by eating animal products with extremely high amounts of it).

      To put things in perspective:

      An entire medium head of broccoli contains about 80 mg methionine, a Tbsp of tahini contains 90 mg, and a couple Tbsp of pumpkin seeds contains 100 mg. Even though these could possibly be higher values compared to other plant foods, compared to a serving of beef, chicken, or fish, which average closer to 1100-1600 mg, you can see that even these plant foods have relatively low amounts of it.

      As an average height, slim female, my daily requirement of methionine is 600 mg/day. I eat a WFPB diet, with plenty of vegetables including a LOT of broccoli (my favorite!), beans, whole grains, and usually some sunflower, sesame, or pumpkin seeds daily. With that I average only about 110% of my daily methionine requirement. I wouldn’t want to go below 100%, since it is essential, but I’m happy to be on the lower end. Contrast that with eating just a single chicken breast, *with nothing else*, and I would already by at about 250% of my daily requirement. You can use or the USDA food databases to track these things yourself if you would like.

      So while there are other issues at least involving seeds (omega-6 and overall fat content) to be aware of, I don’t think you should worry about methionine content. And definitely don’t cut back on the broccoli! :)

      • Tobias Brown

        Thank you for trying to flesh out this issue and for providing your details. Fellow Cronometer users.

  • lucidvu

    I’ve seen low methionine status in people eating omnivorous diets. There are various situations where repleting methionine has been beneficial. One example is with methylmercury exposure (MeHg).

    “In summary, our results show that Met(hionine) pre-treatment produces pronounced protection against the toxic effects induced by MeHg and/or the MeHg-Cys complex on mitochondrial function and cell viability. Consequently, this amino acid offers considerable promise as a potential agent for treating acute MeHg exposure.”

    Modulation of methylmercury uptake by methionine: prevention of mitochondrial dysfunction in rat liver slices by a mimicry mechanism.
    Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2011 Apr 1;252(1):28-35. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2011.01.010. Epub 2011 Jan 27.

    • Sharon

      Lab study…
      — try not to extrapolate to humans.

      • lucidvu

        I am not extrapolating a study to humans – that is your imagination. However, the original article posted here does do that – perhaps you are referring to that?

        As you can see, in my first paragraph I share my observations of lab markers of methionine status in people eating omnivorous diets – they can just as easily be low. Mere nutrient intake does not necessarily correlate with final nutritional status. I also have not yet seen lab markers of DNA damage consistently elevated in omnivorous humans (as is suggested in the original post here), and even the opposite.

        The main concern in the original post is that of oxidative stress. I am pointing out that methionine can also be protective of sources oxidative stress such as certain environmental pollutants. I have seen plenty of people benefit from increasing their methionine status.

        Reductionism is useful but for practical understanding we would do best to simultaneously consider the “whole” as much as possible. I also do not recommend being dismissive of any type of study – they are all useful. For a practical understanding we need all kinds of information, different methods of investigation, as well as deep consideration.

        I then give an example of that which is well known in human physiology (some protection from environmental pollutants). Finally I simply cite a study as food for thought. Where and what exactly do you see being extrapolated to humans?

  • goo

    Is S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) the same as Methionine? I’ve recently seen SAM-e advertised at Trader Joe’s as a remedy for depression, liver problems, joint pain and premature ejaculation. Are these claims supported by research? What are the potential side effects? Are there any food sources of SAM-e?

  • cris

    What are your thoughts on morning a plant that’s high in methionine but said to fight Cancer?

  • cris

    That’s moringa …not morning a below

  • narroway

    Thank God for Dr. Greger.

  • Patrick


    I wonder if Methionine can be found in all food rich
    in proteins, are there a higher rate of cancer patients in health clubs for
    instance, or people who eat a lot of protein rich food just to increase their
    muscle tissue…

  • DontGetIt

    Just to go off on a tangent, since everyone is talking beans and flatulence – what I’ve learned in my 1 1/2 years eating vlf vegan is that if I chew my food a lot more thoroughly then I did before the change in diet it greatly reduces the problem. Chewing apples, and beans, and anything with an outer husk gives the small intestine a chance to digest much more efficiently, and therefore less food to ferment and cause issues in the big intestine. My theory, anyway…

  • DL Stephens

    OK, then…should I keep or toss out the $4.00 bottle of BRAGG’ Liquid Aminos All Purpose Seasoning I just bought that has methionine in it? HELP, please, I don’t want to fuel cancer cell growth!!!

  • Stephen Lucker Kelly

    What is classed as low? 0.5g? Lower?

  • Tobias Brown

    Even when I cut out bean and lentils from my strict plant-based diet (limited to 1 oz of seeds per day plus a teaspoon of ground flax) my total protein intake remains close to 70 grams (65-67), and this during my weight-cutting effort where my total daily intake is restricted to 1900 calories. So, I don’t see how plant-based can be adapted to the level of 40-50 grams of protein per day, especially while consuming bean and/or lentils, even at modest amounts. What would this type of diet look like? Does anyone here have their protein intake this low? What does your diet consist of?

    • Mark

      Theraputically low methionine levels should only really be sought by those with active cancer. For those of us without known cancer, a well designed WFPB diet will be sufficiently low in methionine to reduce cancer incidence, and the beans also have phytic acid and other potent anti-cancer phytochemicals that will help prevent cancer.

      A temporary pure fruit and (low protein) vegetable diet may be effective for those with active cancer issues to affect extreme methionine restriction (and a high antioxidant/phtochemical load relative to calories consumed, which should be beneficial in your body’s fight against cancer cells.)

  • Vladimir

    And what about the Methionine in protein shake? Good or bad compare to meat intake?

    • Mark

      Less damaging than meat (depending on the composition of the shake) but still damaging to your body, and completely unnecessary.

      Insufficient protein is not an issue in virtually any diet imaginable, excessive protein usually is.

  • sf_jeff

    So… methionine is bad for you, glutathione is really good for you, and methionine and cysteine are constituents of glutathione…

    Does this just mean that moderate methionine restriction is good but extreme methionine restriction is bad?

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Yes, I think so. Methionine is still an essential amino acid so we need a certain amount. Here are some protein recommendations. In the last link of this blog Dr. Greger mentions how plant protein is preferable.The tradition Okinawan diet is only about 10% protein, so perhaps the lower end of that range (10-35%) is preferred. The low end of protein recommendations are between 0.8-0.9g/kg for adults. After 65 years old, based on this study, I would suggest bumping that number up a bit.

  • Noe Marcial

    What about the roll of methionine in artrosis, i saw many articles recommending high protein intake specially methionine and lysine to protect the joins and the production of collagen. with is the best way to produce collagen for a healthy joins?

  • Kathleen Dargan

    Having read a few of the responses below– but not all– regarding flatulence associated with eating beans, I’m not sure if anyone mentioned chewing. I have found that the more I chew before swallowing, the less chance of flatulence. Somewhere along my life journey I learned the importance of chewing. I was told a minimum of 20 “chews” per bite, but 30 is better. Chewing is the first step in digestion. So for those who tend to gulp their food with only a few short chews per bite, they will most likely suffer from flatulence.

  • maccloepfil

    In your listing of foods and their methionine levels you list wild rice
    as having .011g in the dry state. What if any difference is there in the cooked or
    sprouted wild rice? I am fighting cancer and am keeping my methionine levels low
    so this type of info is really important. By the way, my numbers have not changed since my diagnosis. Which is great, since they said it was aggressive.

  • What about the fermenting of these plant based foods that raises methionine levels. Would this be a concern?

  • Hendrik

    Actually, Brazil nuts and sesame seeds have methionine content far exceeding that of most meats (by weight), see the link at:

    So even in a fully vegan diet one needs to avoid some foods if you want to restrict methionine intake.