Doctor's Note

I’ve previously mentioned Dr. Barnard’s work with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Physician-Assisted Suicide? When Doctors Give Nutrition AdviceDietary Guideline Graphics: From the Food Pyramid to My Plate, Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate, and PCRM’s Power PlateWisconsin Milk Marketing Board accused of making illegally deceptive claimsPaula Deen: Diabetes Drug SpokespersonAtkins Diet: Trouble Keeping It Up; and How To Treat Diabetes. That paper about resolving the heart disease epidemic for good was written by another of my heroes, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, who I’ve mentioned in China Study on Sudden Cardiac Death and The Tomato Effect. In addition, I have dozens of videos and blog posts profiling Dr. Dean Ornish’s work—which was instrumental in changing my own diet 22 years ago. Next, I’ll start the Pritikin IGF-1 saga featured in Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death—I can’t wait!

For further context, be sure to check out my associated blog posts: Plant-Based Workplace Intervention and Diet and Cellulite.

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  • I’ve previously mentioned Dr. Barnard’s work with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Physician-Assisted Suicide? When Doctors Give Nutrition Advice, Dietary Guideline Graphics: From the Food Pyramid to My Plate, Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate, and PCRM’s Power Plate, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board Accused of Making Illegally Deceptive Claims, Paula Deen: Diabetes Drug Spokesperson, Atkins Diet: Trouble Keeping It Up, and How To Treat Diabetes. That paper about resolving the heart disease epidemic for good was written by another of my heroes, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, who I’ve mentioned in China Study on Sudden Cardiac Death and The Tomato Effect. In addition, I have a half dozen articles profiling Dr. Dean Ornish’s work, which was instrumental in changing my own diet 22 years ago. On Monday I’ll start the Pritikin IGF-1 saga featured in Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death—I can’t wait!

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

    • Coacervate

      When you’ve got suction cups on your fingers and toes you don’t have to exercise.  Its a workout just hanging out on the window. The hard part was keeping them off the arthropods.  Mmmm

  • How exciting! Maybe this will get some publicity. I’ve seen Dr. Barnard get some press occasionally; this study would be great to get out there since most people have heard of Geico.

  • BPCveg

    I am not sure why you always cite Ornish as he does not test a vegan diet at all. Taken from your cited paper (pg.2, paragraph 9), ‘Can Lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease?’ :

    ” Experimental-group patients were asked to eat a low-fat vegetarian diet for at least a year. The diet included fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and soybean products without caloric restriction. Some take-home meals were provided for those who wanted them. No animal products were allowed except egg white and one cup per day of non-fat milk or yoghurt. The diet contained approximately 10% of calories as fat (polyunsaturated/saturatedratio greater than 1), 15-20% protein, and 70-75%predominantly complex carbohydrates. Cholesterol intake was limited to 5 mg/day or less. Salt was restricted only for hypertensive patients. Caffeine was eliminated, and alcohol was limited to no more than 2 units per day (alcohol
    was excluded for anyone with a history of alcoholism, and no one was encouraged
    to drink). The diet was nutritionally adequate and met the recommended daily
    allowances for all nutrients except vitamin B12’ which was supplemented.”ch was supplemented.

    • Veganrunner

      Hi BCCveg,

      Should we just ignore the data/research if it is not vegan? There are many a good health practitioners who advocate plant based diets and still will say “if needed” eat occasional free-range, grass fed.

      If the data demonstrates health benefits it is hard to argue unless one is vegan for animal cruelty reason.

      What do you think?

      • BPCveg

        Hi Veganrunner,

        My concern is that Dr. Greger’s video is misrepresenting Dr. Ornish’s study.  In ‘Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary artery disease’, Dr. Ornish was using an experimental diet that included animal products (eggs and milk), yet Dr. Greger’s video doesn’t even mention that. Instead he only focusses on the plant based aspects of the study.

        In another video (i.e. ‘Research into Reversing Aging February 22, 2011’) dealing with one of Dr. Ornish’s studies, Dr. Greger specifically states prior to presenting Ornish’s work that “it appears we have to eat vegan” whereas the study used an experimental group that took fish oil supplements daily. I commented under the video on this issue 12 months ago and received no response from Dr. Greger.

        Dr. Greger often says that he reads every nutrition article in the literature “so that we don’t have to” and if someone challenges him on his scientific acuracy, he has been known to retorts, “don’t shoot the messenger!”.

        Look, I am not writing this to shoot any messenger. I am simply asking the messenger to accurately report the message. 

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    Sounds exciting but nothing new.  Great video though.
    I just keep plugging along teaching my patients the same plant based nutrition everyday and always see great successes in those that do it.
    Everyone gets better all the time!

    You see Dr. John McDougall showed the same thing with employees of (I think) Blue Cross Blue shield in Chicago.  The employees got better and the health care costs went down.  No one cared and no one seemed to take note for longer than a week.  Otherwise everyone would have jumped on the band wagon.

    Whole foods market owner John Mackey has been doing the same thing with his employees and showing improved health and decreased health care costs of their employees for over two years now, and it still falls upon deaf ears.

    I’m sure Dr. G can pull up even more studies showing the same thing and no one will take note for longer than a fleeting thought.

    Comon’  Medicare has put out estimates on the potential savings on Medicare cost expenditures at about 75% if we all went plant based.  That’s a potential estimated cost savings of between $500,000,000,000 to $900,000,000,000 per year.  Yes Billion! and nearly a Trillion dollars a year saved if this lifestyle was adopted. 
    How come no one is listening?  that would not only fix out healthcare ‘crisis’ but would eliminate the National Debt within two years!

    People love their meat and truly believe that our sickness care system will save them from their continued poor dietary choices once they have a heart attack, stroke cancer, diabetes, dementia etc.  Unfortunately they are sadly mistaken ;-{

    There is only one thing that has been shown to prevent, reverse and even cure disease and that is a whole food plant based eating lifestyle.  And this has been shown to do this with good solid scientific evidence for over twenty years!

    And best of all it doesn’t cost the consumer nor the government anything!  You don’t have to buy insurance, you don’t have to buy a new pill and you don’t have to go to your doctor every three months for the rest of your life!

    Why don’t we just follow an old Nike Slogan: “Just Do It!”

    • Biao Xu

      Yes. I totally agree with the huge potential savings and resulting great improvement in life quality of general population.
      We can cite a lot of reasons why such a simple/elegant solution to our already health system overburdening with sickening population has been ignored for so long.
      Yes. We can blame the economic interests (factory farming industry, food industry, medical industry, hospital, Doctors) to keep status quota for profit motive. We do not see this information told to public from main stream media who know which hands from above are feeding their revenue. Most of the times the media are telling people to eat with “moderation” (Moderation KILLS!) and gulp downs supplements not even regulated by FDA.
      But in the end, I do not think the health system is really broken. We have the best technology in the world while nearly sickest population among other developed countries.
      What is broken is We, THE population!
      How to fix it: Find proper information about food and take personal responsibility and change now! Health and lifestyle is personal choice and MUST start with THAT PEROSN!
      Five years ago I was basically a couch potato as other and now I can barely watch my photo then. It was just painful. If someone asks me if I want to be 5 years younger, I will say NO!
      As you see, human beings are inherently bent on seeking maximum short-term pleasure with minimum pain. in US only 0.5% population is vegan and I am happy to be one of it now. But I really doubt it will be even move over 1% in 5 years! -:(

    •  Keep plugging along is all we can do!

      I also get very discouraged. You can only use the excuse that people “just don’t know” for so long. People do know; they just don’t want to know. There are so many reasons “why?”; but I think one biggie is that people don’t want to change.

      I think one of the saddest things is knowing that the people eating whatever they want under the guise of wanting “happiness,” and not wanting a life of “deprivation,” is that when the sickness comes upon them, they realize they were wrong, and is too late. :*(

      I hate Nike but love that slogan. Have used it often and people get mad. They like excuses and reasons…blah, blah, blah. There are always reasons not to do something.

      Don’t be discouraged, Doc; you’re doing the good work :^)

    • Thea

       HemoDynamic:  I wanted to thank you for posting about those other work place studies.  Our company is looking for ways to reduce our health care costs.  I’m trying to convince people that there is a very easy, very real way to do so.  These kinds of studies are obviously not convincing the masses, but maybe it might help my tiny corner of the world. 

      If anyone else happens to remember any other work-place studies showing reduced health care costs, I would be much obliged to get the info.

      Thanks HemoDynamic:  I know you are busy like the rest of us.  I feel grateful for your participation on this forum.  Sadly, Dr. Greger doesn’t seem to participate any more–or maybe I’m just missing it.  Anyway, it is really helpful to have a doctor on here to help clarify and put his/her 2 cents in.

  • Gilesset

    But this is exactly why I can’t be exclusively a vegan.  For those like myself who have great difficulty keeping weight on, such a diet is disastrous.  The very things that should help, like eating nuts, turn out to actually help one to reduce.  Without some form of animal fats I become almost skeletal.

    •  Adding grains will help. More beans, if you can, too. I find those are more weight-gaining than fat!
      Some of the higher-calorie fruits, too.

      • Veganrunner

        Totally agree Strix. 

    • Andy

       There are some great Vegan Protein powders and Protein Bars made from Brown Rice Protein.  I have the same problem.  Went plant based lost a lot of weight and everyone thought I was unhealthy because they thought I was too skinny.  I’m going to try to get more protein from powders and shakes to build up some muscle to keep a fit look.

      • Gilesset

        Thanks, Andy.  It’s nice to know someone else has the same problem.  All one ever hears about is weight loss but for us, losing weight is the easy part.  I wish Dr.Gregor would address this issue.  I’ve known others who have abandoned the vegan diet because the ended up looking sick.

    • Adamtgardener


      There is a very ancient process going on here that comes down to this…Corruption cannot put on Incorruption. We have all gone along creating a human flesh and condition based on a nutritional paradigm that is completely false and misleading. In the end it has created a corrupt model for human flesh based in sickness and disease when the truest model would show you will never be sick again. What it comes down to is having enough Vision to see it through to the “end”…when a plant based diet will indeed keep you in the weight range you are most comfortable in. Also, there are a number of fresh, living protein drinks that can be made using sprouted brown rice, sprouted yellow corn, almonds or sesame seeds, raisins, dates or figs to sweeten, etc. I’ll have two sixteen ounce drinks for lunch and it sustains me through a grueling afternoon of concrete formwork which is very labor intensive. Good luck…don’t give up…let Spirit have Its Way with what you know to be true.

  • elias masri

    But the average waste circumference was still 41 inches? 41???????????

  • Daniel Wagle

    I believe plant based diets are great for losing weight.  I also believe that many persons can lose weight through exercise alone if they do a high enough dose.  As a teenager, all I had to do was to swim on the swim team to lose weight and I could eat anything I wanted.  Now, at 51, I can’t quite do it on exercise alone, but I just need a little bit of calorie control, but certainly not severe restriction. While losing the bulk of my 95 pounds, I was not yet on a plant based diet.  I exercised and counted calories. I switched to plant based since losing the weight to really stack the deck against any weight regain.   Likewise, there are many persons who can lose weight simply by counting calories, without exercising that much or being on plant based diets.  I don’t really believe doing any one thing to lose weight is a great idea at all.  For instance, Neal Barnard stated that his patients who lost weight without exercise had lower HDL.  My HDL, through exercise has gone up from below 20 to now over 60, which is a very protective number.  Scott Jurek, of course, is Vegan and his running has raised his HDL to a very protective level as well.  Jim Fixx is an example of someone who lost weight by exercise alone, but presumably his crappy diet still clogged his arteries and he died of a heart attack.  Some former Olympic athletes, such as Mark Spitz are on cholesterol medicine- my insurance company told me this. Vegan diets or any other kind of dieting without any exercise  can cause the loss of muscle tissue, which is detrimental to health.  Just counting calories, without exercise or paying attention to the quality of calories is not a good idea either.  If a person doesn’t exercise, they won’t be able to consume that many calories and therefore they won’t be satisfied with their diet.  Not paying attention to the quality of calories also reduces satiety.  Processed foods feed toxic hunger.  Most people who just diet don’t keep their weight off in the long run.  For the best results, it is better to combine a nutrient dense Vegan diet, along with moderate calorie control and a lot of exercise.  Exercise should not be used to out train a bad diet, but to enable a person to consume more higher calorie but healthy plant  foods, such as nuts, seeds, beans, starchy vegetables, etc.

  • Daniel Wagle

    I hope Dr. Greger doesn’t agree with Gary Taubes and Fred Hahn on exercise, considering that their dietary advice is diametrically the opposite of what Greger recommends. Remember Fred Hahn came on this website at one time trying to argue against Dr. Greger to defend the consumption of animal products.  Taubes stated in the May 14 2012 issue of Newsweek,

    “There are two obvious reasons why this idea that working out makes your skinny or keeps you skinny is likely to be just wrong.  One is  that it takes a significant amount of exercise to burn even a modest amount of calories.  Run three miles, says Cornell University researcher Brian Wansink in the documentary, and you’ll burn up roughly the amount of calories in a single candy bar.  And this brings up the second reason: you’re likely to eat that candy bar’s worth of calories than before.” 

    Gary is dead wrong- if a person exercises this much, they don’t have to *substract* that candy bar out to lose weight, they just can’t add another candy bar to their diet.  A person will lose weight by exercise as long as they don’t *add* a candy bar to the calorie level that would maintain their present weight.  Remember the experimental study which demonstrated this.  Intense exercise has been shown to increase calorie burn for 14 hours after the exercise.  My experience is that heart pumping exercise if done to a sufficient degree is very effective for weight loss. Running, if done to a sufficient degree, is effective, but not leisurely walks. Bicycling, since I go up a lot of hills, has been very effective for me and as a commute alternative is very convenient.  I also cut down on green houses gases this way, and as a bonus I can eat more plant foods.   I also found that when I wasn’t exercising that I still craved candy bars just as much when I exercised.  However, now that I eat a more plant based diet, I don’t crave candy bars even though I exercise a lot.   He also stated that exercise doesn’t even help weight maintenance.  When I don’t exercise, I usually gain 20 pounds during the holiday season, but when I exercise daily during it, I don’t gain any weight at all, even if I indulge a bit.  IF you agree with Taubes on exercise, then you are obligated to agree with this other statement,

    “As for those of us who are overweight, experimental trials, the gold standard of medical evidence, the gold standard of medical evidence, suggest that diets rich in animal products- meat, eggs, cheese- and green leafy vegetables are arguably the best approach, if not the healthiest diet to eat.  Not only does weight go down when people eat like this, but heart disease and diabetes risk factors are reduced. Ethical arguments against meat-eating are always valid; health arguments  against it can no longer be defended.”  

    I am sure Dr. Greger can cite a lot of studies to debunk Gary on animal products.  Gary Taubes is 6′ 3″ and 200 pounds.  I used to be 255 at 6 foot, but since exercising and eating far fewer animal products, I now weigh 158.  His BMI is 25, which actually is overweight. Mine is 21.4, which is ideal.  Most Vegans as well have a much lower BMI than does Gary, even if they don’t exercise.  Vegans who exercise probably have even lower BMI’s.  Probably exercise doesn’t work for Taubes since he can’t out exercise all the animal fat that he eats.  Yes, it is better and easier to cut out excess calories, esp. from animal fat that trying to out exercise it.  Granted, it is very difficult to out exercise a high animal fat diet.  However, regular and daily vigorous exercise helps a person lose weight without the drastic reduction of calories that is often necessary if sedentary.  Plant based diets can work alone- but exercise will preserve lean muscle tissue and raise the HDL cholesterol levels that Barnard’s study subjects weren’t able to do. 

  • Shane Jackson

    Kind of hilarious they asked the participants not to alter their exercise habits during the intervention period. So if they “awakened” someone at the Geico headquarters to the need for better health they then asked the person not to try to get healthier until we get some usable data for the study.

  • Hey I am jewish and in the next week we have a holyday that we suppost to fast (not eating or drinking) for 24 hours because i am a fresh vegan i wonder what would it be best to eat before such activity to be full and satisfayed for long period of time thanks and Shana Tova (Have a good year in hebrew) 

  • Narrativeart

    I have been totally Vegan for a bit over 1 year now. I  lost about 30 pounds. I still need to loose about the same amount. Lately I have been having trouble gaining weight. I am getting confused as to who to believe. All the Plant based doctors have different advise about loosing weight. Shall I eat less Whole Grains? Or should I exclude nuts? Or should I eat less all together and start counting Points/ Calories. It would be nice if I could figure out what to do. I did like this Video a lot.

    • Toxins

       Why do you want to gain weight? As long as you are eating whole, unprocessed plant foods free of oils, caloric needs and energy expenditures are satisfied. That is, as long as you eat when your hungry till your full you should maintain a stable weight once losing the initial few pounds. You will not continue to lose weight to underweight levels. I personally prefer  complex carbohydrate based diet as Dr. McDougall recommends as this is the most satiating to me.

      • Narrativeart

         I made a mistake, I meant I have trouble losing the last 30 pounds that I feel are access weight. I do eat whole foods, no oil, sugar or salt. I also include nuts. I just see that other people following these diets lose a lot of weight very quickly, the only thing I can think of is that I perhaps overeat. I was just wondering that perhaps counting calories is then the answer.

  • GEICO ought to share their outstanding results with the owner of their company, Warren Buffet.  It would sure change his outlook about his prostate cancer.  But then, he’s kind of an old-fashioned guy.  He might prefer to spend his money on doctors who don’t cure anybody and just treat them – FOREVER! It’s worth a shot.

  • ruth

    this is so adorable! I love the geico and to see his little waist expand and contract in relation to the vegan diet is just too cute!
    Your videos are my daily cheerup and inspiration! Thank you!

  • Gene

    Sugar is the main issue with the SAD way of eating(Standard American Diet). Rid the sugar and stay off the grains and your body will react positively. Both at the molecular level and elsewhere! Our body also requires fats. Low fat anything is garbage. Notice those folks in the stores with the low fat products in their carts are the most overweight?

    I highly recommend watching the following presentation:

    • Vege-tater

      Yeah because it is mostly adding more caloric junk in addition to their high fat diet. Check the stats, fat consumption has gone up, very few ever cut their fats below 30% overall, when lowfat is considered under 10%. When I did just that my diabetes and other common ailments went away, there is no whole food that doesn’t contain sufficient fat for our needs. Your info is skewed by the paleo enthusiasts who are notorious for making the data suit their agenda. As for the sugar and grains argument, more nonsense. Check out the the info about Kempner’s life saving diet for deadly high blood pressure before the advent of medications, which consisted mainly of rice and sugar! Not saying sugar is healthy, it is empty calories, but fat is the same, worse.

  • Charma1ne

    This article is 3 years old. Would it be possible to get an update as to what the result has been at Geicko after a 3 year experiment?