Doctor's Note

In my live 2012 presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death I address the role diet may play in preventing, treating, and even reversing our top 15 killers, including high blood pressure. More on refined versus whole grains can be found in Great Grain Robbery and Is White Bread Good For You?. Whole grains may in fact extend our lifespan (What Women Should Eat to Live Longer). What about the phytates in whole grains? See New Mineral Absorption Enhancers Found. And how can we make our oatmeal even healthier? See Antioxidants in a Pinch.

For some context, please check out my associated blog post:  Plant-Based Diets for Metabolic Syndrome

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  • Barry Erdman

    Michael, I believe this video report to be misleading at best. I would ask you to also report on how whole grains vs refined are little different compared to no grains for diabetics. Dr. Barnard’s study does not hold up when compared to a very low carb (30gm/day) as per dr Bernstein. I belive a plant based diet without any grains at all significantly improves health risks in diabetes by returning blood glucose back to normal. Anyone interested in very low carb plant based diets, see the Facebook group, “veglowcarb” called “the vegetarian low carb diabetes health society”.

    • John Paul

      I prefer Dr. Greger’s reports. He provides me with brief reviews of well substantiated, peer reviewed articles published in reputable journals, so that I don’t have to read them myself. I think it would be great if he were to start reviewing various highly publicized diets like the “Paleo” diet, the “Atkins” diet and the various “Gluten Free” diets. The problem is, these three fad diets are only the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of thousands of other untested diets, nutritional supplements and “alternative” therapies, all of which promise the cure for some ailment, and none of which a reputable scientist wants to waste his time studying-beyond figuring out that they don’t work, and that negative results are not worth publishing. Dr. Greger reports mostly on positive results, things that actually work, and only takes potshots at junk science as the opportunity presents itself. Any idiot can publish anything on Facebook, and find plenty of other idiots to believe him. I look for more reliable sources of information.

      • b00mer

        Although I would bet on some epidemiological reports to be coming out in the next decade or so, detailing the effects of paleo diets. I think it’s quite unfortunate, since I believe these people are trying to do what they truly think is healthiest. Supposedly they do emphasize the green vegetables as well, which should help them out some, but I don’t think it’ll balance out all that meat. I think we’ll be seeing the heart attacks, stroke and cancer articles coming out about that group in the future.

      • Catherine

        I wish you would reconsider calling gluten-free diet a fad. There are two very real conditions, celiac disease and gluten intolerance, and one is very much better off not eating gluten-containing food in those circumstances. Perhaps some people are going gluten-free for no good reason – I can’t imagine why – but for some of us, it’s definitely not a “fad”.

      • Carole

        Gluten Free is NOT a fad, it’s a very important way of life for most Celiacs and has been tested. My daughter has Crohns disease and found that by eliminating all food containing gluten that she is feeling better. She found out after 2 hospital stays, not from her doctor but from a book she read Listen To Your Gut. This book was and still is a tremendous help to her, not only with foods but probiotics and other medicinal things This has been a life saving help to her since Crohns can kill. I choose to be GF but my daughter HAS to be GF. There are other ingredients in foods that can also affect her Crohns, it’ sometimes trial and error.

    • Thea

      Barry: Dr. Greger has some great videos on low carb as well as an e-book setting people straight on the topic of carbs. Dr. Greger seems to have some good science to back up his opinion of grains. That said, if you have something that is working for you, that’s great. Good luck.

    • Michel Voss

      Low carb plant based diets may be dangerous: “The associations of low carbohydrate, high protein, and low carbohydrate-high protein scores with cardiovascular outcomes were not, in general, statistically significantly different between women whose protein intake was mainly of animal origin and those whose protein intake was mainly of plant origin.”
      BMJ 2012;344:e4026, June 26.

    • Joe

      I agree that “low carb” diets are not necessarily healthy. But what about claims that you can do a better job of protecting against hypertension (and other problems) by substituting more healthy carb-rich vegetables, like sweet potatoes? In other words, is there some nutrient that whole grains have that you can’t get anywhere else? Or are they just a good, but not ideal, alternative to refined grains?

      • FoodAllergyGuy

        Hi Joe,
        When it comes to whole grains, research has shown that, nutritionally, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, meaning that the nutrients in whole grains work together in a way that you won’t find when the nutrients are consumed separately. Researchers refer to a “dose response” with eating more whole grains. A little whole grain is better than none, but the greatest health protection seems to come with at least 3 servings of whole grain foods a day.. These benefits include: healthy digestion, prevention of weight gain, longer satiety, reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and several cancers and a 15-20% reduction in risk of early death. Dr. Greger has a great video discussing whole grains and their effect on heart disease here:

  • Cesare Civetta

    is it ok to consume a lot of canned coconut milk (Badia) or (organic) ? both have 10 grams of fat per 1/4 cup. i’m asking because of Dr. Esselstyn’s teachings about fat.

    • Lauren Rae Layton Ard

      Cesare, Dr. Greger has other videos about coconut products which indicate that canned coconut milk is bad for you.

    • Don Forrester MD

      Coconut milk should be avoided… see video’s and It contains no cholesterol as a plant product but does contain alot of saturated fat which your body converts to cholesterol. Not only not a good idea from an arterial disease standpoint but because it is calorie dense it would contribute to increase weight.

      • Cyndi Phillips

        Cholesterol is not and never has been a danger. Indeed, it’s something our bodies have to have. It was disproven way back in 1936 that there is no link between cholesterol levels and heart attacks. There are links to inflammation causing them, and the inflammation coming from carbohydrates, grains in particular. Of course this is kept quiet because it would destroy the market for statins which are dangerous, way more dangerous than coconut milk.

        • Gary

          The Lyon Heart Trials showed a direct link between cholesterol and heart disease, in the long-running Framingham Study, those with cholesterol levels below 150 were virtually heart-attack proof, and that is only the tip of the iceberg of studies showing a correlation between cholesterol and heart disease. No one is saying we need zero cholesterol; as with many substances, problems occur when we have too much. Whole food plant-based diets have been shown to lower cholesterol as well as statins do, without the side effects.

        • shirleycolee

          Cyndi, well put. I agree with you a thousand percent. They’ve also shown that those with very low cholesterol die earlier. It’s inflammation that causes trouble.

  • Lisa Ann Homic

    have your read Primal Body, Primal Mind, please don’t recommend any grains

    • Lauren Rae Layton Ard

      You can ignore the science in this video, but I appreciate Dr. Greger reporting on any and all scientific findings, whether they agree with my diet or not.

    • Lc Starr

      um, it’s his website, so he can recommend whatever he wants. We should listen to you instead because you read one book??

      • Cyndi Phillips

        What a bully! You don’t know how many books she’s read. She gave the name of one book as a reference. Why so mean?

    • Joe

      Dr Gregor hasn’t actually recommended anything – he’s presented a few studies and a hypothesis – that is all.

      It’s a far cry from most health gurus, who seem intent on proving everyone else wrong because they know the ‘truth’.

  • Lisa Ann Homic
    • Lauren Rae Layton Ard

      This doesn’t look like a science-based website. I’ll take Dr. Greger’s scientific studies any day over this speculation…

    • Joe

      This contradicts the majority of clinical research and population studies – and oh look, they’re selling an e-book!

      • Lisa Ann Homic

        Lauren, Joe, and Lc Starr, you have not read enough studies. Your peer below in the comments here is having blood pressure issues and is confused by this. Keep checking for yourself. You’ll be surprised. I was in the same boat as you all were. We all come around in our own time.

        • Joe

          Lisa, thanks for your concern. I always remain open to new ideas, but for me the evidence isn’t there. The statistic he links to suggest an epidemic of gut and bowel related problems – but if anything the majority of Americans are deficient in fibre. This I can’t get my head around – he talks about the American diet being a high-fibre diet – but the fibre is mostly removed during processing. White bread, pasta and bagels have virtually no fibre! The average American gets 15g of fibre daily – whilst people in developing countries get much more and have much less problems like hemorrhoids. This could of course be down to the sit down toilet – but in this scenario, fibre is a red herring at best. I will remain open, and I might buy the book – but I am skeptical, especially after reading the authors qualifications.

        • Lc Starr

          Lisa Ann, you have no idea how many studies I have read or how much research I have done. One can find studies to support almost anything, which is why it’s important to evaluate each study’s merits and who’s funding it. The website you posted is not credible, so thanks, but no thanks.

  • vademonbreun

    I have heard juicing celery works really well on high blood pressure. What about the gluten and wheat germ agglutinin causing gastrointestinal issues?

  • Kathi Richards

    How much is a serving supposed to be? I certainly do not consider sweetened cereals to be of any benefit to me, whole grain or not.

  • shelly

    Dr. Greger- I cant seem to find the clip on whole grains and weight loss –
    What is it under? thanks

  • Peggy Kellough

    Just wondering… Dr.Mercola recommends against lots of whole grains, saying, “Reduce or eliminate your processed food, sugar/fructose and grain carbohydrate intake. This applies to whole unprocessed organic grains as well, as they tend to rapidly break down and drive your insulin and leptin levels up, which is the last thing you need to have happening if you are seeking to resolve or prevent cancer.” — So, what is it? Eat whole grains, or not eat whole grains?

    • Jesse

      I’d take whatever advice Mercola gives and do the exact opposite.

    • Gary

      The preponderance of human-based scientific studies show that whole grain consumption has a moderate protective effect against certain cancers.


      The 2013 Nutrition Journal published the article “The Potential Role of Phytochemicals in Whole-Grain Cereals for the Prevention of Type-2 Diabetes.” Their findings: Diets high in whole grains are associated with a 20-30% reduction in risk of developing type-2 diabetes… biomarkers of systemic inflammation tend to be reduced in people consuming high intakes of whole grains.

      I’ve seen some of Dr. Mercola’s recommendations that are based on unproven theories and on highly contrived animal experiments that neither mimic human experience nor produce the same results.

    • Just a Mom

      Peggy, I think maybe you are not familiar with the terminology allowed when speaking of whole grains by manufacturers making cereal, bread and any item sold in the center isles of the store. Whole grains cannot be used in a food without being fortified with chemical nutrients such as the B vitamins, folic acid and whatever else they put back into the mix because those nutrients are gone when they make the flour. The only way to get all the nutrients is to eat the whole wheat berry or seed…or grind it yourself. I started doing it with a coffee grinder until I could afford a mill. That goes for flax, millet, and any other whole grain such as rye, kamut, and others. Making your own flour takes a few minutes and the benefits are complete. As far as spiking sugar and all that…not so with whole seeds and berries…the fiber and oils slow down the entire process and you don’t need to consume near as much either. A half sandwich with real whole grain bread is almost equivalent to 6 slices of white bread…maybe more…and the fiber content is over the top. If you started to eat your own flour even to make gravy you would probably drop 5 lbs the first week because your digestive tract would be cleaned out and you would be “regular” like you’ve never been before…in a good way. Just food for thought to live a healthier life and feel great!

    • shirleycolee

      Check out the Hallelujah Acres website, You may not agree or like their concept, but it would be worth your while to see what it is in case you learn something you do find advantageous. They’re all about cancer and chronic disease prevention. I found them twenty years ago when my first husband had leukemia. A psychologist friend I worked with told me his 35 year old brother that had a rapidly metastasizing cancer used their program to get well.

  • Susan

    Does sourdough have nutritional benefits (over and above any whole grains in the recipe?)

  • Robert

    Dr. Gerger,

    Thanks for all your great info.
    Other than being on a vegan diet, are there specific foods that
    naturally lower blood pressure? I already do three servings of grains a day and that does not seem to do the trick.
    I heard L-Taurine can be helpful. This is so important as you know so hope I can address this in the short term.
    Thanks again.

    • Toxins

      Have you eliminated refined grains? Have you eliminated oils in your diet? Are you striving to eat only whole, unprocessed plant foods? Do you eat dark leafy greens regularly? Is your sodium intake less than 1200 mg? All of these things will help lower blood pressure.

      • Cyndi Phillips

        Oils can be bad, such as canola and soy oils but fats are necessary. I use real butter, ghee, beef tallow and coconut oil. I make my own mayo using coconut oil, sunflower oil and olive oil. This keeps me free of soy which is bad for my thyroid. In the long run vegan diets are more unhealthy than diets that include animal fats.

        • Toxins

          You have many faulty statements here.

          Every credible health organization, including the national academy of science, recognizes that consuming excess saturated fat is not healthful, and the fat sources you just named are some of the top sources of saturated fat, making your recommendation unhealthful. As recognized again by the national academy of science, the only dietary fat your body requires from food sources are polyunsaturated fats, that being, omega 6 and omega 3. That is why they are called essential fats. These fats can be found in perfectly adequate amounts in all whole plant foods and one does not need to add pure empty calories to ones diet to achieve proper essential fat intake.

          Soy is not harmful, and is a perfectly healthy whole plant food. Many videos can be found on this website describing the benefits of soy consumption and you will also find that soy does not have a negative hormonal impact. What you are describing is a fad diet that is popular as it gives a free pass to people to continue eating unhealthfully and to continue eating all of the animal products and high fat foods available to them. This is not an effective strategy for health.

          • Cyndi Phillips

            Along with the unjustified and unscientific saturated fat and cholesterol scares of the past several decades has come the notion that vegetarianism is a healthier dietary option for people.
            It seems as if every health expert and government health agency is urging people to eat fewer animal products and consume more vegetables, grains, fruits and legumes. Along with these exhortations have come assertions and studies
            supposedly proving that vegetarianism is healthier for people and that meat consumption is associated with sickness and death.
            Several authorities, however, have questioned these data, but their objections have been largely ignored.

            Although it is commonly believed that saturated fats and dietary cholesterol “clog arteries” and cause heart disease, such ideas have been shown to be false by such scientists as Linus Pauling, Russell Smith, George Mann, John
            Yudkin, Abram Hoffer, Mary Enig, Uffe Ravnskov and other prominent researchers. On the contrary, studies have shown that arterial plaque is primarily composed of unsaturated fats, particularly polyunsaturated ones, and not the saturated fat of animals, palm or coconut.

            Trans-fatty acids, as opposed to saturated fats,
            have been shown by researchers such as Enig, Mann and Fred
            Kummerow to be causative factors in accelerated
            atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, cancer and other
            ailments. Trans-fatty acids are found in such modern foods as
            margarine and vegetable shortening and foods made with them.
            Enig and her colleagues have also shown that excessive
            omega-6 polyunsaturated
            fatty acid intake from refined vegetable oils is also a
            major culprit behind cancer and heart disease, not animal fats.
            A recent study of thousands of Swedish women supported Enig’s
            conclusions and data, and showed no correlation between
            saturated fat consumption
            and increased risk for breast cancer. However, the study did
            show,as did Enig’s work, a strong link between vegetable oil
            intake and higher breast cancer rates.

            The major population studies that supposedly prove the theory that animal fats
            and cholesterol cause heart disease actually do not upon
            closer inspection. The Framingham Heart Study is often cited as proof
            that dietary cholesterol and saturated fat
            intake cause heart disease and ill health. Involving about
            6,000 people, the study compared two groups over several
            years at five-year intervals. One group consumed little
            cholesterol and saturated fat, while the other consumed high amounts. Surprisingly, Dr William Castelli, the study’s director, said:

            In Framingham, Mass., the more saturated fat
            one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories
            one ate, the lower the person’s serum cholesterol … we
            found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the
            most saturated fat, [and] ate the most calories, weighed the least and were the most physically active.

            The Framingham data did show that subjects who had higher cholesterol
            levels and weighed more ran a slightly higher chance for
            coronary heart disease. But weight gain and serum cholesterol
            levels had an inverse correlation with dietary fat and cholesterol intake. In other words, there was no correlation at all.

            Fad diet? Not hardly. It’s how everyone used to eat before the 1950’s hit and hydrogenated oils, margarine and white bread became our diet. And when people ate that way they weren’t dying of heart attacks like they are now. The fad is eating low fat and the sooner people realize that the faster they will quit dying from heart attacks and cancers. Studies have shown repeatedly that such diets are associated
            with depression, cancer, psychological problems, fatigue,
            violence and suicide.

            Soy has long been associated with ADD/ADHD, depression, anxiety, dementia and other mental health issues. Now it appears that soy
            can aggravate seizures as well. Cara J. Westmark, PhD, and her team at
            the Waisman Center for Developmental Disabilities at the University of
            Wisconsin, Madison, pull no punches when they warn, “These results have
            important implications for individuals on soy-based diets.

            The Weston A. Price Foundation is currently suing the state of Illinois on behalf of prisoners who have suffered grave damage to their
            digestive tracts and thyroid glands due to a high soy diet containing up to a whopping 100 grams of soy product and 100 mg of isoflavones every day. This is real. Damage from animal fats is not real.

          • Toxins

            A clear cut and paste. This discussion should be based on primary sourced studies not second hand accounts of an author’s interpretation of a study. There is no “myth” that animal products and animal fats are harmful. This is sound evidence based on a mass of studies. Health objectives do not change based on 1 or 2 studies but a mass of them. In the case of soy, there is mixed evidence in animal models showing potentially harmful side affects, but we are not mice. Human studies have shown no negative hormonal imbalance as well as decreased risks in most cancers. Soy isoflavones are not xenoestrogens found in dairy which significantly increase estrogen levels in woman, but soy contains phytoestrogens which reduce circulating estrogen. Dr. Greger has several videos on these topics I have discussed. All you have to do is search on this website but I will post a couple as a starting point for you.



            more on soy can be found here


          • Cyndi Phillips

            You complain that I’ve not provided studies when you failed to as well. Videos are not studies. At least I do bring them up. Let’s also make it clear that xenoestrogens aren’t a problem with organic milk. It’s not the milk, it’s the things farmers add to it and how it’s processed. And let’s also mention that almost all soy is now GMO. Here is a link to about 50 studies on soy, including some on actual people.

            Why would I do a search on this website which is obviously and heavily biased? I’m looking for truth. So where are those “mass of studies”? Why are you asking me for things you haven’t been able to provide? I’m done here.

            I’m going to eat like the Eskimos do, high fat. I’m going to eat like many indigenous people do, untouched by McD’s. Whole fresh raw milk, beef tallow, eggs from my chickens and all those things you feel are bad. It’s a fact that most veggie eaters later on change their diets back to that of omnivores and the most common reason for doing so is health or lack of it. Vegetables aren’t bad for you but they should be rounded out with other healthy foods and can’t be a diet to themselves. And I do this after years of studying what is really good for us, not because I read one website. Soy has kicked butt on my thyroid and it has no place in my life.

          • Toxins

            The purpose of is to provide videos that share the studies and the studies are available in the sources cited section for personal viewing, which is what I provided you with. Xenoestrogens are independent of additives to milk, as all lactating cows release xenoestrogens as an inherent compound, as described in the study presented in the video I linked you with.

            Interesting you idolize the inuits who live 10 years less than the average American and idolize populations who’s lifespans are not worth imitating. I have held back on presenting the studies as it is much easier for you to view them through the videos and it saves me the trouble of posting a very long post, but we can go down that road if you wish.

            We can look at dairy and meat, two staples of your diet. We will view these 2 food groups independent of factory farming and regardless of raw, organic, or conventional. Diets of populations who are worth imitating will also be discussed.

            We’ll start with the population study of the Okinawans.

            Back in the 1950’s the Japanese rural Okinawan group of people had
            the most centenarians per capita. How did they live so long? Here is
            their diet

            Caloric Restriction, the Traditional
            Okinawan Diet, and Healthy Aging

            The Diet of the World’s Longest-Lived People and Its Potential Impact on Morbidity and Life Span

            Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1114: 434–455 (2007).

            TABLE 1. Traditional dietary intake of Okinawans and other Japanese circa 1950

            Total calories 1785

            Total weight (grams) 1262

            Caloric density (calories/gram) 1.4

            Total protein in grams (% total calories) 39 (9)

            Total carbohydrate in grams (% total calories) 382 (85)

            Total fat in grams (% total calories) 12 (6)

            Saturated fatty acid 3.7

            Monounsaturated fatty acid 3.6

            Polyunsaturated fatty acid 4.8

            Total fiber (grams) 23

            Food group Weight in grams (% total calories)


            Rice 154 (12)

            Wheat, barley, and other grains 38 (7)

            Nuts, seeds Less than 1 (less than 1)

            Sugars 3 (less than 1)

            Oils 3 (2)

            Legumes (e.g., soy and other beans) 71 (6)

            Fish 15 (1)

            Meat (including poultry) 3 (less than 1)

            Eggs 1 (less than 1)

            Dairy less than 1 (less than 1)


            Sweet potatoes 849 (69)

            Other potatoes 2 (less than1)

            Other vegetables 114 (3)

            Fruit less than 1 (less than 1)

            Seaweed 1 (less than 1)

            Pickled vegetables 0 (0)

            Foods: flavors & alcohol 7 (less than 1)

            Data derived from analysis of U.S. National Archives, archived food records, 1949 and based on survey of 2279 persons.

            Some points

            Their diet was 85% carb, and 6% fat. Sweet potatoes (a Japanese sweet potato) made up almost 70% of their calories. Nuts were less than 1% of calories (the equivalent of 1/10 of an ounce a day) Oil was less than 2% of calories (which is about 1 tsp a day) and sugars were less than 1% of calories (less than a tsp a day)

            The total animal products including fish was less than 4% of calories which is less then 70 calories a day. That is the equivalent of around 2 oz of animal products or less a day.

            This is a population group worth idolizing, not a short lived population of eskimos or blood and raw milk drinking African tribes who live till the age of 40.

            Looking at dairy:

            The consumption of dairy in children has resulted in earlier puberty. “The effect of animal protein intake, which was associated with an earlier puberty onset, might mainly be due to dairy. “An earlier puberty onset has been related to an increased risk for hormone-related cancers in adulthood. For example, a meta-analysis of 26 epidemiological studies reported a9% risk reduction for breast cancer with every additional year at menarche. Additionally, recent study results demonstrated that a 1-y delay in menarche was associated with a 2.4 to 4.5% lower total mortality.


            The concern with dairy and hormone dependent cancer is something to think about as well. It has been shown that consuming dairy significantly increases circulating steroid hormones in woman and that vegetarians have far less of this hormone. “In conclusion, greater consumption of red meat and dairy products might influence circulating concentrations of SHBG and estradiol, respectively. Given the well-established role of steroid hormones in breast cancer etiology for postmenopausal women, these findings may have important health implications” Tumor growth from these hormone imbalances is also evident “A dramatic increase in estrogen-dependent malignant diseases, such as ovarian, corpus uteri, breast, testicular and prostate cancers has been recognized. Ganmaa et al. investigated the incidence and mortality of testicular and prostate cancers in relation to dietary practices. Among various food items, cow’s milk and cheese had the highest correlation with incidence and mortality rate of these cancers” Children are at high risk “Among the exposure of humans, especially prepubertal children, to exogenous estrogens, we are particularly concerned with” These xenoestrogens from lactating preganant cattle (the majority of commercial cattle used for milk) significantly raised estrogen levels in male adults and reduced testosterone levels and did even more so in children. This is significant since these estrogens have mutagenic affects “Toxicological and epidemiological studies have indicated that E2 could be categorized as a carcinogen. Milk is considered to be a rich source of estrogens.” Indeed, E2 concentration is higher in mammary drainage than in the peripheral circulation in high yielding cows.”




            Again, these harms are independent of organic, grassfed, conventional, or raw. Xenoestrogens are inherent of dairy.

            Regarding animal products which includes fish, eggs, meat, poultry and dariy:

            Cancer is said to be a disease of old age, that is because we are living longer, we are encountering more carcinogens which further mutate our DNA which can lead to uncontrolled cell growth. This biological hypothesis goes against what is actually observed “Accordingly, it has been reported that the mortality due to cancer constantly decreases after the age of 85–90 years [3]. Therefore, it seems that centenarians are endowed with a peculiar resistance to cancer.”

            Why do centenarians escape or postpone cancer?
            The role of IGF-1, inXammation and p53


            Cell growth is determined primarily by the growth hormone Insulin like growth factor, also called IGF-1. As a child, this growth hormone is found in much larger amounts and then slowly tapers off during adulthood. Increased levels of circulating IGF-1 as adults can promote unwanted growth, particularly in the form of tumors. An association can be seen in the following meta-analysis between increased IGF-1 levels and prostate cancer. “Our meta-analysis revealed that the body of the world-wide published literature is consistent with an average 21% increased risk of prostate cancer per standard deviation increase in IGF-I”


            A similar association is revealed between increased IGF-1 levels and breast cancer “The results of this collaborative analysis show that plasma concentrations of IGF1 are positively associated with breast-cancer risk.”


            Elevated IGF-1 has also been shown to increase the chance of the cancer to metastasis. This hormone is responsible for cancer proliferation, survival, migration and angiogenesis (feeding cancer with blood supply)


            IGF-1 deficiency leads to dwarfism and one might expect this group of the population to not get cancer, as is the case. “The individuals with GHR
            deficiency (GHRD) exhibited only one non-lethal malignancy and no cases of diabetes, in contrast to 17% cancer and 5% diabetes prevalence in
            the controls.”


            A fascinating study involved studying cell line apoptosis, that is, cancer cell death. “Fasting serum was obtained from postmenopausal women
            participants at the Pritkin Longevity Center Residential Program where they were placed on a low-fat (10-15% Kcal), high-fiber (less than 40
            gm/d) diet and attended daily exercise classes for 2 weeks.” They used the blood of this group and dripped it on cancer cell lines. Significant cell death was observed as well as reduced IGF-1 levels in the blood. This can be seen here in the study below.


            In an attempt to “determine the underlying mechanisms for these anticancer effects”, cell apoptosis was again to be examined when the blood of a group eating a similar diet was dripped on a cancer cell line. What made this study so remarkable, was that not only did cancer cells die off in greater abundance when IGF-1 levels were lowered through diet, but that the cell death benefits were nulled when the researchers put back the IGF-1 into the blood and re dripped it on the cell line. It was also discovered that IGFBP-1, the protein that binds up the IGF-1 hormone, was found in greater quantities on a low fat, high fiber diet.


            “The aim of this cross-sectional study was to determine whether a plant-based (vegan) diet is associated with a lower circulating level of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) compared with a meat-eating or lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet among 292 British women, ages 20 –70 years” It was found that vegetarians and omnivores had very similar numbers in terms of IGF-1 levels, and one truly has to eliminate all animal products to have optimal levels of IGF-1 and IGFPB-1.


            “These considerations enable the prediction that a low-fat vegan diet will be profoundly protective with respect to risk for postmenopausal breast
            cancer. The protein content of this diet will preferentially support glucagon activity and possibly decrease IGF-I synthesis.” As I will discuss, it is indeed the protein “quality” of the food that determines IGF-1 overproduction.


            The protein content of our food triggers IGF-1 production from the liver. “Amino acid availability to the hepatocytes is essential for IGF-I gene expression”. Therefore, excess protein can result in excess IGf-1 levels.


            This raises the question seen with other studies though. “Previous data on the associations between dietary intake and IGF-I levels are sparse. Consistent with our data, other cross-sectional studies have also found no association between total protein intake and serum age-adjusted IGF-I levels in men (17, 18) or women (16). However, these studies have not investigated the effects of different types of protein intake on serum IGF-I and its main binding proteins.” The key phrase here is that different types of protein have different effects on our liver.

            IGF-1 increased with animal protein intake and decreased with plant protein intake. The inverse is true for IGFBP-1 (the binding protein). “In
            summary, these results suggest that total IGF-I concentration is lower among women who adopt a vegan diet. In addition, IGFBP-1 and IGFBP-2
            concentrations are substantially higher in vegan women compared with meat-eaters and vegetarians, suggesting that the amount of bioavailable IGF-I may be lower in vegan women. The nutritional characteristics of the vegan diet that account for these differences are not clear but may be related to vegans’ lower intake of protein high in essential amino acids. These results suggest that even when total
            protein intake is not notably low, a low intake of essential amino acids, as typically found in a plant-based diet, may be sufficient to reduce serum IGF-I and increase serum IGFBP-1 and IGFBP-2 levels.”


            To summarize this biological phenomenon, when a food source is consumed that has similar protein structure and amino acid proportions to our own
            body, our liver reacts by releasing IGF-1 as well as storing IGFBP-1. “Another mechanism through which a vegan diet may influence IGFBP-1 levels is via an enhanced insulin sensitivity. A diet low in saturated fat and high in dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates may reduce insulin secretion, both directly by reducing the postprandial glycaemic response (39, 40), and indirectly by reducing adiposity (41), causing a large increase in the production of IGFBP-1 within the liver (42).”

            Looking at inflammation:

            There is another aspect to developing a chronic
            illness such as cancer, that has yet to be disscussed. Chronic low grade inflammation has been implicated in the development of chronic illnesses and diet is the primary cause of this inflammation. “Inflammation is a pathological condition underlying a number of diseases including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and chronic inflammatory diseases. In addition, healthy, obese subjects also express markers of inflammation in their blood. Diet provides a variety
            of nutrients as well as non-nutritive bioactive constituents which modulate immunomodulatory and inflammatory processes. Epidemiological
            data suggest that dietary patterns strongly affect inflammatory processes.” Phytonutrients found in plants can regulate inflammatory markers in humans as explained in great detail here.


            The effect of a single high fat meal has been known to impair endothelial function in ones artieries, possibly causing ones risk of LDL cholesterol to oxidize to increase significantly. “The high-fat meal (900 calories, 50 g of fat, 14 g of saturated fat, and 255 mg of cholesterol) consisted of an Egg McMuffin®, Sausage McMuffin®, 2 hash brown patties, and a noncaffeinated beverage (McDonald’s Corporation). The isocaloric low-fat meal (0 g of fat, 13 mg of cholesterol) consisted of Frosted Flakes® (Kellogg Company, Battle Creek, Michigan), skimmed milk, and orange juice. Lipoprotein and glucose determinations were
            repeated 2 and 4 hours after eating.” The effect of inflammation can be seen below, and lasts for several hours following ingestion. This amount of fat is not that uncommon for a meal in the current American diet, and constant consumption of eating these high fat foods results in chronic inflammation.


            This inflammation can also be seen to occur in our lungs after a high fat meal. “These results demonstrate that a HFM, which leads to significant increases in total cholesterol, and especially triglycerides, increases exhaled NO. This suggests that a high-fat diet may contribute to chronic inflammatory diseases of the airway and lung.” The data table showing the inflammation can be seen below.

            Why is it that our body reacts in this way after a meal high in fat? It is an immune response to a percieved threat. It has been hypothesized
            that it is the animal protein itself that causes the body to become inflamed as theorized with Rheumatoid Arthritis in this case report of a women who ceased animal protein intake and recovered from her RA outbreaks.


            Whipped cream caused a similar effect in inflammation. It was discovered that pre and post meal, endotoxins were found in the blood stream. Endotoxins are bacterial toxins that can trigger our immune system to become inflamed.

            The question now is where are the endotoxins coming from. It was hypothesized that the bacteria from the gut was causing the endotoxemia. The saturated fat found in these animal products were acting as a pathway for the endotoxins to enter our blood stream. “Because the human gut is host to 100 trillion commensal organisms, which together contribute to an enteric reservoir of 1 g LPS (8), we hypothesized that most of the circulating endotoxin may derive from the gut and that a small amount of commensally derived ] LPS maycotransit with dietary fat from the gut after a high-fat meal, which thereby increases plasma endotoxin concentrations postprandially”

            This idea that saturated fat acts as a pathway out of our intestines is known as a leaky gut, as in the permeability of our intestines is increased after a high fat meal. “saturated fats also appear to increase the permeability of intestinal epithelium and contribute to the breakdown of the intestinal barrier.”



            As seen in this study, “Subjects from the first group…were asked to ingest a 910-calorie HFHC meal (egg muffin and sausage muffin sandwiches and two hash browns, which contain 88 g carbohydrates, 51 g fat [33% saturated] and 34 g protein [carbohydrates 41%, protein 17%, and fat 42%]), while subjects from the second group (six males, BMI 22.8 0.6 kg/m2, mean age 31.2 1.1 years) were given an isocaloric meal rich in fruit and fiber consisting of oatmeal, milk, orange juice, raisins, peanut butter, and English muffin (carbohydrates 58%, protein 15%, and fat 27%)”

            After the high fat meal, endotoxin level significantly increased

            We now run into a problem. Looking at this chart, we see that the timescale is only 3 hours. If the hypothesis that our own gut flora is causing the inflammation is correct, then we should see the spike in inflammation several hours later, as the large intestine is where the bacteria lie. A new hypothesis must come from this, as our own gut flora cannot be causing this inflammation. One might hypothesize that the endotoxins are coming from the food itself, and this is what we indeed
            find. “We therefore aimed to determine whether common foodstuffs may contain appreciable quantities of endotoxin or other similar agents that
            may be capable of eliciting innate immune activation of human monocytes….Forty extracts were therefore prepared from twenty-seven
            foodstuffs common to the Western diet, and the capacity of each to induce the secretion of IL-6 and TNF-α from human monocytes was measured
            and compared ” The capacity of these foods to cause white blood cells to secrete inflammatory signals was measured.

            “These findings therefore suggest that apparently unspoiled foodstuffs may nevertheless contain at some point in their preparation or processing a
            sufficient microbial load to release TLR2 and TLR4 stimulants into their growth environment. This notion is supported by many previous
            studies showing that certain commonly consumed foodstuffs can contain a high bacterial load before cooking, such as fresh beef mince which has often been shown to contain approximately 105–107 colony forming units/g” It appears as though that the food itself contains the endotoxins, and any food exposed to bacteria, such as with fermentation, will have endotoxins. These endotoxins are resistant to heat as well as changes in ph typically found in the body as the
            bacteria no longer have to be alive for endotoxins to be present. ” LPS and BLP were found to be highly resistant to typical cooking times and
            temperatures, low pH and protease treatment. In conclusion, apparently unspoiled foodstuffs can contain large quantities of stimulants of TLR2
            and TLR4, both of which may regulate their capacity to stimulate inflammatory signalling.” the authors finishing statements “Thus, it is tempting to speculate that the occasional ingestion of meals high in LPS and/or BLP could promote transient, mild, systemic inflammatory episodes that predispose subjects to the development of atherosclerosis and insulin resistance”


            Citing again from the study previously mentioned titled Differential Effects of Cream, Glucose, and Orange Juice on Inflammation, Endotoxin, and the Expression of Toll-Like Receptor-4 and Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling-3
            “Thus, saturated fats may have a more profound role in the pathogenesis of postprandial inflammation, as they may also perpetuate
            inflammation through the increases in LPS and TLR-4.”


            “The combined importance of dietary lipids and LPS in determining inflammatory risk may arise, since endotoxin has a strong affinity for chylomicrons (lipoproteins that transport dietary long-chain saturated fatty acids [SFAs] through the gut wall) as endotoxin crosses the gastrointestinal mucosa (23–25). As such, atherogenic and inflammatory risk may arise through a combination of dietary lipoprotein patterns and an increase in circulating endotoxin, exacerbated by feeding patterns (26,27). Therefore, altering the lipid profile through dietary
            intervention may reduce endotoxin and the arising inflammatory response…. Finally, while the most obvious solution to metabolic endotoxinemia appears to be to reduce saturated fat intake, the Western diet is not conducive to this mode of action, and it is difficult for patients to comply with this request”


            To summarize, inflammation can be attributed to the consumption of endotoxins found in most animal products and the saturated fats found in
            these foods act as pathways for the endotoxins. Since many chronic illnesses are attributed to this inflammation, what we need is to significantly lower intake of animal based foods.

            This is merely a shred of the evidence against the use of animal products and it is abundant indeed. More studies from peer reviewed journals can be found on this website. Nutrition is not a philosophy, it is based on sound science.

          • Guest
  • tony

    Hi Barry,

    Certainly dissagree!!!!
    The longest living nations all have high complex carb diets and not low carb diets.
    Check out Mcdougall.
    Great info for diabetes.

    I agree Vegan plant based is the way to go of course!!!!
    All the best!!!

  • john

    Dear Dr. Greger,
    I recently had a discussion about diet and nutrition with someone who has gone from being vegan back to eating meat. When I asked about the reasons for it, I got an answer I hadn’t ever heard before. I was told that she was concerned about toxins in grains, beans, and legumes. I asked if she was gluten intolerant, and she said that there were things in grains like gluten that are toxic for the body and gave her problems. I’m sure that there must be fewer toxins than in meat, but since I had never heard of it before I went home to look it up. I found some different sites mentioning Lectins, Phytic acids, and Immunoreactive proteins. I found several Paleo diet sites warning against eating grains for those reasons as well. Some sites recommend avoiding grains altogether but others say it is okay as long as they are soaked, sprouted, or fermented.
    My questions for you are as follows:

    Is there any research suggesting grains need to be prepared a certain way or avoided because of toxins?

    I saw your video saying kimchi and other fermented vegetables aren’t good, but what about fermented beans and grains?

    Does sprouting change the levels of these phytochemicals in grains?

    I saw your video that said a gluten free diet can be bad for gut
    bacteria, but it is my understanding that the bacteria in the gut are
    still mostly unknown, has the research progressed since I last heard?

    Thanks again for all the helpful information, and thanks in advance for information related to this. I look forward to seeing your answers to these nutrition questions in the future.

    Kind regards,

    • Toxins

      As long as you cook grains and beans, which everyone does, then lectins, phytates, tannins and other “antinutrients” will be either significantly reduced or completely eliminated. This is well established nutrition knowledge and I am unsure why the myth continues to spread.

      Dr. Greger’s take on sprouting

      • Harriet Sugar Miller

        From the many studies I’ve read, cooking does not reduce phytates. Rather, soaking and sprouting reduces phytates in foods that have lots of phytase, the enzyme that breaks down phytate. Those foods include rye, buckwheat, and quinoa, to name a few. Beans, nuts and seeds generally have little phytase, and with a few exceptions, lots of phytic acid. Yes, phytic acid has good points but it also has bad ones–such as interfering with absorption of amino acids and minerals (zinc probably be the most important one for us vegans).

        While I think your website is wonderful, I disagree with the approach of solving a problem by eating more food. We don’t need to be eating lots of beans, for example. If we do, we risk getting too much methionine and copper.

  • stuart

    No such thing as “healthy whole grains”. Two slices of whole wheat bread spike blood sugar higher than 6 teaspoons of table sugar. See Harvard’s glycemic index of foods.

    • Just a Mom

      The “whole wheat bread” isn’t 100% whole wheat, but milled and separated so that the endosperm is all that remains…pure sugar, so to speak…nothing nutritionally, empty calories. A real whole wheat bread is one make at home by grinding the wheat kernels into flour and making your own bread. If you add other grains, such as millet, flax, or even grind beans, the bread will be a power packed slice that is just like swallowing a vitamin pill…all nutrients listed on the back of a vitamin bottle is in the kernels and you can consume those nutrients in a manner your body was designed to digest and use fully. Read the label of any product and if it is “enriched” it isn’t truly whole grain. It was when it went into he processor, but can’t be shelved or the product will go rancid because of the oils in the kernel. Yes…oils.)

  • Scared of GMO

    I read somewhere that almost all the wheat grown in this country is GMO, and that animal feeds are also GMO. Is it still safe to eat whole grain GMO wheat products? I’ve cut down on meat-eating but what about my past intake? Are GMO foods causing some of our illnesses? Is there a video series on the long-term effects of consuming GMO foods?

    • Thea

      Scared of GMO: I find GMO foods to be frightening myself. However, it is my understanding that *no* wheat is allowed to be GMO in America. According to the recent news stories on the topic, the GMO wheat that Montaso wanted to subject us all to never got approval (more because Montaso pulled it than because our government wouldn’t have sold us out).

      That said, if there is another product that concerns you which *is* heavily saturated by GMOs (for example, corn), you might consider sticking to organic versions of that product. It is my understanding (which may not be correct – can someone confirm?) that part of the definition/criteria for certified organic foods is that they can not be GMO. Just a thought for you.

  • cy12

    What about the ‘paleo-diet’, meaning the apparent fact that all grain and grain based foods are bad for humans because we can’t properly digest them and they cause intestinal damage, with the apparent evidence being the negative effects of the agricultural revolution on humans, as well as the positive effects of cutting out grains from the diet for many people?

    • Thea

      cy12: re: “…apparent fact…”
      It’s neither apparent nor a fact. I recommend that you look up the videos on paleo and atkins diets that Dr. Greger has done on this site. You may also want to check out his Carbophobia book – which is free online.

  • timtango

    Dr. Greger –

    Can Dr. David Perlmutter have any meaningful evidence that indicates grains, even whole, are bad for our brain health?

    Also, is there any real evidence that a super low fat diet (like the one Esselstyn, McDougall, Ornish represent), is better for our heart.

    Or, are these extreme positions not fully supported by research?

    Thank you,

  • Darryl

    This seems like a good place to comment on a recent news item. David Sinclair, the man responsible for introducing resveratrol to the world, injected a NAD+ precursor NMN into aged mice and several biomarkers reverted to youthful values. Scaled up, and at reagent prices, and his intervention would cost $50,000/day. There must be a better way to increase intracellular NAD+ and Sirt1 activation. And there may be:

    Targeting sirtuin 1 to improve metabolism: all you need is NAD+? (2012)

    The function of CD38 as an intracellular NADase was subsequently proven right when mice lacking CD38 displayed a 30-fold increase in intracellular NAD levels. This increase in NAD levels is far superior compared with the 2-fold increases generally observed in most genetic (PARP-1 deletion), pharmacological (NAD precursors), or physiological interventions (fasting, calorie restriction) that enhance NAD content. The increase in intracellular NAD elicited by CD38 deletion significantly activated SIRT1 and prompted clinical phenotypes similar to those expected for SIRT1 activation, including protection against diet-induced obesity and a robust deacetylation of SIRT1 targets.

    Can we do this without reengineering our genes?
    Flavonoids as inhibitors of human CD38 (2011)

    The dire paucity of CD38 inhibitors, however, renders the search for new molecular tools highly desirable. We report that human CD38 is inhibited at low micromolar concentrations by flavonoids such as luteolinidin, kuromanin (cyanidin-3-O-β-glucoside) and luteolin (IC50 <10 μM).

    IC50 < 10 μM is very impressive, especially considering one may need as little as 3-4% inhibition of CD38 to double cellular [NAD+]. Just those?
    Flavonoid apigenin Is an inhibitor of the NAD+ ase CD38: implications for cellular NAD+ metabolism, protein acetylation, and treatment of metabolic syndrome (2013)

    We show that CD38 regulates global protein acetylation through changes in NAD+ levels and sirtuin activity. In addition, we characterize two CD38 inhibitors: quercetin and apigenin. We show that pharmacological inhibition of CD38 results in higher intracellular NAD+ levels and that treatment of cell cultures with apigenin decreases global acetylation as well as the acetylation of p53 and RelA-p65. Finally, apigenin administration to obese mice increases NAD+ levels, decreases global protein acetylation, and improves several aspects of glucose and lipid homeostasis.

    The IC50s for apigenin (14.8 μM) and quercetin (16.4 μM) are a bit less impressive, but comparable to pharmaceutical enzyme inhibitors. What are the best sources for these flavonoids (in descending order)?
    • luteolinidin – black sorghum, sumac sorghum, purple corn
    • cyanidin-3-O-β-glucoside – black rice, purple corn, scarlet corn, blue corn
    • luteolin: oregano, celery seed, juniper berries, thyme, radicchio
    • apigenin: parsley, celery seed, kumquats, celery hearts, oregano
    • quercetin: capers, radishes, dill weed, coriander/cilantro, oregano, onions

    Seems like colored grains are biochemically plausible, inexpensive sources of CD38-inhibiting anthocyanins for increasing cellular [NAD+], activating Sirt1, and improving healthspan. This newly found molecular mechanism for flavonoids shines a new light on older studies like this:

    Dietary cyanidin 3-O-β-D-glucoside-rich purple corn color prevents obesity and ameliorates hyperglycemia in mice (2013):

    Mice were fed control, cyanidin 3-glucoside-rich purple corn color (PCC), high fat (HF) or HF + PCC diet for 12 wk. Dietary PCC significantly suppressed the HF diet–induced increase in body weight gain, and white and brown adipose tissue weights. Feeding the HF diet markedly induced hypertrophy of the adipocytes in the epididymal white adipose tissue compared with the control group. In contrast, the induction did not occur in the HF + PCC group. The HF diet induced hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia and hyperleptinemia. These perturbations were completely normalized in rats fed HF + PCC. An increase in the tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α mRNA level occurred in the HF group and was normalized by dietary PCC. These results suggest that dietary PCC may ameliorate HF diet–induced insulin resistance in mice. PCC suppressed the mRNA levels of enzymes involved in fatty acid and triacylglycerol synthesis and lowered the sterol regulatory element binding protein-1 mRNA level in white adipose tissue.

    Dietary flavonoids, especially some found in the bran of colored grains, have effects that look exactly like experimental NAD+ precursors and CD38 inhibitors which activate Sirt1.

  • Ken

    I eat whole rolled oats every morning. I’ve just read that oats are highly inflammatory in the body. Are or are not oats good for me?

  • Harriet Sugar Miller

    I list those natural plant TOR inhibitors at the end of this article. My source is Dr.Bodo Melnik, a German dermatologist who has been at the forefront of the acne-dairy-prostate cancer research.

    • Thea

      Harriet: Nice! I really liked the article. Well written and chocked full of statements backed by sources. I also appreciated the list of foods at the end. Thanks.

  • Joel Santos

    Hi Dr. Greger. I just saw a video which says that Dr. Esselstyn likes to eat raw oats. It seems to be a very convenient way of eating them for someone too lazy to cook. I’m a little concerned though if there are some food safety issues with eating them raw. What’s your take on this? Thanks!

    • Toxins

      Eating oats raw is perfectly healthy and safe, there are no concerns. Enjoy

  • Tobias Brown

    How does bulgur wheat rank? Seems it’s less calorically dense, which is good in terms of feeling filled up. Nutritionally though?

  • shirleycolee

    I agree that a plant based diet is best and that avoiding grains is a good idea. Check out Hallelujah Acres website, They’ve been around for years. Many reports of cancer remission/cure after adopting a raw green veg diet for a year, then following their no meat, no dairy, no caffeine, no sugar and no salt diet. Also, look at the Seventh Day Adventists, who have excelled at health and longevity with a vegetarian diet and no alcohol, junk food, etc.
    I think keeping the grain in – even whole grain – leads to slippage back to bad carbs.

  • Rob Di Censo

    Hi Dr Gregor, my question is a little off topic but still about grains. I was looking up foods that made the top 100 ORAC list and Raw Sorghum Bran was 4th. I looked into it a bit more and it said in some species and in certain stages of growth it can contain dangerous levels of hydrogen cyanide. But it didn’t specify which species were dangerous to ingest. Do you know if Sorghum is safe or not? and if not, which species are safe to eat?