How Smoking in 1959 is Like Eating in 2019

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How Could There Be Such a Disconnect Between the Science and Medical Practice?

“Most deaths in the United States are preventable and related to nutrition.” According to the most rigorous analysis of risk factors ever published, the Global Burden of Disease study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, our diet is both the number-one cause of death and the number-one cause of disability in the United States, having bumped smoking tobacco down to number two. Smoking now kills about a half million Americans every year, whereas our diet kills thousands more.

If most death and disability is preventable and related to nutrition, then, certainly, nutrition is the number-one subject taught in medical school and the number-one topic your doctor talks with you about, right? How can there be such a disconnect between the science and the practice of medicine?

Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine you’re a smoker in the 1950s. The average per-capita cigarette consumption was about 4,000 cigarettes a year. Think about that. In the 1950s, the average American smoked half a pack a day.

My video How Smoking in 1959 Is Like Eating in 2019 shows a series of 1950s tobacco ads featuring media stars, famous athletes, and even Santa Claus telling you to smoke. The message was clear: If you wanted to keep fit and stay slender, you made sure to smoke. Magazine ads also encouraged you to eat hot dogs to keep yourself trim, as well as lots of sugar to stay both slim and trim. One ad even claimed that sugar was less fattening than apples. Apples! Though one internal tobacco industry memo stated, “Apples connote goodness and freshness and we see many possibilities for our youth-oriented cigarette with this flavor.” They wanted to make apple-flavored cigarettes for kids. Shameless!

As those 1950s ads tell us, in addition to staying “fit,” staying “slender,” and “guard[ing] against throat-scratch”, “for digestion’s sake,” you could smoke. “No curative power is claimed for Philip Morris,” read one ad, “but—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Heeding that advice, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so you’d better smoke.

Like eating, smoking was a family affair. Marlboro ads featured babies with comment bubbles saying, “Gee, Mommy, you sure enjoy your Marlboro,” “You’re darn tootin my dad smokes Marlboro…he knows a good thing,” and “Just one question, Mom…can you afford not to smoke Marlboro?” In another ad from the 1950s featuring a stereotypically  nuclear family, the dad is given cartons of cigarettes from his doting children—one boy and one girl, of course—and even the dog has a carton as his doting wife looks on.

“Blow in her face and she’ll follow you anywhere” was one tobacco company’s tagline, and “No woman ever says no to Winchester” was another. After all, cigarettes are “so round, so firm, so fully packed.” After all, John Wayne smoked them…until he got lung cancer and died.

Back then, even the Flintstones were smoking, and so were the doctors. This is not to say there wasn’t controversy within the medical profession. Yes, some ads showed doctors smoking Camels, but, in others, physicians preferred Lucky Strikes, so there was some disagreement. Indeed, “eminent doctors…on high and impartial medical authority…call for Philip Morris.” Even “leading nose and throat specialists” couldn’t agree which cigarette is better for your throat. Probably best to stick to the science, and, touts another ad, “more scientists…smoke Kent…” This should not be rocket science—but even the rocket scientists had their favorite Viceroys for the “man who thinks for himself.”

Can you guess why the American Medical Association (AMA) “went on record as withholding endorsement of the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, which documented the important role of cigarettes in…lung cancer”? A “gift from the tobacco companies” of ten million dollars may have had a little something to do with that. But why weren’t more individual doctors speaking out? There were a few gallant souls ahead of their time writing in to medical journals, as there are today, standing up against industries killing millions, but why not more? Maybe it’s because “the majority of physicians themselves smoke[d] cigarettes,” just like the majority of physicians today continue to eat foods that contribute to our epidemics of dietary diseases. What was the AMA’s rallying cry back then? Everything “in moderation.” The AMA said “[e]xtensive scientific studies have proved that smoking in moderation” is okay.

Eating the Standard American Diet today is like being a smoker in the 1950s. Just as smoking was rampant back then, think about what we’re feeding even hospital patients to this day.

We don’t have to wait until society catches up with the science. Sometimes it takes a whole generation for things to change in medicine. The old guard of smoking physicians and medical school professors die off, and a new generation takes its place—but how many people need to die in the interim?

I try to answer the question that arises in the minds of pretty much anyone dipping even  a single toe into the lifestyle medicine literature: “Wait a second. If this were true, why didn’t my doctor tell me?” If, for example, our number-one killer can be reversed through diet, why isn’t it front-page news and taught to every medical student, broadcast from every mountaintop by medical organizations, and featured in our government dietary guidelines? Still confused? Check out my other videos that address these questions:

For more on the parallels between smoking then and eating today, see:

Is the risk of smoking really comparable to following the Standard American Diet, though? See Animal Protein Compared to Cigarette Smoking and Will Cannabis Turn Into Big Tobacco?.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

88 responses to “How Could There Be Such a Disconnect Between the Science and Medical Practice?

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  1. Laughing.

    Global Burden of Disease study

    That’s the name!

    What I think about the most about that study was that the biggest risks were from people NOT eating fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds. Yes, other things were after that, but drinking soda was less dangerous than not eating your vegetables.

    At the end of Game Changers and in Eating You Alive – the ads are what stayed with me. Much of my confused thinking about foods comes from television. Those commercials are a big part of what confused America as a whole. Then, we pump our confusion out to the world.

    It wasn’t just the ads. The television shows and movies and food shows all showed the same eating.

    The Press always added in their confused and confusing take on everything. They insist on being neutral, but their version of neutral means they do “spin” more than “science” They do “butter is good” “butter is bad” “I can’t believe it’s not butter” “butter is good again”

    People shut down and don’t trust any of the science because of that.

    PBS and NPR do whichever flavor of doctors promoting whichever science they want.

    The Food Schmooze allowed comments anti-Dr. Ornish and the host laughed happily that the bad boy science logic was being presented instead. They consider themselves science-oriented, but they are not consistent either.

    I can say that my friend who is Keto oriented switched from learning everything from the thin mammas or whatever they are called and now, she is following Dr. Axe’s version of Keto. She doesn’t know that he isn’t an MD and doesn’t know that it isn’t going to help her Diabetes.

    I think I cycled through all of it over the past 3 years, but WFPB is the only one which makes sense and I didn’t know that because that is the one message the Press and Hollywood and the Food Network and Cooking Channel and PBS and WNPR aren’t putting out there.

    1. When I start to get confused, I make myself remember that WFPB is the diet lifestyle that requires just about no supplements because it supplies them – not like the more meat based diets that seem to require supplements to make up for what the diet lacks. Doubtful that 10,000 years ago and more one could bop over to the drug store for a bottle of vitamins and what ever else is needed. Also, WFPB is the least, ahem, clogging of any diets I’ve seen!

      1. LINDA A OLSEN,

        I laughed at your comment: “WFPB is the least, ahem, clogging of any diets I’ve seen!” GT tract AND arteries. I wonder what else? Common sense? Rational thinking?

    2. In the book: “The Last Days of Socrates”, he talked of his experiences of his youth, where he brought questions to many of the top authorities of the day. And Wherever he went, he found the (so called) authorities did not understand their own material. Everything would be backward or make no logical sense. Socrates was a man of incredible logic, who would find he way to the root of any problem, a feature generally lacking in humanity.

      Nothing has changed in the two thousand plus years since Socrates walked this earth. Those who rise to power and prominence often do so by the motto, “you scratch my back, and I will scratch yours”.

      It’s a great read, for anyone that enjoys subjects of depth in the intellectual genre.

      1. Michael, I read Plato’s documentation of the Socrates dialogues in high school. It changed my outlook on life and logical thinking forever. One of the main reasons I went into the field of science.

        “The unexamined life is not worth living”, said Socrates before they forced him to drink the hemlock poison.

        Thanks for posting the reminder. We can all learn a lot from history, if we just take the time to read it.

      2. Socrates wound up a suicide. That fate awaits most who anger the establishment. Too high a price IMHO. //”A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.”// Einstein

    1. Wayne started with lung cancer and then died of stomach cancer is what some sources say, but the internet isn’t good for looking it up. Some of the sources say he died of lung cancer and some say, stomach cancer and some say the lung cancer treatment caused stomach cancer. Either way, he had both and if the lung cancer treatment caused stomach cancer, then there might be a logic where you go back to the cause.

    2. A simple Google search: “Despite the suggestion that Wayne’s 1964 lung cancer and his 1979 stomach cancer resulted from nuclear contamination, he believed his lung cancer to have been a result of his six-pack-a-day cigarette habit.”

      1. Come on, guys. John Wayne died from his life style which included a huge amount of smoking, alcohol and eating meat and dairy. The final designated “cause” matters little when your body is shut down by a carcinogenic lifestyle.

        1. Yes, I believe you are right. I hear that he had 45 lbs of fecal matter in his colon! That’s why the huge belly! Probably would have killed him before long if the cancer hadn’t gotten him first!!!

  2. I am all for natural foods, no preservatives or artificial flavors. I rarely eat out, excepting when traveling, of course. I have a question, though. I believe big pharma, food and tobacco industries employ millions of people, directly and indirectly. What are all these people going to do for a living if America suddenly wakes up and goes natural? Agriculture pays peanuts, so forget about picking tomatoes for a decent living for all those currently making a decent salary.

    If everybody goes vegan, we would add some other million or two from the dairy, meat, chicken and pork industry. Not to mention what to do with the animals. We cannot just set them free.

    I am not defending the status quo, it is just a practical question I have been musing on.

    1. Carolina,

      You are pointing out that it is a major process.

      When I watched PlantPure Nation, what the farmers talked about was that they changed how they used their farms based on the markets and they were just as happy to sell tobacco or pickles or meat or dairy or organic fruit and vegetables, they just needed a distribution system which paid them for their product.

      They have started developing ways for small farms to get their blueberries to the grocery stores across the whole country rather than trying to sell them in local farmstands.

      Now, people just need to tell those farmers what they want.

    2. To slightly rephrase your question:

      “What are all these people going to do for a living if America suddenly wakes up and gets healthy?”

      It’ll never happen so don’t worry about it.

      1. The temptation is to be fatalistic, but I continue to believe in progress. Young people are open to understanding the the connection between plant-based living and the climate, and they are the future.

        1. Well said! I’m 66 and just became a vegan full time due to this website; but the real change will occur with the younger generation who want to change/save the planet.

    3. Nothing happens in a vacuum. It’s actually a rare thing for a business or an industry, to shut it’s doors overnight. Yes, Lehman Bros. did and Thomas Cook just did but the writing has been, and was, on the wall for both those Co’s. The move is on for the food industry and the restaurants too. Dr Greger’s reference to the tabacco industry is spot on. Those workers knew they had to make changes and did. Disruptive? Yes, because that’s the way of the world.

    4. Like everything else they will be absorbed by the economy. In the last hundred years we have automated
      almost ever industry. This didn’t lead to any major upheaval in the job market. The service industry grew and replaced lot manufacturing jobs. What will though cause massive unemployment is Artificial intelligence.

    5. Carolina, you are asking a very legitimate question. But in my view, if we had a truly free market economic system, it would correct itself. In fact it’s the only self correcting economic system that I know of. If buyers demand whole plant foods rather than meat, eggs, dairy, then suppliers will shift to meet the need or go bankrupt.

      It’s only when big government or big monopolies interfere, that the free market system stops working correctly. And usually, it’s a collusion between big government and big monopolistic industries that things evolve to, such as in the case of big tobacco.

      In a society with personal freedom, the answer lies in a well educated populace. And here, I’m not talking about the standard indoctrination type education that our schools have evolved to, in coordination with big business and big government. I doubt if true free market economic systems are even taught in the schools today, even at the college level. It’s such a simple concept, it could be taught as early as elementary school!

      And advertising through the mainstream media becomes the “education” source for most of the populace when it comes to nutrition.

      1. In a truly free market, redundant workers would simply be allowed to starve to death. The market like nature is a self-righting system but the mechanisms are not always pretty,

        The market is unlikely to prize highly issues like environmental contamination and product safety. The only yarstick after all is profit/cash flow.

        1. Fumbles,

          The only yarstick after all is profit/cash flow.

          You seem to be assuming all businesses are cut-throat with no morals! I know plenty of small business owners and small farmers who do care about the environment and the welfare of their community. They are mostly organic farmers and the small businesses donate to local charities that care for the needy in the community.

          It’s when the big multi-national corporations move in and purposely undercut them that problems arise. If buyers were educated properly, they would continue to buy from the local farmers and businesses even though they would be paying a little more up front, but they would realize that the long term gains in having a stable community would be worth the extra cost.

          1. Dawin

            Thanks but experience and history suggest that what people ‘should’ do and what they do do are often different things.

            And it may be romantic to think that all small businesses are run by noble morally upright individuals but it’s not very realistic. The history of food adulteration laws indicates that small businesses as well large were/are often culpable.

            Even as far back as Hammurabl if not before, it was recognised that some regulation of (small) businesses was required.

            1. Darwin, Fumbles,

              I probably agree with both of you.

              The thing is, I have lived my whole life in a town where the car repair shop owner would deliver the cars he repaired and when he arrived at the houses, he would see that the elderly person hadn’t raked their lawn and he would pick up a rake and do it himself. Many, many, many of the small business owners were like that. The farms around here often would just leave their produce out with a basket and it was honor method for paying them and some wouldn’t pay and others would pay more on purpose because it was so nice to live in a place where people could leave their doors unlocked and where people would show up for each other. But slowly, but surely, it has become so hard to compete with the high-powered businesses and the internet businesses like Amazon.

              Even when the small businesses want to be community-oriented, it isn’t the way of the world anymore, unless people want it to be and work to have it in their midst.

              In some ways, there is a cultural WFPB, but it is hard to hold onto, because people don’t eat their social fruits and vegetables anymore. They don’t even want to know their neighbors most of the time and you can look at all of the parents in the nursing homes and their aren’t social networks even to visit them there.

              We had a few businesses which were 75 years old go out of business last year in my town. They were the businesses where you could have a job forever and if you were a customer who struggled to pay, they would put you on a tab and might even help you out, but it is that the younger generations didn’t value the same ways of interacting and families separated from each other, where they used to stick together and even work together.

              I will also say that it is the really big companies who are doing ridiculous things over and over again with us. They change their terms and don’t have loyalty or integrity half the time. They have people who went to business schools and learned cut throat as how you do things.

              I feel so sad for the next generation because they missed it and history never can predict when close knit caring communities might come around again.

              1. I think about groups like the Amish who have tried so hard to live simpler lives, but it is hard to be that type of counterculture, even if much of what they chose was healthier than what the people around them were choosing.

                Our towns lived in a way where everybody knew everybody up until about 10 years ago and the children of the next generation have to choose a different way to live from the options which are available to them.

                Right now, more and more people are falling out of society. It used to be the drug addicts and alcoholics and mentally ill and ex-cons and ex-military. Then, single mother’s got added to the categories and then, people started losing their career jobs and losing their houses. There are more and more and more people who can’t find a full-time job and don’t have benefits or pensions and elderly people are losing their houses and many of the young people have more debt than their parents ever had.

                They have to choose the best future from their own virtual vending machine and I know that it is harder to make decisions now than it ever was.

    6. Carolina,

      If the meat industry declines, employment and profits will pick up in the plant based food industry.

      Just as the buggy industry declined when automotive manufacturing industry picked up. This is only one example of many. We don’t even think about them.

      As for plant foods, here’s one example: Burger substitutes. I don’t eat that; I don’t need fake animal products (which I consider CRAP — Calorie Rich And Processed) in my diet, and I don’t find my food “pallid” as the author of this article claims. But some people do want to eat fake meat.

      1. Yes, Dr. J.,
        For example, when I stopped eating animal products, I started getting vegetables from a local CSA. In Michigan, I get vegetables year-round (yes, here in Michigan!) from my local CSA–and I eat a LOT of them! I love supporting my amazing CSA farm that employs local people, which helps our local economy, and stops the flying in of food from far away and the waste of fuel for that purpose. I like it that what I’m doing is not only good for the locality, but also good for the earth since the farm is certified organic.

        As far as worrying about unemployed workers from animal farms, we also need to worry about the replacement of workers whose jobs are being mechanized in any occupation. For example, restaurants such as McDonalds are looking into the use of robots. Amazon is reportedly looking at delivery of packages using drones. Truck drivers may one day be replaced by self-driving vehicles, etc.

        Happy Supporter of a Local Organic CSA!

    7. First of all, it won’t happen that fast (unfortunately). (You might have asked what are we going to do when the population gets larger as a result of people living longer as a result of adapting healthier lifestyles.) But to answer your “what will all these people do?” they’ll have to do the same thing that whip makers had to do back in the horse and buggy days when cars took over the roads.

    8. Interesting question but it’s not really a practical question, since the odds of the world suddenly waking up and immediately shifting away from animal food is indiscernibly close to nil. (You could ask similar questions about Big Fossil Fuel and climate change. Or the militaries around the world and world peace.)

  3. I’m wondering how to interpret the “Low Milk” risk factor in this study. “Low Milk” is pretty low on the list (#14 right after “high sweetened beverages” and “high processed meat”), but regardless, according to this study, not drinking enough milk is associated with an increased risk of death and disability. Could this be true?

  4. “Eating the Standard American Diet today is like being a smoker in the 1950s. Just as smoking was rampant back then, think about what we’re feeding even hospital patients to this day.“

    My daughter is a nurse in a hospital cardiac monitoring unit (patients have had heart attacks and/or procedures for heart disease), and she told me that the hospital food that patients are fed is terrible. A lot of CRAP (Calorie Rich Processed Products). I guess it’s like allowing lung cancer patients to smoke in the hospital wards…

    And my experience with the medical profession is that NOT ONE PROFESSIONAL ever talked to me about diet and nutrition. Not even oncologists. Though when I asked the later group about it, I was told that cancer patients WERE referred to nutritionists — late stage ones, near the end. Wait, what? By then, it’s way too late!!

  5. Joel,

    Dairy is one of the things which this community argues back and forth about and probably always will.

    Places like Finland had areas of the country which went high-fat dairy and they ended up having people die in their 40’s and 50’s from heart attacks and ended up #1 in Alzheimer’s. They reversed those by 84 and 90% just by going off the fat from the dairy. There are other things like dairy viruses, which are in all of the major farms in America – some regions more than others.

    The milk industry has some of the most corrupt studies out there.

    All of that being said, milk is fortified in Vitamin D, for instance, and Vitamin D is linked to longevity.

    I won’t go back to milk because of the abuse of the animals and because of milk viruses and because I can get fortified oat milk or make my own and supplement Vitamin D.

    Some of the Blue Zones drink sheeps milk or goats milk and those appear healthier than cow’s milk, but I suspect all of the animals get treated poorly.

    The jury might still be out about whether drinking milk might be related to Type 1 Diabetes and Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer (Drinking milk raises the risk of Prostate Cancer by 11 percent, which doesn’t sound like much, but there is a 58 percent increased risk for breast cancer.)

    1. Deb, I am continually amazed that anyone who gives it a second thought would think that drinking the mammary secretions of another species is good for the adult human body!

      Isn’t it obvious that those secretions are tailored to the newborns of the particular species from which it is produced?

      Yes, if one is starving, it may get one through until real human food is found, but otherwise, it makes no logical sense to me at all.

      Amazing what tradition and brainwashing can do! And I do have to admit that I drank cow’s milk as a child because that’s what I was told was good for me. Luckily, I began doing a little questioning of “authority” later in life!

      1. Darwin,

        People are still being told that it is good for them.

        Milk, it does a body good.

        Milk, it helps have a thinner waist-line.

        Milk, it is good for your teeth and bones.

        The PR team of the milk industry and all of those milk mustaches worked pretty well,

        The science being perverted is what accomplished it and I will tell you that I review it all whenever Pete or Greg post it and if you don’t know what you are looking for, it is so far above the average person’s understanding.

        I can’t blame people for drinking it when all they have heard is how good it is for them.

        The whole concept of keeping the animals pregnant and women getting breast cancer and kids getting acne and girls starting their periods younger and the fact that milk has the same amino acid profile as the parts of the body destroyed leading to Type 1 Diabetes. Yes, that part isn’t proven, but it is a legitimate theory of why it happens.

        Viruses and hormones, oh my!

        1. I went to the chart, which you were talking about and it is in a much different order than the page I had looked at before.

          Boy, it is frustrating that they have multiple pages with different lists for diet.

          This one put the order like this:

          High Sodium
          Low Grains
          Low Fruit
          Low Nuts & Seeds
          Low Vegetables
          Low Omega 3
          Low Fiber
          Low PUFA’s
          Low Legumes
          High Transfats
          Low Calcium
          High Sweetened Beverages
          High Processed Meats
          Low Milk
          High Red Meat

          In that order.

          Okay, shoot, I have to find the list, which began with fruit. There is one and I am confused between the 2 lists.

          1. Okay, I did find a list, which was closer to what I remember, but it still isn’t the list I was looking at.

            But it helped me to understand because when you take heart attack and ischemic stroke, which are up at the top of the USA deaths list, fruit and whole grains swap places.and vegetables jumped over nuts and seeds.

            That tells me that there are several places where they moved those superhero foods back and forth.

            The PUFA’s only benefits in that chart when it is replacing saturated fats or refined carbs, so it gets kicked off of my list. Milk isn’t even on the one I am looking at now and sodium dropped out of #1.

            Yes, I am confused, but the same foods: Fruit, Vegetables, Whole Grains, Legumes and sometimes Nuts versus Omega 3 are up at the top.

  6. It’s really no mystery. There is much more profit to be made out of making and keeping people sick than healthy.

    “For the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Timothy 6:10).

    1. Dommy,

      That is a Biblical and Historical truth.

      I watch a lot of PBS specials and the number of people abused, murdered, enslaved simply because of the love of money is astounding. I am overwhelmed with how many dark parts of history were just about power and money.

  7. Well I’ve written before about what idiots, crooks and incompetent buffoons most doctors are. Nice to see Dr. Greger agrees with me although he didn’t use those exact words.

    Only I’ve been saying it since 1980.

    Since then I’ve checked medical course outlines. Doctors don’t get nutritional educations in North America. What they learn is how to make baby formula.

    There are very few doctors who know anything about Nutrition. When they publish a book on the subject they are always either wrong, misleading and incomplete. They are also shunned by their colleagues as heretics.

    Doctors don’t believe food influences health one way or the other. That’s what they were and probably still are taught.

    This is also why some medical sectors are really licence to commit assault with a deadly weapon. Ear, Nose and Throat Doctors ranking first IMHO.

    Those idiots destroy lives every they show up for work.

    GIs aren’t much better. Oh. Maybe not. Maybe they’re the worst.

    Cancer Klan specializes in mega fraud.

    Then we could talk about the bimbo gang responsible for food supply in any given hospital including the clueless bean counters who get the final say in what fake foods they get to assassinate shut-ins and their own staff with.

    Maybe I should write a book about how doctors murder their patients in plain sight.

    I’ve documented two cases so far. One maimed 125 women and killed a mother and her baby. That case should have implicated staff all the way up to the Ontario Minister of Heath.

    The second was the medical murder of The Honourable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance, Canada.

    I ran these cases past doctors I know and all agreed that it was murder in both cases.

    The thing is, there are powerful protections in place in Canada at least that prevent lawsuits being successful on practically any grounds.

    The success rate for a lawsuit against a doctor has never been higher than 2% since 1902. If that doesn’t tell you something about the collusion between the medical profession, the legal system and government nothing will.

    In the US, the reverse is true but the system itself is even more culpable and corrupt but fighting that system without the resources of a billionaire can only result in personal bankruptcy.

    1. What happened to the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors “Let food be your Medicine and Medicine be your Food, they are not given any nutritional training, so pointless taking the oath.

  8. I have heard Dr Greger say several times over the years that John Wayne died of Lung Cancer, It is true that John Wayne had Lung Cancer, most likely as a result of his heavy smoking habit. The Cancer was successfully treated in 1964 by having his left lung removed. What eventually did the Duke in was Stomach Cancer in 1978, which was probably the result of his meat heavy diet.

    I think these sort of details are important to get right, since those seeking to discredit plant based research could point to something like this to claim that Dr Greger doesn’t know what he is talking about.

  9. The irony of this blog post’s timing is astounding. I am literally sitting in the ICU with my father who came in yesterday for internal bleeding and kidney failure. This morning’s menu choices were 95% dairy and/or sugar-based!! I told the doctors he is not to be given dairy at all. I also told them no animal protein. When we ordered water-based cream of wheat and sugar-free almond milk, they accidentally brought him a fried-egg sandwich topped with melted cheese and bacon! Sure, it was a mix-up, but I asked why is the hospital serving patients the foods that are making them sick?!! I’m so frustrated. His nephrologist knew that kidney patients shouldn’t have animal protein, but he had never heard about not having dairy. At least he said he’d look into it. After he left, I checked email, and there was this blog-post!! lol-with a little crying

    1. Gina…I understand and feel for you….I just lost my wonderful 97 year old mother who passed from kidney failure….she resided in a number of complex care facilities whose meals were fully institutional…one would be better off fasting in a hospital setting it seems….even after consulting with a nutritionist at the complex care home, her diet never changed, same old meat, potatoes/gravy and canned vegetables with a jellied dessert…

    2. Gina,

      I’m sorry about your dad.

      I have a SIL who was recently diagnosed with kidney cancer, and had it removed. So she still has 1 kidney left. Yet another SIL who cared for her after her surgery was so proud of what she was feeding the patient: meat, meat, meat. At a recent family party, she ate lots of meat. (As well as other CRAP; very little whole food.). So sad.

      And yet, I’m afraid to make any dietary suggestions to her, since the family tends to tease, joke, and basically disparage and dismiss the way my husband and I eat (it’s called “food bullying.” And why do they continue to marvel at how “skinny” my husband is??)

      Meanwhile, my little elderly dog (now almost 16-17 years old, he is a rescue mutt) is vegan (6 months); when I called the kibble company to ask where their senior kibble was, they replied that there isn’t any, that their all plant kibble is fine for elderly as well as younger dogs. Apparently, kidney problems experienced by older dogs is due to the higher animal protein content of their commercial kibble. Fascinating. True for people; true for dogs.

      But curiously, when I broke my jaw 50 years ago, I was put on the kidney patient diet in the hospital; I called it the Cream of Nothing diet. Tasteless, bland, soft, liquidy, I’d no idea what it was, but I could sip it with my jaw wired shut. (I lost 10 lbs in a week, and I was already skinny to start with. Doesn’t sound like a nutritionally complete diet.)

      1. Dr. J.,

        I am sorry to hear that. I felt the same way with my brother when he had his kidney removed. I did bring him meals between diagnosis and surgery, but it is a tight rope between being helpful and bullying.

        I will say that he has probably not had healthy food since my mother passed away. Neither he, nor his wife like to cook.

        But after my shenanigans of feeding him vegan whole food plant-based lunches, he actually does have some vegan meals which he does eat now. Not many, but some and that is better than before.

        I consider it progress.

        I identify with the feeding a senior dog vegan kibble. I am still waiting for a plant-based dog study. I know that there was a vegan dog who was a Guinness record holder, but I would like to see how much better the dogs fare on WFPB. I suspect there would be an advantage and that most of the dog science is all just keto logic and they don’t know that any other way would work.

          1. Your dog is a carnivore. Why would you do such a thing to your dog? Do you hate your dog? Are you up for a charge of animal abuse? You have a duty to provide it with the necessities of life. Vegetables are not it. Please educate yourself.

            1. Don’t be so foolish John. You should educate yourself before condemning others for not sharing your mistaken beliefs.

              Dogs are not obligate carnivores like cats. They have traditionally been regarded as omnivores, just like humans and pigs.

              Patricia is clearly better informed about this matter than you are

              1. I’ve raised over 50 dogs. I grew up in s pet shop. I’ve seen what works, what doesn’t and what happens when you mistreat them with the wrong foods.

                Don’t think for a minute that scientifically formulated dog foods are all that great either. They are not. Modern dog food is made for humans, not dogs. They are formulated to keep the stools well formed for easy pick up, not for canine health. Feeding a dog a vegetarian diet is just plain stupid.

          2. Patricia

            Kibble is just food prepared as pellets. In this case, it just means dry dog food.

            Benevo is a UK company that produces ‘vegan’ dog food,

            Please ignore and forgive John.. He has strong opinions about many things but is often (usually) wrong. he is not the sort of person to let the facts get in the way of his opinions, unfortunately.

    3. Gina,

      Those types of things are so frustrating.

      I have so many people who have told me stories like that over the past few months.

      Hospitals don’t seem to even know how to feed people with Diabetes or Kidney problems at all. I guess I could say the same thing for Cancer and Heart Disease, but the people in my life who have gone in all had Diabetes and Diabetes with Kidney issues and they all spoke with almost shock at what they were given to eat.

      I will definitely say a few prayers for your father.

    1. Yes Joy, in a couple of years there will be a huge increase in the incidence of lung disease in young people…COPD, asthma, and yes the big C—– word….the ingredients in the vaping solutions are destructive and known to be toxic and carcinogenic…how did the authorities allow a product like this to enter the market? Gee, would it have anything to do with tax dollars? Lobbyists? I wonder?…..

      If you have a loved one vaping, do everything in your power to get them to stop…you will save their life…

      1. My young worker has stopped vaping since the deaths. I am so happy for him. He has already changed into a better worker. He was sneaking off to take naps and all sorts of nonsense and that has all stopped.

  10. Excellent article, which anyone in the know would understand is absolutely correct….I’m now retired but was a practicing chiropractor and I always discussed nutrition with patients…I worked with and treated medical doctors and they were “surprised and amazed” at my nutritional knowledge….why? Because modern chiropractors are given at least two years of nutritional study and any doctor worth visiting would incorporate an integrative approach to treatment including patient nutrition…

    I don’t watch cable anymore, I simply cannot watch the fast food ads, not to mention the lousy content…Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer….yes, all directly related to food….You are what you eat! Oh, I forgot to mention every other ad is for the latest and greatest pharmaceutical for the sickest nation in the world….I guess medical schools equate “nutrition” with pharmaceutical intake…

    As a final comment, nobody is responsible for your health except you…how many readers are regularly examining the nutritional panel on packaged foods? Take a look at the saturated fat, sugar, and sodium content on these labels next time you pick up a package of your favorite ramen noodles…or those frozen seasoned beef patties…the fact that you are reading this on the Dr. Gregor website is a great start!

  11. Doc. You nailed it. As usual. I’ll share this article in it’s entirety along with many of the links, in my radio broadcasts next week on the Ocean Mist Power Hour on KCIW, FM 100.7 out of Brookings Harbor Oregon. I share your material regularly on broadcast and podcast. Thank you, THANK YOU!!!

  12. My very old mother is in the hospital. In addition to other issues, she has trouble swallowing. Today a dietitian stopped by her room. My mother described to her how she makes herself lentil soup with chopped up vegetables. The dietitian suggested puréeing the soup — fair enough — and then told my mother that she should really add some chicken because chicken is very healthy.

    1. Just about everything can be pureed.

      Laughing about the chicken advice.

      They have shallow spoons and they have tubes for helping them if they have sucking problems and slow-flow straws. Probably more than that nowadays.

      I know they use Thickeners, which my relatives hated in their drinks. I would use a baby medicine dropper and give them such small amounts that they didn’t need everything thickened, but when they went in nursing homes, they used thickeners even in the water.

      My grandmother would drink 40 ounces of milkshakes from a baby medicine dropper one line at a time. I know it sounds like I was standing there for a long time, but it wasn’t that bad.

        1. My heart goes out to you.

          Many of us have been through it.

          One thing which I will say is that almost any foods which are moist enough can be pureed, so start with recipes that she likes and figure out if they can be pureed. I say it because you can make things she likes and it will end up just being texturally off and it will be less like baby food.

          Casseroles can be pureed, for instance, so you can look up some interesting casseroles and then make them for yourself even and then puree them.

          Also, it can help to keep some of the flavors separated so that there can still be a sense of variety. For instance, if you did High Carb Hannah’s broccoli soup, which has potatoes in it, that keeps broccoli as a distinct flavor, but you lose the sense of potato, which is fine because those can be done at a different time without feeling like she is only eating the same thing over and over again.

          Things like hummus can often have interesting flavors and it is something I found out that adds emotional satiety. You don’t lose the benefit of beans and lentils when they are blended is what Dr. Greger pointed out (where other foods, you lose fiber)

          They actually have molds to make the pureed foods look more interesting.

          1. They even puree pies with the crust on and things like pasta salad or vegan lasagna or pizza – so start with what she would eat if she could just eat anything.

            There are online recipes and sites like Simply Thick have a few recipes which can be adapted (They have how to do pureed pizza, how to puree tortillas for tacos and pureed cabbage rolls with their product.)

  13. I medical school in the 1970’s, I hated meetings because so many physicians smoked and we all had to breathe it in. Not a word was said about diet. When I was in my 30’s, I cut back on sugar and desserts to avoid gaining weight. However, in my 40’s and 50’s I transitioned to a WFPBD because I saw patients dying on junk food, I had HTN and severe hypertriglyceridemia, but the final straw was developing 2 cancers. As my awareness evolved, I realized that our diets are not only killing us but also the planet, besides all of the horrific animal cruelty. My grandchildren are becoming more motivated because of the cruelty.

  14. To be fair here, virtually all primary prevention guidelines in English-speaking countries emphaise the importance of diet and lifestyle as the first line strategy, eg

    The problem is that very few hospitals and practising physicians strictly follwo guidelines in their entirety.

    1. Fumbles, I often see this question from the doctor’s point of view. I have had doctors (each new specialist I see for example) congratulate me for taking the time, and making the effort to stay slim and fit, eat well, and educate myself about my health issues. They say over and over that lifestyle is sooo important and yet so few (very very few) patients are willing to do it. Last week my doctor came into the office and excitedly told me her last patient was “just like me” LOL, reading her bloodwork report and asking how to bring numbers into optimal range. It’s so rare. I can’t imagine how depressing it must be at times for GPs when patients don’t value their health the way they should.

      1. Barb,

        That is fascinating.

        I have never seen that. I have seen people trying to talk about dietary solutions with their doctors and being shot down.

        1. That sort of thing happens to me regularly and no one so far has seemed to be fascinated even though what I say works and what they say does not.

      2. Thanks Barb.

        Yes, apparently many GPs are also shell-hocked from dealing with so many Atkins/low carb.keto diet followers who truly belueve that they know more about nutrition/cholesterol etc than 90% of doctirs. Apparently, they have been told this by YouTube gurus and others pitching low carb diets.. Flattering your ciustomers like this is an effective sales tactic it seems.

  15. Hang in there Dr. Greger, like that grouchy old frustrated Dr. McDougall, someday you too will be blessed with sainthood. Did you notice the latest frakass? Not a peep about a million people on earth being killed by junk food but 200 people die sucking on junk air and all hell breaks loose. It’s a follow the money mystery…

  16. It’s funny, in 2015 while out on a walk I started having chest pain that would go away when I stopped, and return when I walked. I was just 58. A Cardiac Cath found a 90% blockage of my LAD and 50 – 60% blockages throughout all coronary arteries from beginning to end. The cardiologist told me it was genetics and nothing I could do about it. He told me to enjoy myself as there is nothing I can do and would be dead within a year. He told me that if I got chest pain again I should not call an ambulance or go to the hospital since nothing could be done. I asked about diet and he said enjoy yourself for your remaining life. I figured that part may be genetics, but part was also lifestyle. I also know something about medicine as I worked many years as a medic on an ambulance and in the ER. I also performed autopsies and knew that most doctors were not all that healthy themselves. That night while in the hospital I got out my Kindle and started to research diets for coronary artery disease. I found Dr. Dean Ornish’s book “The Spectrum” and read several chapters before going to sleep. I immediately felt that I had nothing to lose by going WFPB. The next day for lunch they actually brought me a slab of roast beef with about an inch of fat attached, and this was their cardiac diet. I can just see cardiac patients eating this and thinking this is what I can eat daily. No wonder we have so much heart disease.

    I found a new cardiologist at USF, a university based teaching institution. My cardiologist loves Whole Foods Plant Based, and I have done well with that, plus I walk either 9 miles or ride my bike 26 miles every day. I did have a heart attack in 2017 as some plaque broke off and blocked the distal section of my small, ratty LAD causing heart muscle damage to the left ventricle. I went right back to my activities and diet and have done great since. Yes, I am still high risk for a heart attack or cardiac arrest, but feel that WFPB has definitely given me a new lease on life. I was supposed to die within a year back in 2015, but still doing great now at the end of September 2019.

    Doctors are not trained in nutrition and overall are not that healthy. Do your own research.

    1. “The cardiologist told me it was genetics and nothing I could do about it. He told me to enjoy myself as there is nothing I can do and would be dead within a year.”
      – – – – – – –

      A doctor who tells a patient something like that should have his medical license revoked.

      1. And that is why I found another cardiologist. After the first cardiologist I went to a cardiac surgeon my wife works with. He said a bypass would be tough as my coronary arteries are so small and ratty. He suggest a cardiologist at USF and that is who I went to immediately.

  17. Dr. Greger,
    Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has funded invaluable efforts for saving lives and Bill is an “optimizer” in essence, as he self defines.
    Wouldn’t it be an impactful idea if you get their support too to have sponsored support to prevent more deaths from preventable causes?
    You could have a revolutionary healthcare system proposition, based on prevention and together you could think of developing incentives for government and society to implement.
    Happy to discuss further.

  18. Thank you for this insightful article, but I was wondering how you felt about essential oils? I was considering the ones from RainShadow Labs, but don’t want to use them if they don’t actually do anything.

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