Convincing Doctors to Embrace Lifestyle Medicine

Convincing Doctors to Embrace Lifestyle Medicine
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An editorial by the Director of Yale’s Prevention Research Center on putting a face on the tragedy of millions suffering and dying from chronic diseases that could be prevented, treated, and reversed if doctors inspired lifestyle changes in their patients.


Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

I talk a lot about numbers and statistics, but as the Director of Yale’s Prevention Research Center put it in a recent editorial, to reach doctors, our fellow colleagues, maybe we need to put a human face on it all.

“We have known…[for at least a decade] that the leading causes of both premature death and persistent misery in our society are chronic diseases that are, in turn, attributable to the use of our feet [exercise], forks (diet…), and fingers (…smoking). Feet, forks, and fingers are the master levels of medical destiny for not just thousands of people on any one occasion [like a tsunami or earthquake] but the medical destiny of millions upon millions year after year.

“We [as doctors, as a medical profession] have known,” [Ornish published 23 years ago] “but we have not managed to care. At least, not care deeply enough to turn what we know into what we routinely do. Were we to do so, we [might be able to] eliminate [most] heart disease,…strokes, …diabetes, and…cancer.”

But, saving millions of lives is just a number. He asks doctors to forget the bland statistics of public health, and ask ourselves if we love someone “who has suffered a heart attack, stroke, cancer, or diabetes….Now imagine their faces, whisper their names. Recall what it felt like to get the news. And while [we’re] at it, [we can] imagine the faces of other[s]…imagining beloved faces.”

“Now imagine if eight [out] of 10 of us wistfully reflecting on intimate love and loss, on personal anguish, never got that dreadful news because it never happened. Mom did not get cancer; dad did not have a heart attack; grandpa did not have a stroke; sister, brother, aunt, and uncle did not lose a limb or kidney or eyes to diabetes. We are all intimately linked, in a network of personal tragedy that need never have occurred.”

“Which leads to what [he’s] asking doctors to do about it: put a face on public health every chance you get. When talking about heart disease and its prevention—or cancer or diabetes—ask your audience to see in their mind’s eye the face of a loved one affected by that condition.” Then… imagine that loved one…among the 80% who need never have succumbed if what we knew [as doctors] were what we do.”

Invoke the mind’s eye, he advises, and then bring a tear to it.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Regina Holliday via flickr. Thanks to Ellen Reid for her image-finding expertise, and Jeff Thomas for his Keynote help.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

I talk a lot about numbers and statistics, but as the Director of Yale’s Prevention Research Center put it in a recent editorial, to reach doctors, our fellow colleagues, maybe we need to put a human face on it all.

“We have known…[for at least a decade] that the leading causes of both premature death and persistent misery in our society are chronic diseases that are, in turn, attributable to the use of our feet [exercise], forks (diet…), and fingers (…smoking). Feet, forks, and fingers are the master levels of medical destiny for not just thousands of people on any one occasion [like a tsunami or earthquake] but the medical destiny of millions upon millions year after year.

“We [as doctors, as a medical profession] have known,” [Ornish published 23 years ago] “but we have not managed to care. At least, not care deeply enough to turn what we know into what we routinely do. Were we to do so, we [might be able to] eliminate [most] heart disease,…strokes, …diabetes, and…cancer.”

But, saving millions of lives is just a number. He asks doctors to forget the bland statistics of public health, and ask ourselves if we love someone “who has suffered a heart attack, stroke, cancer, or diabetes….Now imagine their faces, whisper their names. Recall what it felt like to get the news. And while [we’re] at it, [we can] imagine the faces of other[s]…imagining beloved faces.”

“Now imagine if eight [out] of 10 of us wistfully reflecting on intimate love and loss, on personal anguish, never got that dreadful news because it never happened. Mom did not get cancer; dad did not have a heart attack; grandpa did not have a stroke; sister, brother, aunt, and uncle did not lose a limb or kidney or eyes to diabetes. We are all intimately linked, in a network of personal tragedy that need never have occurred.”

“Which leads to what [he’s] asking doctors to do about it: put a face on public health every chance you get. When talking about heart disease and its prevention—or cancer or diabetes—ask your audience to see in their mind’s eye the face of a loved one affected by that condition.” Then… imagine that loved one…among the 80% who need never have succumbed if what we knew [as doctors] were what we do.”

Invoke the mind’s eye, he advises, and then bring a tear to it.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Regina Holliday via flickr. Thanks to Ellen Reid for her image-finding expertise, and Jeff Thomas for his Keynote help.

Doctor's Note

What did Ornish publish 23 years ago? See Our #1 Killer Can Be Stopped.

I think I’ve profiled only one other editorial (on Ornish’s Convergence of Evidence), but this one really struck me (so much so I used it to close out my latest live presentation More Than an Apple a Day: Combating Common Diseases).

Why don’t more doctors practice lifestyle medicine? Two theories are offered in The Tomato Effect and Lifestyle Medicine: Treating the Causes of Disease.

For more on the power of our day-to-day choices, see:

In 2018, I published a series that starts with What Is the Optimal Diet? Check it out!

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

93 responses to “Convincing Doctors to Embrace Lifestyle Medicine

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  1. I remember that you talked about this editorial before. Really convincing. I’m not a doctor, but I think everybody is concerned and should take part of it. I talk about lifestyle and prevention to most people around me that feel interested. Often redirecting them to your website. Half of my family and many of my friends have already changed. Thanks to people like you.

    1. None of my family or friends want anything to do with changing their unhealthy habits. Their “doctors” claim a pill will help and they take that advice. I have watched many succumb because of stubbornness and belief in their doctor’s advice. I haven’t endeared myself to them by trying to help them or even get them to do their own research and decide on their own. Many of them even resent me because I changed my own health habits. Really sad….

      1. PT: I agree. It IS really sad.

        I have a thought for you: You probably don’t want to get rid of your family and friends, but it sure can be a huge breath of fresh air to hang out with people who care about themselves and others enough to do something about it. You might think about adding to your group of friends by hanging out with some whole plant food based eaters. I don’t know where you live, but I think that many even smallish towns have some sort of social group that does monthly potlucks or something like that. One place to start looking for such a group is the website, You also might ask around at your local health food store and/or try to find some animal rights groups in your area.

        Just an idea.

        1. Thank you for the advice. Probably the closest support group to me would be about 70 miles from where I live. I do live in a small town and I don’t believe anyone eats the way we do.

        2. Adding new friends that share the WFPB lifestyle is something I am working on. Unfortunately, many of my present friends are meat-eaters who want to validate what they are doing by finding fault with my diet. Good friends can have differences, but food is a lifestyle choice and it is good to have friends who share the same beliefs,,, and enjoy the same vegan-friendly restaurants. Meet-up’s are a good start.

          1. Good luck BB. I think it is smart to try to include WFPB people in your social circle. It sounds like you might be in a place where you could do something about it.

            The studies that VRG (Vegetarian Resource Group) does each year has me convinced that the percentage of vegan eaters in America is just going to keep growing and growing. So, this will get easier for us (semi)early pioneers as time goes on.

            Thanks for sharing.

      2. I know what it feels. I said half of my familly, because the other half is doing terribly wrong: breast cancer, myalgie, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, stroke.. They take pills and shots, are fat and sick, and question me about my protein intake dispite my muscle growth… And they don’t want to change of course. My grand mother had lived under the restriction of the war, and now she is the cook. Guess what ? There is fat everywhere, oil and butter is the main source of calorie, enormous amount of meat and other animal product. She is fat and got Type-2 diabetes. And I can do nothing about that. I know because I tried…

      3. I am a doctor, and my family gladly ask me for advice on disease, pills, procedures, diagnosis etc. The have chronic diseases – diabetes, hypertension, heartdisease – but when I advice them to embrace a healthy lifestyle, they do not listen at all – their attitude is that I am a fanatic, even though I can back everything up with science. One question I frequently hear: “There must be a pill for this?” My point is, that not only doctors have to change – patients, politicians, journalists, publishers (with their ridiculous meatpushing books) have to change – society have to change!

  2. Greed works. Laws might work. Tears won’t work to change any part of the medical or insurance industry. Consumers/patients/customers will continue to be herded and fleeced like sheep.

      1. It is a truthful statement. Doctors do what they get paid to do since that is how the system works. As Dr. G brought out the other day, medical schools focus on producing floor moppers rather than tap-turner-offers.

        1. How does the comment help?

          What if we change our thinking from despair to pro-active appeal to foster positive preventive medicine? What if we endeavor to put a human face on it. Gripe about the “Machine” all you like, this vid offers a way forward.

          What was that song? “Messiah’s pointed to the door but no one had the guts to leave the temple.” Leave by example :)

          BTW, Dr. Katz kindly sent a PDF of the paper by email upon my request. I intend to take a hard copy to my cardiologist next visit. …and my GP … and so on.

          I’ve got to tell this really just happened: A Knock at the door, 2 rough tough diary farmers from next door with an injured young duck. Got its head stuck in a grain bag. They know we are soft-touches here so they brought it to us. I thought quick in the spirit of today’s vid and got them to name it, heh….what a hoot. Name?… BLD (Breakfast, lunch and dinner)….I still have a ways to go with them.

          1. Not griping, but acknowledging that people do what they are incentivized to do and avoid what they are penalized for. That carrot and stick encompass time, money, and environmental support for the doctor. Lifestyle medicine has to become “cost effective” from the POV of the hospitals and physicians for real change to take place.

            Medicare partially paying for the Ornish and Pritikin programs are a step in that direction.

          2. Coacervate: Thanks for that duck story. Well told. And good luck with your neighbors.

            FYI: I once tried something similar with a dog trainer who also raises and eats her small flock of sheep. I offered a small suggestion with the ulterior motive that my suggestion might help the trainer to understand how much her sheep are just like her dogs, whom she would never send to the slaughterhouse and then eat. It didn’t work, but it was worth a shot.

        2. This is a blanket statement that isn’t true for all
          doctors. Of course doctors get paid to do what they do…that fits most of people who work, Some doctors care and even practice a healthy life style…I know…. I am married to one. He is D.O. so the focus is on prevention in his clinic.

          1. D.O.s in private practice may be an exception to the rule, but the consolidation and corporatization of our health care system means more and more doctors are employees for systemic corporations instead of partners or sole proprietorships. This put more pressure on them to be more “efficient” which means spending less time with patients. Sadly, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for individual patient education.

          2. Yes, most doctors tow the party line. Especially specialists like endocrinologists and cardiologists. Not saying they are bad people because of it, many are just deluded and don’t want to admit it. But it is extremely frustrating situation, especially for a patient such as myself who doesn’t have the resources to pay out of pocket for any medical care. I am forced to see doctors who do not put in the extra time and effort to keep up with latest research etc. my cardiologist actually told me flat out that “it’s impossible to lower your cholesterol to safe levels through lifestyle changes alone. You MUST take statins.” And since I have heart disease I’m assuming he means for the rest of my life. I know this is not true, but does he care or listen to what I have to say? Nope. He blows me off like I’m some kind of fanatical brainwashed dummy. I wish I could see one of the few lifestyle pro docs in my area, but they don’t take Medicare.

  3. Feet, forks, and fingers aren’t the only things that determine health. Sure, not smoking, eating a whole food plant-based diet and moderate exercise go a long way in making us healthy, but there’s more we can do. Two things that come to mind are truing off the television early and getting adequate sleep, and turning of the television so that you have time to engage socially with others.

    1. Roland: The part of your comment about engaging socially with others speaks very much to me. But my opinion is that the TV is not the problem so much as our cell phones, “social websites”, etc. I expect a lot of flack for this comment, but I think these things have done far more to hinder social connection than the TV ever did.

      I’m all for the ‘adequate sleep’ part of your comment too.

  4. My father had open heart surgery, triple bypass, many years ago. He did reform his diet and exercise. He has lived quite well since then into his 80s, though he even smoked for many, many years. He believes that my new vegan diet is the healthiest diet possible. But when I go to breakfast with him, he orders eggs with bacon with greasy home fries. Maybe he does this type of eating at meals a few times per week. I’ve decided to not criticize what he eats. He knows the facts. He knows how I feel about it. At some point, there’s not much we can do.

    1. Tobias: When I read stories like yours, I find it painful. It is so hard when we see someone we love hurting themselves. But it is the wise person who understands that an integral part of being an adult is deciding what risks to take for ourselves. You are wise to try to enjoy your father as much as you can rather than pushing him away trying to force him to do something he is not yet ready for. With a gentle approach, there is always hope for the future. And in the mean time, you have each other for now. Good luck to you both.

  5. All the more reason why we need more ND’s who are classical naturopaths who work with their clients to educate them on wellness and prevention while they are healthy rather than expect the ones in mainstream medicine who get paid when you are sick to tell you how to prevent disease. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, like the good Dr Greger, Dr Furhman and a host of others. :-)

  6. I know some nurses and other health professionals socially but no Dr’s. When I lived in Sweden I met and became friends with several Dr’s. There seems to be a class structure in some societies that precludes mixing with the masses.

    Of course we ARE talking about human beings. Nurses (and I presume Dr’s) do become frustrated with people who refuse or are “unable” to give up the smokes…the drinks… you name it. After a while it becomes a we/they situation just for their own emotional protection.

    I do believe things are changing for the better…largely because of Dr G, the other good Dr.s who fight for WF/PB and the good people here who lead by example.

    1. Coacervate: The part of your comment that stood out for me was the end, “…lead by example.” I’m a huge believer in that. So much so, that sometimes my strong commitment/promise to myself to “lead by example” is the strongest motivator for me to pass up an opportunity to stray. “Oh that home-made chocolate cake sitting on the table in the break room at work looks so, so good. But there are three people in here with me and we all know that cake has eggs, milk and butter. If they see me take a slice, then I will be a very poor role model, confirming for them that a whole plant food diet is just too hard.” So, I don’t take a slice. :-)

      (In general, the ethical side of whole plant based eating is the strongest motivator for me. But sometimes in the moment, I am surprised that I am thinking more about helping my fellow humans at that specific time than thinking about the abused chickens and cows and global climate change.)

      Just sharing with you. Thank you for your comment.

  7. The problem stems in our Medical Education: as a first year medical student, who has embarked on this journey at 34, with the eventual goal to dedicate myself to promoting healthy lifestyle, I am realizing that medical school will not teach me much of what to promote. My first two years are an intense preparation for the board exam STEP 1, then another board exam, and another. Meanwhile, the entire journey is very unhealthy: many med students eat junk food, sit countless hours staring at the computers & are also very sleep deprived. When the ultimate goal of the medical school is to do well on the step exam, it is difficult to maintain perspective on what your ultimate purpose is. Fortunately, I am old enough to have created healthy lifestyle habits before I began medical school( which are still often compromised), whereas most of my 21+ year old classmates will spend the next 7 to 8 formative years in the curriculum that evaluates you on the ability to score well on the board exams. My school attempts to change this: we have ethic classes, community outreach opportunities, public health classes once a week but overworked, overwhelmed students just don’t take it as seriously as any other courses we are tested on.

    1. Gala: Speaking as a lay-person: Reading your post was actually uplifting to me. While you point out a lot of problems with Medical Education, I was heartened to read about you personally. If there’s one “Gala”, there’s going to be others too. We may have an uphill battle when it comes to education, but at least we are starting up the hill.

      Thanks for sharing your story.

  8. Those physicians who do know and care are called holistic medical doctors, i.e., CAM, which the allopathic medical profession has always and deliberately denigrated as ‘quackery’. No, it’s humane healthcare, putting a face on public healthcare.
    I matriculated in holistic healthcare and never regret a day that I chose that route, even though I, too, have been castigated for not thinking and following the sheep of misinformation about other ways of health management than toxic pharmaceuticals.
    Sorry to have to say this, but it needs to be said, I do believe. We have traded infectious diseases for long-term chronic diseases and at younger and younger ages, especially since mandated vaccination schedules. Check the demographics and cross-reference timelines with vaccine mandates.
    However, I see hope in the likes of Dr. Greger. Please keep up your exceptional good work, as it is a light unto your profession.
    Thanks for what you do.

  9. The problem in my own clinical practice has been to come to the realization that I cannot force my own views of healthy nutrition on others. This is not the way it’s supposed to work – morally, ethically or pragmatically. I present the information and let the patient come to their own choices. Previously, I was being very dogmatic and over-promoting a vegan diet. I then spoke with a social worker (who is a psychotherapist) and she was appalled by the traditional medical model I have adopted. Even the language we use in medicine — “patient”, “compliance”, etc — is dogmatic and paternalistic. I now present choices, information, knowledge, even gentle recommendations and book suggestions, but I don’t enforce my attached, fixed beliefs on anyone. Sure a very few people will respond very directly to such an approach, but the vast majority will just ignore it. We have to introduce a ‘germ’ of an idea to people, so that they think it is coming from themselves, particularly as they read and realize the information for themselves. That is the most natural way and effective way of doing it. People who are deeply deluded will not alter their health choices no matter how much information we give them, or how much we hector and holler at them (trust me, I’ve tried)!

    1. This is an important statement many who are passionate regarding healthy plant based diets have to understand. I myself struggle with this issue of being overly aggressive when promoting the benifits of such a diet. Presenting the info in a unaccusing way seems to have the best results.

    2. DGH at least you are bringing the WFPB diet up. And I assume discussing weight as well. Many referrals I get from MDs haven’t even brought diet and weight up. Someone has to begin the education process. Patients are clueless on nutrition and where to start. A referral to a WFPB nutritionists would be a great start.

      1. Yes I mention it and bring it up – nutrition and body weight. But it is only natural as I am running a vascular medicine practice and these issues are critical (in my view). While I am a clinical pharmacologist by training, I realize that diet, exercise, and stress reduction (coping strategies) are paramount. Our health care system does not adequately cover PT though, which is a shame, as it’s also the cornerstone of dealing with many health issues. And lastly, I don’t know of a local WFPB nutritionist I can refer to – very few of my patients would want to pay out of pocket for such a referral.

        1. I have diabetes and CAD. Wish I could be your patient! I know a lot about proper nutrition, probably more than most doctors, but I still need the support and encouragement of a knowledgeable professional to cheer me on and help me to succeed. This is also what many doctors miss. Patients can learn about good nutrition/ diet, that’s the easy part. The hard part is building a support system in a society that will criticize and buck your efforts at every turn. We need support from and by people who GET IT. Even if you are a successful WFPB dieter, there are perils and temptations around every corner and it’s very very difficult to stick to it. I’ve fallen off the wagon many times, but I keep getting back on because I know it’s right and the only way to save my life or at the very least, prolong it a bit. And of course, it increases my quality of life by leaps and bounds. However, I believe junk and processed foods sugar etc are drugs and when you put an addicts drug of choice in front of them, no amount of knowledge or willpower will keep them from picking up. That is the reality of the SAD these days. We are a nation of addicts and most people are walking around in a complete state of denial about it. Sorry to go on and on, but I’m very passionate about this subject. :-)

  10. I have seen how doctors eat, just like the rest of the general population. Perhaps the odd doctor eats a bit healthier. I got all of 2 lectures on nutrition in all of medical school (4 years) and none during internal medicine residency training (3 years) or during my fellowships (4 years). While perhaps there’s more now than when I trained, it was not so long ago.

    I do believe that if people were more mindful about the effects of what they were putting down their throats, then they would start to become more mindful about their food choices. After all, people don’t go around drinking vials labelled “poison”. But it is difficult to convince people that commonly eaten foodstuffs – like steak – are actually a very mild form of poison (not going to harm you today, tomorrow or the next day, but eating this way for years on end is just not good for long-term health). So it’s a struggle to educate people. There is so much cultural conditioning that we need to resist.

    And who hasn’t on occasion craved something we know is bad for us — I occasionally find myself craving pizza, even though I’ve had maybe one in the past two years. Just the sight of a pizza delivery car will bring back the memories. I never follow through on this sense desire because having noticed it in the first place, I am able to see it as simple craving, not to be reinforced or sated.

    1. DGH: This is such a great post. I especially resonated with the last two paragraphs.

      On your last point: The trigger is not pizza cars, but those dang pizza commercials on TV. When I see them picking up slices of pizza with stringy cheese dripping down, I still crave eating that pizza. It can be tough. (The one thing that helps me is that I tell myself, “If you are still so strongly craving cheese after 4 years of not eating it, then you were/are truly addicted. Do not feed the addiction!” Then, I think about the cows and that helps a lot. I *love* cows.)

      1. Well, I don’t own a TV anymore (got rid of it 13 months ago), so for me, it’s pizza cars and pizza advertising on buses and the like…. (and the smell of pizza at clinical rounds and in restaurants)….

        1. Smell!! That would be the real killer.

          Hey, I just happened to see the following new cookbook on Amazon. I’m sure it won’t replace real cheese, but the reviews look promising.

          The Cheesy Vegan: More Than 125 Plant-Based Recipes for Indulging in the World’s Ultimate Comfort Food
          I’m going to get it!

  11. My dad and brother died from colon cancer, 1988 and 2010 respectively…both were QUITE depressed before their diagnoses (sp?)…my dad was depressed after my mom died from alcoholism in 1983…and my brother was depressed due to job loss in 2008 (and he WENT BACK to smoking, which staggered me…half of his neck was cut away in the early 80’s due to throat cancer and why in the world he would return to such an insidious habit is beyond my comprehension!) and neither of them cared what they ate I suspect. I really doubt I could have reached either of them with this wonderful nutrition news BUT I endeavor to tell it to others who will listen! Thank you Dr. Greger for all you do!

  12. I just had to create a program proposal for an assignment in my ‘Changing Health Behavior and Health Education’ class. I chose plant-based nutrition education classes for physicians and hospital staff, as well as a hospital cafeteria makeover. If we have any hope of lessening the burden of preventable diseases, it will have to come from the top- the physicians. A patient is much more likely to follow the advice of their doctor, or at least seriously consider it- especially radical dietary changes! My own doctor has high triglycerides and blames heredity- he believes he eats extremely healthy- fish, & low-fat dairy. :( I think for many it comes down to misinformation, and perceived threat of a health issue. The only person who has asked me where I get my protein from- my doctor!

    1. Susan: My first reaction to your story was to smile, then sigh and think, “That’s just so classic. There has to be a million stories just like that in America/the western world.”

      My second reaction was to remind myself of the first part of your post and I wanted to thank you for your efforts. That’s just so cool. I hope your proposal goes somewhere! If not, well at least you tried.

      1. Thank you for your kind words, Thea! :) My husband and I are ethical vegans (as of 2 years ago), but only fairly recently committed to eating much healthier. I’m working on a master’s degree in Health Psychology- this proposal is part of our final assignment for the class. The day before it was due, my professor told me she’s vegan! I’m crossing my fingers, and waiting for her feedback- the pressure is on! Although this is an assignment, I hope to someday make this proposal to the local hospital in my town/county. Just trying to make a difference for animals and people!! Notice animals came first… ;)

        1. Susan, your proposal rocks! I don’t know if this is something you can consider down the road, but perhaps you can tweak (to improve) what you learn from your local hospital, and bring the proposal to tens, hundreds, or thousands of hospitals in the future, perhaps as a consultant. Your strategy is brilliant, and given your teacher understands the health benefits of veganism, I’m sure you will get a decent grade (at the very least) but also perhaps some shared wisdom. I’m so impressed with what you are doing.

  13. After my mother died, which I believe was in large part to poor lifestyle, I took care of my father. He couldn’t walk very far and wanted a wheelchair if any distance was involved. We had him go to the YMCA 5 days a week and changed his diet from very SAD to near vegan. Two months later, he lost 10 pounds and can climb 3 flights of stairs without problems. His blood pressure is also way down.

    1. Thank you for sharing this anecdote. When one of my parents passes away, I will probably be the primary family caregiver and will have dietary control. Despite reading a recent article showing a vegan diet wasn’t as preventive for seniors as for younger people, your dad’s improvement shows that quality of life can certainly be increased. Thank you!

    2. Ed, I’m just being curious about your dad’s “near” vegan diet. I’m sure he must feel overjoyed with how his health has changed for the better — despite the (?) he’s still eating.

  14. This is an excellent video. I was visiting a relative in a heart hospital and was shocked to see a McDonald’s in the hospital, shocked to see that the “nutritious food” offered to the patient was white bread, white rice, enriched flour in pancakes – with butter. And shocked to see that milk was consumed at every meal. If a heart institute is unconcerned with patients making dietary changes then how can a family get a patient to make the changes?

    1. I work in a hospital just like this as an RN in the ICU in Houston. It pains me to see all these patients killing themselves with food and the doctors completely clueless about it.
      And the funny thing is every once in a while I’ll talk to someone (a patient or doctor) about my diet and the health benefits. And still, they think I’m the crazy one!

      1. I hear you Charles. When my husband was in the hospital he was fed horrific meals and would hardly eat anything on his plate. His first meal was barbecued pork, macaroni and cheese, chocolate cake, apple sauce and milk. He asked for beans without meat and a salad without cheese and to please not bring any more milk. They thought he was crazy and even told him they really couldn’t cook for a patient like him. I asked if I could bring in food for him and they wouldn’t allow it. He managed to survive the 9 days he was there but he was never so glad to get home to real, healthy food. Hospitals kill…

        1. PT: Reading stories like yours is one of the issues that makes me truly afraid of hospitals. When I got to the part about them not *allowing* you to bring healthy food to your husband, I get really angry. That’s abuse plain and simple, even if it is done in ignorance.

          Thanks for sharing. I’m glad your poor husband survived.

          1. Thank you Thea, I’m glad he survived too. They told me they couldn’t risk having some type of bacteria brought in with outside food, even though I would see plenty of patients eating hamburgers from McDonald’s. LOL

        2. In Canada, you can ask for a vegan meal, and they accommodate, provided they can find foods suitable for your conditions (e.g. post-appendectomy requires very low amounts of fibre, but it can still be done a vegan way).

  15. I emailed Dr. G’s 2012 presentation (Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death) to my primary care doctor — a pretty smart russian-born D.O.with a wonderful bed-side manner. I hoped he would watch it and acknowledge. Not a peep. He knows I’m vegan and never gives me a thumbs up for doing so. Except for my musculoskeletal problems, I’m probably one of his healthiest 60 year old female patients — I take no medications. Lately though I sense he’s been taking a tad more interest. I think repetition of the message may be working.

    I’m not clear on what Dr. G. or the Yale doctor is saying, but if they are essentially asking doctors to be more aggressive about recommending a vegan, or vegan”ish” diet to their patients … I don’t think they are going to ask their patients to do something that they themselves “find too hard”.

  16. My boyfriend, who is a Doctor, is very passionate about this subject. He states that he runs into very few colleagues who seem interested in preventive healing in the form of diet and exercise suggestions and awareness for patients. He says, “You should see what Doctors eat in the cafeterias.” I formerly had a great physician, but I moved from that city. Since then, I’ve had dud and dud. One Dr. was so unhealthy that I thought he was going to drop dead on me. Another pleasant but overweight General Practitioner who knew nothing about Fibromyalgia, but sent me to a Rheumatologist who is SUPPOSED to know a good deal about it, yet did not. I knew more than he did. I saw 2 other clowns for something else; one who said I just needed to eat meat. Aaaiiiggghhh! I can’t take it anymore. I’m about to Google to see if you can actually find health-conscious Physicians. I want a physically fit Dr., who is a vegan, damnit! Well, I have one built-in, but he’s Podiatry only. In the interim, I’m my favorite Dr. of Knowledge, second to Dr. Greger, but you sort of have to have a GP for standard tests and physicals. *sigh*

      1. No, I haven’t tried that yet. I just started looking into it. It only recently dawned on me that there might be those options out there! Thank you so much. I should tell my boyfriend to get listed on that site or one such. He is vegan and uber healthy at 56 y.o. He is in Podiatry, but he specializes in Diabetic feet issues. He’s always talking to his patients about making major lifestyle changes. Thanks, again! ~ Evey

  17. Like Pam Popper says- medical education has to change-there are plenty of doctors who have good intentions but they have never been schooled in nutrition. if they are seeing patients with degenerative diseases and they are not practicing nutrition, they are not practicing medicine. doctors are taught
    to mitigate and treat symptoms. we need to set the bar higher in the training of health care professionals. health care has to become outcome-oriented. we have to teach doctors that stopping progression of diseases & even reversing the diseases IS an option. treatment has to include something besides just drugs-drugs-drugs!
    docs were never taught in school that you can eat your way out of a disease!!

    1. Not all doctors are trained just to mitigate and treat symptoms. SOME are actually trained to help patients prevent symptoms.
      Again, so many blanket statements here. There are plenty of doctors who care, who DON’T push pills as the only answer, who
      practice healthy life styles and try to get others to. I am married to one. He is a D.O. and the focus is on prevention as well as treatment in his clinic. He is not a “floor mopper” but a “tapper turner off-er”. And hey, he even believes that there is antibiotic
      over use big time in this country – and that eating a plant based diet is an excellent way to stay healthy. Don’t be in despair people – there is hope. Who will YOU go to when you have broken a hip or have broken arm or need your appendix taken out? Nutrition and healthy life styles are a must of course, but I wager to bet that most people will seek out a skilled surgeon when they truly need one.

      1. Well calm down for heaven’s sake! Perhaps your husband is the exception. I have a lot of respect for doctors and don’t be silly – when I have needed help I went to see them. I would not be alive today if not for modern medicine-!

  18. It seems to me that for most people transitioning from the SAD to at WFPD is equivalent to changing one’s religion. Perhaps changing one’s philosophy or world view is of similar import. People link food choices to a lifetime of family meals, holidays, weddings, vacations, special occasions, and generally good times. When this reality is coupled with psychologically grounded marketing and a general lack of support from the medical community for a WFPD, this makes the task of encouraging friends, family, or anyone else to pursue a rational and evidence based diet truly daunting. As well, and as a result of the aforementioned,
    critically thinking is trumped by the emotional and social connections
    associated with food choices.

    I have a friend who is diabetic and had two operations that firstly removed all of his toes on one foot. The gangrene returned and an additional part of his foot was removed. I told him that a plant based diet was well documented to help diabetics, many achieving normal or near normal blood glucose levels. I said I could share with him the studies, and referenced this website. He said that he didn’t want to change his diet because there was certain foods he wanted to continue eating. I ask him if he was willing to risk further operations on his present dietary regiment. Only then did he ‘seem’ to seriously consider ‘my’ alternative regiment. Later I gave him some of the literature and recipes from the Physicians for Concern Medicine (PCRM), an excellent vegan website. The last time I talked to him there was no mention of the information, or any lifestyle change.

    How can we assess this response? Firstly, there is the lifetime of social and ‘commercial’ indoctrination, and a general lack of medical support for a WFPD. Secondly, there is the genuine addiction to highly processed foods. Food scientists and the like design processed food to be addictive. So how do we encourage ‘addicts’ with an unrecognized food addiction, seemingly supported by the medical community and much of society to even consider the evidence of a plant based diet?

    This is perhaps the question we must explore in order to help those in need of genuine insight. The challenge ranges from difficult to impossible, especially if we lack the skills to address this unique challenge. This subject is worthy of further exploration. I suspect addiction specialist and the like can provide some help in the troubling area of concern. It is fraught with potentially explosive responses from those we hope to rescue. Enjoyment of food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. If such pleasure is associated with harmful and addictive food choices, encouraging rational and life preserving change is inherently problematic. I offer this for your consideration.

  19. This video really makes it clear why you do what you do. Getting the word out about the affect of food on health has the potential to save so, so many lives. I recently found a wonderful family practice near my home – Integrative Family Medicine – where they practice what is preached here. So refreshing.

  20. Lucky so far for having “healthy” doctors who support my 6 member Vegan family. The hospitals have been a little harder. Staff was great but when my husband was recouping from a serious battle with acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis (genetic), the “nutritionist” wanted to provide me pat guidance on being vegan (only 30+ years as) , while at the same time the meals provided were deplorable.

  21. Talking about lifestyle. I`ve adopted myself a healthier lifestyle through drinking shakes. I made a fruitshake and a vegetable shake. These shakes replace my normal daily food intake. I eat these shakes 5 days a week. On the weekends I eat regular food. But the thing is, even though I got all my info from dr Greger (and some other sources), I still am not quite so shure about the ingredients and my daily intake. I`m not a doctor, that`s why. So, my question would be, does anyone have any opinio about my shakes? Please feel free to comment on the list I made. I believe getting enough feedback from you guys is helping me create an even better shake diet.

    1. Fruit and vegetable shakes and smoothies can be very health promoting indeed. But I would develop strategies to minimize blending time because blending creates oxidation, which can result in nutrient loss. For instance, you might consider soaking seeds over night to reduce blending time. You might consider thawing frozen fruits or vegetables before blending for the same reason. Ideally, you should probably only blend enough to use immediately, or within a day or less, otherwise freeze a large amount of blended goodies, and thaw overnight. I always add spices to my smoothies, especially cloves, turmeric, ginger, and nutmeg. Spices add wonderful properties and phytonutrients, and I suspect help preserve the nutrient integrity of blended fruits and vegetables. As well, I will blend my seeds first and pour this product in a large bowl. I will then blend my kale and pour this product in the same bowl. Of course you can blend certain things at the same time. This strategy prevents the continuous blending, and oxidation of that which has already been sufficiently broken down.

      There are certain tradeoffs with blending that must be considered. Blending is a great way to easily combine optimal food choices in a single ‘meal.’ Since this method of consuming does not require chewing, salivation is minimized, and therefore nutrient processing is limited. This first and necessary stage in food processing is largely eliminated, resulting is incomplete digestion. Yes, of course, given the quality of the food choices, much is gained compared to the SAD. Still, in order to take full advantage of blending one must hold the semi-liquid in their mouths long enough to sufficiently salivate the contents. Yes, I know, this method defeats the pleasure of consuming such. Another possible alternative is to eat the semi-liquid like soup. I do not know how long one should hold the food product in one’s mouth. I usually hold a mouth full for about a minute of so. A mouth full is quite a lot to salivate. You decide. I’m not concerned with the ‘discomfort.’ I want the full benefit. There’s too much to gain. If you choose this method of consuming wonderful fruits, vegetables, and spices to supplement your food intake, understand that there are tradeoffs that should be acknowledged and adjusted for. I offer this information for your consideration.

  22. Talking about lifestyle medicine. I`ve adopted myself a healthier lifestyle through drinking shakes. Fruitshakes and vegetableshakes. I replaced normal food with these shakes for 5 days per week. On the weekends I eat regular food.

    Even though I got the information from dr Greger, I`m still not completely shure if this is the most perfect shake diet ever. I`m really curious about other people`s opinion about the ingredients of my shake diet. A bit of feedback would be welcome :)

    For example; is it okay to eat only shakes, even though they contain my daily necessary nutrition? (lazy bowels or something?)

    Please comment.

    1. I’d rather chomp down on real food than chugalug a liquid — but that’s just me. Never could understand why alcoholics like to swig whatever it is they like…one drink after another. How boring is that? Our pearly whites are meant for chewing, not just for flashing at people. :-D

      1. Well, honestly, it`s something you get used to after a while. But there`s a lot of difference between the two shakes. The fruitshake is absolutely tasteful, but the vegetableshake… hmm… that`s a tough one :p But that`s not realy the point I guess. The question is, is this a healthy way of taking in nutrition?

  23. Because of you and others believing in this philosophy, I have become a whole foods vegan in 2012 after fracturing my spine due to osteoporosis.
    More recently, I fell hard just before Thanksgiving, and fractured my pelvis. Just after I was released from the hospital after the initial injury, and upon looking at another X-ray, my physician said he would expect someone to grow pain within 3 months, but not 3 weeks! By the next visit, one month later, the bone in my pelvis was fully grown and replaced. Bone wise, I was healed.
    The same awestruck response occurred with my GP, who after ordering a whole series of blood tests, found ALL my numbers within the normal range and except for my thyroid gland, I needed NO medications. (I’m still working trying to reduce my weight).
    He said: I don’t l know what you are doing, but keep doing it. I tried to tell him, but I don’t know if it sank in.
    Eating whole foods and healthy Vegan works!

  24. From medical school on, medical students are taught to treat symptoms, not try and cure the disease. Pharmaceutical companies contribute heavily to medical schools and benefit with the treatments. But, patients are being fooled.
    The U.S. Economy runs by making people (and animals) sick, so they can be drugged, thus helping Big Pharma!

  25. John: Nice post!

    I too have a friend with diabetes to whom I gave a copy of the book, “Dr. Barnard’s Program For Reversing Diabetes”. She said she simply wasn’t going to do it. On one level, I interpreted that to mean, “I would rather die than change my diet.” But on a deeper level, I understand that you are right and that there are very strong cultural and emotional pressures that should not be discounted. Your description of the problem was well done.

    1. I have had type 2 diabetes for 10 years due to a severe case of gestational diabetes in my 30’s. After I gave birth to my baby, my endocrinologist informed that I had a 75% chance of developing type 2 within 10 years, yet he made no mention of how I could reduce my risk factors through lifestyle changes and weight loss. Well, ten years later I was dx’d with type 2 and have been struggling with it for the last ten. Now, I have read all the books and have learned a lot about vegan diet etc quit smoking ( several times) stopped drinking excessively ( a few times ) because of my diabetes I now have coronary artery disease. I know everything I need to know to live a healthy lifestyle but most importantly I WANT to change and no, I am not suicidal. People who can’t /won’t make changes are not suicidal and sometimes they are not even averse to making changes, they just find it too difficult to change on any permanent basis. I struggle with relapsing to SAD constantly. For example,mI went on Fuhrmans nutritarian vegan plan for several months many years ago and never felt better, never looked better and never was better, but I didn’t stick to it for more than a few months. Why? I don’t know for certain if it’s one thing, like John says, it’s complicated. It’s conditioning, it’s habit, it’s comforting, it’s memory. I’m still fighting the good fight. Have been vegan now 4 months and not smoking, drinking etc. but I’m still not where I want to be. Still eating sugar and some processed stuff. My point is I guess, is that I am highly motivated and even I find it extremely difficult to stick to it.

      1. Betty: I saw your other posts first and responded to them before I saw this post.

        re: “I am highly motivated and even I find it extremely difficult to stick to it.” I fully understand and sympathize. Congratulations on your 4 months! It’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge what you have accomplished so far. And it’s not just the 4 months, it’s all the education you have done for yourself.

        You story reminds me a bit of people who give up smoking. They say it takes X tries before the average smoker can give it up for good. I wonder if your eating patterns are like that too. In other words, that you tried to eat healthy before and it didn’t stick may just be part of your process. Since you keep trying, I’m thinking that you will succeed if you can find that right combination of motivation and ideas. Maybe this will be the time it sticks!

        I’ve given a couple of suggestions in my other posts. I have one more for you now after reading this post. It seems pretty common for some people to get to the “I can see how a whole plant food based diet is best understanding” strictly from the health angle. But for those people who are only motivated by health, I think it can be the hardest for them to stick to it. “That one serving of ___ today will not make a difference to my health.” And then the pleasure trap has you again. (I saw that you are familiar with that book. Good. :-) )

        This is why I suggest that people educate themselves on the other reasons for going plant based too. If you hit your emotions hard, it can really help to keep you honest. Watch the movie Earthlings. Then watch Cowspiracy. If you need more, check out Vegucated, Glass Walls, and Farm To Fridge. Really and truly understanding how that one meal may not hurt you this moment, but has huge consequences for the suffering of others can be a big help in preventing you from going back to SAD again.

        Hope that helps. And best of luck to you!

        PS: re: “…but I’m still not where I want to be. Still eating sugar and some processed stuff.” You and me both sister! But I see myself as going on a path, always working to tweak and make things a little better. I acknowledge how far I’ve come, without letting myself off the hook for the areas I still need to improve. I think that’s a natural part of change. Most people don’t go from SAD to 100% perfect diet over night. So, you recognize that you are not where you want to be. At least you are educated enough to know where you need to go. That puts you way ahead of most people in America. (not sure where you are from)

        1. Thanks Thea! I love your posts and everyone’s on here. This is an awesome thread. And so many smart and supportive ideas! Yes, I became an ethical vegetarian when I moved away from home at age 20 when I read Diet for A New America by John Robbins. My hero! It took awhile but I did learn about the ethical problems with dairy years later so I first became vegan about 10 years ago. I have since gone back and forth between Octo lovo and veganism for many years. I’ve eaten meat a handful of times in 32 years. However, Dairy and eggs and junk have been another story. Ugh.

        2. Thanks for all your kind words and thoughtful advice, Thea. I responded to you but it seems as though my comment got lost in cyberspace. I’m not going to re write everything, just wanted to let you know I heard you and I appreciate it. B.

          1. Betty: I’m not sure your response got lost in terms of really deleted. I have seen several (nice) responses from you. I think what happens is that the 3rd party program NutritionFacts uses to manage the comments, Disqus, does not always display the comments. You have to hit “load more comments” at the bottom of the screen to make all of the comments in a thread appear. Lots of people have reported that comments have disappeared when really what happened is a terribly annoying and inexcusable Disqus bug. (Not that I have strong feelings about Disqus or anything.)

            Just a guess on my part on what happened.

  26. You might find the book, The Pleasure Trap, of interest. The other lever for your friend going beyond Neal’s book… which many of my patients have found very helpful in reversing their type two diabetes… is Dr. Esselstyn’s book as it relates to arterial disease. I find folks change if the correct levers are applied at the right time. Unfortunately the financial incentives are such to support bad behaviors. For instance the number of gastric by-pass procedures would drop precipitously if the patients had to pay for the cost of the procedure and aftercare that is involved. That said not everyone will adopt or change their nutritional habits but I am surprised by my patients on a regular basis. There are a few studies which were done which showed that physicians who practice a WFPB diet are more successful at getting patients to change. I hope your friend does well.

    1. I was watching a video from “The Vegetarian Society of Hawaii.” There was much discussion about various and controversial issues surrounding a vegan diet. One of the panelist suggested that a major problem with a vegan diet was a lack of understanding about vegan food preparation, as well as effort to develop reasonably easy recipes to satisfy the palate of non vegans. In other words, if vegan meals can be made as satisfy to the palate of non vegans as the SAD is for most people, transitioning would be a cinch. After all, it’s largely the taste of certain foods that lock individuals into their eating patterns. Of course, there are other factors such as food addiction, but this observation is an important factor is changing behavior, and if achieved, will certainly help many transition.

      There are of course many prepared vegan foods that taste great, but can be cost prohibitive. Many of these excellent prepared foods are not, as yet, widely available. So the present goal is to develop, or other disseminate ideas for preparing meals that completely satisfy the palate. Moreover, many homespun meals taste as good, often better than the prepared vegan foods. Vegan websites that have largely accomplished the goal of showing how to prepare great vegan meals should be identified and shared.

      This is not necessarily an easy goal because many people do not, or ‘cannot’ prepare meals from a recipe, or do not have someone who can. Still, you do the best you can, and help those in a position to take advantage of the information offered. In short, in order to help many people to transition to a vegan diet, there must be a greater focus on the preparation of meals that have a better change of satisfying the palate of non vegans. Perhaps should lead the way by creating a special section within their website to address this vital issue.

      I am a committed vegan, but I have never eaten a vegan meal that tastes as good as my baked chicken. I know, over time taste change, but the issue is getting people to transition because the food tastes great at the beginning of this path. It’s a challenge because so many are addicted to rich food. Taste buds, IMHO, can be ‘fooled’ with vegan choices that taste rich, but are not ‘greasy.’ Many seeds can impart a rich sensation without the dangerous fats. More work needs to be done to address this problem. At the very least efforts should be made to collect recipes that fulfill this calling. No doubt, testing is the key; asking non vegans to try these ‘alternatives’ to determine is they could substitute for meat, dairy, and egg related food choices. If we can identify and create food choices that fulfill this bill, coupled with evidence based science for the benefit of a plant based diet, and the established dangers of the SAD, great strides will be achieved. I offer this for your consideration.

    2. Love the Pleasure Trap. One of my favorite books on the subject. I’ve read it 3 times cover to cover and I STILL struggle with sticking to my healthy lifestyle changes. Education is not enough. We need support and encouragement.

      1. Betty: re: Support and encouragement.
        Have you looked into the PCRM program called 21 Day Kickstart? In addition to recipes, shopping lists, motivational stories, daily e-mails, etc, the free program comes with a Forum. I’m thinking that if you participated heavily on the forum, you could get some of that support. You could check in daily to report you ups and downs. You could ask questions. And since you have clearly done a great job of educating yourself, you could probably do a lot to help others too – which might in turn help you to stay on track. They describe the forum as, “Get answers from dieticians and social support to keep you motivated.” That’s why I thought to mention it.

        Just an idea. If interested, here is where you can register:

  27. Dear Dr. Greger,
    I was wondering about the conventional medical wisdom and your opinion of gene sequencing businesses like 23 and Me. Are they legitimate? Accurate? Is there one that you believe is more reputable than another? Should doctors encourage or discourage these tools when advising about lifestyle changes given genetic predispositions.
    Thanks for your input.
    Karyn Scher

  28. Thanks for reposting this video! It is very poignant! It was great to see you and Dr. Katz tonight representing our profession together at the Lifestyle Medicine conference in San Diego. Thanks for all that you do– always (all ways). And thanks to Jennifer for being such a great advocate and supporter for you and the NF Team. It is great to see so many people coming together to help humanity. Namaste.

  29. I really love information on healthy, vegan “fast food” I know one of the reasons I’ve had trouble sticking to my healthy diet is because of convenience. Cooking all the time sucks- Let’s be honest, and most people don’t have the time or energy for it. I have found that Fast, vegan, and of course delicious recipes are the solution. If we can make healthy foods as quick, easy ( and as inexpensive) as SAD foods, then it would propel the cause a million miles!

    1. Betty: re: ” Cooking all the time sucks” Right there with you!!

      I don’t think we can get completely away from cooking and still be all that healthy, but there are definitely lots of reasonable shortcuts that can be taken. In addition to Toxin’s suggestion, I recommend the following DVD for some great ideas just for people who want to eat healthy and yet hate cooking:

      1. I saw this DVD a long time ago. It’s awesome! Yes, it’s always going to take a bit more effort at times, but with the right skills and recipes it can be easy quick and tasty! I’m honing my skills and ideas and it seems to be helping a lot. when I just can’t see myself getting up to fix something ( or even use my brain enough to think of something to fix) I allow myself to order from the vegan or Asian restaraunts in my neighborhood. It sure helps to have that fall back and it feels like cheating, but I’m not. Of course I have to be careful about what I order, but it still feels like a treat just because somebody else prepared it! :-)

  30. Does anybody have the reference that Dr. Katz cites here (6) on % of diseases that can could be eliminated (at the 1:26 mark of the above video)? Please and Thank you. I don’t have access to the full article to be able to pull up.

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