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Author Promotes Plant-Based Diet

With a rock star–like persona, Dr. Michael Greger greets his fans waiting in line for his autograph. Greger is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, creator of NutritionFacts.org, professional speaker on public health issues, and an advocate of a whole-foods plant-based diet.
His talks hold the crowd spellbound as he presents a multitude of researched-based data supporting the premise that a plant-based diet can eradicate most diseases by allowing the body to heal itself. His delivery has a staccato-like inflection, which gleans laughter and applause from the audience. At the end of his presentation, he is lauded with a standing ovation from grateful knowledge seekers and devotees.

This writer personally witnessed this reaction twice: Once when Gregor presented in 2018 at the Pennsylvania State University and again when he presented in Washington D.C. to over a thousand healthcare professionals, primarily physicians, at the International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine.

Greger’s less traditional approach to medicine was spawned by a relative’s illness.

“I think the spark for many kids who want to become a doctor when they grow up is watching a grandparent get sick or even die. But for me, it was watching my grandma get better,” Greger explained. “I was just a little kid when my grandma was diagnosed with end-stage heart disease and sent home in a wheelchair to die.”

Greger said that his grandma, Frances, learned about an early pioneer of lifestyle medicine named Nathan Pritikin. Pritikin was one of the first people to advocate for diet and exercise, not drugs and surgery, as the first line of defense against cardiovascular disease.

Frances made the trip across the country to Pritikin’s clinic in California and became one of his first success stories. Greger said that Frances was wheeled in, and she walked out and went on to live another active 31 years. Pritikin would go on to chronicle Frances Greger in his biography.

“That’s why I went into medicine. That’s why I practice lifestyle medicine. That’s why I wrote the book How Not to Die. That’s why I started NutritionFacts.org. That’s why all the proceeds I receive from all of my books all go to charity. I just want to do for everyone’s family what Pritikin did for my family,” said Greger.

In his New York Times bestselling book, How Not to Die, Greger analyzes the 15 top causes of death and the positive impact that a plant-based diet can have on those diseases. The first chapter is called “How Not to Die from Heart Disease.” The heart disease rates in the United States is significantly greater than less affluent societies that primarily subsist on a plant-based diet. This is not new information. In this chapter, Greger cites the findings of Western-trained doctors who provided medical support to missionary hospitals located in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1930’s and 40’s. In Uganda, coronary heart disease was described as “almost nonexistent.” Heart disease in Central Africa was the cause of death in less than one in 1,000, which is 100 times less than those incidences in the United States. More shocking is the finding that coronary heart disease begins in children age ten in the United States.

          Here’s the question we need to think about: Would adopting a plant-based diet be too difficult for the average American, who is more accustomed to a diet that is heavy in meat and dairy?

“Perhaps that person has never been in the hospital in their lifetime, has never seen someone get their breastbone sawed in half,” said Greger with his characteristic candor. “I mean, if someone thinks spaghetti and marinara sauce is radical or a bean burrito is radical, perhaps they do not know what we do to people on hospice. Have you ever been to a dialysis ward? Think about how powerless you feel when you see people having a really bad cold, right? Imagine having some horrible chronic pain or some terminal illness. It just takes over your life, right?”

“The best kept secret in medicine is that sometimes the body can heal itself,” said Greger, who emphasizes that blood flow in diseased arteries can improve within three weeks of adopting a plant-based diet.

Greger compares our dietary dilemma to the 25 years it took for the Surgeon General to proclaim the dangers of cigarette smoking.

“It took more than 7,000 studies and the death of countless smokers before the first report by the Surgeon General came out against smoking. Do you think after the first 6,000 studies they could have given people a little heads-up or something?” asks Gregor with poignant sarcasm.

Dr. Michael Greger, a New-York Times best-selling author, holds several of his books, including "How Not To Die," which promotesa plant-based diet.

Aside from advocating what people should eat, Greger is adamant about what they should not eat. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which forms part of the World Health Organization, determines what is and is not cancer-causing, or carcinogenic.

“Processed meats—bacon, ham, hot dogs, lunch meat—is a Category 1 carcinogen, meaning it is the highest classification. We are as sure that processed meats cause cancer as plutonium causes cancer and asbestos and cigarette smoke causes cancer,” Greger said. “We know processed meat causes cancer, so why aren’t there warning labels? Why isn’t it on the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] website? People are sending their kids to school with theses carcinogens. It’s like putting a carton of milk and a carton of cigarettes on school trays. How could this be sold to kids when we know it causes cancer in human beings? It’s a known human carcinogen, yet we continue to feed it to kids, and that’s just outrageous.”

Greger’s success as an author and lecturer is evident, but he is quick to denote another mechanism that exceeds the impact of the aforementioned: NutritionFacts.org. The nonprofit website contains over 2,000 short videos dealing with a wide variety of nutritional content. The site is free to the public and operates on donations. Every video is narrated by Greger, who has an uncanny ability to make the most mundane subjects more interesting. Greger has an extensive protocol of scrutiny to ensure that each video is supported by peer-reviewed research that has been vetted by him and his staff.

“I reach millions of people a month through NutritionFacts.org. It’s the wonder of the internet. So that’s my biggest accomplishment and all the people I’ll reach,” said Gregor.

Greger’s mantra at his lectures supports his dedication to read and analyze nutritional research that may have value to the public.

“Every year I read through every issue of every English-language nutrition journal in the world so busy folks like you…,” says Greger, and the audience responds with familiarity: “Don’t have to!”
Aside from his devotion to eating a plant-based diet, Greger incorporates exercise into his daily routine using a method that some may find ingenious or eccentric.

“If I could have gotten it through security, I would’ve been on a treadmill tonight at the podium. I’m walking about 17 miles a day, and I have it set really slow, like 2.5 miles an hour. I just work at a treadmill desk, and you forget about it. It’s just a great way to get movement,” said Greger.

What would be the impact of the U.S. populous adopting a plant-based diet.

“Wow. I mean, we would save the American healthcare system, right? The federal government wouldn’t go bankrupt,” said Greger.

Greger’s new book venture How Not to Diet is planned for release in 2019.

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