Increased research in the field of nutrition has led to a rise in the interest in whole food, plant-based diets as a way of promoting good health. These diets encourage the elimination of animal foods and by-products (hence the name plant-based), while the emphasis on whole foods is to ensure that the foods consumed undergo minimal processing and chemical preservation.
American physician Dr. Michael Greger is one of the leading advocates for the whole food, plant-based diet, a subject for which he has given talks, recorded videos, started a website (NutritionFacts.org) and written about for several years. His experience has enabled him to research more about the whole food, plant-based diet that he submits as being able to play a critical role in the prevention and reversal of chronic diseases.
Dr. Greger was exposed to the power of healthy diets from an early age. His grandmother battled heart disease and as part of her treatment was put on the low-fat, high-fibre Pritikin diet that helped restore her health. From this experience, Dr Greger set on a mission to learn more about nutrition.
Decades later, he wrote the book ‘How Not to Die’, which provides readers with a look at how a plant-based diet can help keep chronic killer diseases at bay. Like many books that speak a similar message, Dr. Greger’s book keeps the discussion on the benefits of unprocessed foods. While he asserts that some dietary freedom is good, the nutritional science still holds that plant-based foods are the best for long-term health.
A good majority of premature deaths are preventable where lifestyle and diet changes are implemented early. According to the book, the top 15 causes of these deaths are chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and various cancers. These, Dr Greger explains, can be prevented with nutritional interventions that can be more impactful than surgical procedures and pharmaceutical medication.
While advancements in medicine have made it possible to treat acute ailments, prevention has yet to keep up. The top 15 causes of death that Dr Greger’s book lists claim the lives of 1.6 million Americans every year, something the author notes can change with better dietary and lifestyle choices. His assertions are backed by scientific evidence, and he goes on to provide nutritional suggestions to help treat each of the listed diseases. The book also includes a checklist of 12 foods that individuals should eat daily to improve their health.
One of the pertinent discussion points highlighted in the book is the use of antibiotics in agriculture and medicine. He mentions how meat production processes make use of antibiotics for purposes such as growth and disease prevention, which can lead to overuse. While Dr Greger acknowledges that antibiotics are useful in treating infections, he sees the removal of animal products from human diets as one way of reducing exposure to antibiotics.
In addition to the book, Dr Greger has continued to discuss the benefits of plant-based diets via his website, NutritionFacts.org. On it, he posts articles and videos on various nutritional topics, all aimed at helping people to know the importance of making the right dietary choices. He understands that there’s overwhelming information when it comes to diets and nutrition, so he positions the site as a source of peer-reviewed information on the topic.
For nutritional therapists such as Bernard McGowan, the site is a key source of information on the science of food and how it affects overall health.
From a professional perspective, Dr Greger attained his formal education from Cornell University School of Agriculture and Tufts University School of Medicine. He is a Fellow of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and a recipient of the ACLM Lifestyle Medicine Trailblazer Award.