Food to help you live longer

On 27th January 2018, the Daily Mail started a series of articles to promote a book by Dr Michael Greger. The book is called “The How Not to Die Cookbook.”

I’m really sorry to be the one to break it to you, but we’re all going to die…

Dr Michael Greger is a strident vegan. The first article claims “Yes, this really is food to help you LIVE LONGER!” The article questions: “What if you ate a diet composed solely of plant foods and avoided processed and animal foods?” What indeed!

Very helpfully, there is a “Daily Dozen” – the foods that Greger wants you to eat every day. Here they are:

 

I put these 12 foods, using variety to be as fair as possible, into a tool that we have in our on-line club, which allows people to assess the nutritional quality of their food intake. This tool runs off the USDA all-foods database.  The foods that I entered were as follows:

 

As you can see, the “Daily Dozen” delivers 1,364 calories (you can eat more plant-based things – these are just the ‘must haves’). This “Daily Dozen” has delivered 244 grams of carbohydrate already, 26g of fat and 60g of protein, although none of that protein was complete protein in itself, as complete protein only comes from animal foods. You may have got lucky with combinations of plant foods and managed to get some complete protein.

However, our magic tool (thanks to the USDA database) also adds up a number of the key nutrients needed for human beings to survive, let alone thrive. Here is the summary for the above “Daily Dozen”:

 

There’s 61g of sugar already (although – remember – all carbohydrate is essentially sugar) and that’s before the date syrup used in a number of Greger’s recipes. However, more seriously:

– There is no Vitamin B12  and you won’t get any from diet unless you add animal foods to your diet. Deficiency will result in anemia, weakness, depression, confusion, memory problems, and fatigue, to name the major deficiency symptoms.

– There is no retinol (the form in which the body needs Vitamin A) and you won’t get any from diet unless you add animal foods to your diet. (You need to rely on carotene being converted to retinol – and in sufficient amounts – good luck). Vitamin A deficiency results in blindness, inability to fight infection and weakened immune systems.

– There is no vitamin D. Vitamin D comes in two forms – D2 and D3. You won’t get D3 from diet unless you consume animal foods. You can get D2 from plants. The richest source is mushrooms. You’d need to eat over 2kg of mushrooms daily to get 15mcg of D2, which would be a bit pointless anyway given that the body wants D3. Vitamin D deficiency results in rickets, soft bones and skeletal deformities. Put Vitamin D into pubmed (with “chronic disease” generally or heart disease, cancer, diabetes etc) and you can review the growing evidence base for the value of Vitamin D in the avoidance of non-communicable disease. A diet delivering ZERO vitamin D is so unhealthy, it’s difficult to overstate.

– Ditto iron – heme iron is found in animal foods, non-heme iron is found in plant foods. The iron intake looks impressive, but it’s not heme iron and guess what the body absorbs better?

– The main providers of fat in the foods above were the 30g almonds and 10g of flaxseeds. These provided 2.3g of omega-3 and 3.9g of omega-6 between them. The omega-6 intake is below that recommended. (That would be fixed with a few more almonds, although that would worsen the 3/6 ratio). However, again – the body prefers nutrients from animal food sources and “fish stomps flaxseed as a source of omega-3“, as Chris Kresser nicely explains.

This article, claiming that a plant-based diet “really is food to help you LIVE LONGER!” neglected to add the disclaimers that you need to take B12 supplementation, or risk serious harm. You need to ensure that you get sufficient retinol, or risk serious harm. You can get D3 from sunbathing, but you’re not going to get it from a plant-based diet, so get some or risk serious harm. You need to ensure that you get sufficient absorbed iron, or risk serious harm. You need to ensure you get EPA and DHA (omega-3), or risk serious harm.

If you don’t take active steps to make up for these serious nutritional deficiencies, far from making you live longer, this diet will harm.

17 thoughts on “Food to help you live longer

    • avatar
      March 10, 2018 at 2:22 pm
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      Hi Brett
      Thanks so much for this – it’s hysterical! A fabulous admission that a plant food diet is nutritionally deficient.

      Less impressive is Kahn lying, but this wouldn’t be the first time. His statement “Dr Harcombe has a position staked out that must defend offal, butter, cheese, meat and coconut oil and any daily practice omitting those foods is not in her world view not (sic) matter how inconsistent that diet is with long term health of humans and the planet” is false.

      I may state nutritional facts about food – that is not promoting or defending them – just stating facts. I can’t recall writing anything about coconut oil except its interesting attribute of having the highest saturated fat content of any single food. And coconuts are vegan, so what’s Kahn’s issue? I’m curious to know how my most recent (only?) post on butter defends it? http://www.zoeharcombe.com/2018/01/lchf-and-butter/

      I was also veggie when I wrote most of my books – if Kahn ever read them, instead of assuming that he knows everything – he might learn something (about me, if nothing else!)

      Best wishes – Zoe

      Reply
  • avatar
    March 2, 2018 at 2:17 am
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    So, when does the next book come out, its been 4yrs
    Seriously though, Do you have any research info regarding fibromyalga? Causes, treatments(obviously LC Anti-inflamatory diet).
    I have read somewhere that it may stem from a Side effect of Gallbladder removal. I have a few freinds & online acquaintances that suffer badley from this. All previously or currently obeise and may have had barriatric surgery (bands). Some are managing on a strickter form of ketogenic woe, #comensenseketo, #keto_coach_jack.

    Reply
    • avatar
      March 10, 2018 at 2:25 pm
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      Hi Richard
      I have not looked into fibromyalgia personally. I always start with pubmed – I don’t know if this search will hold but this brings up 39 results for me
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=fibromyalgia+and+diet
      Tick “humans” on the LHS and it goes down to 26 – a good place to start?
      Good luck
      Best wishes – Zoe

      Reply
    • avatar
      February 10, 2018 at 8:10 am
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      Hi Paul
      Many thanks for this.
      Best wishes – Zoe

      Reply
  • avatar
    January 30, 2018 at 2:50 pm
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    Good luck with getting enough Vitamin D3 from sunlight in the winter if you live outside the tropics.

    There is a theory that flu is in part a D3 deficiency disease as flu “season” corresponds to winter when most people aren’t getting enough sunshine. Add in the hysteria over sunshine and skin cancer, which results in people slathering themselves in sunblock and reducing the amount of D3 they can make…

    We were given cod liver oil capsules when I was a little kid and we never got sick. Then went to boarding school, didn’t get the cod liver oil, and caught every bug that was going. These days I take D3 year round.

    Reply
    • avatar
      January 30, 2018 at 3:47 pm
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      Hi Hugh
      A very interesting thought! Zero vit D in Wales for month each year, I can tell you! Supplements, eggs, milk and oily fish for me :-)
      Best wishes – Zoe

      Reply
  • avatar
    January 29, 2018 at 7:29 pm
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    I love the way the author

    a) conflates meat and dairy with processed foods
    b) doesn’t point out grain products are processed (albeit only a little), nor the studies showing the inflammation and concomitant problems they cause

    She also lets people believe there is a causal link between these two statements:

    – According to the Global Burden of Disease Study — the most comprehensive study of disease risk factors to date — the number-one cause of death and disability in the UK is the British diet.

    – In an analysis of the lifestyles of 35,000 adults, their diets were scored from zero to five to see if they met a bare minimum of healthy-eating targets — which included fruit, vegetables and whole grains.

    But then, what do we expect from the Daily Fail?

    Reply
  • avatar
    January 29, 2018 at 3:22 am
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    Hi

    I have posted this (a link) on the Nutritionfacts facebook page and asked for comments BUT my post is subject to moderation so may not show.

    Thought you’d like to know

    :-)

    Reply
    • avatar
      January 28, 2018 at 3:27 pm
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      Hi Roger
      Many thanks for the link. Spotting the theme of your site (rethinking bipolar) reminded me of the well known UK vegan nutritionist, Gillian McKeith, who did that ‘celebrity jungle programme’. This involves living in the Australian jungle for up to 3 weeks and the food is local animals (if you earn it) and rice/beans if not. McKeith refused to eat any of the animal bodily parts in the trials, which would have earned meals for other contestants (I don’t blame her – some of the stuff they are asked to eat makes them throw up, it’s so disgusting!)

      However, away from her vitamin B12 injections, McKeith gradually became more and more mentally bizarre and unstable – talking and singing to herself and ‘pretending’ to faint ad lib. The UK viewers were very amused, but I was quite disturbed. We were watching vitamin B12 deficiency in action (and likely other mood/B vitamins in deficiency too). It was a striking reminder of how quickly nutrient deficiency can cause visible symptoms.

      Good luck with your work
      Best wishes – Zoe

      Reply
      • avatar
        March 11, 2018 at 8:43 am
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        You mean that B12 deficiency was manifested in three weeks? *If* that happened so quickly, she likely has a problem of absorption and retention and that’s why she’s taking shots; it would affect her regardless of diet.

        Eating or not eating animal products would likely have no effect; whether from supplementation or from food, she’s not absorbing, retaining and utilizing B12 normally.

        Reply

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