Ep.37: Eat to Live Interview with Dr. Joel Fuhrman
You get the benefit today of hearing from Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a medical doctor who is way ahead of his time in helping his patients understand the benefits of eating plant food. I took on his challenge to eat 2 pounds of plants per day many years ago, and it reclaimed my health and my family’s health.
Joel Fuhrman, MD, is a board certified family physician, a six time New York Times Bestselling author and nutrition researcher who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional and natural methods. Through his own successful PBS specials, he brings nutritional science to homes across America and around the world. He was out there long before 99% of the movement for eating a more plant based diet even got started. Enjoy!
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
Learn more about Dr. Fuhrman: www.drfuhrman.com
Check out his life changing book, Eat to Live!
Learn how to Disease-Proof Your Child
Robin: Hello my friends and welcome back to Your High Vibration Life. Thanks to you, this podcast has so many subscribers and so many downloads that I get to really achieve a dream and that is that I am able, I get to meet and ask tough questions of, for your benefit, today Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a medical doctor who is way ahead of his time in helping his patients understand the benefits of eating plant foods rather than animal foods or processed foods and to challenge them to eat two pounds of greens and veggies a day. I took that challenge many years ago, and it reclaimed my health and my family’s health.
Joel Fuhrman, MD, is a board certified family physician, a six time New York Times Bestselling author and nutrition researcher who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional and natural methods. Dr. Fuhrman is an internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing. He’s appeared on hundreds of radio and television shows. Through his own hugely successful PBS specials, which have raised more than 30 million dollars for public broadcasting stations, he brings nutritional science to homes across America and around the world. Dr Fuhrman is a member of the Dr. Oz show advisory board. He’s involved with multiple nutritional studies with major research institutions across America. This interview is going to blow your mind because it is a drink from a fire hose.
Dr. Fuhrman, it’s so nice to meet you and thank you for joining us here on my show. You were out there long before 99% of the movement for eating a more plant based diet even really got started. We know that medical doctors can’t bill insurance codes for teaching people how to eat. How did you come to decide, in one of the most lucrative professions there is and as conventional as I’m sure your medical education was, how’d you decide to help people eat a different and better diet?
Dr. Fuhrman: Well, I didn’t really start that way. I was into nutritional excellence when I was a teenager on the United States world figure skating team, competing internationally for better stamina. Then my father was overweight and sickly. I read every health book that was available at the time, including everything that Dr. Herbert Shelton wrote in the 1950s. I decided to go to medical school with this specific purpose of becoming a physician specializing in nutrition.
I didn’t adopt this methodology, these tools, these incredible tools to get people well when I was already a physician. I went to medical school with the specific intention of being a doctor specializing in nutrition and utilized that education to add on to my otherwise self taught nutritional education. Then I proceeded to put it together from there and spend my whole life essentially reading and studying every nutritional study on human nutrition ever published. Having read over, let’s say 20,000 studies and trying to put them all together into a cohesive program that leaves no stone unturned in aiding people to live their best life and live as long as possible and to reverse disease.
I actually became a doctor and choose to go to an ivy league medical school because I wanted to take this different road and make sure I had the best opportunity to do so.
Robin: What’s it like to be a conventionally trained medical doctor and, for instance, tell us about 25 years ago, if you’ve been in practice that long, versus now, how do your peers in medicine react to your focus on nutrition or your practices that are outside of that? Has it changed any in the last 25 years? Is your profession friendlier to people who lean more holistically and nutritionally.
Dr. Fuhrman: Definitely I’m getting much more interest from hospitals and physicians wanting me to speak at their grand rounds and run courses and run events and absolutely having more interest. I think what turned it around for me was in the first ten years of my practice, I was essentially practicing almost the same way I am today, except I got a lot of, what’s the work, gossip, feedback from patients saying, “Oh this doctor said, ‘What, am I going to live on carrots and celery the rest of my life and eat like a rabbit?'” There was some suspicion. People thought I was a little strange.
When I started writing books I think that turned it around because physicians in my area and other areas could read my books, could know what I stand for, and the evidence that supports my opinions, and they can’t make up or concoct things that they supposedly that I’m saying that is weird or crazy. They knew exactly, if that wanted to disagree with me, they have to disagree with what I really said and not something they’re making believe or they’re twisting that I did say or didn’t say. The more books I published, the more respect and the more camaraderie and the more people I had coming on board to what my vision and viewpoints were. They couldn’t really argue with the science and the logic I put forth.
In a sense, what I’m saying is quite conservative and quite consistent. The way I, when I present to physicians, I think they can recognize is what I’m doing is much more consistent with the overwhelming preponderance of evidence in the scientific literature. What they are doing has much less evidence to support it comparatively to the style of practice I’ve adopted. I think I could make that point pretty strongly and bring a lot of physicians who are exposed to my work on board.
Robin: Well, that’s a very good point. I read your book, Eat to Live, oh gosh, when I was a very young mom. Your book, Eat to Live, didn’t just arm me with a different way of thinking. Your meticulous documentation of the research really made me, as a new mom, confident to move forward eating a plant based diet. There were people screaming at me and saying that I was going to die or kill my kid of some kind of mythical protein deficiency. I want to thank you for your work because it gave me a lot of courage in something to go on. I’ve recommended your book and bought copies of your book for so many over the years.
I’m really curious about this one. Even among the holistic or functional practitioners to get people off of nut seeds, legumes, and whole grains and to sort of vilify them because of anti-nutrients in them. What do you think about that trend? Are you seeing it too?
Dr. Fuhrman: Well, look, there’s always going to be those people coming up with their own independent ideas and hypotheses to make themselves stand out in some different way to appeal to the masses with some fad or gimmick or trick. That’s going to be a passing fad or never going to hold. There was the eat for your body type diet. That was just made up nonsense. Once that was, dis- it eventually lost favor. The Atkins Diet lost favor for awhile because there were so many long term studies showing how dangerous it was to eat so much animal products with hard end points like death and cancer rates. Now we have a resurgence of that way of thinking. After a while it comes back in, but of course, this idea that lectins and beans and phytates in nuts and seeds and vegetables are some what anti-nutritious or life span shortening is another gimmick that doesn’t hold, that doesn’t have any scientific validity to it.
Let me just expound on that a little bit. First of all, the idea that lectins and beans were bad and have anti-nutrients stemmed from the paleo movement because they were advocating meat heavy diets. They wanted people not to eat grains and beans because they didn’t think that primitive people ate beans. That’s okay. It’s okay to have a hypothesis. I have nothing wrong with people taking a guess on what they think might work and have a reason why they are coming to that idea. Then you have to say, “Where’s the evidence for that? What if we test it?” What if you test it, not just short term for a year or two, but what if we put people on beans, lots of bean, long term for 20 years or more. What if we take beans away and give them more meat long terms for years.
The point is is that we have to give more credence to studies that follow thousands of people for 20 years or more. We have to give less credence to ideas that follow people for a year or two. In other words, we could feed people nothing but Twinkies or chocolate chip cookies and they go on just a mono diet of just Twinkies. They could do better because their triglycerides could go down. They could lose weight because they’re so sick of eating Twinkies they cut their calories back. But if you followed people on a diet of just Twinkies or chocolate chip cookies for 20 years, you’d see a lot of needless cancers, lot of throat cancers, a lot of breast cancers a lot of cardio anarithmia, a lot of death. In other words, a hard end point is death, heart attack, cancer. A soft end point might be weight loos, triglycerides go down. We look at large studies over many years looking a hard end points, we see two things.
Number one, that more beans leads to longer life and all the blue zones, matter of fact, are populations eat lots of beans with more [inaudible 00:09:32] are always in people who eat the most beans. If you look at the nurses’ health study and other studies like that that follow women over many years seeing their incidents of breast cancer and death from breast cancer. We see always that the women who eat the most beans have the lowest rates of breast cancer and the highest longevity, longest life span. That was one of the hallmarks of the nurses’ health study, showing that beans were linked to lower rates of breast cancer in women.
If we look at, I can go on and on, but if we look at the same thing, studies that are naturally low in sugar and higher in vegetables show that those that are higher in meat versus those that are higher in non-meat sources of protein over many years, such as the study published of 129,000 people that went on for more than 20 years, published in a 2010 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine showed that those people with more animal products verus less had a 43% increased risk of death. That’s a 129,000 people.
The point is, is that I could go on with more studies, but I could essentially say that every long term study with large numbers of people show increased death rate with higher consumption of animal product, animal protein, and lower death rate, lower cancer rate, and longer life with higher consumption of beans and of course with vegetables that are so called high in phytates and the same thing with nuts and seeds. Matter of fact, the lectins and the phytatess that supposedly bind nutrients actually have anti-cancer effects in themselves. They actually bind mercury, lead, and toxic metals as well. They prevent excess nutrients like copper and iron from passing through the body. If you’re going to eat some meat, if you’re eating beans with it, it mitigates some of the damage from the excess iron in meat that can cause damage to the body. Even eating more beans makes the meat less toxic.
There’s a million different reason, I can go on, why that hypothesis is wrong and has no data to support it and is somewhat irresponsible. There’s more books and more literature and more, how should I saw, internet advertisements interviewing this famous doctor from a famous university in Australia or New Zealand or in San Francisco or this new doctor saying, “Don’t eat this” or “Don’t eat beans” or “don’t eat-“. It’s just really so irresponsible that these people are so poorly versed in the world’s nutritional literature. They pick some idea. They pick some narrow amount of data to support it. They’re managing to convince their own followers just because people just want to grab onto some little magic tidbit that they think is going to be the answer to their problems.
Robin: Oh, absolutely agree. That was a really great digest of so many of the fad. I actually want to touch on a few more that are actually really popular right now. It was actually you who sort of educated me about the eat right for your blood type thing. At the time, I was seeing the [Deatamoes 00:12:37] making millions of dollars telling people that they had to exercise a certain way and eat a certain way based on their blood type. You completely, you just took it apart in your book Eat to Live. When I’m explaining this to people I often quote you in my own writings. All the cultures of the world, no matter where you came from, whichever continent your people adapted on, they all had all the blood types. Thank you for that because it clears the clutter. I still, I still to this day get asked about that all the time.
You have mentioned, just to recap if my readers are not familiar with the blue zones, Dr. Fuhrman has mentioned the blue zones. It’s the five cultures are over the world that Dan Beener discovered lived to be over 100 at astonishingly high rates compared to the rest of us. What do they have in common? Just to go back to that. You touch on the nurses’ health study, which is one of the biggest nutrition studies and wellness studies in history, very longitudinal, spanned decades. Just tell us the highlights of the blue zones.
Dr. Fuhrman: Well, the blue zones are exactly what you said, are areas where people have higher rates of living longer lives. The hallmarks of the blue zones are people who naturally raise a lot of their own food they eat. They eat predominantly plants. None of them eat more than 10% of calories from animal products. They usually have social relationships outside of their immediate family that continue into later life. They’re kind of at one with the earth in that they enjoy growing more of their own foods.
You know, it’s funny because I get such a kick. Like today, I picked a lemon. I live in New Jersey in a northern climate, but I have these special LED lights and there’s a little greenhouse where I’m growing things indoors. I have my own [inaudible 00:14:18]. I get such a kick out of growing my own food that I can eat and make myself. It’s like a little baby. I’m so proud of it, showing it to my kids and to my wife. “Look at this! I made this myself. I grew this myself. You got to taste some of it.” It’s like an expression. It’s so much fun to grow your own foods. It gives you such a good connectivity with the earth.
I think that’s one of the hallmarks of the blue zones are they’re areas where people are actually involved with making their own and working with the dirt, being out there in the garden, in the forests, searching for or farming or making some of your own food and not just buying it out of a package at the corner store, some connectivity with the earth. Of course, we’re saying that almost all the blue zones are areas that eat beans and nuts and seeds as well. We’re talking here about a diet.
We can go into a million reasons why beans extend lifespan. Just to summarize it real quickly, they’re the foods that have the highest amount of resistance starch, which gets broken down by bacteria in the gut to short change fatty acids. The fact that they’re so high in resistance starch means that they’re a powerful prebiotic that promote the growth of bacteria in the gut that are needed to ferment the beans themselves and digest them. Regular bean eaters have higher amounts of beneficial bacteria in their gut.
The type of bacteria that you develop in the gut from the eating of beans are very adherent to the villi that line the small intestines, forming a biofilm that scientists call the second meal effect. What it means is that when you eat an oatmeal or a mango or a banana and you’re a regular bean eater, the glycemic load of that fruit or that oatmeal was decreased markedly because of the bacteria biofilm slowed down the absorption of that glucose, changed it from absorption in minutes to hours just because there was such an adherent biofilm to the wall of the villi. When you take probiotics or when you take fermented foods, it doesn’t have the same effect leading to the same adherency or stability of the biofilm as when you’re a regular consumer of raw green vegetables, raw onion, and cooked beans. That combination, that trifecta, is particularly important and valuable for not only having their anti-cancer values, but actually keeping your glycemic load lower of the other foods you’re eating.
There’s a lot, we can go into more about that, but there’s lot of reasons why beans are protected. A lot of the pieces of the puzzle come together when you look at it very holistically and you see all the benefits of being exposed to bacteria from the dirt and fruits and vegetables that you eat outside and right fresh from the garden and the benefit of cooking beans and cooking mushroom together with those raw vegetables, having an incredible synergistic effect. There’s a lot of natural, a lot of science that explains why this works together when you do this whole program and how protective it is.
Robin: I’m so glad to hear you defend legumes because there’s such a movement against it right now. I don’t know if you’re feeling that ground swell, but let’s go from so legumes and vegetables, such a huge part of my healing. I told you that my son was dying, failure to thrive, in and out of hospitals. The very short story is that not only did I lose 70 pounds and ditch all 21 of my diseases and get off of six prescription medications that I was on in my mid-twenties, but my son went on to be a state level athlete and MVP, six foot three. It’s really, you get some of the credit for that.
Dr. Fuhrman: I just have to say one quick thing because it’s kind of cool. There’s a guy, his name’s Conner Sacks. He’s 18 years old. He’s the best triathlete in his age group in the country today. He’s going to be in the next Olympics. He’s been a nutritarian since birth. What’s so exciting is there’s professional athletes and world class athletes around the country now that have been following a nutritarian diet for many, many years, breaking records. Some of them have been following it since their childhood, like your son and like Conner, who’s been doing it since he’s born, getting just the incredible. These kids, these children are doing so incredibly well, these young men and women, that it’s just such a pleasure to see how they’ve developed, you know.
Robin: Well, and taking my son from failure to thrive, dying, full of mucus, his whole respiratory system, all the bronchioles filled with mucus, in and out of emergency rooms to four healthy children, none of whom would ever be on an antibiotic, it’s beyond proven in my mind. Now, really quickly, probably because a lot of people haven’t heard the word nutirtarian. Define that.
Dr. Fuhrman: Well, you know, I coined that word nutritarian. I think it’s very important because we have to have a way of calling what’s a real healthy diet that based to maximize human longevity that does not have any predetermined biases that looking to produce some philosophical agenda or an ethical agenda or an environmental agenda. It’s just based on what’s going to maximize human life span and the same diet that maximizes human life span is most effective for reversing disease and protecting against disease. The word nutritarian just means a super healthy diet. Nutirtrians are on a diet that’s rich in nutrients that human’s need. A nutritarian is a person that believes that what they eat matters and we can control our health destiny. We can’t just put garbage in our mouth. We have have to put good things into our body and we get good results as a result of that.
A lot of people out there are listening and they’re philosophical nutritarians. They agree that what you eat matters and eating healthfully makes for a better health. They just don’t do it, but they at least know it’s right. I’m trying to convert people into making them actually practicing nutritarians, showing them that this is the most fun way to live and eat. It’s the most delicious way to live and eat. It keeps your mental outlook and it keeps you sharp and enjoying life and happy and getting more pleasure out of life. It’s much more exciting life when you have great health and you age slower and you can keep your physical fitness into your later years.
That’s my job is to motivate people and to give them the information they need to really counter all this negativity. Especially the negativity from the medical profession that makes people think that a drug is going to be their savior and puts poisons in their body and the disguising it as being a health care. It’s like bringing your car to the mechanic at the gas station with the oil light flashing in your dashboard because there’s a hole in your oil pan and he cuts the wire to your dashboard so you can’t see you’re losing oil and you go on driving it. People take a pill to lower their blood pressure and going and eating the same diet that caused their blood vessels to stiffen and it just keeps getting worse and worse. They’re not really seeing what going on.
The point I’m making right now is that I think you’re right. More people are getting on board and we’re getting more traction, especially among the medical profession. I get a lot of personal reward and satisfaction from speaking to and working with other doctors and nutritional researchers that are just as pumped up and passionate and exciting about this when they learn from me. You know, when they hear this information, they learn more.
You know what’s interesting? I can just tell you how exciting it is for me. I’m sitting at the back of the room at a medical conference. This interventional cardiologist who puts stints and does bypass surgery on people walks on the stage. He says to the audience of physicians, he says, “You know what?” He says, “Three people affected my life and my career the most: my mother, my father, and Dr. Fuhrman.” Can you imagine he says that? That I affected his life and changed his whole medical practice and he’s like not doing those procedures anymore. You imagine how rewarding it is when you hear doctors who literally changed their career because of my work? Just so exciting.
Robin: Well, I have been just so excited about getting to interview you because your work has impacted my life for literally decades. There’s four children that I’ve raised by myself who are impacted by your work, Dr. Fuhrman, and now they are having families of their own. It’s, it really will just explode your brain when you think about the impact that we get to have and now my career, Dr Fuhrman, is in a similar field, teaching people to eat more plants. They’re cheap and easy and delicious and it really, you’re just my top three. Top three in terms of impact on my life.
I’m so glad you’ve defended legumes because I see so many, even functional practitioners, taking people on the AIP diet. I’m sure that there’s good things about the AIP diet. We’re all friends, right. We’re all trying to teach people to eat whole foods and we line up more than we disagree, but just for the fact that I get asked this so often and your answers are so dialed in in terms of all these issues. I’m so glad you talked about how phytates and oxalates and lectins, all these anti-nutrients make people think that’s a bad thing when you’ve said they are anti-cancer and they bind heavy metals. They help create this biofilm that allow us to feel full and so many good things.
Okay, I want to go to grains and I want to take on the paleo and Keto diets. Really fast, how do you cultured foods, all the trend towards eating more plant based cultured foods that we make ourselves?
Dr. Fuhrman: I think it’s not necessary when you eat a healthy diet. The problem with them is many of them are too high in salt. I’m not against them per say, if you can make cultured foods without salt, but I don’t teach people they need to do it for good health. They simply don’t. It can help people with certain, whose diet isn’t otherwise good to give them more probiotics. There are certain medical conditions where they have needy gut and for those people, giving high dose probiotics with autoimmune diseases can be helpful, but with time that improves. The general healthy person, and I’m saying that some people don’t have individual digestive idiosyncrasies that would necessitate their diet be more restrictive in certain foods, may it be beans or something they’re allergic too that has to be designed specifically for them. As a whole, that’s still relatively rare and it’s still relatively rare that a person needs to take probiotics or eat cultured foods.
Some people with, for example [ulstive colattis 00:24:37] or Crohn’s disease, we give them very high dose probiotics to take as a means, especially in the early phases of the repair process. Certainly that’s not something I recommend for healthy people or something necessary for healthy people.
Robin: Interesting. So you see as one of the major fads in the last few years, if we banish grains and legumes, like the autoimmune protocol and paleo diet and ketogenic diet do, then we are, almost by forced to eat lots of meat. Will you talk about grains, where they fit? I see tens of millions of people over the world eating grains, some of the healthiest people on the planet, in terms of not getting degenerative disease. Talk about grains and talk about the paleo and keto diets.
Dr. Fuhrman: Number one, you’re mentioning the grain brain and the wheat belly type diets where they’re blaming gluten as the cause of obesity and all diseases and how everybody should be avoiding gluten, not just people who are gluten sensitive. I think, and to sum it up, those books are very sloppy science. Those people writing those books, I don’t respect their work. They are not good at interpreting the scientific literature.
I’ll give an example, a perfect examples. Number one, I agree that a small percent of the population, not just people with Celiac disease, but people who have gluten intolerance. That’s still less than one in 20 people. It’s still a very small percent of the population. Let’s say 5% of the population should reduce their consumption of gluten containing glans. That we all agree on and we could probably figure that out and figure out that some people should not be eating gluten.
What they’ve done in their books is they’ve taken studies on white flour and high glycemic carbohydrates like whole wheat pastry flour. Now, when you take a wheat berry and you grind it into a flour, you change the biological structure of that food. Instead of it being a whole food, it’s now a processed food. Instead of it being a low glycemic food, it’s now a high glycemic food. Instead of it being a food that has fiber and vitamin E fragments in it, it has no vitamin E fragments and almost no fiber. Even whole grains that are processed through finely ground flour are very high glycemic.
The point I’m making here is that any high glycemic food you can look at, whether it’s white rice or white rice flour or wheat flour or white flour, is linked to higher rates of cancer and higher rates of heart disease. We know that eating these high glycemic carbohydrates that are low in nutrients, are low in fiber, are a disaster. They can be worse than eating meat even. They’re like eating sugar. That didn’t mean, they can’t use that study to support their anti-gluten position. In order to study something to support an anti-gluten hypothesis, you’d have to eat low glycemic wheat products that are either sprouted wheat products or the wheat berry when it’s intact or like steel cut oats before it’s cut into oat flour. I’m not saying steel oats have gluten, they don’t. The point I’m making is you can’t study oat flour and then criticizing steel cut oats for the studies that were done on oat flour. You can’t even take studies on flour, even whole wheat flour, and justify an exclusion or a blame of gluten. It’s not the gluten that’s the bad part.
Anyway, so I’m saying here that what those books did is they took studies on white flour and they showed they had negative effects. They said gluten was the reason for the negative effects. White flour has negative effects on everybody proportional to its inclusion in the diet. Even white rice is associated with increased risk of breast cancer. Of course, if your diet is largely vegetables and white rice is 40% of your diet, it’s not so bad, but as you put more oil and more meat in there or as you would put increase more sugar and other high glycemic foods and more white rice, then things get worse. It crossed a thresh hold of danger.
Likewise, adding white flour product could cause your otherwise sub-optimal diet, and that’s where these books when wrong. They really haven’t reviewed the vast evidence in the scientific literature to come to their opinion. They were too quick to write a book and to promote their opinion without knowing enough about the whole subject matter, including the difference between oil and walnut oil to a walnut or sesame seed oil to sesame seeds or coconut oil to coconut. These people write books about nutrition and they’ve got a very poor exposure to the scientific literature. You to have a very comprehensive, you have to devote your life many, many years to study the evidence before you have hopefully put a book together. These books just drag people in the wrong direction without proper understanding of the science, of the comprehensive amount of science we have available on these subjects today.
The same thing is true with the paleo. They’re against grains, which I’m probably also- Oh, you asked me more about grains. I’m also against grains proportionally to the degree that they were processed before people eat them. I like people to eat some unprocessed, organic corn, but the corn they made 1,000 years ago wasn’t as sweet as the corn today. They ate it in an unprocessed form. When we eat the same thing, whether we go out to the potatoes that were grown 1,000 years ago where smaller, more colorful, higher fiber, more fibrous. That is even as glycemic as the potatoes we eat today.
When you eat grains in their primitive form, people picked them off the grain. They crushed it with a stone. They cooked them in water. In other words, the way we process grains and remove the outside kernel so our grains are- Mostly it’s the degree of processing. We can process soy beans and make it into soy milk and then make the soy milk into tofu, which is not as healthy as eating tempi and edamame. Then we can take it and process it further into ice and soy protein and make soy bacon and soy turkey and soy protein drinks which now becomes not even a semi-processed food. It comes to be a highly processed foods that can have more negative effects. But showing studies on the negative effects of highly processed soy like I see with soy protein does not make soy beans a bad food. It just makes the highly processed foods a bad food.
This is what researchers, at least people who write books do and people on the internet do all the time. They’ll pull a study on some highly processed version of that food and because of the detrimental effect of that couple of studies that was done on the highly processed versions, they’ll put a blanket, a negative blanket on the food in general, which is just not reasonable.
Robin: Very, very helpful. All right, so tell me what you think of the two reigning dietary fads right now. I certainly get hate mail every time I take on the paleo diet, which I don’t believe represents anything close to what paleolithic men were eating. What do you think of paleolithic and keto?
Dr. Fuhrman: Why would it even matter if it did?
Dr. Fuhrman: It didn’t even matter if, that’s exactly what you’re saying is that paleolithic is, our ancestors were the, whether they be early man or early near people who were near man, other primates, other man in other eras, whether their diets were all different around the world where they lived. They manged to survive on different things. The question is what that people ate. They manged to eat whatever they could to survive and reproduce. The question is what could we eat to push the envelope of human longevity. That’s the question. How can we, you know.
Again, it’s a hypothesis. That hypothesis doesn’t even make sense. Never the less, let’s consider it, even if we considered it a relatively intelligent hypothesis. It’s still been thoroughly disproven at this point and has no validity left to it. The idea that a diet is healthier for humans if we eat more animal products in it and less plant foods, even if they’re non-processed plant foods, is, you know, eating less of those, still has been shown to shorten life span in so many studies. I mentioned one published in 2010. If I can mention one published in 2012 in British Medical Journal, which followed 43,000 women for an average of more than 20 years. It found that, what it did in this study, published in British Medical Journal, is they rated a diet as to what percentage of animal products were in the diet: 5%, 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, keeping in mind that the paleo advocates are advocating people eat more than 50%.
I was in a lecture listening to Cordan speak. He was advocating people eat 70 to 80% of calories from animal products. Utterly ridiculous. What these studies showed, and I want to make it clear it’s not the only study I’m mentioning, but other studies that corroborate the study that also were long term studies with hard end points of death.
These studies showed that when people ate more animal products, their risk of cardiovascular death went up more than 60% compared to people eating less than 10% of calories from animal products. Comparing 30% to 10%, heart attack rates went up more than 60%, death rate went up more than 60%. The death rate was higher, the death rate when up. When they scored eat diet in a one to 20 scale and death rates went up by 2% for every 1% increase in animal, every 1% increase, not 1%. I’m saying it wrong. Every score from one to 20, rating of all animal products, in other words, people with the highest animal product consumption, their diet score was a 20. People with the lowest was a one. People in the mid-range was a 10, but 15 was higher above 20 was more like paleo, but the 16, 17, 18, 19 were higher than 30%, 40%, 50%. The 20’s were more like 60 or 70%, really higher.
We saw a tremendous increase death rates in people following low sugar, high animal product diets. We saw death rates increase by dramatic increases as animal products increased in the diet. What I’m saying right now is that whether it’s cancer rates, another study published in 2014 following 50 to 65 year olds for 18 years, showed a 400% increase of skin cancer deaths in those following more animal products. The more animal products were only 30% in that case, over 30%. The American diet is 33%.
What I’m saying here is that the paleo advocates are not just irresponsible. It’s really almost criminally almost negligent in causing death because we have so many long term studies showing that diets that are that animal product rich, how even more deadly they are than the percent of animal products eaten by most Americans. It’s the worst possible advice people could be following and almost all nutritional scientists in the world reviewing this evidence, including the World Health Organization and the World Institute of Cancer Research, recommends people eat less animal protein and more plant foods in their diet, more fruits and vegetables and beans and nuts and seeds in their diet. The evidence is incontrovertible today, that we have to eat diets of natural plant foods. That’s it.
Usually all nutritional scientists agree with that, unless they have some pre-discernment association or they work for some food industry that’s promoting eggs or they work for some industry that are competing against the vegetable industry. All the independent scientists, they all agree. The evidence is overwhelming that this paleo animal protein nonsense, the Adkins, the Ducan, this stuff is just irresponsible nonsense.
Robin: How about, I feel like every five years we need, the industry needs a new Trojan horse to bring in so that they can put billions more in processed foods obsessed with macro nutrients and grams of protein. How about putting your body into constant ketogenesis? How you feeling about the ketogenic diet?
Dr. Fuhrman: It’s another, I know it’s a popular fad right now. You know what they’re also promoting along with the ketogenic diet is the eating of oil, like coconut oil and olive oil. You’re not going to get, the word ketogenic means your body produces ketones because it’s carbohydrates starve in carbohydrates. The brain is designed to function on glucose in the normal state. In an emergency situation, the brain can, after we can break down fats, I’m sorry, we can break down protein to make glucose to fuel the brain, but the brain, if there’s still not carbohydrate coming in for long periods of time, the brain wants to conserve muscle tissue. It goes into a protein sparing kind of like emergency state where it starts to accept ketones as an alternative energy fuel so brain cells can function on ketones instead of glucose.
In doing so, it’s the body becomes very acidic or acidotic. In any case, ketones are acidotic. They age us fast. They age the kidney. The brain can function on ketones and it may be true some year, we may sometimes discover that a certain type of cancer, like a certain type of brain cancer may be receptive to some degree to a ketogenic diet, but we don’t have that data available today. All we have available today is to know that ketogenic diets are low in phytochemicals. They’re low in fiber. They’re high in calories. They acidify the body. They promote aging of the body and they promote certain aging of the kidney, aging of the liver. They prevent the body for DNA repair.
Don’t forget that a lot of our cells, because people are eating processed foods, diets low in plant foods and have low phytochemical stores, in other words, we have populations that universally and ubiquitously have low levels of anti-oxidants and phytochemicals in their tissues. I measure these all the time. The low levels of phytochemicals and antioxidants in their tissues prevent the cells from repairing the DNA and prevent the cross links that are damaged, the epigenetic changes, the methylation defects that accumulate and lead to cancer as they accumulate. Your body has the cellular machinery to reverse that damage, to prevent cancer, that are fueled by these phytochemicals, the natural ability of the body to cleanse itself is fueled by these high photochemical intake. The brain doesn’t have a high ARE functioning. They need a constant exposure to bioflavinoids and antioxidants to keep the brain cells from aging.
The ketogenic diet is a diet low in phytochemicals, high in ketosis, acidifies the body, and it interferes with cellular repair and allows cellular machinery, allows the defects in the cells to continue to accumulate and tells people they can eat coconut oil and olive oil and more fat and more butter and more this. It’s essentially the opposite of what the anti-aging community has proven is that the less concentrated calories we eat, the more we eat high nutrient, low calorie diets rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, less calories. It’s the opposite.
It’s saying that instead of eating high on the nutrient density line, eating more foods that are nutrient rich and lower in calories like green vegetables and berries, to eat more oil, which has almost no nutrient content and less foods that are highly full of phytochemicals like berries and green and orange and red vegetables that have high carbohydrate in them, especially things like peppers and tomatoes and onion and garlic and green vegetables and different, colorful vegetables that are high in starch and beans which are high on starch.
They’re trying to reduce the starch out of the diet so to make you go into ketosis and in doing so, they’re taking away some of the most powerful, longevity promoting foods and anti-cancer foods that are on the dietary landscape and already been proven to radically extend human life. There’s no studies that show that ketogenic diets over the long term, have extended human life spans.
We’re talking here, you have to give credence that have hard end points. Those hard end points are death and cancer and heart attacks, not improvements in weight or triglycerides or even diabetic parameters that are short term.
Now, my nutritarian that’s very rich in nutrients and is relatively low glycemic, by the way as well, has also been show, right, to cause 90% of diabetics to become non-diabetic. It reduces AGE formation, those AGE’s are advance glycation end products that form from high glycemic diets. Essentially what I’m saying right now is I’m agreeing with something in the paleo and ketogenic communities.
I’m agreeing that high carbohydrate, low nutrient diet, low fiber diets are life span shortening. I’m agreeing that some of the most popular vegan diet that are very high in carbohydrates and low in fat are not life span favorable because their fat intake is too low to facilitate maximum phytochemical absorption and elderly people who loose protein ability, ability to digest proteins in later life that aren’t going to thrive on some of those high carbohydrate, high glycemic vegan diets. I’m saying that a high glycemic, low extra low fat, vegan diet is not going to be ideal for lots of toddlers and lots of the elderly and many people in the middle ages. It’s not going to throw as broad a net as a nutritarian diet and be more favorable for people and there’s some legitimate criticism of some of these diets advocated in the vegan community.
These vegan gurus open themselves up to criticism because they’re not telling people to take these proper fatty acids like omega 3 and DHA. They’re not telling people that glycemic effect as any role to play. They’re not telling people that IGF 1 can get too low in later life if there’s not enough protein in their diet. There’s where a nutritarian diet shines because the inclusion of beans and green vegetable and hemp seeds and walnuts and macadamia, whatever it is. The variety of high nutrient, high protein, higher fat plant foods takes away those problems and makes it so people aren’t going to have failure to thrive on a vegan diet or a diet that’s close to vegan or a diet that’s low on animal product.
I just want to clarify that I’m not saying that everybody has to be on a vegan diet because some people can lower their diet, their animal product consumption to very low levels and still be favorable and some rare people do need a little bit of animal products in their diet to thrive because they don’t function as well on a total vegan diet. I just wanted to also make that clear.
Robin: Oh, this has been a wonderful masterclass in so many topics related to our wellness and nutrition. I want to put one more question for you and that is food aside, you get asked about food everyday. You’ve been such a pioneer in the plant based and whole foods movements. What else have you learned about life that you love teaching about these days? Just an actionable thing or two that has made a big difference for you, not just in your health, but your happiness? What would you share with us?
Dr. Fuhrman: You know, I think that there’s so much to speak of there, so much to share here. I just have to say it has to do, and I think everybody knows this, it has to do with kindness and goodwill for other people and feeling that you’re protecting your own health and wellbeing when you’re actively trying to seek out ways to be useful to other people. You’re hurting your health when you’re doing things that hurt other people. It doesn’t matter how much that people see you. It doesn’t matter what people think of you. It doesn’t help your health and your wellbeing to try to look good in the eyes of others. That’s really almost irrelevant.
What matters is how you feel about your own efforts and your own self and your ability to be useful to other people. That’s what matters, how you see yourself and whether in your seeing yourself, whether you have legitimate reasons to feel good about your own efforts in being useful to other people in your immediate world and, of course, in the world where your fingertips end. Yeah, I’m saying that we can enjoy so much pleasure from this earth and having a good life means that we live here with a main purpose to be happy in life. That’s our major purpose, not to feel sorry for ourselves. Our major purpose is to be at one with others and the universe around us and to appreciate the world, to protect it, and to protect other living things simultaneously. It makes us really have a life that we can feel good about.
Robin: Dr. Joel Fuhrman, you’ve given us some good news and good inspiration about what it is to be alive and to be happy and healthy living on the planet today. Thank you so much for being part of our show today. I so appreciate you.
Dr. Fuhrman: Oh, thank you, Robin. I appreciate the opportunity here.