Title: How Not to Die
Author: Michael Greger, MD
Page Count: 658
The first thing to say about this book is that while it seems super intimidating when you consider how long it is (it’s a certified thicc boi), the last 200 pages or so are all notes and sources and you don’t really have to read them. It’s nice to know that they’re there because you can get a little extra context or look up the source for any given bit of information, but you don’t need to read through them all.
I would recommend reading every chapter though, even if you can technically dip in and out of it. Greger has taken a list of the most common causes of death in the United States and then worked through them all, looking at the scientific literature to determine the best ways to prevent those deaths from happening.
The book itself is largely based on the results of the China Study, which is a well-known huge scale investigation into public health which essentially showed that whole food, plant-based diets lead to huge health improvements pretty much across the board. Because of that, Greger advocates for people to fight illness by adopting plant-based diets, and the book investigates all of the scientific literature that supports his claims.
What’s particularly interesting here is that making these dietary changes is a win/win situation. If you adopt a plant-based diet to fight obesity and coronary heart disease, you’ll also benefit from better breathing and other health advantages. Greger puts this in sharp contrast with the use of medication, showing that half the time, healthcare is actually about finding one medication to minimise the harmful effects of another one.
There are also some super interesting studies mentioned here, including one into the effects of eating more fruit and vegetables for asthma sufferers. It was carried out in Australia and as well as finding that eating more fruit reduced the symptoms of asthma, perhaps the most interesting thing was that in order to test it, they also gave asthma sufferers a diet of reduced fruit and vegetable intake and found that it made it worse. This diet, which in Australia was considered to be a reduced intake, matched up perfectly with the standard American diet.
There’s a lot of pretty alarming stuff like that throughout this book, and it can be a pretty wild ride if you don’t already know a decent amount about nutrition. As for myself, I was already familiar with a lot of the stuff here, but only because I work for a healthcare client and because I’m a long-term vegan.
I think what’s potentially most alarming of all is that physicians are given hardly any nutritional training at medical school, despite the fact that making dietary changes is literally the best thing that we can do as a species. Part of that is because of the powerful lobbyists that would quite like to keep making money please, even if that means essentially poisoning people by encouraging them to eat foods that are bad for them. And unfortunately, there’s little incentive for powerful lobbyists to encourage everyone to eat broccoli, unless I guess if they were able to breed their own variant.
Dairy is literally harmful to a lot of people, and it tends to be segmented by race. African Americans are much more likely to be lactose intolerant, which arguably makes providing blanket food guidelines that encourage the consumption of dairy products an inherently racist policy. It’s made worse by the fact that the main benefit that’s touted is that dairy can help to provide calcium to combat osteoporosis, but there’s research showing that African American women have a natural biological resistance to the disease. So we’re telling them to poison themselves for nothing.
Overall then, this book is food for thought, pun intended. Have a long life.