How not to die Michael Greger

Table of Contents


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was one of my favorite books about the links between nutrition and disease. Every year there is a new nutrition fad; we get overwhelmed with information telling us to eat more of this and less of that without real data to back such claims.

This book goes through all the major disease in the U.S and then tell us what has been scientifically proven to help to prevent those disease.

Many of the studies mentioned in the book were randomized double blind placebo control; in the scenarios where the data wasn't yet backed by substantial evidence, the author would be clear about it and explain the reasoning for still backing up such data.

I'm giving this book 4 stars and will revisit in a couple of months. As a quantified-self nerd, I'm eager to put into practice some of the things mentioned in the book.

Bio markers

  • Optimal LDL cholesterol should be 50-70 mg/dl

How not to die from Heart Disease

Cholesterol is the true risk factor for coronary heart disease.

Optimal LDL cholesterol should be 50-70 mg/dl. To lower cholesterol, we need to avoid three things:

  1. Trans fats: junk food and animal products
  2. Saturated fats:
  3. Cholesterol:

Researches used to blame animal fat or animal protein for clogging the arteries, however, recent attention has shifted to a bacterial toxin known as "endotoxins". Certain food like meat appear to harbor bacteria that can trigger inflammation. The end-up up in the blood stream triggering an inflammatory reaction in your arteries.

There is no clinical evidence to support that omega-3 helps preventing heart disease. (p20)

What to eat?

Foods high in nitrates, antioxidants, fiber, and potassium appear to help against heart disease.

  • Beans, including soy beans
  • Berries
  • Ceylon cinnamon
  • Citrus
  • Cocoa
  • Coffee
  • Dark chocolate
  • Dried apples
  • Flax seeds
  • Golden raisins and currants
  • Greens such as kale
  • Indian gooseberries
  • Nuts, including peanut butter
  • Oatmeal
  • Spices such as turmeric
  • Tea, especially hibiscus and green tea
  • Tomatoes
  • Whole grains, including red rice
  • Garlic
  • Kale and cabbage

Fiber helps control cholesterol and blood sugar

  • whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils).

How not to die from Lung Diseases

  • Don't smoke
  • Turmeric/curcumin act as carcinogenic blockers and antioxidants, that help prevent the initial triggering of mutations.
  • A quarter of lung cancers occur to people who never smoke.
  • Fumes from frying are another potentially carcinogenic.
  • Air pollution might increase COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
  • Fruits and vegetables are positively associated with good lung functions.
  • Cured meats might increase the risk of COPD.
  • Removing eggs and diary has been shown to improve asthmatic children 's lung functioning.
  • Topic page on nutritionfacts

What to eat?

  • Turmeric/curcumin
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Broccoli
  • Cruciferous and allium veggies

How not to die from Brain Diseases



What to eat?

  • Oatmeal.
  • Berries.
    • Blueberries (help increase memory ability).
    • Strawberries.
    • concord grapes which are rich in polyphenols.
  • Beans.
  • Broccoli.
  • 25 grams a day of soluble fiber: Like beans, oats, nuts and berries.
  • 47 daily grams of insoluble fiber.
  • Potassium rich foods like: greens, beans, and sweet potatoes.
  • Citrus fruits.
  • Foods rich in antioxidants.
  • Herbs and spices (which are rich in antioxidants).
  • Some foods rich in polyphenols are associated with delayed cognitive aging.
  • Saffron.

How not to die from Digestive Cancer

  • There are different kinds of digestive cancers, like:
    1. Colorectal (one of the most treatable if caught early)
    2. Pancreatic (a death sentence)
    3. Esophageal (affects the tube between mouth and the stomach)
  • The foods you eat can indirectly affect cancer risk, for example, by exacerbating acid reflux, a risk factor for esophageal cancer, or through direct contact with the lining of the digestive tract.

Colorectal cancer

  • The emergence of colorectal cancer can be broken down into three stages:
    1. The first sign is what are called "aberrant crypt foci" or abnormal clusters of cells along the lining of the colon.
    2. Next come polyps that grow from that inner surface.
    3. A benign polyp transforms into a cancerous one. The cancer can eat through the wall of the colon and spread throughout the body.
  • Investigators have found that curcumin consumption could reduce the number of cancer-associated structures in the rectum.
  • Spices consumption in India might be relate with its low cancer rate, but they also consume other foods that are packed with another class of cancer-fighting compounds called phytates.


Pancreatic cancer

  • This cancer isn't very common, however, it is lethal. Just 6% of patients survive five years after diagnosis.
  • Risk factors include obesity and heavy alcohol consumption.
  • There has been debate between the risk of pancreatic cancer and fat consumption - however, fat from animal sources was significantly associated with pancreatic cancer risk, but no correlation was found with the consumption of plant fats.
  • There are viruses known to cause cancer in birds, and there are concerns this viruses might be causing cancer in humans, however, this is unknown.
  • Those who slaughter chicken have a 9 times the odds of pancreatic cancer and liver cancer.

Esophageal cancer

  • Esophageal cancer occurs when cells develop in the esophagus, the muscular tube carrying food from your mouth to your stomach.
  • Typically, the cancer arises in the lining of the esophagus and then invades the outer layers before metastasizing to other organs.
  • Acid reflux can lead to adenocarcinoma (the most common type of esophageal cancer)
  • Studies between the links of diet, Barrett's esophagus and esophageal cancer, have found that the most consistent association with cancer was the consumption of meat and high-fat meals.
  • Different meats were associated with cancers in different locations:
    1. Red meat is strongly associated with cancer in the esophagus.
    2. Poultry is more strongly associated with cancer down around the stomach esophagus border.
  • Within five minutes of eating fat, your sphincter muscle at the top of your stomach - which acts like a valve to keep down food inside the stomach - relaxes, allowing acids to creep back up into the esophagus.


  • Image from
  • Centering your diet around antioxidant-rich plant foods may cut in half your odds of esophageal cancer.
  • The most protective foods for cancer at the esophagus-stomach border appear to be red, orange, and dark-green vegetables, berries, apples, and citrus fruits.
  • High-fiber intake may reduce the incidence of esophageal cancer by as much as one-third by helping to prevent the root cause of many cases of acid reflux: the herniation of part of the stomach up into the chest cavity (known as hiatal hernia).
  • Humans evolved eating huge amounts of fiber, likely in excess of one hundred grams daily.

What to eat?

  • Turmeric.
  • Dark-green, leafy vegetables (rich in phytates).
  • Legumes: beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils.
  • Berries.
  • Whole grains (also rich in Iron).
  • Nuts.
  • Seeds.
  • Dried fruit.
  • Avoid drinking tea with meals since it can inhibit iron absorption.
  • Consuming vitamin C-rich foods can improve iron absorption.
  • The most protective foods for cancer at the esophagus-stomach border appear to be red, orange, and dark-green vegetables, berries, apples, and citrus fruits.
  • Strawberries.

How not to die from Infections

  • You don't need to come in contact with a sick person to fall ill with an infection. There are latent infections that may exist within you, waiting to strike should your immune function falter. This is why we need to keep our immune system healthy.
  • The immune system:
    • It is formed of various organs, white blood cells, and proteins called antibodies.
    • The first layer of defense is the skin.
    • White blood cells (such as neutrophils) attack pathogens.
    • Natural killer cells put your cells out of misery if they become cancerous or infected with a virus.
    • How do natural killer cells recognize pathogens and infected cells?
      • The are often marked for destruction by antibodies, which are a special proteins made by another type of white blood cell, known as B cells, that home in like smart bombs and stick to invaders.
      • B cells are specialized, the produced antibodies for specific pathogens.
      • For example, if platypus poison is detected in your body, B cells begin dividing like crazy, and soon you have a whole swarm of clones each producing millions of antibodies until you fend off the toxin.
      • This is how the immune system works.
  • As we get older our immune function declines but it can be improved with nutrition. See "What to eat?" so recommendations
  • Exercising helps boosting the immune system.
  • Eggs and poultry have are associated with salmonella.
  • Pork has been associated with Yersinia.
  • Meat seems to be a source of c. difficile.
  • Meat producers feed antibiotics to farm animals to promote growth or prevent disease. Antibiotic residues can then end up in the meat people eat.

What to eat?

  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Berries boost your levels of natural killers cells
  • Blueberries
  • Cardamom-infused blueberry muffins
  • Food high in probiotics
  • Nutritional yeasts after exercising.
  • Mushrooms

How not to die from diabetes

  • Also known as high blood sugar, diabetes is when we have a high levels of sugar in the blood.
  • Diabetes can happen because:
    • Your pancreas isn't producing enough insulin which is the hormone that help us keep blood levels in check (Type 1 - insulin-deficiency)
    • Your body becomes resistant to insulin effects (Type 2 - insulin-Resistance)
  • When we have too much sugar in the blood, it can overwhelm the kidneys and spill into the urine.
  • The pathological agents of type 2 diabetes are identified as "high-fat and high-calorie diets"
  • What can happen when we have diabetes?
    • When we eat carbs, they get turned into glucose which is the primary source of energy of ours cells. To go from the blood to the cells, sugar needs an agent called "insulin" which is produced by the pancreas. When insulin stop working, our blood's sugar level rises, leading to things like blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, and stoke.
  • What produces insulin deficiency? The exact cause is unknown, but with this type, the immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells int the pancreas.
  • What about type 2? In this scenario, the body produces insulin but it doesn't work well. The accumulation of fat inside our muscle's cells and liver, interfere with the action of insulin.
  • The prevention and treatment of type 2 boils down to diet and life style decisions.

What to eat?

  • There is nothing specific here, but the trick is not being overweight - a plant based diet becomes a good option here.
  • There are some ideas around diabetes prevention and management through fasting, I read about this in Jason Fung book "The complete guide to fasting

TODO Foods rich in Phytates

TODO Foods to improve iron absorption.