When Michael Greger shot to number six on the New York Times Best Seller list in 2015 with How Not To Die, a book singing the praises of whole foods and plant-based eating, veganism was still a long
way from being embraced by the mainstream. The science-based website he founded in 2011 to provide free advice on meat-free sustenance, NutritionFacts.org, was also little known. Today, however, plant-based eating is increasingly being hailed as the next big food movement, with Greger’s book, subtitled Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease, and his website lauded as bibles by seasoned and aspiring vegans alike.
The American doctor—a clinical nutrition specialist—has become a guru of sorts and one of the most outspoken figures advocating for plantbased living and against animal-based food. “We are at a pivotal
moment in the healthy living movement, due in large part to social media,” he explains. “I think it is the democratisation of knowledge via the Internet that is most responsible for this change. It used to be that only a few people had access to the medical literature, and if you didn’t have access to those people, you might never know what the science said. In 2018, that’s not the case. Any of us can use the internet to track down the best science.”
A long-time vegan, Greger became interested as a child in exploring the power of plants through medicine, inspired by his grandmother’s experience. “I think the spark for many kids to want to become a doctor when they grow up is watching a grandparent get sick or even die,” he said. “But for me, it was my grandma getting better. When I was still a child, she had already had a couple of open-heart operations, and they basically ran out of plumbing. There was nothing more she could do. Wheelchair bound, crushing chest pain… and then she heard about Nathan Pritikin’s plan [a live-in programme involving a controlled diet, counselling in lifestyle change, and exercise in a resort-type setting]. They wheeled her in—and she walked out. I’ll never forget that. She was given hermedical death sentence when she was 65, and thanks to a healthy diet she was able to enjoy another 31 years on this earth until age 96.”
Greger, who has published a number of papers on the negative effects of meat and dairy products, points out that the medical literature “suggests our genes may only be responsible for about 20 per cent of common chronic diseases. The other 80 per cent is how we live and particularly how we eat. Diet is the number one contributor to chronic disease, and therefore if we are part of a family thateats a whole foods, plantbased diet, our relatives will likely have low rates of these chronic diseases. On the other hand, if we are part of a family where meat, dairy, eggs and junk are part of most meals, there may be
higher rates of chronic disease in our family—not because of genes, but because habits tend to run in families. Genetics may load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.”
Full of surprising, cutting-edge nutritional science and practical advice that’s easy to put into action, Greger’s tome of doctor’s orders is just what we need to live longer, healthier lives. All proceeds from the book’s sales go to maintaining Greger’s non-commercial website, NutritionFacts.org, and its free advice. How Not To Die expresses Greger’s views in clear terms. The first half tells readers “how not to die” using scientific evidence to link diet and certain diseases. The second half is a treasure trove of suggestions, concrete applications and practical advice.
This story appears in the August 2018 issue of Indonesia Tatler. For the full story, grab the copy at your nearest newsstands, or subscribe here.