Michael Greger, M.D. is an author and physician specializing in clinical nutrition. He serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States, and most recently he has launched NutritionFacts.org, where he posts information on the latest studies in nutrition research in the form of short video segments.
Dr. Fuhrman: Hi Dr. Greger, it is a pleasure to know you and see the terrific work you do. Can you tell my audience about your day job?
Dr. Greger: I am director of public health and animal agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States. It is the largest independent animal protection organization in the world backed my 11 million Americans. I have been doing this for about 7 years. One of my proudest accomplishments was testifying before a congressional committee to reveal the public health implications of slaughtering downed cows for the federal school lunch program, which includes an increased risk of transmitting manure pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella as well as mad cow disease.
Dr. Fuhrman: What was your work in the field of medicine before taking on this important position with the Humane Society of the US and what spurred your interest in nutrition?
Dr. Greger: I did post grad studies in public health and then practiced as general practitioner. However, I wanted to put a bigger dent in our health care mess, especially after seeing my grandmother suffer so much from her multiple bypass surgeries and then being sent home to die, wheelchair bound with crushing chest pain. My grandmother then became one of Pritikin’s earliest adopters and I watched her actually reverse her heart disease and get well. She was able to live another 31 years after her terminal heart disease diagnosis to be 96, and enjoy her 6 grandchildren, including me. In those days it was considered a miracle cure. Then in the early 1990’s after Dr. Ornish’s Lancet publication I really got more interested in the nutritional reversal of heart disease as it was still the number one killer disease in America. I thought, aren’t doctors supposed to heal people? In medicine today this is the exception, not the rule. Most people go into medicine to make people better; certainly I realized that nutrition had to be the cornerstone of proper health care and made it my primary interest.
Dr. Fuhrman: How do you get so much done each day? You accomplish important work for the Humane Society, yet you still speak, write and put out tremendous information about nutritional research?
Dr. Greger: I don’t do it all myself. For example, I coordinate and supervise the work of 23 interns working there in Washington, pulling articles from scientific journals and reviewing the scientific literature for important studies.
Dr. Fuhrman: Do you think some of the present vegan authors seem to hide from any science that may weaken their prior (sub-optimal) pronouncements on nutrition?
Dr. Greger: Yes, I have learned it's always best to seek out the primary sources to review them rather than rely on expert opinion. Too often we hear outdated information that is ego-based and supporting old theories that have been proposed. These include extremely low fat vegan diets, without nuts and seeds, or centering one's diet around white potatoes or white rice. This is just not the best science-based advice.
Dr. Fuhrman: For example, I know you are aware that my work and findings with thousands of patients as well as that of David Jenkins in Toronto that show that my dietary advice designed to include a portfolio of the healthiest foods, outperforms those extremely low fat, high carbohydrate diet in many important health parameters.
Dr. Greger: Well this is a vibrant changing field; we just can’t just come up with a hypothesis and only stick to the evidence that supports it and ignoring all the compelling data. It is a disservice to the people that depend on you for proper information and some of those authors have done that.
Dr. Fuhrman: Do you agree with the 30-55 range for optimal blood level of Vitamin D or do you think the U.S. Institute of Medicine’s recent position that levels above 20 are sufficient?
Dr. Greger: I agree with you and think their conservative bias and continued recommendation to stick to only 400 IU is a big mistake. We have to consider all the data and continue to monitor this.
Dr. Fuhrman: What are you hopes for your website NutritionFacts.org? Why are the most recent findings in nutrition so important to you?
Dr. Greger: I am hoping it will fill a niche in this nutritional debate, one that will give additional information in an easy to understand manner. And given the proven power of good nutrition, I am convinced it is the answer to our health problems in America and it can have a beneficial effect on the health of the public in general. It is important that people are not pulled in by nutritional scams and dietary fiction, and become unable to take control of their health. There are tremendous negative influences by the junk food and meat and dairy industries–they have a tremendous stake in keeping a confused populace, eating unhealthfully and good science counters that.
Dr. Fuhrman: What small amount of animal products might be able to be consumed and still make a diet safe, have you thought about that?
Dr. Greger: I don’t know for sure, but ideally as low as possible as long as we can make sure we have sufficient amount of all nutrients that might otherwise be sub-optimal.
Dr. Fuhrman: And what are those, what nutrients do you take?
Dr. Greger: I take algae-derived DHA and EPA, vitamin D, eat sea vegetables for iodine and of course make sure I ingest sufficient vitamin B12.
Dr. Fuhrman: Thanks for the interview; obviously I am thrilled to have someone with your degree of scientific integrity to be in general consensus with and to have mutual efforts complement each other, in order to revolutionize the health of Americans. It is a pity people are eating themselves to death, and still getting so many conflicting messages that serve to keep them confused, addicted and unhealthy.