Michael Greger is a vegan doctor who makes videos promoting a high-antioxidant vegan diet for its health benefits, while warning us of the dangers of phytonutrient-bereft animal products. Greger has said that his childhood inspiration to join the medical profession came from witnessing how Nathan Pritikin’s exercise and low-fat diet program (which is mostly vegan but includes lean meat and seafood) extended his grandmother’s life. But it was Greger’s visceral reaction to a stockyard that made him vegan:
I was at Farm Sanctuary [New York]. Gene took me to a stockyard in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Gave me a tour. It’s a matter of seeing it with your own eyes, I think. I mean, that’s really what does it. You can read about, see pictures… even watch a video, but you can’t smell it. You can’t hear it. You’re not surrounded by it. That’s what did it for me. Maybe that’s from my lack of imagination. Some people can read a book and that’s it! That’s amazing. They can change their lives. For me, it took that extra push. I needed to kind of experience it, and once I was in that environment feeding these animals… that was it.
According to that interview, Dr. Greger came to veganism from an animal rights perspective in 1990, but veganism inspired him to eat more healthfully and then “everything else obviously made sense, too.” Elsewhere Dr. Greger is quoted as saying, ”The most ethical diet just so happens to be the most environmentally sound diet and just so happens to be the healthiest.”
Like a lot of vegan health advocates, then, Dr. Greger has more than one reason to promote veganism. Does that mean we can’t trust him? Jack Norris is a dietitian who became vegan for ethical reasons, and he seems honest and reliable to me.
Though Norris often cites Greger favorably, Norris is more cautious about the possible benefits of veganism than Greger is. If Dr. Greger’s videos and speaking engagements were your only access to nutritional information, you might believe that nutritional science does nothing but affirm veganism and bad-mouth animal products. As Jack Norris once wrote: "Whenever I get done watching one of Dr. Greger’s DVD’s I find it amazing that people who eat meat can live more than a few weeks."
Yet meat eaters often do last longer than Dr. Greger’s videos might lead one to believe, and antioxidant-juiced vegans do not live forever, which raises a question: could Dr. Greger be exaggerating the benefits of veganism and the detriments of animal products?
At Science-Based Medicine, Harriet Hall analyzes a Dr. Greger video titled “Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death" (which are animal products, of course) and argues that some of Greger’s pro-vegan and anti-meat claims reach beyond what the evidence supports.
(link via Melissa McEwen)
Note: A commenter points out that Don Matesz at Primal Wisdom posted a critique of Harriet Hall’s article.