How Not to Die

Part I


The one diet to best prevent chronic disease is a whole-food, plant-based diet, defined as an eating pattern that encourages the consumption of unrefined plant foods and discourages meat, dairy, eggs, and processed foods.

Whole food, plant-based nutrition can stimulate telomerase activity — it's possible for your telomeres to increase in length, reversing cellular aging (based on a study that compared two groups over 5 years, where one group changed their behavior).

Ch. 1: Heart Disease

America's leading cause of death is heart disease. Fatty deposits in the walls of you arteries called atherosclerotic plaque build up and block your coronary arteries. The restriction of blood flow can result in pain during exertion, known as angina. When deposits burst, they can clot — this is a heart attack.

We know that heart disease is not inevitable because it occurs so infrequently in different regions — e.g. in Uganda or pre-industrial China, or Japan. Only one in about a thousand Ugandans died of heart disease.

Fish oil is likely not helpful. It was based on a study of participants who were advised to eat more fish, but a following study found that people who purely used fish oil capsules saw no benefit.

Ch. 2 Lung Disease

Unsurprisingly, smoking tobacco contributes to 90% of lung cancer deaths.

There are a couple of foods that appear to be anti-carcinogenic, but more research needs to be done. Kale, broccoli, and the tumeric spice.

A study where smokers ate a stalk of broccoli a day revealed their DNA was less prone to harmful mutations.

Kale has also been show to lower bad LDL cholesterol, and increase antioxidants in the bloodstream when participants were given three to four shots of kale juice per day for a few months.

Curcumin is the pigment in tumeric that has been shown to both prevent harmful DNA mutations and also stop cancerous cell growth. It contains enzymes that help trigger the death sequence that has broken in cancerous cells.

Frying meat produces carcinogenic hydrocarbons. Living near restaurants, and particularly Chinese restaurants was shown to increase cancer rates. Pregnant women cooking meat were shown to have offspring with lower birth weights and cranial volumes.

Plant-based diets have also shown to reduce the effects of asthma, to the point where patients were able to stop taking medication.

Ch. 3 Brian Disease

The two most common brain diseases are Alzheimer’s and stroke. With Alzheimer’s, plaques of a substance called amyloid develop in the brain tissue. Stokes are caused by a cut off of blood flow to the brain.

High fiber intake is shown to be helpful. Long-term studies of arterial health have shown differences based on fiber intake. Beans, oats, nuts, and berries are good for this. Brown rice and whole wheat as well.

Potassium found in plants was historically eaten at much higher levels in our diets. Eating more unprocessed plant foods is critical. Increased potassium intake correlates with reduced stroke risk. Bananas, which are marketed as a good source of potassium, don’t actually have very much. You’d need to eat a dozen just to get the daily recommended minimum.

Orange juice helps increase blood flow, likely due to a nutrient called hesperidin.

Herbs are a great source of antioxidants, which also potentially reduce stroke risk. Herbs are a major source of antioxidants — dried oregano or cinnamon is great.

An article called “Alzheimer’s is incurable but preventable” was published by a scientist at the Center for Alzheimer’s Research. Vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), fruits, and whole grains should replace meats and daily as the primary staples of the diet.

Many people believe Alzheimer’s is genetic, but this is likely false. Rates of Alzheimer’s vary by a factor of 10 around the world. The rate is significantly higher for Japanese men living in America vs. Japanese men in Japan. Rural India, where plant-based diets are common, has the lowest number of Alzheimer’s deaths in the world. Nigerians are the most common demographic with ApoE gene linked to Alzheimer’s, but have the some of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s. This is referred to as the “Nigerian paradox”.

Aerobic exercise has also shown to help improve memory regions of the brain, as shown in a study which compared MRI results and test results.

Ch. 4 Digestive Cancers

Cancer rates are much lower in India than the United States. Women in India are 10 times less likely to get colorectal cancer, twelve times less likely to get kidney cancer, and so on. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to reduce cancer-associated structures in the colon.

Your body naturally blocks the absorption of iron once you have a sufficient level, but this has been shown to be more true in plant foods than in meats. The healthiest sources of iron are whole grains, nuts, legumes, seeds, dried fruits, and green, leafy vegetables. Consuming Vitamin C along with iron helps absorption.

Researchers have found a 72% increased risk of pancreatic cancer for every 50 grams of chicken consumed daily (in a study that followed 477,000 people for ten years).

A study which had patients eat powdered strawberries was shown to reduce the risk of oesophageal cancer.

Ch. 5 Infections

A lot of modern infectious diseases came from the domestication of animals. E.g. tuberculosis from goats, measles and smallpox from cattle.

Part II

The daily dozen — attempt to get servings from each of these groups every day.

  • 3 Beans
  • 1 Berries
  • 3 Other fruits
  • 1 Cruciferous Vegetables
  • 2 Greens
  • 2 Other vegetables
  • 1 Flaxseeds
  • 1 Nuts
  • 1 Spices
  • 3 Whole grains
  • 5 Beverages
  • 1 Exercise


Lots of types of beans count — soy beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils.