As many of you may have come to understand, the arguments that I put forth here are often unexpected, unconventional, and contrary to prevailing “wisdom.” How do I come to these contrarian conclusions?

More often than not, I do so by making mistakes, by engaging in some practice and recognizing that it is absolutely wrong. This has happened many times: make a mistake, recognize it, then find a better path. But they are lessons I would never have learned had I not made huge blunders first.

So, among the mistakes I have made over the years that allowed me to walk away and learn new and important lessons:

  • Being a low-fat vegetarian is dangerous—35 years ago, I heard Dr. Dean Ornish speak on the advantages provided by banishing all animal products and fats from the diet, essentially a low-fat vegetarian lifestyle. I did this while biking, playing tennis, jogging several miles many days every week. Eating only vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, my waist expanded, my triglycerides skyrocketed to 390 mg/dl, HDL cholesterol dropped to 27 mg/dl, small LDL particles (NMR) 1800 mol/L, fasting blood glucose 161 mg/dl, blood pressure in the hypertensive range—I was a type 2 diabetic with significant metabolic distortions. Before I came to appreciate the destructive effects of this lifestyle, I suggested this lifestyle to many of my patients with heart disease and similar adverse effects developed. I therefore called Dr. Ornish and described my dilemma: “We are following your diet and experiencing dramatic downturns in health.” His response: “You’re eating too much white flour products.” I countered, “No, we (myself included) are eating NO white flour products, only whole grains.” The conversation deteriorated from there and, had this been a face-to-face encounter, may have ended in physical violence. But the sad low-fat vegetarian diet experience illustrated to me how harmful the wrong diet can be. Sadly, Ornish and others have had to try to cover up the deficiencies of this lifestyle by making unsubstantiated claims such as “high triglycerides are not harmful in the setting of a low-fat lifestyle,” ignoring the fact, for instance, that VLDL particles (the particles that triglycerides “ride” on in the bloodstream) are a major contributor to heart disease. And, by the way, his claim that he reversed coronary disease is simply untrue, as they used a flawed method of quantifying the disease and, over the years, most of the participants in the study had heart attacks, were hospitalized and underwent bypass surgery, or experienced other heart events—this is simply not reversal of heart disease.
  • Being a low-fat vegetarian not only leads to significant metabolic distortions, but also causes deprivation of numerous nutrients. A vegetarian can never hope to achieve an optimal intake of omega-3 fatty acids that has been associated with a reduction in sudden cardiac death and dementia. (The linolenic acid of flaxseed and chia can never achieve anything close to the ideal blood level of EPA and DHA.) There will be deficiencies of vitamin B12, zinc, and iron. There is also accelerated aging of skin, joint cartilage, and arteries from lack of collagen and hyaluronic acid, factors obtainable only through consumption of animal products, especially organ meats. And don’t fall for the garbage science such as the widely-publicized Stanford Twin Study, breathlessly promoted by the Netflix documentary, “You Are What You Eat.” The study is riddled with methodological flaws and makes the claim that a vegan lifestyle is proven to be heart healthy, even though they demonstrated no such thing.
  • “Eat more ‘healthy whole grains'” is a formula that causes significant deterioration of health. Surely, whole grains are less harmful than white processed flour products, but the amylopectin A carbohydrate of whole grains still provokes formation of small LDL particles leading to heart disease, while also generating high blood sugars and thereby insulin resistance. Whole grains still contain the gliadin protein that drives increased intestinal permeability and underlies autoimmune conditions. Whole grains still contain phytates that bind calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, making them unavailable for absorption and causing deficiencies of these minerals.
  • Managing coronary heart disease in a catheterization laboratory is absurd—Before abandoning the idea of managing coronary disease in a cath lab, I had performed over 5000 procedures, opening people’s coronary arteries with balloons, high-speed drills, cutting devices, etc. Then my mother died of sudden cardiac death a few months after her successful coronary angioplasty. I had spent 17 years of education and training to acquire the knowledge and skills to open people’s arteries, only to recognize that it was like calling the fire department after an inferno has consumed your home: too little, too late. Although it is the #1 money maker for hospitals, heart procedures to open arteries is not the way we should manage this dangerous disease. Over a number of years, this led to my realization that we can 1) measure coronary atherosclerosis using CT heart scans to track coronary calcium scores, then 2) track this measure, and 3) reduce it using diet and other nutritional strategies, no drugs or procedures required.
  • Reducing cholesterol with statin drugs is nearly useless—This is, of course, contrary to the over-the-top pronouncements of most doctors, who declare such things as “statins reduce cardiovascular events by 36-55%” which is patently untrue, an exaggeration created by the statistical sleigh-of-hand called “relative risk.” In a relative risk calculation,. a reduction of heart attacks of 2 per 100 people to 1 per 100 people is a 50% reduction. So everyone hears “Of every 100 people given a statin, 50 heart attacks will be prevented,” a wild exaggeration of the real situation. When we track coronary atherosclerosis with coronary calcium scores, a combination of a baby aspirin, high-dose statin cholesterol drug, low-fat diet, and exercise, the calcium score increases 25% per year, no better than doing nothing. In fact, statin drugs have been shown to modestly increase the rate of increase of calcium scores. My colleagues, apologists for the ruthless pharmaceutical industry, then make statements like “Statins convert soft plaque to hard plaque,” even though there is no scientific basis for making this argument.
  • The microbiome of the small intestine is a major player in virtually all aspects of health and, unless you address this fact, you can never hope to have full control over health. When fecal microbial species are allowed to proliferate, then ascend from the colon up into the 24-feet of small intestine, a situation labeled “small intestinal bacterial overgrowth,” SIBO, the permeable small intestine allows microbial breakdown products such as lipopolysaccharide endotoxin, LPS endotoxin, to enter the bloodstream: “endotoxemia.” Endotoxemia explains how microbes in the small intestine drive insulin resistance, weight gain in the abdomen, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, the joint pain of fibromyalgia, amplify pain, exerts brain effects experienced as anxiety, depression, suicide, neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s dementia, and numerous other common health conditions. It is a situation that applies to 150 million Americans or 1 in 2 people—it is among the most important and widespread health conditions ever in the history of our species on this planet.

The blunders made in conventional circles are numerous. Think of when we were advised to replace butter with margarine made with hydrogenated “trans” fats: It is estimated that 50,000 excess deaths were caused per year by this advice until Congressional action moved to ban them from foods. I wish that I could tell you that your personal doctor should be the arbiter of what is right or wrong in health, but you know that most doctors are little more than those operating in the front line of generating revenues for the healthcare industry, Pharma, the medical device industry, and themselves. If you want control over your health future, then you must take personal responsibility in deciding what is true, what is false, what is helpful, what is harmful. And I hope that I, along with others who ask tougher questions and do not receive income from your health insurer, can play a role in helping you make those distinctions.