Simply Raw: Making overcooked claims about raw food diets

This week, I plan on taking on something that’s been sitting near the bottom of my “to do list” for several weeks now. Indeed, readers have been sending me links since November or so to what will be the topic of this week’s post, but something somehow has always managed to push it aside each weekend when the time came to sit down and start writing my weekly post for this blog. I was also motivated by noting that, even though we are now entering the fourth year of this blog’s existence (yes, as hard as it is to believe, we started way back in January 2008), no one has done a post specifically about this particular topic, although I have mentioned it in the past, in particular in my discussion of a movie about the Gerson protocol for pancreatic cancer over a year ago.

This time around, I will be discussing a movie as well. Unlike The Beautiful Truth, which was about the Gerson protocol and didn’t feature any big names, this movie, Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days, features at least a couple of big names. These include Morgan Spurlock, who directed and starred in the 2004 documentary Super Size Me, which featured Spurlock eating nothing but McDonald’s food for 30 days and documented the effects that diet had on him, and actor and “raw food activist” Woody Harrelson. Both were interviewed for the movie, and a longer interview with Spurlock is featured as part of a promotional film series on the web that goes along with Simply Raw.

Here are two trailers for the movie. First, trailer #1:

Then, trailer #2:

And here is the introduction to the Raw for Life DVD, a companion “A-Z encyclopedia” of “live food” veganism that is being sold as a companion piece to Simply Raw:

As you can see, Simply Raw follows the story of six people, four of whom have type II diabetes, one of whom has type I diabetes, and one of whom is presented as having initially been diagnosed with type II diabetes but then diagnosed with type I diabetes. These six show up at The Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Arizona to try to reverse their diabetes “naturally” with a “raw food” diet, having answered an advertisement for subjects in a “raw food challenge” to reverse diabetes. The center is described thusly on its website:

The Tree of Life is the world’s leading spiritual, vegan raw and live food retreat center. It was founded in 1993 to promote spiritual awakening and to support an inspiring, healthy and “alive” lifestyle through education and first-hand experience. The Tree of Life serves as an oasis for the realization of whole-person, whole-planet healing. It is a place where people of all ages, nationalities, and religious and spiritual paths come to experience physical, mental, emotional and spiritual renewal and well being.

The “healing modalities” offered at The Tree of Life are listed thusly:

  • Fasting, Juice Fasting & Detoxification Retreats
  • Natural Cure for Diabetes Program
  • Conscious Eating Program
  • Living Modern Essene Way Workshops
  • Modern Essene Minister & Priesthood Training
  • Psycho-spiritual healing with our 4-Day Zero Point Program
  • Mental Wellness program for Healing Brain and Nervous System

Dr. Cousens, the founder of The Tree of Life, describes himself thusly on the website:

Dr. Sir Gabriel Cousens, M.D., M.D.(H), D.D. (Doctor of Divinity), Diplomate of American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine, Diplomate Ayurveda, a physician of the soul, teaches and lives the sevenfold peace.

To the process of awakening and healing, Gabriel Cousens, M.D., M.D.(H), weaves a background as a holistic physician, medical researcher, world-recognized live-food nutritionist, psychiatrist, family therapist, homeopath, Rabbi, acupuncturist, Ayurvedic practitioner, expert on green juice spiritual fasting and detoxification fasting, ecological leader, Reiki master, internationally celebrated spiritual teacher, author, lecturer, culture-bridger, world peaceworker, to give a unique holistic approach to nurturing the hungry soul.

A homeopath and a reiki master? Is there any woo that Dr. Cousens isn’t into? It sure doesn’t look that way.

Leaving that aside, I’m more interested in what the claims made in this movie are and whether there is any science behind them. However, it is not irrelevant to look briefly at the person promoting these claims, as I have above, because it is clear that his methodology at The Tree of Life is a hodge-podge sampling from a veritable cornucopia of woo. I should also point out that, before I move on, contrary to the claims in the trailer, science-based medicine (SBM) does not dismiss the contention that diet can have a profound effect on health. From the trailer, it appears that the movie argues the typical false dichotomy that irritates the crap out of me, specifically that SBM denies that food matters, that proper eating and a healthy lifestyle can greatly improve health and even reverse some health problems. What SBM demands is the evidence and science supporting claims, and this trailer already has some dubious ones right from the start.

“Raw food” versus vegan and vegetarian diets

Most people know what a vegetarian diet is and what the difference between a vegetarian diet and a vegan diet is. Basically, a vegetarian diet usually means a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds without meat or fish. There are different flavors of vegetarianism, ranging from considering it acceptable to eat animal products that are not actually the flesh of dead animals, such as milk and the cheese that is made from it or eggs, to veganism, which eschews any animal product and may even exclude any product tested on animals. Some examples include:

  • Ovo-vegetarianism: Allows eggs but no dairy products.
  • Lacto-vegetarianism: Allows dairy products but not eggs.
  • Ovo-lacto-vegetarianism (or lacto-ovo vegetarianism): Allows animal/dairy products such as eggs, milk, and honey.
  • Veganism: Excludes all animal flesh and animal products.
  • Raw veganism: Permits only fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables.

It gets more complicated from there, as there are vegetarians who will eat certain meats and fishes from time to time, for instance limiting themselves only to occasional seafood or poultry products. Be that as it may, Simply Raw is obviously concerning itself with a raw vegan diet. The reasoning behind such extreme vegan diets is often more a matter of philosophy than science. In many (but not all) cases, the rationale is vitalistic-sounding. Note, for instance, the language used to describe The Tree of Life vegan diet. The words “live” and “living” are used frequently. That’s because there really is often a strong element of primitive vitalism at the heart of an embrace of raw food vegan diets. In essence, if you peruse raw food websites, it won’t be long before you find references to cooking as “killing” the food or “removing the life” from the food or to fresh, uncooked food as being “alive.” Perhaps the most hilarious example of this comes from a video I referenced back in 2009 when reviewing a movie (it’s not in Simply Raw, but should be):

The claim in the clip above comes from The Beautiful Truth and argues that the uncooked baby carrot is “alive,” with a photo of a seeming aura of “energy” surrounding it, while the cooked carrot is dead. The conclusion? Cooking and pasteurization “kill” food, and raw food is “living.” Given that Dr. Cousens traces the parentage of his diet all the way back to Max Gerson himself, it wouldn’t surprise me if he saw nothing wrong with the video clip above. Be that as it may, various explanations are postulated for the supposed benefits of “living food,” in particular that cooking destroys enzymes in the “living food,” which is inarguable, but it is also inarguable that stomach acid and the digestive enzymes in the proximal small intestine rapidly reduce proteins, and thus enzymes, into their component amino acids. The sorts of claims that the more woo-ful raw food vegans tend to be along the lines of these excerpts from a FAQ from Living and Raw Foods, which bills itself as the “largest community on the Internet dedicated to educating the world about the power of living and raw foods”:

What are Living and Raw Foods?
Raw and Living Foods are foods that contain enzymes. In general, the act of heating food over 116 degrees F destroys enzymes in food. (Enzymes start to degrade in as little as 106 degrees F). All cooked food is devoid of enzymes, furthermore cooking food changes the molecular structure of the food and renders it toxic. Living and raw foods also have enormously higher nutrient values than the foods that have been cooked.

What are Enzymes?
Enzymes assist in the digestion of foods. They are known to be the “Life-Force” and or “energy” of food.

Another example:

Is there a difference between living foods and raw foods?
Living and Raw foods both contain enzymes. In living foods, the enzyme content is much higher. Raw, unsprouted nuts contain enzymes in a “dormant” state. To activate the enzymes contained in almonds, for example, soak them in water for as just 24 hours. Once the almonds begin to sprout, the enzymes become “active” and are then considered living.

This is, of course, a load of hooey, to use a scientific and skeptical term. Using this rationale, the most “living” food of all would be a test tube containing purified enzymes, similar to what I used to work with back in the 1980s during a laboratory job I had one summer as an undergraduate. Of course, enzymes aren’t all. The other claim, such as this one by one of the “experts” who appear on Simply Raw (Dr. Joel Fuhrman), is that cooking somehow destroys living antioxidants, phytochemicals, and a variety of other compounds, without which the body can’t be healthy and “must break down. He describes processed food as “foods whose life has been taken out of them” and makes the claim that, without these micronutrients, cells accumulate “toxins” that need to be “detoxified,” while touting broccoli and various vegetables as having “incredible medicinal power.”

Far be it from me to denigrate diet as a therapeutic tool for chronic disease, such as type II diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. There is plenty of evidence in SBM that losing weight and exercising can have a profound positive effect on blood pressure, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Indeed, the very first thing that physicians do when they diagnose someone with hypertension or type II diabetes is to try to get them to lose weight and eat a healthier diet, knowing that significant weight loss can lower blood pressure and even often reverse partially or completely the elevated blood sugar of type II diabetes. Unfortunately, diet is a very, very hard thing to change, and it’s very hard to change one’s lifestyle. The problem with “complementary and alternative medicine” approaches to diet, such as raw food veganism, is that they often claim far more than they can deliver, while justifying dietary choices using by appealing to vitalism and mystical properties. Simply Raw follows this template.

Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days

Using my super blogger contacts, I scored a borrowed copy of Simply Raw to watch and review. The movie starts out as one might expect, introducing the six cast members who responded to a Craig’s List add to take a “raw food challenge” and “reverse their diabetes in 30 days.” This cast includes a perfect reality show-ready group of people with disparate backgrounds, including a construction worker, a retired chiropractor, a casino worker, a graduate student, a receptionist, and a postal worker. Following a typical reality show format, each cast member is introduced individually and portrayed making the long journey to Arizona. After everyone has arrived at The Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center, introductions are made, and the drama begins.

What’s particularly irritating is that at the beginning of the 30 days, Dr. Couzens sits down with the six and tells them that “healing diabetes is easy.” He makes claims, such as that adding that cooking food decreases the protein content by 50% (which is utter nonsense; it’s more like 6%), 70-80% of the vitamins (it actually depends on the vitamin), and close to 100% of the phytonutrients (it also depends on the specific phytonutrient). There is even a scene of Dr. Cousens doing what appears to be live cell analysis on a blood sample of one of the six, pointing out what’s wrong with his blood. Live cell analysis, is, as regular readers here should know, rank quackery. Meanwhile, Morgan Spurlock opines that using diet to treat disease is viewed with contempt by modern medicine, a massive exaggeration. He even claims it’s viewed by “conventional” medical practitioners as being “like a witch doctor.” Hearing that, I couldn’t help but think that Spurlock might have a point, just not in the way he thinks. After all, the “live” food movement, with its blend of vitalism tarted up with science-y-sounding terminology, is actually not too far from a witch doctor telling his tribe about a magical spirits, a “life essence,” in food.

Simply Raw is basically a single-arm, uncontrolled clinical trial consisting of six patients. Actually, it’s not even that. It’s basically six anecdotes from six different people of vastly differing ages, races, and backgrounds. As a result, it’s hard to generalize from the results shown in the movie. Five of the six appear to respond very rapidly to Dr. Cousen’s diet, within days, but one woman named Michelle does not. Once she is taken off of her insulin, her blood sugar readings remain, at least initially, between 350 and 400 mg/dl, way too high. As a result, she seriously thinks about leaving, leading the other five to try to persuade her not to go. Not surprisingly, this is a bit of false alarm, although useful drama for the movie, and Michelle–surprise! surprise!–ultimately decides to stay. At the end of the 30 days, she actually does have a good response to the diet.

Another member of the six, Henry, a casino worker and direct descendant of the hereditary chiefs of the Pima tribe, is portrayed having a particularly difficult time with the diet. In fact, he just can’t stick to it, finding it just too hard. He is portrayed suffering from stomach pain, extreme hunger,, fatigue, lethargy, and depression. When Henry finally leaves, it is stated that he had lost 30 lbs, which strikes me as a rather dangerous amount of weight to have lost in two and a half weeks. (Henry went home on day 17.)

Another thing that disturbs me about this movie is the claim that type I diabetes can be cured with diet. Given that type I diabetes results from a failure of the cells in the pancreas responsible for making insulin to produce an adequate amount of insulin to regulate blood sugar, holding out the promise of getting a type I diabetic off of his insulin entirely is dangerous. Even so, the type I diabetic in the group (Austin) does succeed in reducing his daily insulin requirement quite dramatically. This is not anything amazing or spectacular. It’s well known that diet can reduce insulin requirements in type I diabetics, sometimes dramatically, but they still need insulin. In rare–very rare–cases, it might–might–be possible to get a type I diabetic off insulin, but only if his pancreas still makes a little insulin.

In one telling scene in the movie, a staff member named Keith asks Austin what he thinks his chances are of getting off of insulin completely. Austin replies, quite reasonably, “Probably a zero percent chance,” to which Keith replies, “I don’t buy that.” Elsewhere in the movie Dr. Cousens cites without description three cases of type I diabetes that he’s “cured.” (Remember, he claims to have treated many thousands of diabetics; so even if this claim can be taken at face value it’s not particularly impressive.) Not surprisingly, it turns out that Austin isn’t the fourth. For a while, in fact, Dr. Cousen’s diet regimen led Austin’s blood glucose to be even harder to regulate because it would drop so low that he needs to drink orange juice or something with sugar in it to bring it back up again. Ultimately, Austin decides to leave for a day trip to Mexico, where he buys two bottles of tequila, drinks a lot, and gorges on tacos and enchiladas before returning and settling down again. One of the more dramatic scenes occurs when Austin is confronted after Keith finds his plastic bottle hiding his tequila mixed with a soft drink. In any case, I can’t help but notice that Simply Raw, even taken at face value, belies Dr. Cousens’ claim that it’s “easy” to cure diabetes. Three of the six subjects had major problems adhering to the diet, so much so that one left halfway through the program and one “fell off the wagon,” so to speak, while one almost gave up during the first week. One wonders whether, in the long term, the remaining five subjects can maintain such a radical diet.

The end of the movie also belies the claims made in the promotional material and in the movie about how resistant “conventional doctors” supposedly are to treating diabetes with diet. Three days after the 30 day program, Pam (the postal worker) goes to see her primary care doctor, who is very happy with her 25 lb. weight loss, her lower blood pressure, and her controlled blood sugar. He immediately discontinues her insulin, hugs her, and congratulates her heartily for having learned that type II diabetes is best treated by “what you put in your mouth.” Later, this same doctor is filmed asking, “How do we ship all of my patients to Arizona?” That hardly sounds hostile to he concept of diet as a treatment for diabetes to me. Of course, the doctor probably doesn’t realize that Dr. Cousens’ regimen is basically boot camp. People stay at his compound, isolated from their family and friends and interacting only with fellow residents and the center’s staff, eat only the meals Dr. Cousen’s staff makes for them or teaches them how to make, and are subject to serious peer pressure from the other residents there not to give up. Even so, even in this self-selected group, even under a situation of isolation from one’s familiar surroundings, one out of six bolted; one out of six had a relapse, and at least one more almost left.

The Trojan Horse of raw food veganism

When I first sat down to watch Simply Raw, I was expecting a lot more woo. And, yes, there was woo there, but not as much as I expected. Most of it came in the beginning and near the end, when there was a lot of talk of “living” food full of enzymes and the importance of giving up the “dead food” and interviews in which it was claimed that 50% of diseases would “go by the wayside” if everyone started on a raw food diet. There was also one brief scene of Dr. Cousens doing live blood analysis, something that the vast majority of viewers would not have noticed. Surprisingly, the movie actually showed very little of what, exactly, Dr. Cousens’ regimen consists of. There were a few scenes of cooks showing the residents how to make various “live” meals, but the vast majority of the movie focused on the interpersonal relationships between the subjects and the difficulties they had following the raw vegan diet. I think this was intentional. I think this was the typical use of a Trojan horse to sell an alternative medicine world view.

Why do I say this?

The reason I label this film a “bait and switch” is because it takes knowledge that SBM has already developed, namely that it is possible to reverse type II diabetes with weight loss and exercise (indeed, these are almost always the first interventions suggested when a diagnosis of type II diabetes is made), which require a much healthier diet to achieve, and then makes the implication that reversal of type II diabetes can best be accomplished by Dr. Cousens’ raw food vegan diet. The Trojan horse is the co-opting by alt-med practitioners of the idea that diet can have a significant impact on controlling type II diabetes. Within the Trojan horse of diet lies the woo of raw “live” foodism, complete with the idea that cooked food is somehow “dead,” that “living food” is living because it contains enzymes that are destroyed by cooking, and various other mystical and pseudoscientific concepts about raw food, such as that it somehow contains a mystical “life energy” that is destroyed by cooking. True, in the movie, although Dr. Cousens does talk some about the concept of “living food” and their belief that cooking somehow kills food, neither he nor the other “experts” interviewed dwells on this concept, which is surprising, given that Dr. Cousens directed the movie. Instead, the documentary focuses on interpersonal relationships and, in particular, three of the original six who had such difficulty sticking to the plan.

Instead, much of the woo is in the associated promotional materials on the Simply Raw website. For instance, there is the Raw for Life Encyclopedia, which includes “experts” not used in the movie, and there are full length interviews with the “experts” interviewed in Simply Raw, including Morgan Spurlock, and some whose interviews were not featured. These “experts” include Gary Null (yes, that Gary Null!), Mike Adams of, and Dr. Julian Whitaker. Gary Null, as you may recall, is well known in “alt-med” circles for being one of the co-authors of an article entitled Death by Medicine, which basically blames “conventional medicine” for causing in essence as many deaths as lives saved. He’s a promoter of all manner of quackery, HIV/AIDS denialist, and anti-vaccinationist who, ironically, nearly killed himself with his own supplements. Mike Adams is even more out there than Gary Null. For instance, he is a raw food faddist who once attacked Dr. Mehmet Oz for not being sufficiently radical in his dietary recommendations. More recently, he has been blaming psychiatric drugs and the food industry for Jared Lee Loughner’s rampage a week ago during which he shot U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in the head, killed six people, and wounded 20, even going so far as to brand Loughner a “Manchurian candidate” programmed by the government to kill Giffords in order to allow the government to stomp on civil liberties. I kid you not. Finally, Julian Whitaker is Suzanne Somers’ doctor. If you want to get a flavor of what Dr. Whitaker is about, check out this video:

This is the classic example of taking something that’s true (namely that type II diabetes can often be kept under control through diet, exercise, and weight loss) and going right off the rails through exaggeration and distortion. Dr. Whitaker does this by saying that oral hypoglycemic drugs like metformin don’t work (they do) and that IV antibiotics don’t work (they do, but not always) and then taking a bunch of anecdotes to argue that “conventional medicine doesn’t work.” He even advocates acupuncture and chelation therapy for diabetes.

Come to think of it, given that Dr. Cousens is a homeopath and acupuncturist who apparently hasn’t seen a bit of woo that he doesn’t like, one wonders whether he uses pseudoscience like what Dr. Whitaker uses. Indeed, Dr. Cousens has his very own tag on In particular, there are interviews with Dr. Cousens advocating “detox fasts,” where he appears to believe in “cell memory“:

Gabriel: And you may have a genetic tendency to diabetes. Okay, that’s cool. But the phenotype is your actual expression. If you live a live-food lifestyle, you will not express diabetes. You will keep a genotype — a phenotype that’s really healthy. And so what we do with the live-food diet is the foundation of basically turning on the healthy phenotype and turning off the diabetes phenotype, genetic expression. Now that’s the key to the program. That’s why it works.

Kevin: And once it’s turned on, let’s say, someone comes to you and the phenotype is turned on and then you turn it off using live foods and then someone goes back to the culture of death as you were talking about. Is it more readily turned on again?

Gabriel: Yes because the body has some familiarity.

Kevin: Yes. And when people make the switch, transitioning is an interesting experience — went from cooked foods to live foods and emotions come out and things surface. What’s your explanation to that?

Gabriel: Umm…

Kevin: I’m sure you see a lot of it?

Gabriel: Yes, and this is often why we recommend people to just go 80% first because usually with the dead food you’re putting dead food in the dead places.

Kevin: Okay.

Gabriel: You’re suppressing. The more you eat, it’s like a made ego for suppressing your consciousness. You go to live foods and suddenly, you’re putting live food in that place because you’re activating all the suppressed stuff that comes up. So, we like people to get up to 80%.

Okay. And just hold there until they kind of emotionally detox and physically detox because the live food is just forcing out every level of toxin. That’s how we look at it. So, maybe you need it to be refreshed after three months or six months. When people do spiritual fasting and the zero point which follows up which is part of our program here; you know we have right here then that process is greatly excoriated and really fasting on green, this is just probably the fastest way to make a transition because you lose your cell memory for the cooked food but you also detox very quickly.

Kevin: Is that cell memory?

Gabriel: Cell memory for the cooked food, yes.

No wonder Dr. Cousens buried all the real woo behind is raw food regimen in his accompanying encyclopedia. At least he didn’t include his Zeolite detox nonsense.

But there’s more. I’ve been on the Simply Raw e-mail list for over a month now, and I see what sort of dubious medical products the movie’s executive producer Alex Ortner is promoting through his mailing list about his movie. For instance, he seems to be quite enamored of “super immunity,” which is longevity and “detoxification” pseudoscience featuring Joe Mercola and David Wolfe; the tapping solution, which is billed as a form of “meridian tapping” or a variety of emotional freedom technique (EFT), a variety of “thought field therapy,” both of which are utter quackery claiming that finger tapping along meridians “releases the body’s energy flow”: Dr. Joe Vitale’s “blood pressure miracle,” which claims to be able to reverse hypertension “naturally” without drugs; the “seven day back pain cure,” which promises to cure your back pain without drugs, surgery, or much of anything else; and, just yesterday, in my e-mail I found an ad from Ortner hawking a plan from a “holistic” doctor and homeopath named Mark Stenger, who is promoting a method to “balance your hormones” — naturally, of course. (Is there any other way?) In other words, although the movie Simply Raw itself doesn’t delve too deeply into woo, it does make overblown claims for just what diet can do for type II diabetes, and its ancillary materials, such as the DVD encyclopedia and most of the other products Ortner is hyping in addition to his movie, are dubious in the extreme. The movie appears to be “gateway” pseudoscience, designed to suck people in with reasonable-sounding claims about diet and then sell them on a prescientific, vitalistic view of the world wrapped up in the naturalistic fallacy.

Trojan horse, indeed.

The only things live about live food is the living woo

“Live food” faddism resonates with a great many people, because, when stripped of its mystical underpinnings, the concept that eating fresh, unprocessed food makes sense to most people. Also, the naturalistic fallacy, which implies that raw “live food” is somehow more “natural” than processed food, remains very appealing to many people who distrust modern society and science. Moreover, physicians know that one of the most effective methods of treating type II diabetes is through dietary manipulations and weight loss. Certainly, that is the first move that is usually tried. Unfortunately, Simply Raw implies that the only (or, at least, the best) strategy for type II diabetics to achieve the goal of glucose control and getting off their medications is a radical diet that consists of raw vegan food. Implicit in that idea is the belief that cooked and processed food is somehow poisoning us. Of course, countering that is the recently developed concept that cooking might have been a major factor in the increase in human brain size during evolution, the reason being that raw “live” food of the type featured in Simply Raw is far less energy rich than meat and takes more energy to digest. In any case, the entire premise of Simply Raw is an exaggeration. There’s no reason why a raw food vegan diet alone should be necessary to have a major positive impact on type II diabetes, much less should it be necessary to adopt the dubious concept that you need to eat “living food.”

Of course, that is not the message conveyed by Simply Raw. It’s quite clear that the message of the movie is that the best way to reverse diabetes is through a raw vegan diet of “living” food. Worse, although it features what Peter Lipson likes to call the “quack Miranda warning,” the movie also suggests strongly that diet can reverse type I diabetes. Representing what is in essence a set of anecdotes from six, self-selected diabetics, all with no science, it’s also highly effective propaganda. No one, least of all me, argues that diet isn’t incredibly important as a therapeutic modality for type II diabetes, but the entire Simply Raw package goes far beyond that, promoting vitalism and other dubious concepts as part and parcel of what is necessary to reverse type II diabetes.

Posted in: Book & movie reviews, Homeopathy, Nutrition, Science and the Media

Leave a Comment (61) ↓

61 thoughts on “Simply Raw: Making overcooked claims about raw food diets

  1. the bug guy says:

    As a type II diabetic who has controlled my diabetes for almost five years through diet and exercise, I get frustrated at all the claims that the medical establishment doesn’t support those interventions.

    All of the dietary and control advice I received and used came from my PCP and the Diabetes Center he sent me to.

    I should note that my PCP says that I am one of his most compliant diabetes patients and that he wishes more were like me.

    Learning to live with diabetes and adapting your eating habits is a challenge. I was fortunate in not having a sweet tooth and preferring unadulterated coffee and tea as my beverages of choice. I didn’t have to control my intake of sodas and donuts and assorted other sweets since it was already minimal. My primary challenge was the control of staple starches like pasta, rice and barley (yes, I like cooking with barley).

    So thanks again for the post.

  2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    The Trojan horse is the idea that diet can have a significant impact on type II diabetes.

    Is it just me, or should that read type I diabetes? Maybe I’m mis-understanding something, theoretically diet should be able to help with type II diabetes and contribute to weight loss along with exercise. Type I diabetes, exercise can act as a acute control over bloodsugar (used to be a treatment before insulin, as insulin-independent transport molecules would rise up from the inside of muscle cells to move sugar into their innards) but diet could never, from my understanding, control it. Good diet is only one half of the diet-insulin equation, isn’t it?

    Regarding the “50%/6%” protein loss, overall I’m not seeing where the protein would go. Are the amino acids themselves degraded into component atoms?

  3. Paddy says:


    As I understand the blog post, David’s saying that the message that diet can have a significant impact on type II diabetes is the true, important, health message which is being used to hide a whole package of woo measures and get them past the audience’s bs filters. (Just as the trojan horse was used to hide greek soldiers).

    Personally, I’m more worried by the flipside of this association; that people might come to see dietary management of type II diabetes as bs if it’s packaged together with bs, and thus avoid it.

  4. David Gorski says:

    As I understand the blog post, David’s saying that the message that diet can have a significant impact on type II diabetes is the true, important, health message which is being used to hide a whole package of woo measures and get them past the audience’s bs filters. (Just as the trojan horse was used to hide greek soldiers).

    Yup. Maybe I’ll look it over again tonight and see if I can find a way to make the concept a bit more clear; perhaps I failed to do so here.

  5. Alexie says:

    Who wants to hear baby carrots scream as they’re eaten? I’d rather mine were served to me dead, thanks. It’s much kinder that way.

  6. AlexisT says:

    I have high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. Every doctor I’ve ever had has given me dietary advice–occasionally, as is some docs’ wont when they see an overweight patient, more advice than I really need. I had RD sessions. I’m pleased to know that none of this could ever have happened. Also, that the DASH diet handouts at the office could not possibly have come from the NIH, since they don’t care about that sort of thing.

    In all seriousness–it’s as if not adhering to their special brand of diet woo is “ignoring diet.” Personally, I think raw veganism is a slow and unpleasant way to either starve or spend all day eating. Raw diet cookbooks are amusing, though. They require that you own more equipment than many people need to cook food.

  7. Monkey Man says:

    The insanity of these people knows no bounds. All this business about the “Essene Way” and indeed their entire paradigm comes from a hoax gospel known as “The Essene Gospel of Peace” which was clearly invented by Edmund Bordeaux Szekely. Basically he claims to have uncovered this secret history of Jesus the vegetarian natural healer. To give you an idea of how ridiculous it is, Jesus uses natural techniques to cleanse a man’s body of a massive parasite which crawls out of his mouth. Jesus took “two sharp stones in his hands and crushed the head of Satan.” It gets much, much worse and I only recommend you try reading it if you need some comedic relief.

    So far from being natural healers, these people are supernatural clergy members of a vast and powerful cult. This pernicious influence is probably what allows them to continue to use faith over evidence so readily. They bathe themselves in the respectability of science and use the “trojan horse” you’ve so eloquently described because they’ve learned over time that most people are going to run away screaming once they get the full picture.

    For example, a lot of what they “know” about the Essenes comes from a trance channeler named Kevin Ryerson, the man famous for opening up Shirley MacClaine to the world of mediums. Completely bonkers!

  8. Roberta says:

    The Arrogant Worms thought about this already:

  9. landanimal says:

    Concluding that raw food diets “heal” diabetes is an example of a classic logical fallacy. Most people who go on raw food diets at these boot camp type centers typically didn’t include produce in their diets before they arrived. Once they stop eating fried and processed foods and switch to eating fruits and vegetables on the raw food diet, they see the tremendous benefit of weight loss and proper nutrition. Everyone then concludes that raw food is a miracle, but it is the fruits and vegetables themselves that are to be credited. Bottom line? Cooked or raw, eat your 5 a day.

  10. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Oy, now I feel dumb. The trojan horse is the idea about diet and type II diabetes; the Trojans in the horse are the woo that is unleashed. As Dr. Gorski says in his very next sentence.

    I wouldn’t change anything on the basis of my misunderstanding, This is what I get for skim-reading. Normally I get the gist, in this case I spectacularly did not.

    I’m still curious about where the protein goes when you cook it.

  11. David Gorski says:

    They seem to think 50% of it is reduced to its component amino acids, which is, of course, ridiculous. It takes some pretty serious hydrolysis to do that, although I have no doubt that a small proportion of the amino acids in, for instance, meat are hydrolyzed by cooking, but meat protein, particularly the collagen and muscle fibers, are quite resistant to mere heating, plant fibers even more so.

    The other explanation I’ve heard from raw food faddists is that somehow, by denaturing the proteins, cooking makes them less digestible.

  12. eschatologist says:

    Where does it come from, this widespread public acceptance of the fallacy that mainstream doctors discount diet and exercise as important to health? I’ve never met a doctor who claimed that nutrition is irrelevant to disease.

    I suppose it’s a reflection of the alt med group’s tendency to see everything in black and white: alternative treatments, including extreme diets, cure everything, always, with no side effects. Since most doctors are unwilling to make that claim on account of there being no evidence for it, they are nutrition “deniers”.

  13. An interesting perspective on raw food woo can be found in a recent book by Richard Wrangham, a primatologist who studies chimpanzee eating habits: Catching Fire-How Cooking Made us Human (

    He discusses a number of lines of evidence that suggest as a species we are adapted to eating cultivated and cooked food and unusually ill-equipped to thrive on a raw food diet.

  14. Watcher says:

    @ brennan

    I’ve been thinking about buying this book. I remember reading that due to our bodies being ill-equipped to handle this diet, we actually take in less calories than normal also, exacerbating the weight-loss. But again, it’s a bit clouded because different foods react differently to cooking.

  15. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Reduction to component amino acids isn’t “losing” protein though. The amino acids are absorbed into the body and converted into whatever protein it needs to function. I thought the primary benefit of cooking meat was to render it easier to digest and thus save a massive amount of energy (with the destruction of pathogenic bacteria and viruses a close second). From my limited understanding, protein is supposed to be an incredibly valuable and precious resource for the human body and very little is supposed to be lost (the only way I could see protein being lost would be through consumption by enteric bacteria and being mixed in with fiber and excreted).

    Thanks to Paddy and Dr. Gorski for their patient clarifications.

  16. Khym Chanur says:

    I’ve seen one non-vitalistic argument for the raw food diet, which (from memory) goes something like this:

    Raw plants contain digestive enzymes. The human body can produce all the digestive enzymes it needs. But while it can, it should’t, because producing that much enzymes puts a strain on the organs making the enzymes, and the organs being strained day after day, year after year leads to health problems. If you eat raw vegetables then the amount of digestive enzymes your body needs to produce drops drastically, so your digestive organs are no longer stressed by having to produce so much enzymes.

    Of course, this would require that the denatured plant enzymes spontaneously refold themselves into the proper shape once the stomach acid is neutralized in the intestines, a claim which I’ve seen made. (I’ve also seen the claim that the natural state of the stomach is basic (alkaline) rather than acidic, but that was probably from a acid/base wooist rather than a raw foodist.)

  17. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    I read Catching Fire. Meh. I got it from the library, it’s pretty short with large print. Far too light on citations and sources for my taste.

    One interesting point in it that touches on this posting is that a raw food diet tends to lead to amenorrhea (cessation of a woman’s period) due to low levels of body fat. Weight loss is nigh-inevitable because the foods eaten are extremely low-calorie but nutrient dense: lots of vitamins but little sugar, fat or protein and what is available can be difficult to absorb. I got the sense that the group he reported on was in danger of starvation because of their diet. Spurlock himself is married to a vegan chef, and I think in one episode of 30 days he looked into raw foodism.

  18. Mark Crislip says:

    Cooking food may have allowed us to evolve a brain silly enough to decide not to cook our food.

  19. David Gorski says:

    Raw plants contain digestive enzymes. The human body can produce all the digestive enzymes it needs. But while it can, it should’t, because producing that much enzymes puts a strain on the organs making the enzymes, and the organs being strained day after day, year after year leads to health problems. If you eat raw vegetables then the amount of digestive enzymes your body needs to produce drops drastically, so your digestive organs are no longer stressed by having to produce so much enzymes.

    This is very similar to the rationale behind anti-cancer woo like the Gerson and Gonzalez regimens. The claim is that a deficiency of digestive enzymes is what leads to pancreatic cancer and that the deficiency feeds the cancer. Replacing the digestive enzymes is somehow supposed to fix this problem. Never mind that very little of these enzymes, being proteins, can make it past the acid of the stomach and the digestive enzymes of the proximal small intestine.

  20. DevoutCatalyst says:

    I remember the claims of raw foodists back in the 1980s that amenorrhea was evidence FOR the naturalness of eating raw. For me, the sorry reports of children raised on this diet laid waste to the idea that a raw diet is what nature intended for humans. Raw food is dead, long live cooking.

  21. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    I’m curious why anyone would think a plant would contain a large number of digestive enzymes, unless it was a carnivorous plant. Sure, it should contain lots and lots of enzymes for growth, protection, biochemical activity, DNA synthesis, RNA synthesis, etc. but the actual number of digestive enzymes would have to be low to avoid eating itself. It’s like thinking you could fuel a car with ground-up engine parts rather than gasoline. I mean, they might be contained in vacuoles or something, which would be somewhat like walking around with a cyanide pill in your mouth. I would think they’re not the same enzymes used to deal with pathogenic invaders – those are hydrogen peroxide and other strongly oxidative molecules I believe (or molecules used to generate them). What do these magic molecules get used for? Apoptosis? Wouldn’t a plant manufacture these molecules once it’s gotten the “organized death” order rather than wastefully have them sitting around throughout it’s entire life?

  22. mitdun says:

    Mainstream medicine does accept the profound effect of lifestyle change on health. But I have been to hypertension and gastrointestinal disease conferences in which ANY session or set of sessions sponsored by a pharmaceutical company (and aren’t most of them sponsored by drug companies?) will have speakers dismissing dietary change on the first or second slide as “too hard to achieve- my patients average 18 g of salt a day (this from a spironolactone advocate and a cardiologist)”. This curt dismissal in sessions and opinion pieces, some of them available to the public, strikes many people as a dismissal of diet’s effectiveness. Diet is effective, but if the physician communicates clearly that it is too hard to do for you, poor dear- supporting the dichotomy of “either you eat nothing but fast food or a raw vegan diet you grow or forage yourself”- won’t that push motivated people who want to improve their health themselves toward the “woo”?
    We need real health education for physicians and patients that isn’t sponsored by the endless list of drug companies usually found in my conference programs. They’ve got the “woo” going on, too. Diet and pharma can both do miracles- or hurt people badly when taken to extremes. These particular raw foodists look scary to me- esp. the type I diabetes claims. Yikes and thanks.

  23. Khym Chanur says:

    I’m curious why anyone would think a plant would contain a large number of digestive enzymes, unless it was a carnivorous plant.

    The argument I’ve seen (again, from memory):

    If you bruise a plant then the bruised area becomes softened/mushy, therefore the bruising must release enzymes which break down the plant matter. Chewing on raw vegetables also releases those enzymes, which aids digestion.

  24. S.C. former shruggie says:

    I see Vitalism is still around. I thought germ theory won that argument centuries ago, but the popularity contest goes on.

    I think the New Age part of society is its own tribe. They’ve got the diet and lifestyle restrictions, which act as a kind of admission trial. They do a lot of glib talk about “holistic, humanistic values.” They have sacred rituals for “healing” the sick (most of which don’t work, and those that do they embellish with ritual, magic and fanciful backstories.) They’re hostile to outsiders. When I was a liberal arts/Philosophy student, there was a lot of pressure to “go along to get along” from the other students. Desire to belong to the tribe could be a big motivator to accept woo.

    Now I’m a biology student. I love what I learn, but it still seems tribal. The initiation rite is long hours of work. You demonstrate you share common tribal values by cutting off rat heads and removing the brain with scisors and bone cutters.

    If I can be permitted a little ethnocentrism, my new tribe is superior to my old tribe. It has the PCR thermocycler, and they do not.

  25. rmgw says:

    It would have been nice to put the “vegan” in “vegan raw food diets” in inverted commas: veganism is an ethical rejection of exploitation of living beings, not a diet or a health fad, the point of it is not to harm others, not to tweak one’s own health or lack thereof.
    If Dr. Cousens is a homeopath, he can’t be a vegan, since the “remedies” of homeopathy include animal parts (yes, I know, diluted to vanishing point): duck liver, pig embryos, eagles’ feathers – anything they can lay their hands on, in fact.

  26. Draal says:

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but not all the protein in food is digestible, that is, biologically available for the human body to digest and absorb. Eggs, I’ve read, have one of the the highest protein biological value (BV) at 92%, mainly because it’s in the form of soluble protein like albumin. Besides, our bodies can make most proteins except the essential amino acids. A low protein diet is possible as long as enough essential amino acids are provided.
    Pineapple juice is a well known source of the protease, bromelain. Marinating meat with pineapple juice is one way to tenderize meat.
    And cooked food tastes great! The ritual of preparing a cooked dinner for others while drinking a glass or two of wine I find to be a lot of fun.

  27. Draal says:

    Speaking of cooked food…
    Dr. Gorski, you’re always invited to join the Michigan Skeptics Association at our monthly get-together in Canton, MI for drinks and dinner. (who’d of thought a pain in the as$ like me lived so close to you!)

  28. LMAO says:

    @Dr. Crislip…

    Cooking food may have allowed us to evolve a brain silly enough to decide not to cook our food.


    So many issues come to mind…

    Cooking can improve nutrient availability (lycopene, lutein, etc.)

    Cooking can reduce inhibited absorption of nutrients (iron, zinc, niacin, calcium, etc.) caused by “anti-nutrients” (oxalic acid, phytic acid, etc.)

    Cooking can render otherwise toxic plants edible (kidney beans, pokeweed shoots, taro, cassava, etc.)

    Any diet that inhibits reproduction would seem to be contraindicated for achieving general good health and nutritional levels: in a cross-sectional study of 216 men and 297 women consuming long-term raw food diets, about 30% of women under 45 years of age had partial to complete amenorrhea… um, can you say malnutrition?

    Malnutrition part 2… even its own “expert” proponents recommend avoidance of raw food diet in children, pregnant women, lactating women, people with osteoporosis, people with anemia, the elderly, etc., due to potential nutritional deficiencies… hhhmmmm…

    Pathetically, Googling something akin to “nutritional risks of raw food diet” brings up page after page of woo, but I could find no unbiased and/or scientific discussion of these concerns on “reliable” websites.

  29. lillym says:

    If you want to check out a hotbed of raw foodism and all kinds of woo check out the Raw Food World. It’s a one stop shop for all kinds of woo rip offs – EMF meters, crystal jewelry to protect you, parasite cleansing, things to remove waters memory of bad stuff, etc and so on.

    You really need to read the newsletters (I started getting them for some reason on my work email) , the guy who runs this is obsessed with colonics and how you need them to heal.

    Oh and he believes that the body detoxes — not just “toxins” that have built up in your cells from everything bad you’ve eaten but also from what your parents ate. So you have to detox that out too.

    I read the newsletters just to see what new thing they come up with – the big thing (besides colonics) he’s been pushing is Adya Clarity something that’s supposed to purify water, kill viruses and bacteria, and basically do everything.

  30. Fifi says:

    Being very familiar with raw food diets (I know some people who are raw evangelists and have met and chatted with David Wolfe, who is a biggish deal in the raw foods world), I have to say that Dr Whitaker doesn’t look like someone who eats a raw food diet. It’s almost impossible to eat all raw and be fat like he is – most raw foodists are quite skinny. It’s pretty hard to consume enough calories to get as portly as the doctor when you’re only eating raw fruits, vegetables and nuts.

    One thing I did find is that a lot of people who really get into raw food diets (and the associated religious beliefs, which go hand in hand with the diet) are quite obsessed with “purity”. Rather obsessively so, it’s like they’re OCD hippies (into nature but hate dirt). I’ve actually wondered whether it’s a sort of neurotic hippy thing for people who are too uptight to actually just be hippies. The other thing is that it’s very much about affluence (and most people I met into it came from affluent families) since it’s an expensive diet that requires being very obsessive – it’s certainly got a sort of anorexic/controlling aspect to it. (David Wolfe, who wasn’t OCD and quite a nice guy – he was trying to go mainstream when I met him and had been recently hanging out with Anthony Robbins – was careful to distance himself from some of the Essenes/aliens/religious stuff that was part of the early raw foodist stuff when I asked him about it.)

    The reality is that most people who are obese and/or overweight would benefit greatly from changing their diet to include more raw fruit and veg. You’d get just as good results from a regular healthy diet (particularly if you removed simple carbs) as from a raw one, plus you’d probably have much better long term sustainability. The reality is that raw foodism isn’t just about diet, it’s a belief system and lifestyle that’s very profitable for the people who market it.

  31. Fifi says:

    AlexisT – “Raw diet cookbooks are amusing, though. They require that you own more equipment than many people need to cook food.”

    And the very fact that they had to find a way to cook raw food (at very low temperatures for a long time, supposedly to preserve magic) kind of indicates how unappealing a purely raw food diet is for most people.

  32. Chris says:

    On another blog I encountered a different kind of raw food faddist: she advocated drinking raw milk and eating raw meat and fish.

    She claimed that those with lactose intolerance can digest raw milk. I asked her how they were able to handle that if they, like most of the adults on this planet, could no longer produced lactase.

    She had other fantastic claims like raw food diet curing cancer and diabetes (type not specified). I asked her to prove her assertions, but there has been nothing for two days.

    I did look at her website and her vegan recipes. I know she was full of it when she had both cashews and miso in ingredient lists. Cashews is one of those nuts where the poison must be cooked out, and miso is made by first cooking the soybeans (oh, and she also said to avoid grains like “beans”).

    By the way, I am very familiar with lactose intolerance by having both a sister and daughter with it. Fortunately my daughter can tolerate cheese and yogurt, plus taking the lactase pills works for drinking milk. A lactose intolerant house guest just left, leaving me with almost half a gallon of soy milk. I need to figure out what to do with it.

  33. Fifi says:

    Khym – “(I’ve also seen the claim that the natural state of the stomach is basic (alkaline) rather than acidic, but that was probably from a acid/base wooist rather than a raw foodist.)”

    Actually that’s a cornerstone of raw foodism, the whole acid/alkaline thing. The idea is that eating cooked food acidifies the body and causes all kinds of evil. It’s part of the pseudoscientific aspect of raw foodism, along with the live enzyme thing (there’s a whole “cure for cancer” aspect that involves eating “live foods” like sauerkraut).

  34. Fifi says:

    Khym – “Chewing on raw vegetables also releases those enzymes, which aids digestion.”

    My understanding is that chewing releases digestive enzymes in the saliva for carbs and fats (not sure about for veggies, strangely and ironically enough!) If I’m incorrect, hopefully someone will correct me.

  35. AlexisT says:

    Chris: I looked into that lactose claim when I first heard it (not from raw foodists, but Weston A Price fans). There are two claims: one (impossible) is that raw milk contains lactase. (FDA tested and disproven.) The other (more plausible) is that it contains Lactobacillus bacteria, which digest the lactose–or at least some of it. AIUI, this is why many lactose intolerant people can eat yoghurt. So, presumably, if you’re not super intolerant, and don’t drink a quart of it at a time, you might be able to drink raw milk. It’s not quite the same thing as “raw milk is a cure for lactose intolerance.” If you think about it logically, there’s no reason raw milk should be digestible while pasteurized is not. We’ve only been pasteurizing milk for 100-odd years; if raw milk were that digestible, the link between milk drinking cultures and lactose tolerance would never have arisen.

  36. Desmodus says:

    Greetings, About 8 months ago, health concerns led me to embark on a major lifestyle change, primarily focusing on diet and exercise. I went from 190 to 160 lbs in 3 months and have stabilized there since. In the course of making these changes I briefly flirted w/ the raw food trend (minus the mysticism). I never was a “raw foodist” but I did try to examine some of the least fluffy ideas w/ an open mind. The best resource I could find is a book called “Becoming Raw”. While the authors are themselves raw vegans, I think they do a commendable job of weighing the claims of the raw gurus against the available published science. (Their conclusions on food enzymes will surely dissappoint the rawists). I am essentially a whole foods omnivore; I mention this for anyone that may be interested in a presentation of the raw food trend from reasonable and responsible proponents.

  37. daedalus2u says:

    Saliva has amylase which cleaves starch into sugar. It is probably in saliva so you can taste starch, and so that starchy particles caught in your teeth get broken down. At the pH of the stomach, the amylase in saliva is irreversibly denatured.

    The major benefit of a raw diet for diabetes is probably calorie reduction because a raw diet is so hard to digest it is difficult to eat enough to remain healthy even when “hunting and gathering” at a grocery store. There is no human society (now or ever recorded) that does not cook its food. Cooking food is probably obligatory for humans.

    Proteins denatured by cooking are easier to digest. It takes fewer calories to digest cooked food than to digest the same food raw. Even for non-humans.

    Another major benefit might be going into energy deficit and turning on ketosis. In ketosis the major energy source is ketone bodies, not glucose. Insulin causes more GLUT transporters in cells so that glucose uptake is increased. If you are getting most of your energy from ketone bodies, you don’t need as much glucose.

    If you are rapidly losing depot fat, you are probably in ketosis, and your insulin needs will go down. When you reach your terminal weight and stop turning fat into ketones, your brain is at risk of energy deprivation. It is extremely common for people who have bariatric surgery to experience severe depression (a major cause of death following bariatric surgery is suicide). This is (my hypothesis) due to reduced energy status in the brain due to the loss of ketone bodies when they run out of depot fat and can’t make up the difference via glucose or gluconeogenesis or lactate.

  38. Digestive enzymes in plants: yes, absolutely. Lots of them.

    When you sprout a seed, digestive enzymes break down the starch stored in the cotyledon into sugars… which are then used by the developing plant and converted into cellulose. Sprouts are much used in Asia where high population densities make cooking fuel scarce, since they are partially digested and cook much more quickly than unsprouted beans.

    They can even be eaten raw. Living food!

  39. This is an odd area.

    Veganism generally and raw food particularly lead to weight loss. Almost always a good thing.

    As discussed in an earlier thread, weight loss is difficult. The kind of culty brainwashing where the food you used to eat is described as “dead” (eeew, gross) helps you avoid it. If a doughnut is no longer identifiable as food it won’t be eaten.

    If someone asks me, I won’t be able to support their vitalist fantasies about the powers of raw food. But if vitalist fantasies help you keep your weight down – even keep your calorie intake down to life-extending levels – I say more power to you.

  40. aaronupnorth says:

    I was totally ready to go on a pure sashimi diet and then I got to the part where it was raw-food-veganism. Wow, that really took the fun out of it…

  41. nitpicking says:

    The other (more plausible) is that it contains Lactobacillus bacteria, which digest the lactose–or at least some of it. AIUI, this is why many lactose intolerant people can eat yoghurt. So, presumably, if you’re not super intolerant, and don’t drink a quart of it at a time, you might be able to drink raw milk.

    Not so much. For the lactobacilli to digest the lactose you’d have to let them ferment the milk … and you’d have yogurt at that point.

    it is also inarguable that stomach acid and the digestive enzymes in the proximal small intestine rapidly reduce proteins, and thus enzymes, into their component amino acids.

    Dr. Gorski, I’m no supporter of the enzyme woo, but clearly for a minority of people some undigested protein does enter the bloodstream. Otherwise, celiac disease (gluten sensitivity) couldn’t exist. Mind you, I personally don’t want plant enzymes floating around in my bloodstream where they don’t belong.

  42. Monkey Man says:

    @Fifi David Wolfe is an Essene minister I don’t see how he could distance himself from any of this :)

    I did some more research, and Cousens indeed writes in “Creating Peace by Being Peace” that the hoax gospel “The Essene Gospel of Peace” was exactly what inspired him onto this path, along with a subsequent “revelation”. This movement is religious in nature. I haven’t come across any leaders who aren’t deeply spiritual.

    Before I understood science and skepticism I tried this diet. After a week I felt lighter and clearer but stupider and less confident. I knew something was wrong and promptly ate a burger. I’m almost convinced that you need to be spirituality or ideologically deluded to do this to yourself long-term and ignore the drawbacks. Not that you can’t be an atheist scientist and fall for it, it just seems extremely unlikely given the obvious health drawbacks.

    Many of the Raw Food leaders have abandoned the path and gone back to normal food, sending adherents into hysterics. In the companion DVD to “Simply Raw”, “Raw for Life Encyclopedia” this is addressed by Victoria Boutenko who tries to show that they simply aren’t eating enough green leafy vegetables! Incredible!

    Paul Nison and many other leaders and prominent members of this cult changed their minds after getting their blood tested, etc. If we are going to put a dent in this hysterical movement, we need to show repeatedly that they can’t back up their beliefs with fact, and challenge them on it.

  43. bluedevilRA says:

    What’s with quacks and having endlessly long resumes? Is there anything this guy hasn’t done? He is involved in every major category of woo and he apparently dabbles in just about every religion as well. My favorite part is his claim that he led Amherst to an undefeated football season. I can find no record of this anywhere on the internet, except for his own words. Furthermore, his website states he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. A simple search of their records shows that he was not inducted. Why lie about something that is so easily falsifiable?

    Also, *Sir* Gabriel Cousens? Is his first name Sir? Because I am pretty sure he was not knighted…

  44. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    A lactose intolerant house guest just left, leaving me with almost half a gallon of soy milk. I need to figure out what to do with it.

    You could use it to water your sink. Soy milk is gross.

  45. Gregory Goldmacher says:

    “Dr. Sir Gabriel Cousens, M.D., M.D.(H), D.D. (Doctor of Divinity), Diplomate of American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine, Diplomate Ayurveda, a physician of the soul, teaches and lives the sevenfold peace.”

    OK, as soon as I hear that as someone’s self-description, the bull$#it alarm in my head starts sounding so loudly that I am afraid it may affect my ability to hear what they’re saying.

  46. nitpicking,
    Celiac disease does not require wheat proteins in the blood. It’s a disease of the small intestine. From

    “Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages from middle infancy onward. Symptoms include chronic diarrhoea, failure to thrive (in children), and fatigue, but these may be absent, and symptoms in other organ systems have been described. … Coeliac disease is caused by a reaction to gliadin, a prolamin (gluten protein) found in wheat, and similar proteins found in the crops of the tribe Triticeae (which includes other common grains such as barley and rye). Upon exposure to gliadin, and specifically to three peptides found in prolamins, the enzyme tissue transglutaminase modifies the protein, and the immune system cross-reacts with the small-bowel tissue, causing an inflammatory reaction. That leads to a truncating of the villi lining the small intestine (called villous atrophy). This interferes with the absorption of nutrients, because the intestinal villi are responsible for absorption. The only known effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet.”

  47. “If someone asks me, I won’t be able to support their vitalist fantasies about the powers of raw food. But if vitalist fantasies help you keep your weight down – even keep your calorie intake down to life-extending levels – I say more power to you.”

    This probably ends up being personality driven. I found the baby carrot quote interesting. Sort of Anne Rice vegetarian vampirism, but, like the one cast member, probably not interesting enough to make me give up enchiladas. I think I’d be more inclined to maintain a diet with a healthier enchilada recipe. But it seems to me (based on purely conjecture and anecdotal evidence), some people have extremist personalities and they sometimes do better with an extremist, dramatic type diet change.

  48. Shannon says:

    I wanted to get healthier a few years ago so I looked at my diet. I was tired of eating salad, salad salad and I found some raw food recipes online that basically do really, really creative things with fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. I really love the recipes to this day and eat a lot of so called “raw foods”. But while I am a vegetarian (I just don’t really like meat that much) I eat lots of other things too including dairy and eggs. I was worried I would be nutritionally deficient otherwise.

    When I got involved in the “raw food” community, mainly just to get more cool recipes, I found it was full of loony ideas that disturbed me. David Wolfe actually told me that injecting my own urine was a better inoculation against disease than vaccines. I sure wish I’d screen captured that comment now.

    At that point, I distanced myself from the people, but I still enjoy many of the recipes I picked up.

  49. wrt raw food being very time- and effort-intensive: that’s a feature, not a bug. If you are thinking about food ALL THE TIME the way many people are who are trying to lose weight or who have lost control of their weight do, raw food gives you a way to channel that obsession. You can think about, prepare and eat food ALL THE TIME and still lose weight.

    It’s the opposite of the SlimFast strategy where you treat food as a medical necessity and consume only measured portions of packaged drinks. That way you don’t have to think about food at all. Back in the day when I was doing my BSc Food Science in Nutrition — things may have changed since the early 80s — this type of diet was observed to be one of the most effective because it didn’t rely on people’s ability to make complex and difficult choices over and over again forever. (No, this type of diet was not recommended. It was simply neutrally observed to be frequently effective.)

    People do what they can. If joining a food religion is what they can do, and it works for them, great. The reasons it works for them may have little to do with the accuracy of their beliefs about food.

    Since medicine is about care of the patient, a discussion of the conflict between the ethics of allowing the patient to believe something that is untrue vs the ethics of removing an effective motivator and structure for desired behavioural changes would be à propos.

  50. Fifi says:

    AaronUpNorth – There’s also a brand of raw foodism that includes sashimi (no rice I’m afraid).

    Monkey Man – Wolfe’s whole theory is based on religious ideas about purity and vitalism so I probably should have said “attempted to distance himself” – he was busy trying to mainstream his ideas and business (and hanging out with Anthony Robbins, the original “motivational speaker”). Though I do think he quite genuinely believes the pseudoscience, his father was a chiropractor or osteopath or something so he grew up being indoctrinated in this kind of thing. Most hilariously, I ran across a webpage where some group of Essenes were trying to distance themselves from raw foodism. Love it when religious people try to make out that their crazy/deluded idea isn’t that other crazy/deluded idea.

  51. Fifi says:

    michele – “This probably ends up being personality driven. I found the baby carrot quote interesting.”

    Thought my might enjoy this fact….the idea of the screaming carrot refers back to Margaret Atwood’s novel The Edible Woman, which is about eating disorders.

  52. Fifi says:

    Alison – the problem with the raw foodism isn’t actually the food (raw fruit and veg are good for us, though being a fruitarian – just eating fruit – can lead people to develop diabetes). The problem is the wacky belief system that tells people that symptoms of malnutrition are “cleansing” or “spiritual”, plus like many cultish beliefs it alienates people. Being skinny and malnourished is not automatically healthier than being a bit overweight and well nourished. Healthy eating is mainly about moderation, this encourages extremism. That said, having social support for changing eating habits is very helpful to people – both weightwatchers and raw food groups offer this (and both involve people/businesses profiting from selling their diets). I’m not sure if feeding a neurotic relationship to food is ultimately that healthy (and the whole “pure” aspect of raw foodism is pretty OCD/neurotic).

  53. Calli Arcale says:


    I found the baby carrot quote interesting. Sort of Anne Rice vegetarian vampirism, but, like the one cast member, probably not interesting enough to make me give up enchiladas.

    When I was in grade school, I read a rather amusing couple of books about a vampire rabbit: “Bunnicula” and “The Celery Stalks At Midnight”. I think there may be more in the series. Bunnicula, who had fangs, would escape from his cage, and later on people would find vegetables that had turned absolutely white, with two little fang-marks in them…. Of course, nothing was ever proven, and the grown-ups never believed the kids, but THEY KNEW!! ;-)

    Alison Cummins:

    Since medicine is about care of the patient, a discussion of the conflict between the ethics of allowing the patient to believe something that is untrue vs the ethics of removing an effective motivator and structure for desired behavioural changes would be à propos.

    Sort of like the discussions that have been had in the past about the ethics of placebos, only on a more interesting edge where the false belief actually is producing a measurably beneficial effect (through motivation)?

    There is a certain element where the source of the motivation maybe doesn’t matter and where maybe “other kinds of knowing” might make some sort of sense — when it comes to social interactions, the rules are what they are largely because we believe them to be, and if we didn’t believe in them, they’d stop working. But on the other hand, if people don’t know it’s a fake and later find out, will that leave them worse off than if they’d found a more honest source of motivation? Hollywood likes to depict the coach who motivates his team with a clever lie, but how often does that turn out well in the real world? I’m sure there’s a continuum, and not a lot of clear answers.

  54. Fifi “the idea of the screaming carrot refers back to Margaret Atwood’s novel The Edible Woman”

    Ahhh! I thought it sounded familiar. Wonderful book, probably my favorite by MA.

  55. Calli on a “The Celery Stalks At Midnight”

    {Chuckling} must find these books.

  56. Khym Chanur says:

    Of course, nothing was ever proven, and the grown-ups never believed the kids, but THEY KNEW!!

    If I recall correctly, it wasn’t the kids who knew, but the other pets in the household. At least one dog and one cat, and maybe some other types of pets. The cat was the leader of the anti-bunny-vampire crusade.

  57. Calli Arcale,
    “Sort of like the discussions that have been had in the past about the ethics of placebos, only on a more interesting edge where the false belief actually is producing a measurably beneficial effect (through motivation)?”

    Exactly what I was thinking!

    I think generally health care providers handle this by checking that the person isn’t doing harm to themselves and then heavily congratulating the patient on the good outcome, without engaging the theory.

    If there’s any interesting ethical discussion around patients’ incorrect beliefs — especially when they motivate desirable behaviour — it would be nice to bring it out when discussing examples of incorrect belief that might motivate desirable behaviour.

  58. Barry2 says:

    I’m glad that Desmodus mentioned the book “Becoming Raw”. I’ve met one of the authors, Brenda Davis, and she seems to be quite reasonable, knowledgeable, and sober. The people in the video are so ridiculous that attacking them is like shooting fish in a barrel; perhaps that why David Gorski had trouble finding the motivation to write this article. I’m far more interested in what SBM has to say about Brenda’s work. I hope that David or one of the other SBM writers will address it. As a reader of this blog, I don’t just want to know who’s doing really bad work. I also want to see questionable ideas being evaluated according to the best arguments being made for them.

  59. David Gorski says:

    Hmmm. Looking at Davis’ book, at least what I can see in, doesn’t give me a lot of hope. One example is that she certainly seems a bit too credulous on the whole “enzyme” thing. True, I didn’t read the whole thing, but the bits I did read aren’t particularly convincing.

  60. Barry2 says:

    Thanks, David. While I don’t have Brenda Davis’ book handy, I was able to find a review online ( that addresses its chapter on enzymes, and it says that, “The authors conclude, ‘Raw food offers many advantages, and food enzymes are among them. There is good evidence that food enzymes play a positive role in health and digestion, although the role appears somewhat different, and less critical, than what proponents of the food-enzyme theory have suggested.'” So the book does indeed endorse food enzymes, although with some caveats.

    I was surprised when I read that Davis endorsed raw diets, and I wondered whether that meant that there was more to raw food than I thought, or less to Davis. I’m disappointed to learn that it’s the latter, but I’m glad that I found out.

  61. lillym says:

    I had to share this as an example of woo that’s being pushed by certain Raw Foodists-

    “I’ve been looking around for a really good Ormus product for quite some time now and we FINALLY found it! White Ormus Light is created from pure Organic Sea Salts most of which are from the Dead Sea. As Ormus is created from these salts through an INCREDIBLE ancient alchemical process, elements, in their high-spin, quantum or M-state, are manifest. Just WAIT until you see part of this alchemical process in the picture below to the right! These M-state elements in Ormus are “trans-dimensional” in nature and behavior. They subtly, yet directly, connect a person to the Quantum Field, which connects us to spirit, heals us physically and emotionally.

    During the two weeks of washings, the ORMUS is cured under the lower apex of a gold and silver Merkaba, a 7-foot Star Octahedron with a powerful zero-resistance Rodin Coil sitting at the center point. Both courtesy of G.W. Hardin. This Rodin Coil focuses the Etheric energy field into the ORMUS sitting beneath the center of this powerful sacred geometry suspended Merkaba-Star Octahedron. On a DC current, 29 sacred Solfeggio tones/frequencies, as decoded from the angelic realm by GW Hardin, are played further imprinting on the ORMUS. This ensures that this ORMUS from Blue Water Alchemy is the most highly charged ORMUS found anywhere on the Planet and at a price that all can afford.”

    This is accompanied by pictures of someone’s “aura” and the so called changes.

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