May 28, 2010
Interviewed by Trista Cornelius, Contributing Writer
Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger will be a featured presenter at VegFest 2010.
Q. You have a degree in Agriculture and in Medicine. What drew you to Agriculture, and why did you go from there to Medicine? At what point did you become vegan/vegetarian?
A. It was a biology degree, not an ag degree, though it was in the Cornell's College of Agriculture, which certainly allowed me to take a broader range of classes. I went into medicine, frankly, because I like taking care of sick people. But I quickly realized I could get more professional satisfaction preventing disease in the first place. I've been vegan for about 20 years.
Q. As you and others have shown, intensive animal agriculture (factory farms, industrialized slaughterhouses) harm animals, people, the environment, and cause disease, and so forth. However, what do you say to people who choose to eat "conscientious meat," meat from animals raised naturally in old-fashioned animal husbandry ways?
A. Certainly better! It's like when patients brag they're down to one pack a day - it's great that they're making a step in the right direction.
Q. What's the most important thing people should know about the cause of "bird flu" and "swine flu"? Do you think the general public has the right facts or enough information about these epidemics?
A. They should know that the dramatic rise in the emergence of highly disease-causing strains of bird flu and shifts in the epidemiology of swine flu are likely due in part to the industrialization of the pork and poultry sectors worldwide over the last few decades.
Q. What is one change all people should make to their diet, even if they are not considering a veg diet?
A. Cut out all trans fats, minimize one's intake of junk foods, and eat as many whole plant foods as they can, including in their daily diet not only an array of whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruit, and as many vegetables as they can eat, but also specifically dark green leafy vegetables, berries, and green (or white) tea.
Q. How do you eat on busy days? What about when you're traveling? What did you eat for lunch today?
A. Every day is a busy day when you're trying to reduce the amount of suffering in the world! For breakfast in the summer I usually do a big smoothie with frozen berries, unsweetened almond milk, and ground flax seeds. Right now it's mulberry season and so I pick a morning's worth walking our beloved shelter dog. Lunch is usually leftovers from the night before (though today I was stuck in an airport with al fresco taco bell bean burritos), and supper I'm a big fan of ethnic cuisines, favorites being Thai and Italian - packed with veggies from the farmer's market of course!
Q. I've read just a few pages of your online book, Heart Failure - Diary of a Third Year Medical Student and find it honest, powerful, and shocking. How did you endure that third year of medical school; what got you through? Also, why did you decide to publish this (and other work of yours) online for free?
A. All my books are available online full-text at no cost. In fact I refuse to publish with any publisher that refuses to let me do this. Do we want to live in a society where one has to pay for life-saving/changing information?
Q. As I read about you and your work online, I noticed that you are open and generous with your time and expertise, making much of your work available for free. One website even offered your personal phone number for people with questions. What made you decide to make yourself and your materials so available? Do you receive a lot of questions from readers? What do people ask you about most often?
A. Every day I get hundreds of emails. And it may take me awhile to get back to people, but unless I run into some sort of computer glitch I make sure to get back to everyone eventually. My whole aim in life is to help people, so how could I (or anyone else for that matter) refuse to... help people?