It’s a rather shocking observation that health gurus, who write diet books and give advice on how to live long, tend to live shorter lives than the average person.
They seem to be beaten only by rock stars (who have an average life expectancy of 42 years old for American rock stars, and 35 for Europeans!)
Some examples of health experts who died young:
Michel Montignac, a very famous Frenchman who promoted a healthy diet based on the concept of the glycemic index, died at 66 of cancer. He was the inspiration behind the “South Beach Diet.”
Dr. Atkins, probably the most famous diet guru in the world (who weighed 258 lbs at 6 feet tall), died after spending 9 days in a coma at the age of 72 from a slip on the ice. The medical examiner noted that in his health files that he had previously had suffered a heart attack, congestive heart failure and hypertension. As no autopsy was performed, it cannot be confirmed if any of these previous ailments affected his inability to recover from his injuries.
Paavo Airola, author of “How to Get Well” and led the Juice Fasting and natural health movement in the 70s and 80s, died of a stroke at the age of 64.
Roy Waldorf who was a longevity expert and wrote the book “The 120-Year Diet” died in 2004 at age 79. Not that bad, but nowhere close to the target age he projected.
Nathan Pritikin, one of the most prolific authors on the low fat diet, committed suicide as his body was overtaken by leukemia at age 69.
Ross Horne, his student, claimed that Mr. Pritikin would have lived longer if he had embraced the fruitarian diet that Ross promoted, but he himself died of cancer, although well into his 80s.
T.C. Fry, leader of the Natural Hygiene and fruitarian movement, died of a pulmonary embolism at the age of 70.
Recently Robert E. Kwalski, who wrote the famous book “The 8-Week Cholesterol Cure,” died at the age of 65 of a pulmonary aneurysm.
George Oshawa, who literally invented the macrobiotic diet (which actually means “the way of long life”) passed of lung cancer at the age of 73.
Adele Davis, who pioneered the concept of healthy eating, which unfortunately involved drinking a lot of milk, died at the age of 70 of cancer.
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Of course, it would be wrong to say that ALL diet gurus die young. That’s not true, but a lot of them did.
Paul Bragg died at 81. Although it was widely claimed by his family that he died from a surfing accident, apparently cause of death was a heart attack, a fact which has since been removed from his Wikipedia page.
Norman Walker, juicing and raw food guru, died at 99 (and not at 118 years old as was previously claimed).
Jack Lalanne, who was more a fitness than a diet guru, diet recently at the age of 96 from pneumonia.
What Does It All Mean?
The fact that a good majority of health gurus don’t live significantly longer than the average life expectancy, and in most cases live shorter lives, doesn’t in itself mean anything revolutionary.
People are fallible. Health gurus can be mistaken. More importantly… health gurus are human just like you and me!
Some health gurus promoted a low fat diet. Others promoted a high fat diet.
Some health gurus practiced what they preached most of the time, some did part of the time, and others didn’t practice their teachings at all.
In some cases these inconsistencies didn’t prevent them from living a long life, like Paul Bragg who used to enjoy an occasional burger in his favorite Honolulu restaurant.
Others, like T.C. Fry, struggled to apply their strict teachings in their own lives, but yet lived longer than what their doctors had predicted (T.C. Fry was desperately sick and ready to die in his forties based on his doctor’s opinion).
Some gurus tried to give immortality a shot, like Roy Waldorf, and practiced calorie restriction, only to live slightly longer than the average male life expectancy.
Some diet gurus pretended to have the solution to weight loss, but were themselves overweight when they died (let’s not name names here).
Who knows, maybe it’s too much pressure to be a high-profile health guru, that people expect you to be perfect all the time. Maybe some health gurus would have changed their minds about a few things they got wrong, but to maintain their image they refused to admit to others and themselves that their program did not work and that they needed to try something else.
Maybe the type of person who writes diet books — mostly men — tend to be a certain overachiever type, bringing to their lives a certain stress that would not have occurred otherwise.
Or it could be that many diet gurus start with poor health in the first place, and then get motivated to find a solution and write a book about it.
The fact that some diet gurus die young should not lead us to the conclusion that all diet advice is bad.
But it should lead one to question the quality of the advice they are getting from these people.
I find that 99% of diet books rehash the same BS that is disease-promoting and meant for the masses who are happy to hear good news about their bad habits.
Bad Health Advice Like:
– Eating a ton of cholesterol is actually good for you, so start the day with organic bacon and eggs
– Eating a lot of meat is man’s natural design (the last guy who tried to live on an all-meat diet is Vihjalmur Stephanson, and he died of a serious cardiovascular disease at 81).
– Eating a lot of fat is good as long as it’s “good” fat, so douse your salad and everything else with olive oil
– Carbohydrates are “bad” but lots of meat protein is okay
– Fruit is “bad,” but factory-made protein drinks are great for carbohydrates
It’s actually so hard to see through all the confusion in natural health, but I believe it’s possible.
Essentially, I think every diet claim falls in one of three categories:
1) Some things are good for everybody, and there’s science to support it
2) Some things are downright bad for everybody, and there’s science to support it
3) Some things are more complicated, and depend on individual situations.
Good Health Advice Examples:
– Fruits and vegetables are GOOD for everybody, yet most diet books don’t promote a diet based on fruits and vegetables.
All science out there supports a diet based on fruits and vegetables, yet very few people actually do it.
– A plant-based is GOOD for everybody, and so is taking proven steps to improve your health such as exercising, keeping your fat intake low and eating fresh instead of packaged food.
– Refined fats and oils are BAD for everybody, because they are concentrated calories with no nutrients. The four tablespoons of olive oil some diet gurus recommend that you eat every day contain more saturate fat than a McDonald’s Big Mac.
– The Standard American Diet (SAD) without exception, is BAD for everybody. Any diet book is a step above that, except Atkins, which is SAD on steroids and not recommended!
– Other things are not black and white. For example, there’s a debate as to whether a completely vegan diet is better than one that contains a small percentage of animal products. I prefer to avoid animal products completely (except on very rare occasions), but others think they can get certain nutrients by eating some animal products.
– Some people feel best on an all-raw diet, although there’s not definite science to say that it’s absolutely the best diet for everybody. Most people seem to do great on a mostly-raw diet because they get enough variety and calories to thrive.
– Some people can’t eat certain foods due to allergies or sensitivities
Ultimately, it’s up to YOU to become your own diet guru.
But it’s important not to fall into cynicism and start to believe that nobody is right and that all diet advice is bad. Of course, no one is absolutely right but it’s logical to believe that certain people should be closer to the truth than others.
Ultimately, if you have a deep knowledge of the human body and how it ACTUALLY works, it will help you sort through a lot of the diet information available today.
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