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Customer Review

on July 25, 2008
Although I wasn't "living to eat" before starting this diet, I certainly was while I was on it. You have basically two choices: (a) keep it simple, eating fruit for breakfast, salad and beans for lunch, and salad and two cooked vegetables for dinner; and (b) extremely complicated meal plans, where you often end up using and cleaning a blender *twice* for each meal. I was shocked to see one dinner included both homemade soup and chili. Yikes. Option a left me starving and falling off the diet (even though I was already a vegetarian), as well as too disgusted to put one more piece of lettuce in my mouth. Option b was close to impossible. I'm a freelancer, so I have time on my hands to cook, and I couldn't come close to re-creating that meal plan. The idea that this diet takes no willpower is laughable. Any diet that focuses 90% of calories on one food group takes an iron will. I doubt most Americans could even manage that with grains.

Anyway, food tastiness (or lack thereof) aside, I had some problems with the huge leaps of logic in the book. On the subject of fiber, Dr. Fuhrman cites observational studies instead of hard science. On oils, he admits the research is inconclusive, then claims oils don't have any benefits. On age of maturation, he says that the age of menarche (female puberty) has dropped significantly from age 17 to 12, but his chart shows that in the U.S., the average age has dropped from only 14 to 12 1/2 since 1870, when I presume we weren't eating too badly. He also doesn't give any support to his idea that earlier maturation causes early death. There's probably a good reason for that - as we've matured earlier and earlier, we've lived longer and longer. If I were Dr. Fuhrman, I'd probably commit a fallacy now and claim that correlation proves those two are related. I'm not suggesting they are, but I certainly don't see where he's getting the opposite opinion.

One point that bothered me in particular was his claim that it's not important to eat organic to get nutrients. That completely ignores many recent studies that have shown that non-organic produce, and even meats and cheeses, have 20-90% less nutrients than their organic counterparts and the same items 60 years ago. Did the author never hear about these studies? Did he consider that having low-nutrient food may be what's causing people to overeat (his own hypothesis, though he doesn't blame non-organics)? Or did he just presume if you're eating a head of lettuce a day, it doesn't matter much?

Several times he says that his opinions on certain issues (which he writes about as fact) aren't proven because the benefits would show up only after the course of a lifetime. Then later he claims it's never too late to start. Which is it?

I'm willing to say, hey, maybe he is right about the ideal human diet. But if he is, it's from a whole lot of guessing and cherry-picking information from different studies (e.g., looking at low cancer rates in plant-focused societies that don't live past age 55 - they aren't old enough for much of a cancer rate!).

In addition to the logic of the book, I was also disturbed by the commercialism: (1) Pushing the (very expensive) Vitamix mixer and setting up a way to get kickbacks from its purchase. (2) The use of hard to find ingredients, with no substitution listed. For example, Vegebase instant soup mix is listed as an ingredient in several major recipes in the book. I live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of the veggie capitals of the U.S., and I couldn't find it in three stores (finally found it at Whole Foods).

Finally, I don't think this is necessarily the doctor's fault, but he appears to have an almost cultish following. On my visits to his website, everything discussed is "Dr. Fuhrman said" like it's gospel. Followers even seem to search constantly for negative reviews in order to refute them. The author admits he doesn't know the answers to everything. I agree with him on that.
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