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Dr. Weil on the Raw Foods Diet

Drweilrawfood Dr. Weil, the aging guru who was on the cover of Time Magazine, has his take on the raw food diet.

It's not that we disagree, we just recognize that we are talking about, and emphasizing different perspectives. With that said, we still think his dialog is a helpful contribution to the world of raw, whether favorable or not.

We'll list out Dr. Weil's response to a reader's question here, and this evening we'll respond point by point to his statements about raw food.

Q: I’ve been considering a raw foods diet. Can you discuss the pros and cons?
- - Meredith

A:  Answer (Published 08/16/2005)

The raw foods diet is exactly what it appears to be – a diet in which you eat only foods that can be consumed raw or after minimal heating. On the plus side is the fact that it provides plenty of fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts, all of which should be part of any healthy diet. You also get plenty of fiber and no processed food. And, because you don’t eat animal foods – meat, fish, or poultry – you avoid the contaminants they may contain. Another advantage: there’s little danger that you’ll consume too much protein or fat or the wrong kind of fat.

However, I’m not a proponent of the raw foods diet. First of all, when you eat everything raw, you lose much of the best flavor, texture and appearance of food. More importantly, however, is the fact that many of the vitamins and minerals found in vegetables are less bioavailable when you eat these foods raw than when they’re cooked. For example, you can get lycopene, the carotenoid pigment that protects against prostate cancer, only from cooked tomatoes, not from raw ones. The carotenoids in carrots are more bioavailable from cooked carrots than they are from raw ones.

Another disadvantage stems from the fact that many of the natural toxins in edible roots, seeds, stems and leaves are destroyed by cooking. Alfalfa sprouts contain canavanine, a natural toxin that can harm the immune system; button mushrooms contain natural carcinogens, and celery produces psoralens, compounds that sensitize the skin to the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. All of these are broken down by simple cooking. Although our bodies have natural defenses against these toxins, a raw food diet can add to the toxic load we’re already dealing with.

The latest word on raw food diets comes from a new study which shows that vegetarians who eat only raw foods have abnormally low bone mass, a sign that they may be vulnerable to osteoporosis. The study, published in the March 28, 2005 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that other markers for bone health among the raw foods group were normal. However, the intake of calcium and vitamin D was very low (only 579 mg per day of calcium and 16 units of vitamin D) among those on the raw foods diet compared to 1,093 mg of calcium and 348 units of vitamin D among a control group that ate a typical American diet.

The raw foods group consumed fewer calories than the control group and had a body mass index (BMI) averaging 20 (in the normal range) compared to just over 25 in the control group. While this BMI sounds healthy, 20 was the average, suggesting that it was lower among some of the study participants on the raw foods diet. Those with a BMI of 19.5 or lower are at risk of low bone mineral density because their bones aren’t bearing enough weight, a factor that contributes to bone strength.

This recent study adds new information to the risks a raw foods diet presents. If a vegetarian diet appeals to you, I think you’ll do better if you follow the Mediterranean diet but eliminate meat, poultry and fish.

By the way, I've gone to a few upscale raw food restaurants on the east and west coasts. The food was tasty but seemed to me very labor-intensive to prepare and contained way too many nuts.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Comments

sh

I think it's funny how when I often read about disadvantages of the raw food diet the old "lycopene is more available in cooked tomatoes" is like one of the first things out of their mouths. I was sort of waiting for him to say that.

I'm sure there are a lot of anti-oxidants that are MORE bioavailable in raw foods except the tried and true prove-the-raw-food-diet wrong "lycopene".

and raw food meals being labor intensive? what, like cooked food meals aren't labor intensive? isn't that a given at an "upscale" restaurant like he was talking about? give me a break...

but yeah, I guess it's good there's a dialogue going on.

Dhrumil

Haha, well said!

Sam

1) I *think* sundried tomatoes contain more lycopene (but don't quote me on that - let me know if you find out)

2) Dr. Weil is a suspect dude:

http://www.cspinet.org/nah/index.htm

Pocketing millions while saying you should never trust someone who pockets millions!

Renee

Look at his appearance. He's fat and out of shape.

Alethe

I agree! It makes little sense to take health advice from someone is overweight, or looks unhealthy.. unless you want to be overweight and unhealthy I suppose.

McAuliflower

Sam beat me to the cspinet link!

Also- since when does anyone cook alfalfa sprouts?

Bob

I was shocked when he said that: "when you eat everything raw, you lose much of the best flavor, texture and appearance of food." When I eat raw I taste the food. The spices jump out at me. The flavor explodes. The food hasn't turned to mush, and the colors aren't gray from cooking. This comment, and his concern about being labor intensive, makes me feel that not only are his taste buds dead, but that he's more concerned with instant gratification than anything else. Of course the medical community would want people to eat their way. It makes for more patients.

NaturalNice

People will defend their cooked foods addiction to the last. Unlike other addicts cooked food addiction is not classified and recognised as such.

Note, that the study cited on bone density does not state how long the test subjects had been raw or what version of the raw diet they were on. Further the raw fooders on the study were found to be healthy in every way. Transitionally on a raw,diet a lot of Bio Markers will shift. However Knowelegdable raw jaws will in the long term score higher on all bio marker readings.
Also a lot of Raw Fooders come into raw foods eating due to a health challenge, so again it would be good to know who was tested. Raw food is a kourney and a process. I have worked with people and seen them almost whittle away to nothing as the body clears, cleans and reconsolidates, before beginning to flourish and rejuvenate as new vibrant strong cells start to be formed.

Dr Doug Graham, a 30 year veteran told me his bone density was off the scale.

Finally, note that all bio chemical, nutrional disciplines are fundamentally skewed due to the erroneous premise of cooked foods being normal and proper for humans.

It was deemed a normal though inexplicable phenomenom that there is a massive increase in white blood cell every time someone eats (Known as "white tide"). That is until a Swiss researcher discovered that when someone ate a raw meal there was no white tide.

Dr Weil's comments remind us that someone cannot take you where they have not been themselves.

Blessings To all the Raw Vangaurd You are the leaders!

Shoshannah Sarah

I disagree wholeheartedly with Dr. Weil. It is clear that he has not experienced the raw foods regime and is going according to another system. Different health systems work for different people. Eating raw is so much more bio-available than eating cooked foods. We receive the aminos and enzymes in raw foods where they are essentially destroyed in cooked foods. Many people have cured serious diseases, lost weight createdbalanced and cleansed out their bodies in no time at all switching to raw. You can always find the negative in anything. I didn't find Dr. Weil say anything negative about eating cooked foods and there are alot of negatives. In my experience in just a short time, my eyesight vastly improved, many of my grays turned to blond, my hormonal system normalized, and I feel 20 years younger and people notice it. Yes to Raw!

rawhermit

Dr Weil is a big joke.He should just shut up and lose some weight before talking about health-related subjects such as diets. Please! Dr Weil, you should do a 90 day juice cleanse and about 200 colonics before opening your mouth again. I can't believe people believe what this guy says.

Sarah

having veriety counters the toxins because they are unable to build up in the system.

When it comes to calcium there are quite a few leafy greens with more calcium than any dairy product on the market.

And about vitamin D. It mostly is made in our bodies when exposed to the sun and has very few natural food sources; therefore,more a indicator of outdoor activity than a healthy diet

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