Dr. Roizen Gets It Wrong

Dr. Mike Roizen is the chief wellness officer at the “famous Cleveland Clinic,” where the rich and famous get examined and treated. He is the author of You: The Owner’s Manual: An Insider’s Guide To The Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger, among other books, and over two hundred peer-reviewed scientific articles. He also served on FDA advisory committees for sixteen years.

Dr. Roizen Diet

He works with Chris Wood, senior healthcare analyst at Health and Wealth Research. Wood recently interviewed Roizen about some “simple guidelines” on “how to eat healthy.” Here are Roizen’s suggestions on what constitutes a healthy diet. (And by the way, Roizen was trained as an anesthesiologist; he has no formal background in nutrition or biochemistry.)

  1. Don’t eat trans fats (including foods fried in vegetable oil, because vegetable oils are transformed into trans fat when they are heated over and over).
  2. Avoid red meat, egg yolks and cheese, not because they raise cholesterol, but because these foods contain carnitine, lecithin and choline which “change the bacteria inside you over a period of as short as one week.” According to Roisen, bacteria that love steak produce trimethylamine from carnitine, a substance that causes “inflammation” and is “a more powerful inflammatory agent and cause of heart disease, stroke, and memory loss than is in fact LDL cholesterol. . .” Red meat, egg yolks and cheese also encourage your gut bacteria to produce butyl butane, which causes liver damage. (Our ancestors could eat these foods, he says, because they only lived to age 30, so had enough reserves in the kidneys, but if “you’re going to live to 130, 100 or 95 anyway, you don’t want kidney damage, so you want to avoid the red meat and the egg yolks for that reason.”)
  3. Don’t eat added sugar
  4. Don’t eat added “syrups”
  5. Don’t eat simple carbohydrates

Dr. Roizen’s limited diet includes salmon, hummus, beets, apples, ocean trout, avocados, walnuts and lots of fruits and vegetables—he does not divulge what kinds of fats and oils he uses. Unfortunately, when Dr. Roizen submitted to what he calls the “Real Age Test,” he found that he was “missing a whole mess of vitamins and minerals from my diet, even though I was eating what I thought was colorful fruits, vegetables, and food that was only good for me.” In fact, he admits that of the people following his dietary recommendations in the Real Age Program, “99.97% of them didn’t get what was recommended and. . . only seven percent got more than 20% of the daily value of all vitamins and minerals.”

Roizen thus recommends a number of supplements, as per the following list:

  1. Vitamin D—either D2 or D3—2000 IU per day
  2. A multivitamin that contains roughly 100% of the daily value for B vitamins, taken half in the morning and half in the evening.
  3. Calcium, 600 mg
  4. Magnesium, 300 mg
  5. Fish oil containing 900 mg per day DHA
  6. Two baby aspirin daily, one in the morning and one in the afternoon
  7. Omega-7 fatty acids from macadamia nuts and fish
  8. Probiotics
  9. Co-Enzyme Q10, 100 mg in the morning and 100 mg in the evening.

Let’s have a close look at Roizen’s food suggestions—we’ll tackle the supplements in another blog.

Roizen is certainly right about trans fats, which the industry has largely succeeded in removing from the food supply, and he is right to warn against consumption of commercial fried foods, but not for the reason he gives.  Heating vegetable oils does not create trans fats. Instead, polyunsaturated oils form free radicals and then break down into dangerous, reactive aldehydes.  This happens during processing, so these oils are rancid and dangerous in the bottle; more of these dangerous by-products are formed when these oils are heated—whether in the fast food fry vats or in a pan on your kitchen stove. But Roizen gives no warnings about polyunsaturated oils used in all processed foods—from the bottled dressings to granola. These industrial oils are always rancid, and also extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids, and should be the number one item to take out of our diets if we want to be healthy.


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Now we get to the accusations that red meat, egg yolks and cheese cause heart disease. The theory that carnitine in red meat causes gut bacteria to produce trimethylamine is ably discussed by Chris Masterjohn, PhD here. This research definitely fits the category of junk science. The studies with humans involved only a handful of subjects and cannot be translated into meaningful recommendations about what we should eat (and actually, eating fish produced much more trimethylamine than eating red meat!) The studies with mice gave carnitine in body-weight-adjusted amounts found in about one thousand steaks!

As Chris points out, the balance of epidemiological evidence fails to show an association between fresh, unprocessed red meat and heart disease. In fact, numerous studies, have suggested that carnitine supplementation improves outcomes in patients with cardiovascular disease. Carnitine thus may be a generally heart-protective nutrient. 

Regarding the statement that meat, egg yolks and cheese encourage your gut bacteria to produce butyl butane, which causes liver damage, I could find nothing on the Internet on this subject, not in pubmed and not in a general Google search. Roizen provides no reference for this statement.

Choline, by the way, abundant in egg yolks, is a great brain food and helps prevent memory loss.

Recommendations three, four and five involve common sense recommendations to avoid refined sugar and carbs, although I find them a little odd. Why dance around high fructose corn syrup, definitely the worst of the sweeteners, by calling it “syrup.” That would include maple syrup, which is fine in moderate amounts.

So Roizen’s diet avoids trans fats, commercial fried foods, refined sugars and refined carbs—all good suggestions—but also nutrient-dense foods like red meat, cheese and egg yolks. He eats a “healthy” diet of fish, vegetables, fruits and nuts, but comes up deficient in a large number of nutrients. One of the best ways to ensure that we get all the nutrients we need from food is to eat animal foods like red meat, cheese and egg yolks. Liver, butter, oysters and cod liver oil will ensure adequate fat-soluble vitamins, plenty of minerals and even B vitamins, especially B12. Fruits and vegetables are fine to include in the diet as long as we don’t forget their main purpose—as a vehicle for butter and cream! Fermented foods, bone broth, unrefined salt and properly prepared whole grains would round out his diet and ensure that he never felt deprived.

Dr. Roizen needs to spend some time at westonaprice.org before he takes it on himself to give dietary advice to others!

The Weston A. Price Foundation’s Wise Traditions Diet provides all the vitamins, minerals and other compounds we need to be healthy without any deprivation!

Author: Sally Fallon Morell

Sally Fallon Morell is best known as the author of Nourishing Traditions®: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. This well-researched, thought-provoking guide to traditional foods contains a startling message: animal fats and cholesterol are not villains but vital factors in the diet, necessary for normal growth, proper function of the brain and nervous system, protection from disease and optimum energy levels.

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