Thursday, August 18, 2016

Twice this week I have been asked to check out something that Dr. Joseph Mercola is recommending. Both times I was unimpressed. I am impressed by his web presence, though.

Over One Million Subscribers -- including tens of thousands of health professionals -- read and trust the "eHealthy News You Can Use" e-newsletter -- and that number is growing by an average of 1,000 subscribers per day!

Let's take a look at what Dr. Mercola advocates. 

Dr. Mercola's website has been live for 19 years this month. It's full of new articles written (or at least signed!) by Dr. Mercola. I was surprised to see so much content!  I felt good writing so many new blog posts the last couple weeks, but Mercola is pumping out 4 or 5 a day, well-written, with cites.

I assume his creativity and the volume of articles is related to the number of ads and high-volume internet traffic, this website must be making a ton of money. He has an on-line store with numerous products, many with his name on them, and most are pretty expensive, lol.

It's hard to decipher from the opening pages exactly what kind of website this is. It's not "Paleo," Vegan, or even a blog. There is no "start here" button. Just lots and lots of articles and a good search function to help you find what you are looking for. But I see a theme!

There are lots of articles on ketosis. And the questions I have been getting relate to Mercola's "anti-grain" stance and his low-carb diet recommendations. Indeed, Mercola seems to be an advocate of very low carb diets. For his 19th year anniversary of his website, he put up a little Day in the Life of Dr. Mercola story.

Here's his diet.

My day typically begins around 6 a.m. The first thing I do is prepare my breakfast meal for the day. Many believe it is very hard to eat a high-quality high-fat diet, but I will share my secrets with you today.
My Chocolate Fat Bomb recipe is a delicious mix of avocado, cocoa butter, and several other nutritious ingredients. This meal provides me 15 grams of protein, less than 10 grams of net carbs, 30 grams of fiber, 90 grams of fat and about 1,000 calories. I typically split it in half and eat it over two hours.


My primary meal of the day is my fitness salad. Sunflower seed sprouts, oregano, fennel, rosemary, red peppers and Malabar spinach — all of which I pick straight from my garden — make up the bulk of my salad, to which I add some healthy fats and protein.
On this day, I added ground organic lamb, salmon roe and anchovies...

Unlike most people, I typically will not eat dinner. If I'm hungry, I may have a high-fat snack. In the video, I show you how I make one of my favorite snacks, a macadamia nut fudge, made with all-natural healthy ingredients. Rather than being loaded with sugar, it's nearly 90 percent healthy fat and tastes great.

In addition to this high fat/low carb eating routine, Dr. Mercola walks 7 miles per day, visits a personal trainer at a local gym for a couple hours, wears blue-blocking sunglasses at night while working on his computer at a stand-up desk.

He has some good qualities, he recommends whole foods and eats lots of veggies. He gardens, he exercises. But I think he is quite out-of-touch with the average person.

Mercola on Grains

I typed "grain" into the search bar at, and got 13,000 hits going back to the '90s:

The Awful Truth about Eating Grains, 2008

All grains have nutritional deficiencies. Moreover, as we eat more and more grain products we tend to eliminate other nutritional meats, fruits, and vegetables.

The Low Grain Guide to Health

...limiting the intake of carbohydrates, (especially as cereal grains and starches), will improve human health.

And don't get me started on what he says about spuds!

But on other hand, he says his nickname is "Dr. Fiber," and he talks lots about gut health. Where do you suppose he got this idea?

Examples of foods high in resistant starch include underripe banana, rolled oats, white beans, lentils, seeds, and products like potato starch...


I firmly believe that most people benefit from a diet that includes meat, starches, and grain alongside ample other plant matter. Vegan diets are "do-able" if one supplements with vitamin B-12 and focuses on eating lots of high protein plants. Low carb diets are also "do-able" if a person has access to loads of fresh vegetables and eats numerous high fiber, nutritious plants daily. I do not agree with Dr. Mercola that we should strive to eat a bare minimum of carbs, no starches, and no grains just so that we maintain a constant state of ketosis.

Most vegetarian diets benefit with the addition of animal products, and most low carb diets benefit from the addition of grains and starches. The average person simply cannot adhere to the rigorous demands of a diet that excludes grains, starches, and meat. If you want to eliminate things, eliminate refined sugars, oils, and flours.  Eliminate artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors.

Whole grains contain micronutrients and metals, ie. copper, manganese, that fall short when we "cut carbs." Whole grains and starchy foods are also an important source of fiber.

While almost ANY diet is better than the SAD diet, think really hard before completely eliminating grains and starches from your life.  I can find virtually no evidence that whole grains are in any way damaging to human health. Some folks have trouble with the higher gluten grains, but very few people ever eat wheat in its "whole" form, mostly just flour in various degrees of "wholeness." But there is a world of grain out there!  Oats, teff, buckwheat, quinoa, rye, etc... Think outside the (bread)box for your grains.

My impression on Mercola and others (like Loren Cordain) who advocate zero-tolerance on grains and starches, is that they missed the boat when designing their anti-SAD diets. They should have focused on removing refined foods and left whole foods on the menu. Had Dr. Mercola done so, maybe now, 19 years later, he would not be such a slave to his lifestyle.

Any long-time Mercola fans here?  Tell me about him!  Has his advice helped you?



  1. His youtube channel, like his website, is very regularly updated and has some great interviews with interesting scientists and researchers, generally in 2 versions for each, one edited and the other full length. I check it out every so often and there is always something worth listening to - for instance I see a week ago he posted an interview with Dr Thomas Seyfried on cancer metabolism and ketosis, a fascinating area of research.

    1. I will give him kudos for presenting topics that just about everyone will find interesting on a daily basis. Dave Asprey, Chris Kresser, Mark Sisson, etc. all also do great interviews and talk about a wide variety of things, but most of these guys try to stick to a theme in what they recommend, and they are all seen as controversial by many. I guess that when "traffic" becomes your prime focus, you need to try hard to get new visitors and shares.

  2. He didn't used to be in the low card/paleo camp...just anti-SAD. He also recommended steady state cardio, instead of weights or HIT. Both changed in the last 10 years.

    1. It's cool to watch people change over time, I foresee a future where these same guys will all be recommending whole grains and less meat.

  3. I have never been a fan. He might be healthy but it appears to me that he is more interested in making a fortune off the misfortune of others and trying to make them think they need his products. Judging by the amount of money and time he can spend on himself, it appears to be working for him. I'm not saying he doesn't have some good information on his site, but everything I have read comes with a recommendation to purchase something he sells. Anyway, that's just my opinion.


    1. This is his Wikipedia description:

      "Joseph Michael Mercola is an alternative medicine proponent, osteopathic physician, and web entrepreneur, who markets a variety of controversial dietary supplements and medical devices through his website,"

      I will definitely say that he has gotten the internet figured out. I cannot imagine how valuable having "over a million" subscribers is. Authority Nutrition also has it figured out, but the just give information in a non-binding way without a bunch of hocus-pocus.

  4. Without a science background, I have to kind of feel my way around the internet. I've purchased supplements from Mercola, because he's been investigated so often I feel his products are what he claims. (Not that they DO what he claims! Because who knows?) About the grains: the Perfect Health Diet guys are also anti-grain, but extremely pro-starch; they also seem not to overdo the fats or meats. More like what you feel is pretty good. So - I wonder why?


    1. "the Perfect Health Diet guys are also anti-grain, but extremely pro-starch;"

      ...which requires the whole list of supplements:

    2. I liked the basic sentiments of PHD, but I do not agree we need so many supplements. I think if you start looking at what Paul J. recommends, most would be better sourced from whole grains.

    3. Speaking of Paul Jaminet, Mercola had recently switched to a diet rich in safe starches after talking to Paul and was highly touting Paul. I wonder what happened? I first came across Mercola back in 2004. Some of his articles were interesting, but others were nonsense. The one that took the cake for me was his article touting the health benefits of magnets. I worked in a health food/herb/supplement store and the product that gathered more dust than anything in the store was health magnets. Never sold one while I was there. My father got snookered into buying some and convinced himself they were helping with his arthritis, but over time even he came to realize they weren't. Mercola didn't stick with magnets for long. He must have also discovered that they don't sell well. He seems to throw everything at the wall to see what will stick.

  5. I've never read any of his articles. I've always been a bit of a maverick in that regard...after growing up morbidly obese I had a slew of people tell me what I needed to do to "fix" myself. None of it ever worked until I got to core of the problem (which in my case was, and continues to be, related to emotions) and followed to the beat of my own drum. Unfortunately I tend to get so passionate about my ideas/experiments with food that I sometimes develop rigid concepts about what is "right". And then I forget that my modus operandi has always been to test, try, experiment and then add whatever works for me personally to my core set of dietary and lifestyle principles. We always hear the phrase "there's no one diet that works for everyone" yet in the next sentences were asked to follow some strict regimen that may cause us untold distress if we fail to adhere to properly. Which, rather incidentally of course, "requires" expensive supplements that the brainwa...ahem I mean dietary guru just so happens to have for sale at a "reasonable" price. I avoid these people (and their advice) like the plague now...but I'm also keen that they there may be pearls of wisdom to be found. There were some great BBC shows called The Men Who Made Us Fat and The Men Who Made Us Thin that came out a few years ago and that really shed some light on how we arrived at our current state of being.

    Dropping all starches and grains did a number of my gut health...not to mention how spacey I felt being low carb all the time. I never followed a Paleo/Primal research led me to the diets of natural bodybuilders (Vince Gironda, in particular) and that led me to believe that grains/starches/carbs were not needed and not good for us. But I've since learned that what is really bad for us is the dogma that pervades most dietary and weight loss advice (most importantly, our own!) one else could possibly ever know what is best for your body than YOU. Our bodies gives us instant and total feedback...the key I've found is...learning how to listen to it with an unbiased ear (still working on that one)…

    And eating more taters seems to work for me too. ^_^

    1. Thanks. You'd be surprised how many people seem to need an internet personality to tell them exactly what to do, then they pay that person money for even more personal coaching, all without ever meeting the person or doing an labwork. I do not know if Mercola does this, but I have seen quite a few others doing it.

  6. I think Dr Mercola deserves a great deal of credit for his health advice. He has been a champion for the anti-fluoride movement, and is never afraid to call out the rampant corruption/fraud that is ever present in the revolving door between government and the large corporations that control our food and pharmaceuticals. While I do not agree with all of his nutrition advice (he does not seem to be in touch with the N=1 rule as of late), I respect and admire his efforts to help each of us be our own health advocate. This is something we can only do when we are fully informed.

    1. Thanks. This is pretty much how I feel about everyone dispensing free advice on the internet. There really is a wealth of information out there, and I think it's great that people look at all sides before choosing a course of action. I draw the line a paying for information or paying to get "insider" information from gurus. I generally will read what people say until I start seeing red flags that make it seem like the person is being dishonest or dangerous.

  7. Never trust a 62 year old guy that wears tank tops!

  8. Tim you're on fire lately - struggling to keep up with all the posts!

    I must admit I've been scared from wheat in any form even whole unprocessed (picking up from your next post). Now if I could get ancient none gmo wheat that would be different. Other whole grains, I don't eat loads but definitely include oats. Thinking about giving teff another go as my guts continue to improve.

    My question is really about ketosis. Whilst I certainly don't agree with Mercola above (ie striving for constant high mmol ketosis) - I have been trying a leangains approach - intermittent fasting, training then eating afterwards. Some days I'll even be lower carb (eating more avocados, olives and my beautiful 100% chocolate!), but even on these days I'll still have some spuds and always my big cup of blueberries! And I also always have my fibres - well above 100g a day just in inulin, RPS and tigernut flour plus quite a few others.

    What's your thoughts? I see my variation as much healthier than striving for deep constant ketosis? However some just see ketosis as simply starvation mode?

    1. I do a ketogenic diet every day, from the moment I finish dinner until I eat something the next day. Ketosis is a natural process. I see no reason, and no health benefits, to keep oneself in constant state of ketosis by shunning carbs and protein and loading up on fat. All I have to do is to keep watching the Keto Clarity author, Jimmy Moore, to realize that a ketogenic diet is not the panacea that some make it out to be.

    2. I think you've summed it up how I see it (i think!) - as a natural transition over a day (or possibly a little longer when resources were scarce). I did full blown ketosis (though protein may have been too high) unintentionally when I first started having stomach issues as I couldn't tolerate anything. Things never improved until I started adding in fibres as per your suggestions.

      Out of interest do you do any intermittent fasting occasionally?

    3. In the spirit of "IF'ing" I have been skipping breakfast for nearly 5 years, occasionally, I skip breakfast and lunch, eating just once a day.

      Fasting is very healthy as a soon-to-be published blog here will show. IF'ing by skipping occasional meals is all the ketogenicity most people require. To develop an entire eating pattern just to keep ketone production in full-swing is crazy at best for weight loss.

    4. Thanks Tim - I look forward to it

  9. "Whole grains contain micronutrients and metals, ie. copper, manganese, that fall short when we "cut carbs.""

    The metals are also readily available in the low carb liver. Or low carb oysters. Or vegan approved cocoa, add a little Stevia. I need to go back and read Jane's post better that comes up later (I'm reading backwards). I think this all gets hit on a little more later.

    I've seen whole grains used in some good "healing" programs. I've seen them excluded in some good "healing" programs. Some good "healing" programs take them out then later add them back in. Literally, they're not necessary. But I'm with you, they don't need excluded simply on principle.

    1. I just had a nice conversation with Jane about this. Yes. You can get all the minerals and nutrients from other foods, oysters, liver, potato peels, kale, etc. But whole grains specifically seem to have them all in the correct ratio, and also eating them as staples ensures you are getting a continual supply. Lots of people don't like organ meats, don't eat oysters, and also eat low-carb/grain free diets. She thinks it would be possible to design a grain-free diet, but easier to just start including some whole-meal bread and cooked grains as staples.

      Jane's thinking is that removing all grains, as "Paleo" did, and whole-grains, as Western diets do, leads to long-term deficiencies in copper and maganese specifically and leads to imbalances if we try to supplement our way out of the grain free hole.

      I will email this to Jane to make sure she sees it and corrects me if I am wrong.

  10. Thanks, Tim. I'll look forward to learning more over time. Thanks for the connection.