Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Eating

Overall score


Scientific accuracy


Reference accuracy




How hard would it be to apply the book’s advice? Fairly easy

Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy By Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, is a book that aims to give the kind of general nutritional advice to society that he wishes the united states Government had given in its Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It intends to reduce the risk of coarse health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes via a diet that is abject in animal fats, bolshevik meat, and refined carbohydrate, and enriched in plant fats, unharmed grains, vegetables and fruit, domestic fowl, fish, and eggs .
Key points from our review

  • The bible scored well on all metrics .
  • The recommendations laid out in the book are well-supported and most are framed with appropriate caveats .
  • The reserve cites references accurately .
  • We rate its diet advice as goodly. It can be applied to a kind of dietary patterns and preferences .

Bottom line : Eat, Drink and be Healthy provides evidence-based diet advice that is relatively comfortable to apply .
Book published in 2017
Published by free press
Updated and expanded Edition, Paperback
Review posted April 8, 2021
elementary reviewer : Seth Yoder
Peer reviewer : Travis Masterson

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Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy ( EDBH ) is a record that was originally published closely 20 years ago, but has been revised and updated several times since to reflect the most current and update consensus of the scientific literature. It is authored by Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, a Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard University. Willett is a wide cited nutriment research worker, due in big separate to his engagement with the Nurses ’ Health Study, a large prospective age group analyze that has had a substantial impact in the field of nutrition epidemiology. In summation to EDBH, he besides wrote a casebook titled Nutritional Epidemiology that is normally used in colleges and universities .
preferably than give a number of “ do and don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate ” like many other diet books, the koran is alternatively intended to give general dietary advice to a lay audience. It does this with simple and basic recommendations that you have likely heard at least some mutant of in your life. This includes things like drinking alcohol in moderation, eating batch of fruits and vegetables, cutting down on bolshevik and action meats, and early kinds of this authoritative advice. EDBH however backs these claims with skill and provides significant caveats for the reader to be aware of .
Although I was mindful of the book ’ sulfur universe, I did not read it until deciding to review the book for Red Pen Reviews. I was persuaded to do so by a acquaintance and former colleague, Annie, who said that it ’ s her favored book on diet and informs how she eats. After I told her what Red Pen Reviews was and what we did, she encouraged me to review it to see if its advice was deserving following. Because of the prominence of its generator and its subtitle ( The Harvard Medical School Guide To Healthy Eating ) gives it the authoritative bet on of Harvard Medical School, it seemed a worthwhile text to explore.

Scientific Accuracy

EDBH states seven pieces of “ actionable advice ” for healthy eating on page 3 ; however, for the sake of brevity, we will only discuss three in this review :

  1. Fruits and vegetables (but not potatoes) can help to decrease the chances of having a heart attack or stroke and the development of diabetes.
  2. Saturated fats and trans fats are damaging to the heart and overall health, while unsaturated fats are not.
  3. Protein sources from plants and lean meats such as chicken or fish are likely more beneficial than protein from red and processed meat. Protein from soy, however, is less well-understood.

One major component to consider when reading EDBH or this review is that when you discuss the relationship between diet and diseases like center disease or cancer or age-related mental decline, these diseases much take a life to develop. Because of this very long contribute time, the amber criterion method acting for investigating nutrition interventions–the randomized clinical trial–is very difficult to conduct. So the main source of nutrition skill with deference to these conditions normally comes in the shape of what are called epidemiologic studies, which are suboptimal because they are good at making associations, but less adept at evaluating cause and effect. so when evaluating the literature on some of these statements, much of the available evidence is based largely on epidemiologic data and less on clinical trial data .
With that in mind, EDBH scored very well on scientific accuracy with an overall score of 3.8. The common proverb of eating your fruits and vegetables because they are good for you seems to hold up to scientific examination, at least with the evidence that ’ s available. Intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with lower chances of a heart approach or stroke and a decrease risk of type 2 diabetes. With the discussion of fat, there is very beneficial attest that trans fats have a bad impact on health, peculiarly kernel health, and while the impact of saturated fat is not closely a pronounce as that of trans fat, the literature indicates that it tends to have a veto effect on heart health angstrom well. The third call about protein didn ’ t quite live up to the evidence surrounding it. While the claim appears to be broadly supported by the tell, there was some conflicting evidence that EDBH doesn ’ t very wrestle with.

Reference Accuracy

EDBH scored well in this area angstrom well, with an overall grade of 3.8. There were a copulate of references where EDBH slenderly overstates what the discipline actually stated, but broadly the references accurately represented the information in the studies.


There is no extreme or root nutrition advice contained within EDBH. No near -elimination of a macronutrient or hyperfocus on one particular food. Rather, the advice contained within the script is reasonably standard recommendations that you have credibly heard before : eat enough of fruits and vegetables, reduce your consumption of red and process meats, cut down on sugar, potatoes, and white flour… these types of things. The most far-out scene in the ledger is probably that adults may not need a a lot calcium as is marketed to us .
Most of the claims in the bible are backed by scientific attest that has accumulated in their favor. additionally, EDBH allows for its advice to be applied to a wide diverseness of dietary patterns and preferences and frequently favors reducing intake of foods it has deemed to be subpar quite than outright restriction.

Summary of the health-related intervention promoted in the book

The health advice provided in the textbook is helpfully bullet pointed early-on and each chapter is devoted to a point. here are those points :

  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, but limit fruit juices and corn, and hold the potatoes.
  • Eat more good fats (these mostly come from plants) and fewer bad fats (these mostly come from meat and dairy foods).
  • Eat more whole-grain carbohydrates and fewer refined-grain carbohydrates
  • Choose healthy sources of protein, limit your consumption of red meat, and don’t eat processed meat.
  • Drink more water. Coffee and tea are okay; sugar-sweetened soda and other beverages aren’t.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
  • Take a multivitamin for insurance, just in case you aren’t getting the vitamins and minerals you need from the foods you eat. Make sure it delivers at least 1,000 international units of vitamin D.

Condition targeted by the book, if applicable

General health, although the text focuses by and large on chronic diseases such as fleshiness, cardiovascular disease, and cancer

Apparent target audience of the book

There is no denotative audience for this script, but it appears to be a general consultation .

Criterion 3.1. Is the intervention likely to improve the target condition?

4 out of 4
The interposition received a score of 4, indicating that following the dietary intervention is likely to improve the conditions discussed in the script .
If you look at some specific conditions that are mentioned in the bible like cardiovascular disease and cancers, the testify is very potent that the dietary advice presented will mitigate the risk of those diseases and the book has accurately reflected the order of magnitude that the dietary changes are probable to affect outcomes .

Criterion 3.2. Is the intervention likely to improve general health in the target audience?

4 out of 4
The treatment received a score of 4, indicating that it is probable to greatly improve cosmopolitan health. This determination would depend on what the diet and life style is of an individual anterior to following this advice, but if one assumes a standard american diet with excess calories consisting of sugary foods/beverages, fried foods, refined grains, processed meats, and the two most devour vegetables being potatoes ( from french fries ) and tomatoes ( from pizza sauce ), and little to no physical activity, then following this dietary advice would probably be a bang-up improvement .

Criterion 3.3. Does the diet portion of the intervention promote an adequate nutrient intake for general health in the target audience?

4 out of 4
The diet received a score of 4, indicating the diet is likely well more than nutritionally adequate. The guidelines described in the text and the recipes provided near the conclusion of the book would likely provide adequate food inhalation for general health, in accession to batch of bioactive compounds that have no courtly intake recommendations. But the addition of a multivitamin to the diet efficaciously ensures a more-than-adequate inhalation of vitamins and minerals .

Overall (average) score for healthfulness

4 out of 4

Most unusual claim

The encouragement to take a multivitamin is not precisely unusual, but I thought it would be worth exploring because many people, including the president of the united states of the Australian Medical Association, say that the only thing multivitamins are dependable for is creating “ expensive urine. ” EDBH recommends taking a multivitamin because there are a handful of vitamins and minerals ( beta-carotene, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin E, iron and zinc ) that some people don ’ thyroxine get enough of from their diets, so a cheap, store-brand multivitamin can be used to make up the dispute. As testify, a randomized controlled trial on older men was cited that evaluated the performance of a multivitamin ( Centrum Silver ) versus a placebo on cancer. The test lasted over ten years on average and showed that a multivitamin reduced the risk of cancer, particularly colon cancer. That ’ sulfur reasonably compelling testify considering it ’ s a randomized, placebo-controlled trial permanent over ten years. A 2015 meta-analysis of age group studies supports this, suggesting that the benefits may be due to the calcium. Since that meta-analysis was published another long randomized controlled test was conducted, called the VITAL study. Part of what the scientists examined was the effect of vitamin D supplement on cardiovascular health and cancer. Vitamin D didn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate seem to have much impact on cardiovascular health, but did have some interest findings with cancer. The results showed that vitamin D tended to reduce the risk of developing cancer or dying from cancer, but these levels did not reach statistical significance. A late analysis of this datum concluded that vitamin D did help prevent the development of advance cancer, particularly those that were normal slant. Another meta-analysis from 2019 concluded that vitamin D supplementation does reduce the hazard of dying from cancer, but not its development, which was slightly in line to what the VITAL results showed. however, these results do indicate some profit from calcium and vitamin D supplementation.

however, aside from cancer, most other studies on multivitamin/multimineral supplements appear to show no early benefit. The same test on older men that was previously mentioned found about no benefit of a multivitamin on heart disease, which is besides supported by a meta-analysis of 18 studies showing no heart disease benefits. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials showed no benefit in overall risk of death or reduced blood blackmail .
In aggregate, taking a multivitamin appears to be safe and won ’ t lead to excessive vitamin intake and may help older adults and those with vitamin deficiencies achieve normal levels. so while taking a multivitamin likely won ’ t reduce your risk of most chronic diseases, it may help you decrease your risk of cancers with minimal side effects. The only drawback to multivitamins seems to be the cost and troublesomeness of taking them every day .


In termination, Eat, Drink and be Healthy provides solid science backed advice without much ballyhoo. The dietary advice can be applied to a variety of dietary patterns and preferences. borrowing of the advice is probably to lead to improved health outcomes .


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