The Food Revolution Summit is an annual online event hosted by the father and son team, John and Ocean Robbins. The eight day summit consists of three interviews each day with renowned physicians and experts in the health, wellness, and sustainability space.
Dr. William Li is a renowned doctor, scientist, and angiogenesis expert, and
the New York Times best-selling author of Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself. His groundbreaking work has impacted more than 70 diseases including cancer, diabetes, blindness, heart disease, and obesity. Dr. Li’s wildly popular TED Talk “Can we eat to starve cancer?” has been seen by more than 11 million people. He founded the “Eat to Beat” initiative, which is a community of 50,000 people passionate about using diet to fight cancer, improve immunity, and prevent chronic diseases.
This is an excerpt of John Robbins’ interview with Dr. Li.
How Specific Foods May Be Protective Against C^VID
John Robbins: Well, I would never want to imply that eating a specific food or drink or taking a particular supplement can in and of itself cure or prevent C^VID. But it seems that you and your colleagues have been able to identify particular foods that have properties that do improve immune and vascular health, and that can actually help to intercept the c^ronavirus binding to human cells, is that accurate, Will?
Dr. William Li: Well, I’ll share some data with you from research that was done. You know, everybody’s been focused on the progress with vaccines and monoclonal antibodies and the usual pharmaceutical newspaper headline makers out there. But I will tell you what I’ve been doing. I’ve been keeping an
eye on those very same things, I’ve also been keeping an eye out on food and what we’re learning from that.
So let me tell you about a study that was published in July in the pre-print form. 900 people studied in China who were healthy in the spring of 2020, and they were followed forward into the pandemic times as the pandemic got worse. And, they studied to see who was gonna, of these 900 people who was going to develop C^VID and who was not going to develop C^VID.
And they looked at not only the people and their clinical outcomes, but they also looked at their blood, they looked at their stool, they looked at their poop and looked at the microbiome, and then they also did a food frequency questionnaire. So to me, it was an ingeniously designed study at a time when everyone seems so uncertain and panicked. Somebody had a clear head to design this study, and here’s what they found. They found that of those 900 healthy people, the people who wound up developing C^VID had lower levels of a natural immune virus fighter called interferon gamma. It’s one
of our body’s cytokines, a healthy cytokine. And they were short, they were down. And the people who wound up not developing C^VID had elevated levels of this interferon gamma, natural immune fibrous fighter.
Then they actually went and looked in the poop, you know, the stool for the microbiome. And they found that people who wound up having more of this interferon gamma also had more, two bacteria that were elevated. One was Lactobacillus. And the other one in the stool microbiome was a bacteria
called Ruminococcus. So Lactobacillus, Rumenacaucus, those people in those who had that in their microbiome, and they’re still also had more interferon gamma also didn’t develop C^VID as often, right?
So now we’re starting to draw points and align. C^VID, no C^VID, interfering gamma, no interfering gamma, Lactobacillus or Ruminococcus or no Lactobacillus, Ruminococcus. Now you put the connector to the food, and it turns out the people who had the good bacteria and the natural virus
killer, and didn’t wind up getting C^VID, were drinking more tea, either green or black. So that was sort of a one interesting dietary study that came out during the pandemic that really started to connect some lines in terms of a boost in your body’s own defenses.
Later, at Rensselaer Polytechnic, there was a study that came out where they were actually looking at the binding site on the human cells where the coronavirus actually sticks its spike protein down. So this coronavirus is, it’s like a warrior, basically it invades our body. And then it throws a javelin, it’s a
spike protein right down into our human cells through this thing called the ACE receptor. So that’s the bullseye that this coronavirus uses. And they found that there are drugs and steroids that interfere with binding of the spike protein of the virus, from the virus to human cells.
But guess what they found from food that could also block that site from the spike protein? So it kind of looks like it blocks a javelin, like Captain America shield, turns out that there’s a polysaccharide found in kelp, kombu. This is found in a Japanese cuisine. It’s seaweed. If you ever had a bowl of miso soup in
a Japanese restaurant, it’s got that square of dark seaweed in it, that is the kombu. So there’s actually something in that kombu that prevents the coronavirus from sticking to human cells.
So again, you can’t get away from studying the impact of food and health, even in a pandemic. And I think that there are some really compelling research directions to go forward in.
Mushrooms and C^VID
Mushrooms were mentioned in Part 1. Here’s a review.
John Robbins: You mentioned the people in China who seem to be less likely to get C^VID were people who, it turned out, were drinking more tea, green or black. You have included green tea in a list that you wrote titled, 10 Things to Eat Right Now to Fight Back Against C^VID. I’d like to talk to you about that list. First on the list is mushrooms. Well, what is it about mushrooms that make them helpful in the fight against C^VID?
Dr. William Li: So, first of all, mushrooms are one of my personal favorite foods. I love them. I call them treasures from the forest. I love all kinds of mushrooms, white button mushrooms, chanterelles, porcinis, shiitake, enoki. I mean, you name it. There isn’t a mushroom that I’ve met that I haven’t loved.
Easy to cook, delicious. They are packed with other good sources of fiber. The soluble fiber is called beta-D-glucan, and it feeds our microbiome, activates our immune system, and mushrooms contain another thing that activates our immune system, which is vitamin D.
All the good stuff in the mushroom is found not only in the cap, which is what we all eat, but also in the stem. And so this is one ingredient that I wanted everybody to know about, fresher, dried, lowly, white button mushroom, or fancy mushroom, it doesn’t really matter.
John Robbins: You mentioned the stem. I remember in an earlier conversation that you and I had. I remember you saying that the stem actually has more of some of the beneficial compounds than the cap, and yet the stems are of course fibrous and not as palatable. What we do with the stems is we boil them and make stock out of them. Is it, do you see that being a reasonable approach, Will?
Dr. William Li: Absolutely brilliant way of actually using the stems. I mean, many cultures and many recipes will call for mushrooms and you just cut up the stems and throw them in and saute them or whatever you’re going to do with them. Making stock is a brilliant way of actually using mushroom stems. And you can also put the stems into a blender and make a mushroom soup out of it as well. So if you want to consume a stock or actually a mushroom soup and there’s so many ways to actually use mushroom stems, I highly encourage it.
One of the things that we can do for our planet by the way is not to waste food. And this example of we’re giving about mushrooms and stems is that is just another example where when mother nature gifts us with a food, like a mushroom that is beneficial to our health, usually it’s not just one part that’s good for us, usually there’s multiple parts, and we’re finding this with broccoli florets, the tree tops, and the stems, the stems also are rich with good stuff, carrots, the taproot, the orange part is really great for us, but the greens, for carrots are also packed with vascular health promoting materials as well.
I think that there’s also an opportunity for us, not only to save ourselves, but to save our planet, do something good for yourself and do something good for the earth as well.
Pomegranate, Your Gut, and C^VID
John Robbins: Indeed, indeed. You know, I remember when you wrote the article 10 Things to Eat Right Now to Fight Back Against C^VID. You also included in your list pomegranate juice, and blueberries, and blackberries. Can you tell us why?
Dr. William Li: Yeah, for different reasons. Well first of all, pomegranate is one of my favorite fruits because of the juice, which is a pretty potent juice, and it contains anthocyanins. It’s actually a natural dye which gives pomegranate juice its deep ruby-like color. And, when you drink pomegranate juice,
it does something really interesting. It’s got a lot of polyphenols, which is good for antioxidants and all those general benefits for us. But, actually, it’s been shown that the polyphenols, the anthocyanins dye, natural dye in pomegranate juice causes our guts, our colon, to secrete healthy mucus.
Now, most people may not know this, but our gut, the lower part of our gut, has a lot of mucus secreted inside it that helps the stool that is made and stored down there slide around. But, inside that mucus layer, healthy gut bacteria, love to live in that mucus, and one particular bacteria is called akkermansia,
muciniphila is its last name. So, akkermansia is its first name, muciniphila its last name genus and species. And genus and species. And so basically, you wind up growing a lot of akkermansia. So, what akkermansia does is it is one of those gut bacteria that bolsters immune response. It’s kind of an immune century of sorts, this gut bacteria helps us protect our body better.
So, I wanted people to know about that. Now, berries, blueberries and blackberries, for similar reasons have a natural dye, ellagitannins, and also anthocyanins, give it its beautiful dark blue purplish color. And, those, also, do similar things. But in a different way. They actually elevate our bodies’ natural killer cells and our T cells. So, you know, I wanted people to understand with, you know, that simple foods can have powerful effects on our immune system.
So, pomegranate juice causes our immune systems to be better because of gut bacteria. And blueberries and blackberries can activate our natural killer cells and our T cells. These are other members of the super soldiers that form our immune system, and the more super soldiers we have, the better our body fortress is protected.
Black Raspberries and C^VID
John Robbins: A food that has greatly impressed me, um, is somewhat similar to the ones you’ve been talking about, and that’s the black raspberry. These are now blackberries, though they are back, they are raspberries that are black in color. And, they’re extremely high in some extraordinarily beneficial compounds. Now, they’re sometimes hard to find fresh, or even frozen, I get a black raspberry powder that I mix into smoothies, and I love the flavor, and I love the fragrance too, by the way, it’s really special. Will, can you tell us about the health benefits of black raspberries?
Dr. William Li: Yeah. I actually started to study black raspberries many years ago, more than 10 years ago, because the anthocyanins in black raspberries actually have been found to be very potent for preventing blood vessels from growing to feed cancers. There’s been clinical trials done in humans looking at prostate cancer, for example, where you actually see people who eat black raspberries actually have their PSA, which is a marker for prostate cancer, going down.15
And this is not a replacement for treatment, but it just shows you how powerful cutting off the blood supply to cancer cells to control them can be. Another human study, and I tend, John, to focus the work that I talk about publicly on human studies because that’s the proof in the pudding, you know? A lot of people talk about, you know, food research done in a lab, and that’s interesting to me, but the things I get super excited about that I think are more ready for prime time than stuff in the lab are human studies, and black raspberries have also been studied in people with really super inflamed esophagus.
So, there is a condition called Barrett’s esophagus common in people who actually have bad reflux, people who drink a lot of alcohol, and they wind up actually sometimes throwing up a lot. Stomach acid is really hard on your esophagus. So, it’s your mouth, esophagus, stomach, and when there’s a lot
of acid splashing back on the esophagus, it can get worn down, raw, inflamed, and that’s a set up for esophageal or even stomach cancer, which, these are lethal cancers.
Black raspberry powder as a slurry has been studied, and by the way, I share your enthusiasm for the black raspberry powder. When I take a spoonful of that out to put into my shake, I mean, it’s like, it’s got this, the aroma is so delightful to me. It’s almost like an aromatherapy, (laughs), of sorts. And so, I really love it. So, I order a bag of powder online.
John Robbins: Well, that’s what I do too. I actually found that there’s research. Dr. Michael Gregor has done this on the various black raspberry powders that are available online, and he found that some of them aren’t what we would want them to be, aren’t what they say they are. And, I followed up on that, and I found out a way that a person in their kitchen can tell what’s real and what isn’t, and that is the fragrance. The fragrance of the real stuff is gorgeous, it’s just overwhelmingly beautiful, and the products that aren’t what they say they are have a very mild fragrance, if any. And, I think that’s useful to people to know so they don’t get cheated basically, or scammed.
I always prefer fresh fruits and vegetables when I can get them, but with black raspberries, as we’re talking about, I use the powdered form, and with many other berries, I very often use frozen ones. Now, Will, the studies I’ve seen indicate that frozen varieties can be just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, and in some cases even, frozen berries are actually slightly higher in nutrients than thefresh versions because they’re picked fully ripe and frozen immediately. Of course, I always make sure that there’s no sugar or other ingredient added that I don’t want to consume.
I hope you found this information helpful.
Li, W. Eat To Beat Disease. New York, NY: Hachette Book Group, Inc., 2019
Li, W. Feb 2010. Can We Eat to Starve Cancer? [Video]. TED Conferences. Available from: https://
Li, W. “10 Things to Eat Right Now to Fight Back Against COVID-19.” Drwilliamli.com. Available