Lies My Doctor Told Me- Ken Berry, MD (Book Summary)
What if you could cut through all of the contradictory health advice and figure out for yourself what’s best for your body?
In Lies My Doctor Told Me, former Doctor Ken Berry exposes the myths perpetuated by mainstream medicine and shows readers how to take charge of their own health. Drawing on his years of experience as both a doctor and patient, Berry provides easy-to-follow guidelines for eating healthy, getting moving, and managing stress. He also offers advice on identifying red flags that may indicate a health problem and finding the right doctor or treatment program. If you’re looking for an alternative to conventional medicine, this book is a must-read!
First, who is Ken Berry? Ken Berry is a Board Certified Family Physician and Fellow in the The American Academy of Family Physicians. He’s been practicing Family Medicine for over ten years and has seen over 20,000 patients throughout his career.
Doctor Berry doesn’t currently have a clinical practice. He instead chooses to help people through his writings and videos. As he mentions in many of his videos on YouTube, he can reach a much wider audience through this forum.
The Author’s Motivations
In the spirit of transparency, Doctor Berry also stands to receive financial gain from this book and the other non-traditional forms of medical work. He generates substantial income from the following endeavors:
- A Newsletter Subscription (free)
- A bookstore that sells health books he’s endorsed either through his own books (as is the case with this book)
- He also has a YouTube channel with over 2 million subscribers. Of whom, I am one. He has great information. It could be because his recommendations validate my approach to health and wellness.
- His YouTube channel is a gateway into one of his other monetized platforms- Patreon.
- He has, as of this writing, over five thousand Patrons on this site. On the low end of the Patreon subscription model ($5/month), he makes over $25K in monthly subscriptions. He has two other subscription plans- $12 and $20 per month. I’ll err on the conservative side, but he definitely has subscribers paying the higher monthly price for more access to Dr. Berry.
- Dr. Berry is also prolific on YouTube. He has over 200 videos with about 20 of them having over 1 million views. Assuming a rate of $3–5 for every 1,000 views, I’d roughly estimate that Dr. Berry has earned about $100,000 for his top 20 videos.
Now that I’ve highlighted some of his motivations for writing this book, let’s get into the meat of the summary.
The book’s main argument seems to be that doctors, while mostly well-intentioned, operate within a flawed medical system. They are also busy people like you and I. And, like you and I, have other stuff going on in their lives besides work. Running a clinic is stressful. As a doctor, you have to deal with irate patients, missed appointments, and all the other business-related issues of running a practice.
Running a clinic, or even working in one, is a never-ending cycle of distress. Patients make appointments, then don’t show for them. This results in a loss of revenue for the clinic. The clinic staff double books because they know that up to 20% of patients won’t show for their scheduled appointments. This is the national average according to this article- “Why Patients Miss Doctor Appointments & How to Decrease No-Shows”. This results in a waiting room full of irate patients who wonder why the clinic booked 20 people for a 10:30 am appointment. Lastly, and because of the previous two statements, doctors have a magic wand at their disposal. That magic wand is the prescription pad. Name almost any condition and there is a prescription for it. It’s too quick of an option for doctors not to take seriously. Unfortunately, throughput is what the system incentivizes. If a doctor chooses to be thorough, he does so with some consequences- loss in revenue.
Doctor Berry devotes the rest of the book to medical myths. For brevity, I’ll cover three of the myths.
Myth 1: Cholesterol Levels are a Good Indicator of Underlying Health Issues
Unfortunately, we’ve been sold a lie, or a flaw at least. Everyone cashed in on this flaw in a very influential study by a man named Ancel Keys. Keys’ studies concluded that cholesterol increased the risk of heart disease. Consuming fat resulted in an increase in cholesterol in the blood. This accumulation of cholesterol in the blood, or serum cholesterol, caused the plaques and buildup in the arteries. This is flawed because Keys cherry-picked data that supported his hypothesis. His famous study, titled “The Seven Countries Study”, studied 22 countries, not just seven.
Once the medical community accepted his findings, the government and pharmaceutical communities started to push it. This made money. It didn’t matter what the results were as long as they could monetize it somehow. At that point, it was all about lowering one’s cholesterol. Cholesterol was the evil culprit that caused heart disease. Studies as recent as 2015 counter Keys’s findings. Not only does cholesterol not cause heart disease, it prevents certain illnesses like dementia. Keys’ findings are still prevalent today. You’re a candidate for cholesterol-lowering meds, statins, if your total cholesterol is above 200.
Myth 2: Sun Exposure Increases Risk of Skin Cancer
The human race has had to deal with sunlight without sunblock for most of its history. Sunblock wasn’t invented until around the 1930s. There is something deeper than this. Skin cancer wasn’t reported until the 1800s. There could be other factors involved as well. However, skin cancer seems to keep rising. Dietary factors, according to Dr. Berry, are at play here. Your skin is made of what you eat. At the very least, it’s influenced by what you eat. The increase in skin cancers are correlated with the increase in seed oil consumption according to Doctor Berry. It is also associated with a diet that consists of highly-processed food. There are no major studies that can conclusively confirm that sunlight causes cancer.
Myth 3: Carbohydrates are Essential to Health
This is not entirely accurate. The body metabolizes carbohydrates into glycogen. Glycogen is then used by many parts of the body. However, in the absence of carbohydrates, the body can still make glycogen. The liver does this through a process called “gluconeogenesis.” The body, specifically the liver, does this while it’s in ketosis.
This myth is probably the result of Big Food pushing it’s agenda. The human ancestral diet does not include the highly-refined foods that Big Food sells. So how were our ancestors able to survive? The answer is that they did not eat a diet rich in highly-refined food. Whether or not they ate a ketogenice diet, one thing is certain: they ate a highly-unprocessed diet rich in nutrients. We cannot say the same of today’s food supply.
Three Actions To Help You Take Your Health Into Your Own Hands
1. Do your own research.
No one has more to lose than you when it comes to your health. There is a ton of conflicting information out there. Some “experts” tell you to eat a plant-based diet. Some, like Dr. Berry, will tell you “carnivore” is the way to go. Can both experts be right? Do your own research. Try these diets for yourself and reflect on how you feel. Make changes as necessary.
2. Remember the Hippocratic oath of “do no harm.”
Doctors should live up to this oath. Trust your gut. If a doctor is quick to take out the prescription pad without first hearing your concerns, it could indicate a deeper problem with this doctor. Sometimes doctors are too quick to prescribe medication. You can’t blame them for this. There are incentives for this behavior- patients experience a quick(er) fix to their symptoms. But symptoms are only the tangible manifestation of an underlying problem. There are not too many incentives for treating the underlying problems. In fact, because treating the underlying problem could take a long time, there is little return on that action. Patients want to see immediate progress otherwise they’ll run to another doctor for a second opinion (read: medication).
3. Eat less refined foods.
The less ingredients, the better. A consistent theme among Doctor Berry’s advice in both this book and his YouTube channel is this: reduce your consumption of sugar, carbohydrates, and seed oils. Reducing refined foods almost guarantees a reduction in all of those. Diet can be very dogmatic. The keto camp argues one way. The plant-based camp argues another. One are where all can agree on is reducing highly-refined foods. If you are still scratching your head about what constitutes an ideal diet, you can start with this. You can rarely go wrong reducing the highly-processed food from your diet.
The Take Away
Your health is your responsibility. There is also a ton of information out there and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the conflicting information. If you’ve been diagnosed with any of the diseases under the Metabolic Syndrome umbrella, it can be very easy to surrender your thinking to your doctor’s recommendations. This is largely no an issue. Just understand that doctors operate under two oftentimes competing priorities: your health and the incentives that guarantee their longevity in the industry. They want to do what is right for your health. But they’re humans like you and me. They have busy lives and if an industry-accepted shortcut is available (medication), there’s no apparent harm in advising the patient along that line. Health and wellness can be complicated. Simple solutions don’t account for these complexities.