On 11 April 2004 a new book appeared at number 10 on the New York Times best-seller list and shot straight to the top of online booksellers’ lists.1,2 The Maker’s diet by Jordan S. Rubin has fast become one of the most popular health plans in the USA.
Rubin claims that his health plan is ‘biblically based and scientifically proven’.
3He believes that his book ‘was inspired by God … The Maker has given me a program for vibrant health based on His Word and the best available science’ (from the author’s introduction).
According to Dr Charles F. Stanley in his foreword, Rubin ‘is on a mission from God to change the health of this nation’.
Rubin claims to offer a health plan based on a biblical diet which can prevent and even cure major diseases — in addition to promoting physical, spiritual, mental and emotional well-being.
Many Christians in America have been open to the idea of following a health plan which purports to be biblical and which holds out the hope of bodily health on an almost miraculous scale. Who would not wish to lead a lifestyle prescribed by God in his Word, which promises better health?
But is Rubin’s book faithful to God and Scripture? Are his conclusions consistent with current scientific research? I am concerned that Rubin’s beliefs reflect neither the balance of Scripture nor generally accepted scientific research findings, and are presented in a rather misleading manner.
At the age of 19, a previously healthy Rubin succumbed to what he says was diagnosed as Crohn’s disease. In his case, the inflammatory bowel disease was severe and he became very unwell.
After a hospital admission he joined his father ‘in the search for natural pathways to renewed health’. He consulted 70 health practitioners, spending ‘approximately US$150,000 on natural health treatments’.
Various medications, diets and bizarre rituals based on ‘weird science from the outer reaches of alternative health’ failed to improve his physical condition. In desperation he travelled to Germany to ‘receive an experimental drug made from the juices of the Venus flytrap plant’.
This, too, proved useless and on returning to America, Rubin was re-hospitalised. He was considering radical surgery when his father (a ‘naturopathic physician and chiropractor’) introduced him to ‘an eccentric nutritionist’ who believed that Rubin ‘was ill because’ he ‘was not eating the diet of the Bible’.
What people ate
After studying the Bible ‘to see what people ate thousands of years ago’, Rubin concluded that people lived longer and enjoyed more healthy lives in the past (a recurring theme in his book) because they ate a more primitive diet.
They consumed ‘living’ foods ‘that abounded with nutrients, enzymes and beneficial micro-organisms’ — ‘healthy animal foods that were rich in nutrients’ and ‘avoided processed foods’.
After ‘integrating the nutritionist’s program with [his] own findings about nutrition and health from the Bible’, he began to see ‘some improvement’.
Ten months later his father started him on a probiotic supplement, a ‘black powder’ which consisted of ‘healthy compounds from the soil’. Rubin states, ‘One month after I added the “black powder” to my diet, I noticed a marked improvement in my overall health.’
Rubin claims to have enjoyed good health since and is keen to share his experience that others too may benefit.
Rubin’s health plan
Rubin’s health plan involves diet, nutritional supplements, hygiene, detoxification, positive thinking and emotions, rest, exercise, fasting, prayer, herbs, essential oils, hydrotherapy and music.
Far from being a simple guide to healthy eating based on the Bible, Rubin’s book offers guidance on all these issues, with occasional Bible references. He teaches that some of our major health problems today (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.) were uncommon in our ancestors and are related largely to our modern Western lifestyles.
He advocates avoiding synthetic, processed foodstuffs and products, and promotes the use of ‘natural’ foods and medicines.
Rubin divides foods into ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ on the basis of the teaching in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. He quotes an unpublished source which claims that until the end of the 19th century, ‘the average Israelite … was much longer lived than the average Gentile’. He then suggests that if we follow the dietary and hygiene codes God gave to his people after their exodus from Egypt, we too can expect to enjoy improved health — and potentially even complete recovery or freedom from every disease.
‘Because of my experience, I can confirm that no disease is incurable’, says Rubin. He provides a detailed 42-day health plan which incorporates an Old Testament diet with food supplements and his ‘program of advanced hygiene’.
These can be purchased from the company he founded (‘Garden of Life’) and cost over US$200 for the basic plan.
A medical and scientific response
Rubin’s book contains a number of inaccuracies, misrepresentations and unjustified claims. For example: ‘I can confirm that no disease is incurable’; ‘Conventional medicine’ fights disease ‘solely with surgery, pharmaceuticals, and invasive therapies’ and considers basic nutrition to be ‘voodoo or worse’; ‘The practice of taking a baby aspirin a day to prevent heart attacks is dangerous … You get similar health benefits … in the Maker’s diet’.
In contrast to modern science, many of Rubin’s conclusions are not directly supported by reference to research findings. He references several of his conclusions by citing individuals who are largely unknown in the mainstream scientific literature and who have published alternative health opinions rather than original research findings. Many who give testimony to his book are generally of a similar background.
It is therefore not surprising to learn that ‘Rubin’s credentials have no legitimate academic or professional standing’ and were obtained from non-accredited schools.
4Significantly, in May 2004 the US Food and Drugs Administration ordered ‘Garden of Life’ to stop making unsubstantiated claims for its products both on its website and in Rubin’s first book Patient heal thyself.5
However, I should make it clear that despite all this, Rubin’s recommendations are unlikely to be detrimental to health, and some people may find that his diet suits them.
A biblical response
One can be glad that Rubin recovered from his illness and commend him for attributing healing to God. However, there are some major biblical problems with Rubin’s health plan and the way he presents it. Two particular concerns are the way he represents himself and his unbalanced use of Scripture.
He represents himself as highly professionally qualified when this appears not to be the case. Moreover, although Rubin has published two previous books with similar lifestyle recommendations, it appears that only now in The Maker’s diet does he emphasise the claim that his health recovered primarily through obedience to Scripture.
One online posting mentions that previous magazine adverts for Rubin’s soil product appear to attribute his recovery to this supplement.
6 One wonders, therefore, if his claims to divine inspiration and biblical derivation are simply a marketing ploy. God desires truth in the inner parts (Psalm 51:6).
It is noteworthy that his company ‘Garden of Life’ was listed by Entrepreneur Magazine as the fifth fastest-growing company in America, with 2003 sales of US$43.2 million.
Ignoring the New Testament
Rubin identifies himself as a messianic Jew and it is therefore easy to understand why he derives his health plan from the Old Testament. Nowhere in his book does he deal with New Testament passages such as Acts 10:9-16, where Peter was shown that the old division between clean and unclean had been removed — or Romans 14:14 where Paul writes that he is ‘fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself’ (see also Jesus’ words in Matthew 15:10-20).
To claim that his diet is ‘biblical’ while ignoring the New Testament is unbalanced and misleading.
Rubin’s book concerns me because it claims to be ‘inspired by God’ and yet is not faithful to the balance of God’s Word. Perhaps the most dangerous thing about it is that it is written in an engaging and attractive way.
Christians would do well to heed the words in Colossians 2:8: ‘See to it that no-one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ’.
1. Smyth, A. ‘The diet to feed body and soul’. The Scotsman, 18 May 2004.
2. The New York Times. Best-seller lists (advice, how-to, and miscellaneous hardcover advice)’ 11 April 2004.
3. Rubin, J. S. The Maker’s diet, inside front cover. Florida: Siloam, 2004. ISBN 0-88419-948-7
4. Barrett, S. Consumer Health Digest #04-25. The National Council Against Health Fraud, with Quackwatch, 22 June 2004.
5. Singleton, E. R. Garden of Life inc. Warning Letter, FDA, 11 May 2004.
6. Siven. Beliefnet Discussions, 23 April 2004.
7. Entrepreneur Magazine, 2004. ‘Hot 100’ — the fastest-growing new entrepreneurial businesses in America.