David Murdock pays for Americans to eat well

Dole Food owner David H. Murdock has donated more than $800 million to a research center in Kannapolis.
Dole Food owner David H. Murdock has donated more than $800 million to a research center in Kannapolis. rwillett@newsobserver.com

David Murdock, the Dole Food owner and chairman, certainly puts his money where his mouth is, literally and figuratively, and the world is better for it.

Suggest to the 91-year-old Murdock a stop for a fast-food hamburger and prepare for a terrifying lecture on the health hazards of unhealthy eating. He doesn’t touch the stuff.

He told one gathering, “I eat only fruits and vegetables, nuts. ... I’m 91 years old, and I’m as healthy as any one of you there. That should be a good example of proper eating: fruits and vegetables.”

Among the foods to which Murdock is opposed are some of the unfortunate cornerstones of too many American diets: hot dogs, cheese, hamburgers.

And if one were to try to disclaim what Murdock says, he’ll add a little something more: Bad foods won’t hurt just your body. They’ll harm your brain.

For the skeptics, the biggest obstacle to overcome has long been Murdock himself. He looks good, his mind is as clear as a polished windowpane, he stands up straight and there’s not a thing wrong with the pipes. He is heard.

The latest announcement from the good-eating advocate is that he’s starting an endowment that will donate $15 million a year, forever, to the research campus he created in Kannapolis, northeast of Charlotte.

Public and private universities in the state have been using the campus for years to research everything from the treatment of diabetes to the potential health benefits in certain foods.

The David H. Murdock Research Institute is a nonprofit that is the main laboratory facility on the campus. Murdock has funded the place for years.

Although Murdock is a billionaire, with an estimated net worth of $3 billion by Forbes magazine, he has been far more generous in terms of funding his research baby than many other billionaires would be. He has put over $800 million of his own money into the research center since opening it in 2008.

Murdock, through his own research and his personal lifestyle, believes that a plant-based diet is the key to good health, period.

“I believe,” he says, “that proper eating will help all sorts of diseases. I can’t say it will cure, but I can say it will materially help. Unless you’re too far gone. Once you’ve almost killed yourself with improper eating, you can’t just correct that.”

Murdock funds a fascinating scope of projects, from determining the health benefits of blueberries to finding ways in which nutrients might prevent disease such as cancer. “There’s all kinds of things going on in the world that I don’t like but I can’t change,” he says. “But at least I can say, change the way you eat!”