With more than 11 million followers on Facebook, David “Avocado” Wolfe, the Sideshow Bob-haired, blender-hawking alternative-health guru, calls himself the “Rock Star and Indiana Jones of the superfood universe.”
And he's humble.
You’ve undoubtedly seen one of his bullshit-filled posts or inspirational memes shared into your feed, but who — or more accurately, what — is David Avocado Wolfe?
Wolfe describes himself as a “health, eco, nutrition, and natural beauty expert” who has “led the environmental charge for radiant health via a positive mental attitude, eco-community building, living spring water, and the best-ever quality organic foods and herbs.” Zesty. In 22 years, he says he’s hosted more than 2,000 live events and “circumnavigated the Earth for decades seeking out the world’s purest foods and waters and leading adventure retreats.”
He’s also a biodynamic chocolate farmer, a spokesman for the NutriBullet, and a highly sought after public speaker specializing in superfoods, longevity, and selling people bullshit. You think Gwyneth Paltrow is bad with her Goopy empire of crap? David Avocado Wolfe is a Gwyneth Paltrow fever dream. He's what I assume she hallucinates after one too many cases of bacterial vaginosis from the jade eggs she sticks up her hoo-ha.
Wolfe has a lot of funny beliefs for someone who calls himself an expert. Wolfe has stated that mushrooms arrived on our planet via the cosmic wind. He tells his followers vaccines are a conspiracy, and believes that chemtrails are real. The question isn’t whether he’s full of shit, it’s whether you get sucked in to buy whatever he’s selling, from something called “blue butterfly powder” to a nifty contraption called The Zapper. He’s also been embroiled in some nasty legal battles.
If Wolfe’s selling it, turn around. Shut down your computer and never turn it on again. He is evidence that stupidity and lies can spread like a virus on social media, and the best thing you can do is inoculate yourself with knowledge. I have some for you here.
Who is David Avocado Wolfe?
As the legend goes, David Stephen Wolfe became David Avocado Wolfe when he diagnosed himself with lactose intolerance in his late teens. This led him on a path to raw veganism, and he suddenly became a world-renowned expert on raw foods and superfoods (which, at least according to the smart people at the New Scientist, are basically just marketing fuckery, not science).
How does one make such a huge leap — from lactose-intolerant nobody to crazed motivational superfood speaker and author with millions of social media followers? Credentials probably help. Lots of them. Wolfe claims to have many degrees, and is prone to playing up his accomplishments. In an interview with living-foods.com, Wolfe said he had “degrees in mechanical and environmental engineering and political science” and that he had “studied at many different institutions including Oxford University.”
But like many things Wolfe says about himself, these claims are inflated. I contacted all the schools that he alleges to have attended: Oxford University, the University of California-Santa Barbara, the University of San Diego, and the University of Integrated Science California. Oxford University confirmed via email that “a person named David Wolfe” did study there in 2012, attending a course open to the general public called “The Origins of Metaphysics in Pre-Socratic Philosophy,” but he did not complete it. Oxford said that they could not confirm that it was the David Avocado Wolfe (maybe it was David Kumquat Wolfe), but this was the only David Wolfe who had ever registered for any course there. (For the record, this was a two-day course for no credit that anyone could attend.)
Wolfe has also suggested that his collection of undergraduate degrees includes a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering and environmental engineering along with a Bachelor of Arts in political science from UC-Santa Barbara. However, a search on the school’s website does not show the environmental engineering component of his degree. Wolfe did earn his law degree from the University of San Diego in 1998, but he was never admitted to the bar — to his credit, he has never held himself out to be a practicing lawyer to sell his brand of nonsense (we reached out to Wolfe for comment via multiple channels and received no response).
Wolfe has also said that he has a masters degree in nutrition, but the institution where this degree came from was the University of Integrated Science California, a for-profit college where you can major in things like “Tachyon Holistic Wellness” and the "Veganic Master Program."
Wolfe is clearly a very intelligent person, but the question of whether he’s been totally upfront with his credentials can be answered with a great big farting noise. And even with the degrees Wolfe does have, we must remember: He is not a medical doctor. He is not a registered dietitian, one of the few protected medical titles in the field of dietetics. He’s not a practicing lawyer. He’s a businessman, and he wants you to buy into his image so you buy his products.
The Avocado House Of Cards
Wolfe once wrote that “making money for its own sake is a meaningless and never-ending, never-fulfilling endeavor.” This is an interesting comment from a man who has called himself the “world’s wealthiest hippie,” spoken about how income from investing in Google paid for his house, and appeared on a reality TV show in which the grand prize for contestants was $100,000. He’s also been involved in at least six money-making ventures. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
According to the Better Business Bureau and the State of California, Wolfe is one of two managers of Sacred Chocolate, LLC, a purveyor of mystical-sounding chocolate bars, including one that is described as a “breakthrough in longevity technology,” whatever that means. For prices up to $10.95 apiece, I would hope the bars would make you younger, but some of them appear to pack more calories gram-per-gram than a Hershey’s bar.
Longevity Warehouse sells things like “sundried cane juice crystals,” which are marketed as a healthy alternative to sugar, and “blue butterfly powder,” which is “known to promote vitality and healthy aging.” (First things first, sugar is sugar and drinking something with butterfly in the name sounds like something out of a late-90s emo song and will probably not make you younger.) Longevity Warehouse also sells a thing called “The Zapper,” a boxy device emblazoned with Wolfe’s face that “delivers positive and negative offset square wave electromagnetic waveforms throughout the body.” Wolfe claims that The Zapper’s waveforms promote “healthy systemic detoxification” and “recovery from emotional and/or physical trauma.” It comes with zero reputable studies to prove any of this and it’s on sale for $297.
Longevity Warehouse is owned by a company called New Horizon Health, LLC. I called New Horizon to ask about Wolfe’s involvement there and the person who answered said that they would call me back soon. I am still waiting for the call.
David Wolfe Adventures
For the low price of just $4,900, you can party with Wolfe in the mountains of Peru. This price tag does not include plane tickets, necessary visas, or travel insurance. So what are you paying all that money for? It’s to go camping and hiking somewhere exotic with David Wolfe. Have fun, and good luck with Zika!
The BodyMind Institute
Through this site, you can take Wolfe’s raw nutrition course for one easy payment of $499 or 12 easy payments of $49. Because if you can’t pay the full price up front, you have to pay an extra $100 for Wolfe’s bullshit on why cooked food is bad for you... or something.
The Best Day Ever
Best Day Ever peddles access to Wolfe’s super-ultra-secret friendship club of longevity secrets for just $14.99 per month. Funny, I thought the secret to longevity was just “eat healthy and move some.” If you just read that sentence, please Venmo me $14.99.
Nature's First Law
Wolfe was publicly listed as the CEO of this raw nutrition company when he founded it in the late 1990s with his longtime friend, Thor Bazler. Business for the duo was very good, as they built up an impressive revenue stream for the anti-cooking-with-fire crowd.
But then things got complicated. Bazler left the company in 2006, and a $2 million loan was taken out to buy out stock belonging to the Bazler family trust. Wolfe was named the chairman of the company and he brought in a man named Doug Harbison to be the president. (Incidentally, Harbison’s father had worked at Monsanto, the enemy of all raw- and natural-food proponents). According to one of my sources, who wished to remain anonymous, the company also publicly changed its name to Sunfood in 2007 to avoid a trademark dispute with Nature’s First, a natural food company. Nature’s First Law products subsequently bore a logo reading David Wolfe’s Sunfood Nutrition.
In 2008, sales reportedly stalled. According to documents later produced in a lawsuit, Wolfe’s behavior became disruptive. He sent mass emails to the company (some, strangely, under the name “Avocado Noni Cacao”) accusing Harbison of scheming a “big rip off” against him after he was reprimanded for endorsing a competing company’s products. His relationship with Sunfood deteriorated. In 2009, he signed a separation agreement with the company, and they parted ways.
However, Wolfe had personally guaranteed the $2 million in loans used to buy out Bazler (although he later claimed in a lawsuit that he was duped into doing so). These loans were not paid and Sunfood was foreclosed upon by an outside investor in late 2009 after Wolfe left. After a new investor came in the company started to come back to life.
Then some organic shit seriously hit the fan.
In January of 2011, Wolfe alleged in a paranoid Facebook post that Sunfood was using his name illegally. “It appears to me that my former company was deliberately infiltrated by Monsanto agents,” he wrote. A year later, Wolfe wrote a blog post extolling the virtue of living a simple life and also maligning the new owners of Sunfood. This might have been merely a douchey move, except when Wolfe and Sunfood parted ways, they had a mutual agreement not to disparage each other publicly.
Two months later, Wolfe sued Sunfood for more than $10 million in damages, claiming that he had been defrauded into guaranteeing the loan and into signing the separation agreement. Wolfe also claimed that his former business partners had intentionally inflicted emotional distress on him. Sunfood countersued, and after three years of litigation, the parties wound up settling. According to case files, Wolfe was accused of hounding Doug Harbison’s 82-year-old father, and Harbison eventually asked for a protective order against Wolfe. When Sunfood requested a mental health evaluation to determine the extent of any potential liability for alleged harm to Wolfe’s mental health, he claimed he lived in Toronto and became somewhat difficult to pin down for a day in court.
Wolfe’s depositions from the suit are telling. He complained about a loss of income in 2009 because he was busy running aspects of Sunfood and was not able to “do events.” While he claimed to be unable to remember exactly how much he was paid in that time period, he pointedly objected to a question about how much he earned in 2011 by claiming it was an invasion of his privacy to reveal that information. His attorney also suggested that Wolfe would not be able to “maximize his income” based on his “image and likeness” if he was “stressed and emotionally distressed in a given year.”
Although Wolfe was not awarded $10 million by a court, the lawsuit suggests that despite what he preaches, Wolfe cares very much about money and will go to great lengths to get it.
He has been accused of stealing material and his memes are bad
Wolfe’s first book, Nature’s First Law The Raw Food Diet, published in 1996, appears to have been basically lifted from a little-known book on raw foods published in 1960 called Raw Eating, by the Armenian-Iranian scientist Arshavir Ter-hovannessian, also known as Aterhov.
As documented around the internet, Wolfe’s book doesn’t merely share similarities with Raw Eating. It is, at best, a lightly edited version of Raw Eating and, at worst, a complete ripoff with some light cosmetic alterations. For example:
Raw plant food should be the only food eaten by human beings. Humanity's habit of eating cooked food must be abandoned in this world once and for all. This is the absolute command of Nature. The consumption of cooked food is the most unnatural savagery in the history of humankind. It is an atrocity that no one seems to be aware of and to which everybody falls an unconscious victim. What people eat deeply and radically affects the way they think, feel, and behave. It drastically affects the entire life process of planet Earth. No matter how strange the idea may seem to some, it is the absolute truth that humanity must accept. To most, the truth is stranger than fiction.
Raw Eating, Chapter 1:
Raw vegetable food should be the only nourishment taken by man. The habit of eating cooked food should be abandoned in this world once and for all. This is the unerring demand of nature. The consumption of cooked food is the most terrible barbarism in the history of mankind, a barbarism that no one seems to be aware of and to which everybody falls an unconscious victim. No matter how strange the idea may seem to some, it is the absolute truth with which we cannot but acquiesce.
Spot any similarities? Yep. I’ve found a few more side-by-side examples, just in case one example wasn’t enough. Wolfe, who wrote the book with two coauthors, was kind enough to include a small acknowledgement of Ter-hovannessian without directly citing any of the text that was very clearly lifted from his work.
Wolfe’s penchant for exploiting other people’s content goes beyond books. As many people who run Facebook pages do, he posts highly sharable little memes and videos. The Wolfe method of making content goes as follows: take a picture or video that someone else created and add a line of text over it to make it look like it’s somehow yours. Do you like this retro keyboard that started up via Kickstarter? Wolfe liked it so much that he spliced the video, slapped his logo on it, and changed the background music. Out of love, I’m sure. Dig this umbrella that closes upwards? Wolfe apparently does too, so much so he edited down the video a little, added some text, and presto, more clickbait to lure people to his page. Think this futuristic baby stroller is amazing? Wolfe evidently thought so too, so he added some text to the video and tucked his logo in the corner of it.
Wolfe also likes to post inspirational quotes from people much more clever than him with his name watermarked on the corner. Love Dr. Seuss? Wolfe’s got you covered. Think Joe Rogan says funny and insightful things about marijuana? Here you go. Big fan of Albert Einstein quotes? Wolfe totally loves making himself seem smart by using him in memes.
Wolfe also likes to extol the virtues of hard work, the irony of which is not lost here.
Sometimes it’s best just to let people speak for themselves. Here are some things Wolfe has said over the years to marvel at.
And my favorite:
His advice about health is scary
As with any goofy new-age health guru, it’s all fun and games until they try to give you actual medical advice. You can likely eat “raw” chocolate and superfoods to your heart’s content and be fine, heck, you can probably even enjoy using The Zapper if you’re looking for a little thrill. The only thing you’re losing by buying into any of these things is your money.
And your dignity. And self respect.
When these charlatans offer their cures for serious medical conditions like cancer, well, at best, their advice won’t work, and at worst, it will kill you.
For instance, in one of his infamous memes, Wolfe claims that apple cider vinegar can dissolve kidney stones and lower glucose levels in diabetics. Here we see how he has taken a tiny shred of truth and turned it into dietary fuckery. It’s a fun fact that apple cider vinegar has been shown to slightly slow the spike of blood sugar after ingesting carbohydrates, but after two hours, the body will get the full load of blood sugar. Translation: memes are not peer reviewed medical papers, please don’t try to use apple cider vinegar in the place of your insulin, kids. In the same tour-de-bullshit meme, Wolfe also claimed that apple cider vinegar promotes alkalinity. That’s just adorable. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of science, which Wolfe allegedly has, would know that the word “alkaline” means a substance is, chemically speaking, a base. Vinegar is dilute acetic acid which, of course, is the exact opposite of alkaline. Studies have shown that diet has very little effect on your body’s overall pH other than your urine. If you’re still buying into the ever-popular “alkaline diet,” please recall that the person who launched it on us got himself into some legal trouble for doctoring while not a doctor.
Wolfe has also promoted the specious line of thought that “Big Pharma” tries to keep people sick and covers up cures for major disease because there’s no money in a cure. So of course, he promotes his own bullshit cancer cures like… apricot pits, which he says can fight tumors because they contain a chemical compound called amygdalin. Sounds great, right? An all-natural, easy-to-harvest, cheap, and delicious cure for cancer. I would love it if it worked, so why hasn’t modern medicine embraced it? Unfortunately, the amygdalin in apricot pits releases cyanide. When it was tested as a treatment for cancer in a clinical trial, not only did it not attack tumors, it left the patients with cyanide poisoning. As accidental cyanide poisoning due to ingesting apricot seeds is a public health issue in some countries, it seems irresponsible to recommend using any amount of apricot seeds as medicine. And to be fair, as a responsible businessman Wolfe has taken the precaution of advising his readers not to break the law and to only take this ubiquitous miracle drug under doctor’s supervision, because it’s clearly not irresponsible to peddle a potentially dangerous (and unproven) treatment to desperate people as long as there is a legal disclaimer at the end of the bullshit.
Of course, Wolfe has a lot to say about vaccines as well. He goes on and on about them, but it’s mostly the same tired arguments. And how does he propose to protect yourself and your children from infectious diseases? With bullshit.
Homeopathic vaccinations and other alternatives could also be explored. Acupuncture and electronic medicine systems (zappers, rife machines, frequency generators, PEMF devices, biofeedback machines) are also gaining popularity due to their efficacy in producing health.”
Do I even have to tell you why using homeopathic vaccinations, aka sugar pills, to fight diseases like polio is a bad idea?
Wolfe has also been known to rewrite history. One of his memes features a quote from J. Anthony Morris, the “former chief vaccine control officer” for the Food and Drug Administration, that says the flu vaccine was “worthless,” and that “they” know it and keep selling them anyway. However, J. Anthony Morris was not the chief vaccine control officer at the FDA. “Chief vaccine control officer” doesn’t appear to even be a position at the FDA. According to FDA documents, Morris was a terminated mid-level FDA staffer who hasn’t been privy to their research for several decades. But that doesn’t stop people like Wolfe from selling a narrative convenient to his bottom line.
So what should I do about this guy?
A meme Wolfe shared a few months ago declared: “History is a lie. Money is a hoax. Debt is fiction. Religion is a control system. Media is manipulation. Government is a corporation. The system is a lie.”
But the thing is, Wolfe, a wannabe a reality TV star who apparently abandoned his core claim that superfoods are the key to health when he cashed in as an infomercial blender spokesperson, is the system. In his bubble, Wolfe has succeeded at bending history to his opinions, railing against the modern medicine that keeps civilization alive while pushing his own scientifically unproven supplements to his audience. He attempts to make a buck through any means possible — all while meticulously maintaining an image of being one of the good guys. Wolfe can spew hate at the system all he wants, but the self-proclaimed “world’s wealthiest hippie” cannot escape the appearance of being the system’s very wealthy organic puppet.
Wolfe once posted a meme saying “if traveling was free, you’d never see me again.” Between his claims that he may have the secret to defying gravity and that he doesn’t care about monetary wealth, it might be time for Wolfe to take his own advice and go for a very long hike.