Dr McDougall in Shocking Vegan Interview

McDougall

Let me start by saying this: Being a vegan is fine. I find the ethical arguments compelling and I’m impressed by people who manage to avoid animal products for ethical reasons. Also, I believe that most vegan food (supplemented by vitamin B12) is healthier than a standard Western diet.

That said, I was shocked when listening to a new interview with low-fat vegan advocate Dr John McDougall. A couple of days ago he was on Jimmy Moore’s podcast and, really, you have to hear it to believe it:

The LLVLC Show (Episode 686): Dr. John McDougall Pushes Starchy Diets For All

Here’s the problem:

Agricultural bliss?

Dr McDougall believes that everybody should eat a low-fat high-starch diet comprised of potatoes, rice, beans etc. and avoid meat, dairy and even olive oil. His main argument? Throughout “all of recorded history” every successful major civilization based their food intake on that kind of food.

That’s correct. It’s called agriculture.

Agriculture supplied the plentiful source of calories that allowed populations to grow big, starting 10,000 years ago or so. But that does not mean it’s healthy. Fossil records show a decline in human health and stature at the start of agriculture.

Furthermore, history did not start 10,000 years ago. Human evolution (depending on where you draw the line) has been going on for hundreds of thousands of years if not millions of years. Back then there was no agriculture.

Finally there were no vegan cultures, ever, during all of human history. People who completely avoided animal products for a long time died from vitamin B12-deficiency. So while agriculture supplied a lot of food it was never the only source.

Refined carbs

It’s quite possible that eating unprocessed starchy food like potatoes and rice, á la McDougall, is better than a standard American diet. After all, the refined carbs, processed food and enormous amounts of sugar are lost.

Jimmy Moore repeatedly tries to discuss this, but McDougall does. not. want. to. hear. it. He just won’t discuss that possibility.

Nasty personal attacks and hypocrisy

What’s really shocking on the podcast is the nastiness and the number of personal attacks. McDougall repeatedly brings up mr Moore’s weight struggles – “I’ve seen your pictures!” – as evidence that a high-fat diet does not work.

Then mr Moore tells him that he has lost 100 pounds eating like that and weighs less now than ever before in his adult life. McDougall’s answer? “You’re a study of one”, implying that it does not count, probably forgetting his own attack one minute earlier. Then McDougall repeats the personal attack again and again. I’m impressed that Jimmy Moore did not lose his temper.

McDougall’s next argument? “I’m a doctor and you’re not”, implying that it makes him right and mr Moore wrong. I wish life was that simple!

Low Carb vs. Plant Based

What shocked me even more was Dr McDougall’s repeated insistence that people watch a YouTube video called “Low Carb vs. Plant Based“:

It ranks among the most infantile things I’ve ever seen. Is this really the best argument Dr McDougall has? “I’m thin, you’re fat, therefore I’m right”?

PS

The vegans in the video are *extremely* thin, good for them. However, I wonder if they wouldn’t benefit from more high-quality protein, to put on some muscle mass. That may be a matter of taste though.

By the way I’ve met professor Loren Cordain and Dr William Davis recently and they’re in fine shape. Check them out on the Dr Oz show earlier this year: Cordain / Davis. And Jimmy Moore is thinner than ever.

And let’s not mention the high-fat badass #1, Mark Sisson, who was somehow not chosen to appear in the video. Update: But he was on “Vegan Island” with Dr McDougall six years ago. Check out his report.

More reactions to the show:

Controversial Interview Raises Ire, Rises To Top Of iTunes Health Podcast Charts

What do you think about it?

 

219 Comments

Top Comments

  1. Martin,
    I believe that many of the diseases of civilization are caused by the Western diet, that's high in sugar and refined starch, among other things.

    I'm not at all surprised if most (maybe all) people switching from a Western junk diet to a low-fat vegan diet will improve.

    Basically the Western processed food diet may be the worst ever in history. That's why "all diets work". Switch from the worst one to any other and it's an improvement.

    Reply: #16
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  2. Dan
    You know, there's another angle to this we should all remember--the rise of LCHF and the revelation of the good science behind it that refutes so much of the trendy-but-bad science that people like McDougall have been living off of for years (perhaps with good intent and just ignorance as their excuse--even "medical doctor" "qualified" ignorance is still dumb, y'know) means that many, many people who've been making a good living and a great deal of ego boosting fame out of that BAD science are now faced with a very real threat to their livelihoods and their egos. It is no different to note, as you've done on this site, the amazing hypocrisy of Coca-Cola sponsoring diet conferences than to see that a whole lot of McDougall's belligerence and attitude is because he's like any cornered animal--threatened, angry, and afraid. It doesn't make his position any more defensible or right, but perhaps it can help us to be a little less insensitive to his fear and anticipation of pain. Presuming, as we must unless we know otherwise, that he began his rise to prominence out of good intent and with honest motives, now that he's standing on top of, well, only slight joke re. the USDA intended, a "pyramid" whose foundations are crumbling and which he has to KNOW intellectually are at least threatened with utter collapse, no wonder he's so darned arrogant and angry! Granted, a more mature and self-enlightened person would have the grace that another one did in an earlier posting (sorry I forget the name) who told Gary Taubes "You were right, I was wrong." but most people aren't like that, alas. Basically, McDougall is in the position of the classic semi-joke statement "I'm not a brat! I'm NOT! I'm NOT! I'm NOT!" When "experts" with great prestige in the vegan/vegetarian community like him are this way, we certainly must expect even more nasty attitude from those lay people who've followed that misguided cause and invested not only money and effort into it but have, because like all such cults it demands and encourages this, invested a huge chunk of their self-identity and self-worth in it. I don't know about the rest of you, but I EAT a LCHF diet and feel better and am measurably healty for it, but I am NOT ANYTHING LIKE an "LCHF-ian" or an "LCHF-itarian" or whatever. My identity is based on my values and my character and not on my diet, but for Vegans and Vegetarians, that's not so. When you question what, to you as an enlightened sensible person, is their dietary science and choices, THEY HEAR you attacking them PERSONALLY. So let's not be too harsh on the sad case of Dr. McDougall, and let's remember this when we talk to less-famous folks who, like he has, simply got sold a bill of goods or wandered down the wrong path when searching for the truth.
    Replies: #138, #163
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All Comments

  1. Morgine
    One thing you fail to note is, every single person is UNIQUE. We are from different backgrounds and cultures. We are different genders. We live in different environments. We handle stress differently. Some of us are sensitive to some foods and not others. We are different blood types! Despite being heavy, I am rarely ill like my sister. When ill, I respond great to Echinacea and Goldenseal. I am an AB+ My former partner could not tolerate those. He would max out on Vitamin C and that worked for him and not me. He was an O-. I just want to add to the conversation there is a No One Size Fits All way of eating that is going to necessarily work for everyone on the planet!! That's our problem. We always want to argue what worked for us and it might not work for others. I will note that visiting Dr. McDougall's site is impressive. He gives Everything away free. You can follow his entire eating plan and not buy a thing. You can download all the information you need, no charge. He does not recommend a bunch of EXPENSIVE SUPPLEMENTS AND EXPENSIVE FOODS in order to be healthy! It cost less to eat this way! Free chat group to ask questions. He has more video testimonials than anyone I have seen in my 65 years for any product ever! Then there are the written testimonials. Some big companies like Whole Foods PAY for certain employees to take his 10 day course because it SAVES them on insurance bills! I admit it certainly will not work for everyone, however it is quite OBVIOUS it has worked for a LOT more people than any other diet plan I have ever researched ever... and I have been dieting for over 40 years! I am not recommending his way, just noting.... like someone else said... his manners may be lacking, however, he seems to GENUINELY CARE about our health and helping people and he is not in it "just for the money" as many writers of books who also sell their expensive pills, supplements, spirulina, hemp, chia seeds, mushroom extracts and all the rest! I have read many books written only for people who truly...can afford to pay MORE for those things each month, than the food they eat! Thanks for reading! Love everyone sharing their views!
  2. Donald
    "The Bible, in and of itself, has withstood the tests of time as an accurate historical document"
    -Arletta
    This is complete rubbish and you should take your idiotic proselytizing elsewhere. From (http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Evidence_for_the_historical_existence_of_Jesus_Christ):
    "The early years of the Roman Empire is one of the best-documented eras of ancient history; Jerusalem was a center of education; Jesus is claimed even to have had scribes following him and that the population at large was aware of him. [160] Yet not one single non-Christian document written before 93 CE mentions any 'Jesus', "

    Now to the matter at hand. The reason these vegans are getting more and more defensive if their precious, smug little world is falling apart around them. Witness the FDA's latest guidance that dietary cholesterol is "not a nutrient of concern". Notice how they are finally calling it a -nutrient-, because that is exactly what it is. Here is what is obvious to anyone taking a 30,000 ft view of human diet and its effect on general health: almost all cultures have been meat eating for tens of thousands of years, including the relatively brief flowering of agriculture. It's highly likely our increasing consumption of meat hastened our evolution from ape-like creatures to the humans we know today. When did the real modern problems with health start? When traditional agriculture transformed into high yield agriculture and modern day factory processing, making sweets, pasta, chips, etc. incredibly cheap and easy to consume on a per calorie basis. SOME persons have the genetic ability to eat a vegan diet and be trim and healthy, without very complex additional supplementation to make up for the nutrients lacking in plants. MOST people cannot. The most self-righteous person I've met in my life was a hardcore, in your face vegan from the mid 90s to the late 2000s, when her weight had ballooned up incredibly. She took every delight in telling me how wrong I was about not being vegan. China Study, blah blah blah study, I had to have it rammed down my throat every time we had an encounter. (she was the college best friend of my ex-wife and fiancee back then) Guess who lost about 100 lbs when she started eating meat again? As other people have pointed out in this thread, if people temporarily lose weight on a vegan diet, it's because ANYTHING is better than their previous diets. A 7 day study is a complete joke and proves nothing.
    I'm all for people doing as they please: if being vegan works for you, by all means, be vegan. Even though the vast majority of vegans I've met have been overweight. But please, give up the shaming of the rest of us. It's not going to work anymore. The ruse is up. Guess what? Veganism seems pretty much like a farce to most intelligent non-vegans these days. You might as well be touting scientology. The less meat in my diet, the flabbier and fatter I get. It's as simple as that. I've been progressively cutting carbs out of my diet and people are telling me I look better than I've looked in 15 years. Deal with it.

  3. Rob
    Haha Low Carb is for people who want an easy way to slim down and still eat a tasty but unhealthy diet. Its a free choice but over the long term your heart and colon will not thank you. Low carb gurus are mostly fat and unhealthy. Vegan health gurus are slim and athletic. Who would you listen to?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zVxA6yipv4

    I'm a vegan, take in 90-100g of veg protein daily and can assisted flat bench 405 lbs, 365 raw with nobody unracking the weights for me. My cholesterol went from borderline very high to low within 6 months after switching to a vegetarian mostly plant based diet. No statins or any other drugs.

    Reply: #204
  4. erdoke
    You do whatever you feel fit, but please stop creating a religious war about your diet. Which in fact never existed in human history. Feel free to ruin your teeth, but leave us alone.
    By the way, have you had the chance to have a look at Dr. Eenfeldt? Does he look like fat and unhealthy?
  5. Kali
    Check out the article "Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegetarians".

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2012/07/23/human-ances...

  6. Scott
    Most diet "experts" are missing the point. The point that needs to be stressed is that each of us have our own metabolic profile. If you feel best on a low-fat diet and are healthly on such a diet, then that is the diet for you. If you do best on a reduced carbohydrate diet, then so be it. A healthy diet is one that provides you the nutrients and macronutrient ratios that work best for you. No one diet is right for everyone. With some experimentation almost anyone can fine tune thier diet to provide improved health.
  7. CTFU VEGAN
    Hi,
    The only diet proven to reverse heart disease and diabetes is a: LOW FAT HIGH CARB VEGAN DIET. http://www.pcrm.org
    What you are promoting here is a diet that will accelerate diabetes, heart disease, and cancer risks greatly and should be ashamed at the damage you are doing to people.
    Animal proteins of all kinds are as insulinogenic as pure white table sugar.
    Clean plant carbohydrates are the best cleanest fuels for the human body as all 210 cell types RUN ON GLUCOSE, not fat or protein.
    Please eat some coconut oil and go run a marathon or even a half marathon, then do a mcdougall style dinner based on rice corn or potatoes WITHOUT OIL BUTTER CHEESE LARD BACON AND EGGS OR FISH and then repeat the running trial and let us know your results. K? thanks low carb frauds.
    Reply: #208
  8. Zepp
    The Two Big Lies of Type 2 Diabetes

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcLoaVNQ3rc

    "LCHF to manage Diabetes"

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epsSVosmtUc

    One have to make a differens betwen religius belives and science!

  9. DD
    Well… it turns out that it’s not animal protein that is killing us. If you are relying on the low fat diet research, then you are not only being duped, you need to take a real hard look at "The Big Fat Surprise" by Nina Teicholz.

    She spent 10 years examining all the published diet research and concludes that almost all of it is epidemiological and some downright fraudulent. Current one-factor comparative studies demonstrate the health of a meat based diet.

  10. Mcdougall'er
    Having seen many many sides to the same argument, just wanted to point out -
    1. Human health did not decline the later we search in history. If anything greed came into play when we started industrialising the world. Making the rich richer and the poor....poorer. This opened up a huge disparity between those who could afford food and those who loved on bread and water and worked 18hour shifts in a dirty factory.
    2. Can't really fault mcdougall a efforts in that he actually practices successfully as a Dr and uses diet instead of the drugs that almost every other doctor I've come across seems to push (big pharma, story for another day)
    3. B12 has never been an issue in the history of our species because it's a bacteria found in the soils which wouldn't have been triple washed off before hitting our plate. We wash off the B12 in our plight to be super sterilised. I'd also add that you only need very small amounts as our intestines can harvest this bacteria in a healthy gut.
    4. Don't mention protein with vegans. I myself have to stay a strict 40" chest and 32" waist. I go to the gym 4 times a week roughly and lift weights. My recovery time is better and I don't take a single pill, whey shake or supplement to help that. My body is very sturdy for a 6ft3 ectomorph who for work reasons needs to be strong and lean. I feel great. I'm not a freak of nature, I just eat unrefined whole plant foods and grains.
    5. That Cordaine guy.... He looks like the sith lord from Star Wars - he's an absolute mess and with a double chin I could fit a sweet potato into, with ease. His wife is also clinically obese.
    6. WAKE UP WORLD! Carbs fuel your cells! Fat makes you fat. Protein in balanced amounts (roughly 5 to 15% of caloric intake) is optimum - optimum means more than that and it becomes toxic, less than that and you become deficient. The studies are there, stop trying to be macho and a paleo or defending your junk food. Oil is 100% fat! do the maths and that will ruin the caloric intake for your day....
    Reply: #211
  11. erdoke
    I actually agreed with most written in your first 4 points. Then you pushed in an unnecessary 5th. I have never seen a picture of Mr. Cordain and do not care how he looks. Dr. Lustig is also overweight, but that does not diminish his opinion about excessive fructose in modern diet.
    #6 ends up being completely idiotic. If you have learned biochemistry or basic phisyology you would know that most of your cells do not require glucose, others plainly prefer FFAs. There are a few cell types that cannot run without glucose and for this very reason your liver is able to synthesize it from amino acids, glycerol, pyruvate, etc. On a high fat diet the body's actual requirement of external glucose is zero.
    "Fat makes you fat" is a very stupid simplification. Also, more than 15 (E?) % protein being toxic is stupid. On the other hand, 5 % can be insufficient for a lot of people.
    Then again, I agree that the studies are there, although it is obvious that you are not able to properly interpret them.
  12. your mom
    this article is fucking stupid, and full of shit. eat more dead animals so you will die faster.
  13. CO feline
    This may be a sensational headline but is is so far from reality that Andreas Eenfeldt, MD needs a better education on diet and nutrition. The best way of eating for long-term health is Whole-Foods Plant-Based. Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Drs. Colin and Tom Campbell, and Dr. Michael Gregor are the true experts in diet and nutrition. High carb, low fat, no meat or dairy is the best for improving health and reversing chronic disease. I am a perfect testimony to that fact.

    In Jan. 2012, my husband and I watched the documentary film "Forks Over Knives" and decided immediately to go Plant-Based/healthy vegan. At the time, my doctor was going to start me on medication for diabetes and told me I had become obese. I was already on 8 prescription medications. Within 3 months, on a 100% plant-based diet, I was off 7 of the 8 prescriptions, was no longer diabetic, and no longer obese (dropped 30 pounds), no arthritis, no acid reflux, no depression, normal cholesterol, and so much more healthy. This is April, 2015 and I have not gained any weight back or had to resume any medications. I am healthy and fit at 67 years old. My husband, who is naturally thin, dropped his high cholesterol to low normal and is fit and healthy at 73. We will never go back to eating meat and dairy!

    What my husband and I experienced is not an anomaly. This is what people who make the change to a plant-based way of eating experience. We all want to have someone tell us our bad habits are OK, simply not true when it comes to eating meat and dairy. I encourage everyone to educate themselves and don't believe your doctor knows about nutrition...they rarely get more than a few hours of nutrition information in med school and that is provided by the pharmaceutical industry.

    Reply: #214
  14. erdoke
    You apparently lack basic reasoning capabilities, but it is not surprising based on the list of quack opinion leaders you mention. Your experience only proves that the diet you switched to is better than the crap you had followed before that. It has nothing to say in comparison with other diets such as low carb and high fat (LCHF).

    We will never go back to eating meat and dairy!

    You are old enough for that resolution and I really hope that there will be no health status which makes you change your minds. Good luck with and good health on the diet!

  15. Chloe7
    If you think the diet is easy - think again. Low carbing is really difficult. You may mock as much as you like but for me with familial hypercholesterolemia the more good fat (like animal, tallow, coconut, olive oil, fatty fish and eggs) I ate the lower my cholesterol went. The moment I increased the veg portions the LDL very quickly went right up again. I can be checked out the lab, Lancet. My doctors were astounded. You don't need to mock. The low carb doc's have never been fascist about this way of eating - in fact. Dr. Tim Noakes, our guy in South Africa who TOLD us about the diet keeps saying that it's not for everyone and that those who don't want to do it should never do it. Plus he had great endearment towards the grain farmers and said only if you need to, go onto it. He is a total proponent of LCHF and it saved lots of people's lives - not only those who needed to lose weight - the weight loss matter distracts people from hearing the benefits if it pertains to them, even thin ones like me.
  16. Barbara
    As I do not have a weight problem, but I do struggle with digestive disorders. Gluten Intolerant, Lactose intolerant and overall YUCKERY.. Potatoes are the easiest food for me to digest. PERIOD.. When I don't eat enough starches, I don't function well..

    I do not have any ethical issues about eating animals, However, I do have serious concerns about how we are" treating/ abusing animals that are a part of the Food Machine and I find many such practices inhumane. Brutal, ruthless, Cruel.. How we can continue to allow such heinous behaviors is beyond my comprehension.

    There is no need to be cruel to animals.. or each other. Please cease all accusations and name calling. Truth does not have any enemies! We are here to help one another.

    High Carb/ Low fat diets are very effective for many people.

    However, some people require a Higher fat diet ..Here is a link to the profound studies of Dr. Natasha McBride.. The GAPS DIET.
    http://gapsdiet.com/The_Diet.html

    It's not just B-12 that people can become deficient in when eating a high carb diet. . Zinc is also very important. Please investigate the work of Dr. Ananda S. Prasad, He is very highly regarded in the academic world of medicine.http://www.mibihar.com/content/pioneer-zinc-dr-ananda-prasad

    An excerpt :During the past 50 years Dr. Prasad has made important strides researching the mineral zinc, as well as contributing significantly to the field of hematology and sickle cell disease. His work with zinc began when one of his former professors received an invitation from the Shah of Iran to establish a medical curriculum at the University of Shiraz Medical School and invited Dr. Prasad to accompany him.

    Two weeks after his arrival, a 21-year-old man who looked similar to an 8-year-old boy came to Dr. Prasad. The patient lacked secondary male characteristics, was considered mentally lethargic and consumed clay. Dr. Prasad diagnosed the man's condition as extreme anemia, but couldn't understand how such a condition came about because most males do not develop anemia without bleeding.

    The condition was so prevalent in Iran that it was considered an epidemic. Dr. Prasad studied the condition and hypothesized that because plants do not grow without sufficient zinc, perhaps people do not either. In the developed world, zinc abounds in a variety of food sources, such as fresh fish, red meat, oysters and dairy products. In developing countries, diets primarily consist of breads and grains, which contain phytate, a substance that binds zinc and iron and prevents both minerals from being absorbed by the human body.

    There is no need to criminalize any one particular diet.

    Every one has the right to health. It starts with kindness. Blessings.

  17. Sheri
    All I can tell you is Dr. McDougall's brother in Brookings, Oregon put my father on his diet. My father had a triple bypass, stints, pacemaker, removal of gallbladder, high blood pressure medication, cumadin blood thinner, cholesterol pill, and others for inflamation. He is now off every bit of his medication, except low dose cumadin. He is as trim as he was in his youth. He works out without pain almost every day. He grew up and raised his grandkids to hunt and fish. He still does, but he says he feels so good he does not hunger for it when we eat it in front if him. His energy level is amazing.. He is 74 soon to be 75 years of age. He thanks God for a doctor who convinced him to give it a try or die.
    Reply: #218
  18. erdoke
    Sheri,
    It's great to hear that your father is doing well and that a dietary intervention worked for him. I believe other approaches could have worked as well and on top of that might be easier to follow. The most important thing is to eliminate the root cause. I wish him decades of good health to come!
  19. Cheryl
    I have a question. My husband was told he had Celiacs disease at the end of 2014. At that time they also did a blood test to determine if he had any other food allergies. We just got the results this week (how sad is that) and I have to tell you, I am at a complete loss. The results show that he is pretty much allergic to EVERYTHING! I am not over stating this. Potatoes, rice, wheat, corn, quinoa, dairy, eggs....etc..etc...etc. He has a few autoimmune illnesses such as psoriatic arthritis and the beginning states of Diabetes type 1. They say he has these because of his food allergies. Is this correct? And WHAT the HECK is he supposed to eat? He can't have ANYTHING! I am left feeling pretty helpless as a wife at this point.
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