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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?

Low Carb Made Easy How to Lose Weight Low-Carb Recipes Low-Carb Success Stories

254 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. robby
    No, its not--actually i tried that whole Atkins-low carb stuff and it gave me what doctors call Diabetic Ketosis because of all the meat I was consuming. I was like,"what--I thought".... Nor did
    my sugar levels drop.I actually gained weight. My buddy who had read something about this
    other doctor by the name of Barnard, went on a 21 day diet and lost close to 18 pounds. He continued to eat that way and lost another 30 pounds.

    Idont know but I think McDougall is on to something because I started to read the stuff my friend gave me and the literature referred to McDougall and to another Dr. named Esselstyn and how they treated their patients. I love and I mean love eating meat flavored dishes and different foods from all over, but the more I read I'm finding that what you add on to your foods like sour cream,mayo,ketchup(catsup)sweet fruit jams,butters all that messes up lets say a potato by itself.
    So, if you wonna eat low carb try it but I think eating more whole foods plant based is a little better in terms of overall health. I know giving up meat is hard, but giving up Life itself for a steak--well you do the low-carb math. (PS-Just finished reading this book called The China Study-it was a real interesting read)...

  2. leopotato
    What an absolutely ridiculous argument! How dare a doctor care about the animals of the world as well as his patients! Jera Jea, you need to give your head a shake!
  3. leopotato
    Wow Marie, I couldn't have said it more eloquently myself. You rock!
  4. barry
    I've followed both diets at different points throughout my life so I can give a logical unbiased personal observation of both. First I started out on the SAD diet, obviously unhealthy. Then I went vegan and saw a noticeable improvement in my energy and serum cholesterol. However I should make it perfectly clear I did NOT follow the starch solution diet, it was actually a high fat vegan diet. I ate lots of coconuts, avocados, nuts/seeds, olives, olive oil, acai berries etc. I feel that a starch diet whether vegan or not is dangerous, people in a insulin resistant state or with high triglycerides are only going to make things worse. I later switched to the primal blueprint diet by Mark Sisson and it really wasn't much different from my high fat vegan diet, just the addition of grassfed meats and wild fish, his diet along with paleo diet are actually plant dominate. After the switch from vegan to primal my cholesterol went up slightly but it was my HDL plus the total rise was to negligible for my doctor to even mention. I actually had my serum triglycerides to decrease from 71 to 42 after going primal, big plus there. Energy was still good after the switch, however if you're on a high carb diet either the SAD or high starch vegan then switching to using fat for energy will cause some initial side effects, but will soon dissipate. I think either diet will work as long as it remains high in fat and low in fructose. On to McDougall's theory of high starch though. One thing I can not believe anyone has mentioned (even this article) is what his diet plan excludes other than meat, that is the key. To anyone out there who has experienced benefits from the starch solution can be summed up into two points. First, the starch solution diet is very low in fructose, fructose causes weight gain not just at your waist but your organs too, case in point fatty liver disease. Both primal and starch solution have diets exceedingly low in fructose consumption. Second, doctor McDougall says vegetable/seed oils are off the menu, this is key. Anyone who has experienced heart problems would have improvements after giving up oxidized omega 6 fats. Also the fact that processed foods are removed means things like hydrogenated fat, MSG, HFCS, GMOs etc. are exempted as well. This starch diet though would be very disastrous to the morbidly obese and diabetics, or anyone with brain problems. Vegan diets work but they must be like another diet that works and be high fat as well. To anyone thinking of becoming vegan I recommend you follow doctor Mark Hyman's vegan plan. Since going primal I don't agree with everything he says, but his diet is a lot more nutritionally sound then McDougalls. As to why I personally switched from vegan to primal I just feel better with animal protein in my diet, and I feel mentally sharper. It's really difficult to get enough complete protein in your diet when vegan, whether high fat or not. I could've probably stayed on my high fat vegan diet and just supplemented with some hemp or pea protein in my mourning coffee an been just fine but I wasn't ethically bound to the diet anyways. Still going strong after 9 years of primal and 12 years of high fat! Either way vegan or omnivore high fat is the answer. I'm just one of hundreds of thousands who have experienced high fat's benefits. If your over weight give it try, you really got nothing to lose. If it doesn't work fine just go back, but I'm betting it will.
  5. health2all
    Just flat out too many unnatural foods being consumed. Preservatives, flavor enhancers, GMOs spliced into pesticides, hormones, artificial colors, etc... Sure! Stop eating this crap and you're bound to get healthier. Stay whole and natural. If you must, kill some flesh and burn it to pallitable. Enjoy, but know that one can survive, even thrive either with or without meats but not without vegetation. Plant foods are the base energy that are converted from our suns radiation to consumable life giving sustenance for all Gods creatures. I hope eventually we evolve to herbivores. If not, then I pray we are truly at the top of the food chain. Not only on this planet but in this universe.
  6. William
    Personal experience is the best teacher. Having been a vegetarian for 2 decades (age 29-51), I was an avid follower of the McDougall plan. I am athletic and in fact, a world elite masters athlete and 3x USATF National Masters Champion 400m sprinter, most recently in the 55-59 age group. My diet is part of a lifestyle that requires athletic performance, low body fat, and maximum strength / weight ratio. I can tell you straight out that for my needs, the McDougall plan is close to the worst possible diet for building strength and low body fat. There is NOTHING that will put fat on your body faster than starchy carbs like bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, etc... I am 5'7" and normally weigh about 147. When competing, I like to be 142-143 lbs. Where the McDougall diet may be good for an endurance athlete, sprinting is a whole body power sport requires strength and muscle maintenance. The protein needs for power sports and muscle development can not be met efficiently through vegetarian protein sources because they contain at least 50% (often more) carb calories. Tuna, for example, is packed with protein and is virtually fat and carb free. When I changed my diet and began supplementing with branch chain amino acids, I saw a boost in athletic performance. I am sprinting faster at age 55 than I was at age 51, have more strength and the fitness of a college athlete. I still race in college track meets. Also, it is recognized that sprinting and high intensity interval training is far better for fitness, especially over age 50, because of the strength and hormone stimulating effects (testosterone and hgh). Look, I ate the McDougall way for 20 years, was soft and over weight - up to 20 lbs heavier than I am now. Most of my vegan friends who eat this way are soft and overweight, if not obese. Doesn't work for everyone, unless 1) you're an endurance athlete or 2) you restrict calories very judiciously. It's bad science. The link between dietary cholesterol and heart disease is nebulous. The only meat I eat is seafood, you simply can not get carb-free protein from plants. Period. When I tried to share my experiences with the McDougall plan on the McDougall blog, I was banned immediately. Here is an article that traces the dubious link between dietary cholesterol and heart disease... and how it became part of the nutritional culture. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/07/the-sugar-conspiracy-r...
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  8. Annleasa
    Erdoke, You seem to jump at the chance to put down a plant-based diet ever time someone posts a positive vegan lifestyle. smh, I don't get it. I was Paleo for years, off and on, and wow, when I changed to a vegan lifestyle, my world changed! At 62, I'm healthier than most of my military co-workers. There is only one plant based eater at work and the rest eat from paper bags bought from the usual crap joints. I reject your remark about the two vegans that are elderly and you say "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!"...WOW! First they are not on a 'diet' and secondly, I guarantee you are not as healthy as they are haha. And, you also put down the guy that is younger, and works out in a gym bench-pressing weight that blows my mind. If you Google or Bing search vegan athletes, you will be surprised at what you will find. I'm not sure what lifestyle you are on, however, you are defending a diet that has been proven to be ineffective (as I found) and I also know Paleo dieters that 'eat rice and potatoes' to keep up their strength. I found that when I was Paleo, I had shortness of breath, weakness and my blood results were not 'fantastic' either. They are now however, and I applaud all the Drs. that promote a healthy vegan lifestyle to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people that suffer from the Standard American Diet (SAD)...and if you haven't heard, there is an entire plant based hospital in Washington DC that opened recently (2016)! Yep, there is something to this madness...have a great ethical day!
  9. Annleasa
    TMW, truer words were never spoken lol. When people are scared to try something that may be exactly what they need, they speak to the one thing that is obvious: Dr. McDougall said "I'm not fat, and you are" ...ohhh, that's so rude! But what if it was true? And the Dr. had a solution to that issue? How many people are overweight and morbidly obese? They know they are fat and no one needs to tell them that. They admit they are fat, but the minute a Dr. tells them that, then oh, snap, it's a war! Someone else said that we don't get B-12, well, there's a lot of omnivores that don't get the nutrition they need because animals are no longer allowed to graze, and the B12 is in the dirt as a bacteria, it gets in the grass and the cows graze on that. Animals are not inherently born with B12 in their bodies. Hmmmm...and there is a natural way to get it, it's called Nutritional Yeast, not 'bakers yeast' as I have seen in another post. Also there are other forms of B12. I take it in a spray solution and also eat 'Nooch' on a bunch of food. It takes a really long time to see the ill affects of B12 deficiency as we store it in our bodies for a long period of time, and it only takes a lil bit to last a long time.
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