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Dr. McDougall a.k.a Dr. Potato Head

by Fred Hahn on December 10, 2012

The purveyor of the potato/starch diet, John McDougall M.D., strikes again with more starchy gobbledy-gook nonsense about low carb/paleo diets.

There is so much to dissect and render inert in his article that it may take me three parts to accomplish the task. Perhaps I can lick it in two. But whether it takes two or twenty parts, lick it I will. I sure ain’t no Denise Minger, but I just can’t let this guy get away with such nonsense. His misinformation must not go un-blogged. (BTW, after you read this blog, DO go back and read Denise’s wonderful dissection of the China Study. Have coffee in hand.)

OK, now, I know the doctor means well. I know he wants the best for his patients. I know that deep down inside he truly feels he’s Dr. PotatoMan to the rescue. The question is, is he willing to concede and admit that the majority of the information in the article in question is in error? Can a man like Dr. McDougall take it on the chin and reverse his position stand on paleo/low carb nutrition?

I hate to say it but I seriously doubt it. He’s got too much invested in it already to say “I’ve been wrong.” And as we all know this is typical of many doctors and experts in the nutritional field like Dean Ornish, Caldwell Esselstyn, T. Colin Campbell, Joel Fuhrman, etc. who spew forth more nutritional misinformation than the wind passed at a bean festival.

But we can hope, right?

I know that a lot of people reading this will think “But Fred – who cares about Dr. McWho? He’s not even on the radar screen of most people.” But it seems to me that when you let these unknowns go unassailed, they wind up on Dr. Oz and the world follows their every syllable. Given what Dr. McDougall is uttering, that can’t be allowed to happen!

Alrighty then, let’s get to it. Dr. McDougall states the following:

Low-carbohydrate (low-carb) diets are fueling the destruction of human health and our planet Earth. “Low-carbohydrate” means a diet high in animal foods and low in plant foods. Only plants synthesize carbohydrates (sugars). The body parts of animals, including red meat, poultry, seafood, and fish, and eggs, contain no carbohydrates. Animal secretions (like mammalian milk) contain sugars synthesized by plants (the cow eats the grass that made the sugar). The original Atkins Diet is the ultimate in low-carb eating. This diet works by starving the human body of carbohydrates in order to induce a state of illness (ketosis), which can result in weight loss. People become too sick to eat too much.

Wowee. Where does one begin? And this is just the very first paragraph!

OK sportsfans, how exactly does tossing the bun off your burger or saying “No thanks” to the bread basket at your favorite restaurant equate to fueling the destruction of human health?

But of course his point is that attempting to feed every single human being on earth enough daily grams of quality animal protein per day would have us seeing cows and chickens roaming the highways and bi-ways of the earth and sleeping next to you in your bed. Of course this is nonsense. Truth is, there’s plenty of seafood in the sea (as long as we stop polluting it) as well as larva and insects for us all. A lobster is nothing but a giant sea bug right? Even the bible says (Leviticus 11:22) it’s OK to eat all kinds of bugs:

These of them you may eat: the locust in its kinds, and the devastating locust in its kinds, and the cricket in its kinds, and the grasshopper in its kinds.

Ya hear that?! And luckily, no where in the Bible does it forbid us to fry them in coconut oil and/or drizzle them with dark chocolate! And there’s plenty of these little suckers to go around – trillions of them in fact – especially come plague time.

The largest known swarm covered 513,000 km², comprising approximately 12.5 trillion insects and weighing 27.5 million tons.

And that’s just the locusts. We can eat all the crickets and beetles too.

Like idiots, we try to wipe these little high quality protein morsels out of existence in order to save crops of soy and corn – the very foods that are arguably a strong contributor to what makes us fat and diabetic. I think we have our heads screwed on backwards.

I say, let the little fiends feast on the fields. Let them land on the crops and allow them to sink their little mandibles in for a minute or two. Let them think they’re in like Flynn. Then, when they’re not looking, BAM! We gather them up and feed the world! We’d have to develop some kind of giant whale-like, baleen aircraft to scoop them all up at swarm time. Then we put all 70 trillion of them into a huge machine that mashes them all up and makes locust loaves and cricket cakes out of them.

Why, I daresay I think I just cured world hunger.

OK sure – it might seem gross to eat such things, but soy burgers and tempeh cakes are pretty gross too. Blah. Give me a katydid crisp drizzled with milk chocolate any day. And for those of you who believe that the bible is the one, true word of God, seems to me eating animal matter is pretty OK:

These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. Every animal that parts the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. Of all that are in the waters you may eat these: whatever has fins and scales you may eat. You may eat all clean birds.

And this is just for the Jews. Non-Jews can eat a host of other things like animals that died naturally, pigs, camels and other animals that do not cheweth the cud. So if meat was so bad for us, why would God himself screw it up?

I’m jumping around the article like a grasshopper here, but McDougall states at the end of his article:

Dr. Cordain finishes his 2011 revision of his national best-selling book The Paleo Diet by warning, “Without them (starches, like wheat, rice, corn, and potatoes), the world could probably support one-tenth or less of our present population…” (p 215) Choose 10 close friends and family members. Which nine should die so that the Paleo people can have their uncivilized way?

Uncivilized? Pshaw. Here Dr. McDougall misses the point entirely. Even if it were true that the world could not survive eating mostly animals, its overpopulation that is the problem, not an animal-based diet. Personally, I am not going to eat like a gorilla and destroy my meat-oriented digestive system and watch my muscles wither away because there are currently too many people on the planet. No thank you very much.

Take a look at this paper. It’s mostly biased drivel, but go to page 490 or the third page. Look at the difference between the human small and large intestine and the other apes. Big difference wouldn’t you say?

But Dr. McDougall thinks we should be eating like them:

I know of no large populations of primates who have been strict vegans (ate no animal foods at all). However, plants have, with very few exceptions, provided the bulk of the calories for almost all primates.

And that exception is US. Humans. Homo Sapien Sapien.

Second, a low carb diet is not, as Dr. McDougall states, low in plant food. It’s low in grain “food” tis true. But this statement shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what a paleo/low carb diet is. Not even the Atkins Diet save for the first two weeks of the induction phase limits non-starchy plant foods.

McDougall says: “only plants synthesize carbohydrates (sugars).” Hmm. This statement confused me so much it made me look up the word synthesize to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind. Synthesize means to “produce.” OK. So, what’s the point of this statement I wonder? Why does it matter? Anyone want to take a stab at it?

Dr. McDougall states the obvious when he says that the body parts of animals don’t contain carbohydrates.) Well, they do a little.) But again, so what? He seems to think that carbohydrates are necessary in the human diet when they are not. The are, in fact, the only nonessential macronutrient for humans.

He says that the Atkins diet is the ultimate low carb diet. I don’t think so. I think the traditional Inuit got Atkins beat by a mile. Nary a leaf or a fruit is found in their world.

And now for the kicker:

“This diet (referring to Atkins) works by starving the human body of carbohydrates in order to induce a state of illness (ketosis), which can result in weight loss. People become too sick to eat too much.”

Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Moses.

He means ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis and ketosis are not the same thing. Says Dr. Peter Attia:

Ketoacidosis (DKA) is a pathologic (i.e., harmful) state that results from the complete or near absence of insulin. This occurs in the setting of type 1 diabetes or very end-stage type 2 diabetes, and often as the result of a physiologic insult (e.g., an infection) where the patient is not receiving sufficient insulin to bring glucose into their cells. A person with a normal pancreas, regardless of how long they fast (including the fellow I reference above who fasted for 382 days!) or how much they restrict carbohydrates, can not enter DKA because even a trace amount of insulin will keep B-OHB levels below about 7 or 8 mM, well below the threshold to develop the pathologic acid-base abnormalities associated with DKA. Let me reiterate, it is physiologically impossible to induce DKA in anyone that does not have T1D or very, very, very late-stage T2D with pancreatic “burnout.”

And in case you’re wondering, this is not a question of which doctor is right. It’s a question of fact. And McDougall has got his facts wrong. I love getting the chance to insert this quote:

TWAIN-AINTSO1

Here’s what’s actually so. Dr. Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D., has done countless amounts of research focused on physiological adaptations to low carbohydrate diets with emphasis on outcomes related to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Here is what he says:

When you reduce your carbohydrate intake significantly – typically to less than 50 to 75 grams per day -you enter a metabolic state known as ketosis. Ketosis is a term used to describe the NORMAL process of using ketones for energy. Ketones aren’t bad. They’re actually a fat breakdown product. That is, whenever fat is burned, ketones are created. So they’re always present in the body.

On a high carb diet, your body uses glucose, the simplest form of carbohydrates, as its primary fuel. But when glucose isn’t readily available to your body for energy your body begins burning fat at an accelerated rate, producing more ketones. These ketones are really just storage units, holding the excess energy that’s produced from the rapid breakdown of fat so that it can be used later as fuel. As ketone levels rise, your body’s reliance on glucose decreases.

In the simplest terms, ketosis is just a shift from using carbohydrates (glucose) as the body’s main energy source, to using fat (ketones). It’s NOT a dangerous condition; it’s simply your body adjusting to your diet so that it’s using the most efficient form of fuel.

Unfortunately many health professionals believe ketosis to be a dangerous metabolic condition. Why? Because over a hundred years ago, physicians discovered an overabundance of ketones in the urine of diabetics who were unable to control their disease. Naturally, the association of high levels of ketones with poorly controlled diabetes led to negative views of ketones. The high level of ketones in diabetics was given the name diabetic hyperketoacidosis (now known simply as diabetic ketoacidosis).

Diabetic ketoacidosis, which represents extremely high levels of ketones, is a life-threatening state that can occur in type-1 diabetics who aren’t treating their condition appropriately. While diabetic ketoacidosis is serious, the mere presence of ketones is not. The point here is that sometimes a lot of something causes problems, but a little can be advantageous. Sort of like your heart beating 300 times a minute might be bad, but your heart beating 60 times a minute is ideal – and certainly better than not at all. Now consider: the ketone levels in people with diabetic ketoacidosis are 8 times higher than those following a low carb diet.

Interestingly, ketones have many benefits. In fact, they may be the perfect fuel for dieters. Since ketones spare the use of carbohydrates for energy, they prevent the protein from your muscles from being broken down and converted to glucose. And that ensures that the calories you’re burning are far more likely to be fat, compared to typical diets where muscle loss almost always accompanies fat loss. Ketones also suppress your appetite. Research shows that increased levels of a compound called betahydroxybutyrate – the primary ketone in the blood -act as a satiety signal , meaning that it tells your brain that you’re full.

Of course, the other knock on ketosis is that even if it burns fat faster, it deprives your brain of glucose, reducing your mental capacity. However, your brain only requires a small amount of glucose, which can be met through gluconeo-genesis, the process of converting protein to glucose. Although not high in protein, by it’s nature a low-carb diet provides ample incoming protein. So there’s plenty available for the small amount of glucose that your brain needs, without having to breakdown muscle. In addition, encouraging new research from National Institutes of Health scientist Richard Veech MD, PhD, has found that ketones may help both your brain and heart run 25 percent more efficiently.

So as you can see, Dr. McDougall is sorely mistaken. Nutritional ketosis is not only not harmful, but a natural and beneficial state to be in. This is not a matter of one mans opinion vs. anothers. This is a matter of fact vs. fiction.

In part II we’ll tackle the other nonsense remarks about low carb/paleo diets that Dr. McDougall makes. Stay tuned and stay ketotic!

I've been involved in exercise ever since I became a member of The Charles Atlas Club when I was 10 years old. In 1998, I founded and established Serious Strength on the Upper West Side of NYC. My clients include kids, seniors (and everyone in between), top CEOs, celebrities, bestselling authors, journalists and TV personalities.
my book. my Gym.

in Health/Fitness,Losing weight/diet,Nutrition,obesity,Science,weight loss/diet · 37 comments

{ 1 trackback }

The potato diet - one for NU, I'm sure
December 20, 2012 at 9:05 AM

{ 36 comments }

Brandon Schultz, D.C. December 10, 2012 at 6:41 PM

Great post. It amazes me how much emotional vitriol is published and simple errors perpetuated (ketosis vs. ketoacidosis) in the dietary guidance world.

Also, many authors forget how many great plant sources of FAT there are (olive, coconut, avocado, and macadamia among others) and that a higher FAT diet with a concurrently lower carbohydrate intake is the goal, not just unlimited gorging on animal meat.

Looking foward to upcoming posts.

In health,
Brandon

Fred Hahn December 10, 2012 at 10:55 PM

Indeed Brandon!

Richard David Feinman December 11, 2012 at 2:31 PM

Once again we see why doctors don’t study science. They don’t have to. They make up their own.

johnny December 11, 2012 at 3:56 PM

” Which nine should die so that the Paleo people can have their uncivilized way?” Here is my list: John McDougall M.D., Dean Ornish, Caldwell Esselstyn, T. Colin Campbell, Joel Fuhrman, Anthony Colpo, Durainrider, CarbInsane, Neal Barnard, M.D., Dr. Oz, etc.

Ash Simmonds December 11, 2012 at 9:32 PM

@Richard – As a GP doctor friend of mine (who *has* studied the science and is now ketogenic) said: “Doctors are experts in illness, not health. I would be surprised if, in my 6 years of undergraduate study, and 4 years of postgraduate study, there was 20 hours TOTAL concerning nutrition beyond statements like ‘eat less’ and walk more.”

Georgene Harkness December 15, 2012 at 8:40 AM

You know what? I don’t think McDougall is “mistaken” or “misinformed.” I think he knows very well what he is talking about, but he is counting on you and me to NOT know the difference, and to be scared off by his mischaracterization of facts.

That’s a huge difference (and of course, I can’t prove his intent) but hey, his brain (and judgement) is clouded by lack of good animal protein 🙂

And for a big part of the population, his mischaracterizations are working quite well. They look at the “Dr.” in front of his name, and believe anything he says, especially if it happens to align with their world view.

Chupo December 16, 2012 at 1:20 PM

I can sythesize carbohydrates. Am I a plant, Dr. McDougall?

Lori December 17, 2012 at 6:16 PM

I guess scientists had better stop trying to make ketone drinks to treat epilpsy and Alzheimer’s Disease. It’ll kill you!

Robert December 21, 2012 at 1:32 PM

YOUR COMMENTS REGARDING DR. MCDOUGALL AS DR. POTATO HEAD SEEM UNFOUNDED COMPARED YOUR UP AND DOWN WEIGHT GAIN ON YOUR LOW CARB DIET. BEFORE CRITICIZING DR. MCDOUGALL, NOTE THAT HE HAS ADVOCATED THE SAME DIET FOR MORE THAN 25 YEARS WITH STUPENDOUS RESULTS WITH LOSING WEIGHT AND SUPERIOR HEALTH. HOW ABOUT SOME SELF CRITICZM?

ROBERT

Parker December 22, 2012 at 8:26 AM

Fred,

In the spirit of fairness and civil debate — vs. pulling an Anthony Colpo… :o) — can I offer:

1. Dr. McDougall’s program (as has Dr. Fuhrman’s, etc.) has worked miracles for people with cancer, heart disease, auto-immune diseases and other illnesses. In the case of a close family member, he reversed his heart disease using Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s diet which is essentially the same as Dr. McDougall’s. We also had a family friend who halted her relapsing polychondritis with McDougall’s program.

2. I would absolutely love to see a peer-reviewed and acknowledged study showing validated reversal of heart disease and other illnesses using a diet advocated by Mark Sisson, Art Devany, Robb Wolf, etc. I know there has been at least one study–possibly others?–indicating the value of a “low carb” diet for males with high PSA levels and that it may do an excellent job in improving prostate health. But if low carb can reverse heart disease, why not do a few peer reviewed studies showing it works? For example, Dr. Ron Rosedale, MD, states his diet reverses heart disease. But, when asking if he has objective before/after peer acknowledged validation such as coronary angiograms of a study patient population (eg 25 people over six, 12 or 24 months)? No. Nor do any other “low carb” doctors. So, why not spend a few $$ to validate your claims like Esselstyn, Fuhrman, etc.?

3. And to his credit, Dr. K. Lance Gould — who was actually an early founder of (arterial) heart disease reversal — and was a mentor, if I recall, to Dr. Dean Ornish does validate the value of a semi “low carb” diet. In fact, Dr. Gould specifically states concerns regarding high carb/low protein diets for many patients with “heart” (vascular) disease or other illnesses. But, Gould has proactively validated his success with published peer reviewed studies which include PET scans and studies of patients who have adhered to his program for an extended period of time.

I’d also like to note very few commercial “Paleo” or low carb diets such as Atkins has much if any resemblance to a true diet that one would experience in the wild. Quick points:

– Dairy products as part of any paleo diet? No–dairy was never part of the human diet until the last 10,000 yrs (or less)…similar to “grains”. Try to get milk or cheese in the wild…not happening. And Robb Wolf cites a number of excellent reasons why we should avoid dairy much like soy or wheat.
– Eggs in the volumes advocated in most low carb diets are non-existant in the wild. Try to find eggs in the wild low in SFAs/Omega 6…won’t happen. Further, birds nest high in trees … if you’re seeking food, scaling a tree for eggs is going to be low on the list.
– Most meats in the wild are much leaner than those in our grocery stores and even the fatty portions of wild animals are higher in Omega 3, lower in SFAs.
– Vegetables and fruits in the wild are much, much lower in sugars, higher in fiber. For example, try to find edible berries in the wild. Nowhere near a sweet as their domesticated peers, they’re far smaller. (Which is why I don’t get the ‘fruitarian’ diet of sugar-laden, low fiber bananas…)
– As Fred notes, bugs–lots of them-and small creatures provide much of the fuel if you’re living off the land while seeking a bigger target like a deer or elk.
– Other “carb” sources such as ‘meat’ from trees such as pine or others also provided energy and nutrition is missing from commercial “paleo” diets. I don’t see us eating those foods. ;o)
– Intermittent fasting…going extended periods between feedings…is a normal cycle in the wild. To their credit, Devany writes extensively about this as does Sisson, etc., noting it is part of the human non-linear energy cycles.
– Even low carb advocate, Dr. Gregory Ellis, PhD, notes in his book Ultimate Diet Secrets the late Dr. Atkins’ program is wrong…you simply can’t eat unlimited amounts of any food and hope to lose weight, including protein.

In summary, to wrap this up: first, there is value to programs like Fuhrman and McDougall for many people. Are they right for everyone? Who knows and I’m not saying yes or no. Why worry about it? Second, most “Paleo” diets on the web and bookshelves aren’t…dairy, fatty meats simply don’t exist in the wild as claimed by many “paleo” authors (who I don’t think have seen much outside of their grocery stores when it comes to factual information). Yes, there are exceptions such as the Inuit but there are theories they are adapted to fattier diets in their region akin to Asians being adapted to “starchy” diets. (Side note on diets like Atkins: I saw Gary Taubes on Oz’ program advocating his program which includes lots of saturated fat sources last year and while Taubes tried to come across as having a more intellectual position, again, no objective validation. What does his angiogram look like? His PSA levels?)

Just my opinion, but, I think Devany and Rosedale along with Wolf and to some extent Sisson are closer to what a Paleo diet should be about. Animal protein (but not in unlimited amounts), limited amounts of low GI fruits, limited nuts and lots of vegetables (to include root veggies) along with “movement”. Our Paleo ancestors moved…walked and moved and climbed and hiked. Again, Devany, Sisson, Wolf nailed it as does the MovNat program, not Taubes, Atkins, etc.

Parker December 22, 2012 at 4:03 PM

Just wanted to mention this statement is completely wrong:

“Truth is, there’s plenty of seafood in the sea (as long as we stop polluting it) … ”

There are global studies showing that major fish populations around the world are at very low levels and continue to decline. Fishermen from the US, South America to Europe and Africa are all expressing concern about the decimated fish populations and the threat to their industry.

eg:

http://news.discovery.com/animals/freshwater-fish-population-decline.html
http://www.coml.org/discoveries/trends/predatory_fish_decline
http://www.bigmarinefish.com/swordfish.html
http://www.underwatertimes.com/news.php?article_id=86427910150

And on & on & on.

Further, with the drugs, hormones and trash fed factory farmed beef, chicken, pork and fish, and, the skyrocketing prices, more and more people may be forced to pursue more “starch” centered diets…not the white poison based of white bread or pasta…but diets akin to Europe and Asia. It is to the point we’ve cut way back on our consumption of beef and chicken–range fed and drug free whenever possible–because the costs are just getting out of hand.

chuck December 28, 2012 at 8:50 AM

Parker,
Taubes (and Atkins for that matter) is not a general health adviser or practitioner but is just trying to make on very good point about public health and about the behavior of a large part of the health community including government and corporations.

You shouldn’t compare his efforts at trying to turn around public policy with what a holistic practitioner or a Paleo lifestyle brings to the table.

Lori December 28, 2012 at 2:09 PM

Chuck, Dr. Atkins was a cardiologist.

Parker, Gary Taubes had his cholesterol and some other markers tested some months ago. The results are on his blog. And while the Atkins Diet may not be paleo, neither is a vegetarian diet.

craig December 28, 2012 at 2:26 PM

Wow. I haven’t seen Parker (Ter) around in a while.

chuck December 28, 2012 at 5:23 PM

Lori, Yes Atkins was a cardiologist but what he wrote while he was alive was narrowly focused compared to today’s understanding of the whole Paleo lifestyle.

He helped a lot of sick people but not everyone needs to lose weight

Lori December 29, 2012 at 8:50 PM

It depends on what you mean by “narrowly focused.” Atkins covered not only weight loss but binge eating, mental illness, heartburn, diabetes, hypoglycemia, alcoholism, cholesterol, various medications, and other things I’m probably forgetting about. And I’m only looking at his first book, Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution.

The paleo lifestyle is fine, but nearly all the benefits probably come from cutting out flour, sugar and dairy.

Laura January 7, 2013 at 6:18 PM

How fun to see a public promotion of entomophagy 🙂 Yes, I know it’s true. We should be eating bugs. Maybe I’ll start a club this summer. That’d be nice, huh? My good deed.

Ann February 26, 2013 at 5:26 PM

For those citing the ways in which Atkins is not a paleo diet, he never claimed it was and Fred has stated that Atkins is far from the lowest carb diet out there. Your visceral need to discredit Atkins at every turn has caused you to attack him out of context.

g m February 26, 2013 at 10:04 PM

this “counter” argument against dr. mcdougall is actually very try-hard, nit-picking to find fault. The only parts of this counter-argument that are seemingly with substantial relevance, are still try-hard attempts to slam mcdougall’s claims. In a sense, you’re splitting hairs.

Wherever you try to use scientific sense and fact to counter Mcdougall’s claims, you try hard to make him sound absurd by arguing apples with oranges. I came to this link to see if there really was a serious counter argument of substance. Instead I came upon a bunch of arguments that don’t even argue directly to the point or fact. This counter doesn’t even fit with the basic principles of argument and debate, which is why you’ve gone off the deep-end of arguing apples with oranges.

This was by far the WORST attempt at an intellectual argument, lacking complete substance and significance.

Fred Hahn March 7, 2013 at 1:00 PM

GM – virtually everything you said is beside the point of the blog. I am not pretending to be an Oxford level debater.

The point is that McDougall, a physician, doesn’t know the difference between ketosis and ketoacidosis. Scary indeed. And he offers no scientific evidence to support ANY of his assertions.

He just makes shit up.

Jim April 14, 2013 at 11:05 PM

you’re a fatass. please don’t preach about exercise and nutrition. thanks.

Reku June 3, 2013 at 10:33 AM

You have no medical/research background whatsoever, yet feel confident enough to blast whole food based diet proponents?! Try harder and sell your books to meat-loving lazy coach potatoes looking for a “miracle”, without giving on the tasty fats they cannot live without. Sheesh!

Fred Hahn June 3, 2013 at 10:38 AM

“You have no medical/research background whatsoever, yet feel confident enough to blast whole food based diet proponents?! ”

Reku – Your statement is ad hominem. I do not need to possess a medical degree to correctly criticize a doctor on his diet advice. If my information is correct, it’s correct. If it’s not, it’s not. Rather than attack me, state where my info is faulty.

“Try harder and sell your books to meat-loving lazy coach potatoes looking for a “miracle”, without giving on the tasty fats they cannot live without. Sheesh!”

****You sound as if you are somewhat unstable. Meat and fat are both healthful, providing vital EAA/EFAs and other critical micronutrients.

Winston Smith August 3, 2013 at 3:52 PM

McDougall’s assertions regarding starch-based diet and historical populations caught my attention on YouTube. Then I watched his ‘Diet Wars’ seminar. I don’t know too much about this subject. I only know that after cutting out wheat on the advice of Dr William Davis’ in the book ‘Wheat Belly’ I’ve lost fifty pounds. I was looking to take things on a bit, and for reliable information to help me do it. It was interesting when McDougall drew attention to evidence of vegetable consumption in pre-agricultural societies, but when he called Atkins ‘evil’ and the paleo diet ‘repulsive’ I got a faint whiff of vested interest at work, an impression confirmed when evidence of cannibalism in pre-agricultural societies prompted him to suggest it as the only logical outcome for paleo-followers wishing to be consistent.

Hysteria’s a poor substitute for argument. When he cut to a graphic showing livestock alongside figures for carbon dioxide emissions my BS meter lurched right towards the red zone. It cannot be denied that our diet – vegetable or meat based – is nutritionally debased and getting worse by the day. Scientists produce gorgeous-looking tomatoes without a shred of nutritional value. GM promises more of the same. Two things I’m sure of though are that ‘global warming’ is a scam and that globalized economics requires equality of impoverishment, especially in the west, making it sensible to have us subsist on a bowl of rice a day while pushing up the cost of livestock production to unaffordable levels and even wrecking entire industries on the say-so of EU bureaucrats like they are doing in my country [England].

It’s possible I have a suspicious nature of course. On the other hand think who funds the food industry. Think who funds ‘science’. Universities are gatekeepers, not pioneers, and anyone who trusts the word of a doctor [who have been known to accept payments like cash and golfing holidays in return for prescribing drugs] just because they have letters after their name behaves foolishly indeed. An unending tide of contradictory information makes people switch off in the end. Baffled by the absence of any proper explanation they just give up and carry on as before. Isn’t that precisely what our controllers want? Sorry to write at length.

Winston Smith August 3, 2013 at 3:58 PM

Oops. ‘Think who funds the food industry’ should read ‘think who the food industry funds’. Sorry.

Winston Smith August 3, 2013 at 4:03 PM

Forgot to mention the Stefansson diet from 1906 [?], where he lived for months on the eskimo diet of raw and cooked meat. Seemed like a useful answer to the starch diet McDougall favours. Just a thought.

meat&potatoes January 12, 2014 at 4:36 PM

Dr. McDougall’s diet made my pre-existing anxiety disorder and depression much worse. I started having more severe panic attacks more frequently followed by bouts of depression that left me seriously contemplating suicide. My hair started falling out and I became anemic. It did, however, resolve my IBS-D quite quickly.

I posted an honest, fair, and balanced testimonial on Dr. McDougall’s website stating that his starch-based no fat diet made my mental health issues worse and it was deleted without explanation. I wasn’t rude and I even said that I was jealous of all the people on his website who have had tremendous results on his starch-based diet. Well, my review was quickly deleted without so much as the courtesy of an explanation. I mean, not only have I spent money buying Dr. McDougall’s books but I also took the time to write a detailed, honest review.

Then I posted a “Why was my testimonial deleted” thread and that was promptly deleted as well, again without explanation. So all I can conclude is Dr. McDougall does not want honest reviews, he only wants positive reviews, which explains why there aren’t any negative reviews on his site.

Dr. McDougall’s diet seems to work well for very obese people who have physical chronic illnesses (although all the “Star McDougallers look old and flabby rather than youthful and in shape. Their “before” pictures look healthier and younger than their “after” even when the “before” is obese). But for mental health, it’s been my personal experience that Nora Gedgaudas and the doctor who wrote “Grain brain (his name escapes me) have it right. The brain absolutely needs fats.

After I switched to a low carb high fat diet consisting mostly of high quality grass fed meat, my panic attacks stopped completely, my depression lifted, my hair grew back, my iron levels rose to normal, and my moods became steady and even. No more crazy ups and downs.

Oh and another thing, I was eating massive – I mean MASSIVE amounts of food on Dr. McDougall’s diet and while I was stuffed to the point of feeling like I was about to explode, I was never full…. if that makes sense. But once I added a bit of meat and lots of fat to my diet, I’m full and satisfied with very little which also means I don’t spend half my day shovelling a ton of potatoes into my mouth and the other half of the day on the toilet pooping them out. Don’t even get me started on the massive “vegan” poos.

Fred Hahn January 12, 2014 at 4:41 PM

Glad you were saved from the dark side M&P! Dr. Ornish banned me from the Huffington Post for the same reasons. These people are shysters and liars. They could care less about the health of their patients. Sad indeed. Good for you for getting out of that lifestyle.

No on one McDougall’s diet does well. It’s all BS.

Susan June 6, 2014 at 10:59 PM

Hey Fred,
You’re an idiot! As long as there are people like you around, wonderful doctors like Dr. John McDougall, have got an uphill battle on their hands.
You meat eaters out there—-take a good look at the trauma and the suffering of factory-raised animals, (if you have the guts) and you will realize that every time one of you Paleo people falls down from a coronary, the animals are getting their revenge! Thank God!

Fred Hahn June 8, 2014 at 5:21 PM

“You’re an idiot! As long as there are people like you around, wonderful doctors like Dr. John McDougall, have got an uphill battle on their hands.”

****Yes they do because he is disseminating false information.

You meat eaters out there—-take a good look at the trauma and the suffering of factory-raised animals, (if you have the guts) and you will realize that every time one of you Paleo people falls down from a coronary, the animals are getting their revenge! Thank God!

****That’s a pretty sick thing to say.

David Christian June 26, 2014 at 2:28 AM

Susan, I would add, although I suppose I may be “feeding the trolls,” that low carb diets can be done without eating any meat if one chooses. It does cost a bit more but it is doable if you are this guilt-ridden. For a better understanding of what animal cruelty really is (and is not) please read Temple Grandin’s “Animals in translation.” You will find that things, both in and out of the animal kingdom, are not as you believe them to be.

Simon Templar July 25, 2014 at 12:15 AM

Mr. Hahn,

Have you any thoughts on why many of the Paleo/Low-Carb/WAPF* leaders are overweight? I won’t mention names, but you know of most/all of these folks.

Is it a matter of too many calories from the protein- and fat-rich foods that are very tasty, and, easy to overeat?

Or, perhaps that many of them are older and started-out being heavier (like me) as children?

My anecdotal, non-scientific, non-peer-reviewed observation is that it’s easier to start-out lean and maintain it and more difficult to become overweight as a child and remain overweight for decades and then try to lose the weight.

I recently heard in a podcast that a person in the latter scenario would need to remain at a reduced weight for about a decade, before some of the fat cells would start to die-off, resulting in fewer number of fat cells at the new, lower weight.

Finally, it should be obvious, but I’ll mention it anyway: vegans and vegetarians can certainly be overweight, too. After all, Fritos Corn Chips are vegan/vegetarian.

Thanks for your consideration.

Simon

___________________________________________
*Weston A. Price Foundation (for those that may be unaware)

Fred Hahn July 25, 2014 at 1:20 AM

Hi Simon – Thanks for posting.

Point by point:

“Have you any thoughts on why many of the Paleo/Low-Carb/WAPF* leaders are overweight? I won’t mention names, but you know of most/all of these folks.
Is it a matter of too many calories from the protein- and fat-rich foods that are very tasty, and, easy to overeat?”

****First let me say that have you noticed that many are not overweight? I’m sure you realize that many of these people are indeed overweight BUT are much leaner than when they began their fat loss efforts using a LCD. Many also falter and many have such severely damaged metabolisms from years of eating poorly that they may never be “lean-looking.”

“Or, perhaps that many of them are older and started-out being heavier (like me) as children?”

****Correct.

“My anecdotal, non-scientific, non-peer-reviewed observation is that it’s easier to start-out lean and maintain it and more difficult to become overweight as a child and remain overweight for decades and then try to lose the weight. I recently heard in a podcast that a person in the latter scenario would need to remain at a reduced weight for about a decade, before some of the fat cells would start to die-off, resulting in fewer number of fat cells at the new, lower weight.”

****Plausible.

“Finally, it should be obvious, but I’ll mention it anyway: vegans and vegetarians can certainly be overweight, too. After all, Fritos Corn Chips are vegan/vegetarian.”

****Indeed they can be.

Simon Templar July 25, 2014 at 10:32 AM

Hello, Mr. Hahn:

I appreciate the quick response. (You were up late!)

“…have you noticed that many are not overweight?”

**** Indeed, I have. You are definitely correct.

“…many of these people are indeed overweight BUT are much leaner than when they began their fat loss efforts using a LCD.”

**** Again, I agree with you. There are some, however, that started lean and have continued to get heavier. There are two obvious examples, but I conflated the matter by grouping everyone together. This was my mistake.

“Many also falter and many have such severely damaged metabolisms from years of eating poorly that they may never be ‘lean-looking.'”

**** That makes sense . I certainly fall into this group. Even at the point where I got as lean as I could get (first using Paleo, then Low-Carb), I was still about 10-15 pounds overfat.

By the way, I’m not here to argue with anyone or make personal attacks against the Paleo/Low-Carb/WAPF folks. They’re not bad people. But for some of them, their moving from lean to heavy makes me wonder if they are following their own dietary advice.

It also makes me wonder if I was getting lean BECAUSE of my diet or DESPITE my diet.

Many of the vegan/vegetarian leaders seem to be quite lean, but it’s difficult to gauge their level of muscle.

Anyhoo, thanks again for the conversation.

Best regards,

Simon

Wanda ILami August 20, 2014 at 5:50 PM

I would just like to say that I have been a vegan and following the dietary recommendations of Drs. McDougall, Esselstyn, Ornish, Campbell land others you are maligning here for several years. I have felt better, lowered my cholesterol and triglycerides, lost weight, maintained the weight loss easily, attained a better skin tone, have better digestion and elimination, and have been able to stop medication for clinical depression. For anyone who would really care to do their own research, the science proving the validity of the benefits of eating a high-fiber, plant-based, low-fat diet is readily available and proven. I have no ax to grind…only the facts as have happened to me. Prior to changing to this eating lifestyle I was in much poorer health and suffering from depression. I also feel so much better about myself knowing that I am not contributing to the suffering, torture, abuse and horrific conditions for animals that are perpetrated every minute of every day just to feed the meat-eating humans, nor to the environmental damages and ravages that result from the meat industry. I feel this article has been unfair to these doctors and researchers who have dedicated much of their lives to find ways to nutritionally improve and often reverse serious and devastating medical conditions.

Fred Hahn August 23, 2014 at 2:03 PM

Wanda you said:

“I would just like to say that I have been a vegan and following the dietary recommendations of Drs. McDougall, Esselstyn, Ornish, Campbell land others you are maligning here for several years. I have felt better, lowered my cholesterol and triglycerides, lost weight, maintained the weight loss easily, attained a better skin tone, have better digestion and elimination, and have been able to stop medication for clinical depression.”

***I am glad you’re feeling better and have become healthier. However, your vegan diet is not the reason you’ve become healthier. You’ve become healthier because you stopped eating the junk foods you were eating years ago. Had you adopted a paleo / low sugar diet instead, you’d be in even better shape than you are now. And low cholesterol is not a healthy thing per se. Women and men live longer, have less heart disease and strokes when their cholesterol levels are within the 220-260 range. That is scientific fact. Check it out. Look at the Framingham, MRFIT and Nurses studies.

“For anyone who would really care to do their own research, the science proving the validity of the benefits of eating a high-fiber, plant-based, low-fat diet is readily available and proven.”

****Again, the vegan proponents are wrong WRT meat and fat. Absolutely wrong. There is no science whatsoever that indicates that meat and fat – in and of themselves – are unhealthful.

“I have no ax to grind…only the facts as have happened to me. Prior to changing to this eating lifestyle I was in much poorer health and suffering from depression. I also feel so much better about myself knowing that I am not contributing to the suffering, torture, abuse and horrific conditions for animals that are perpetrated every minute of every day just to feed the meat-eating humans, nor to the environmental damages and ravages that result from the meat industry.”

****If you think you’re vegan lifestyle doesn’t harm living creatures or the environment, you owe it to yourself to read The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith a former staunch vegan.

“I feel this article has been unfair to these doctors and researchers who have dedicated much of their lives to find ways to nutritionally improve and often reverse serious and devastating medical conditions.”

****It is never unfair to question authority. These doctors provide false information to sustain their bank accounts and I will continue to speak out against them until they fess up and speak the truth. Plants are not more healthful than meat and fish. Meat and fat are NOT unhealthful. Veganism is not environmentally friendly. Not in the least. Humans have evolved to eat mostly animal matter and some plant matter.

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