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Good points, but..............
on May 28, 2012
Drawing upon more that 40 years of experience, John McDougall MD has penned a book describing this journey. McDougall has an interesting biography and life history that is germane to his work. He was a distinctly unhealthy young man, overweight and ill ( having suffered a stroke at the age of 19). After completing his medical training at Michigan State University, he ventured out to Hawaii, where he worked as a plantation doctor. There he took care of 5,000 folks of Asian descent; and he observed that the older Asians were lean, long-lived and strikingly free of the usual diseases of the West such as, Type 2 Diabetes, coronary artery disease, hypertension, and certain cancers (breast, colon, prostate and ovarian). Each succeeding generation was fatter and had a bigger bag of pills. He studied their diets and found that the older Asians ate mainly rice, vegetable and small amounts of animal protein. The younger Asians ate fast food and an animal based diet. He then researched the history of diet among various populations and found that long-lived, healthy and strong groups ate a mainly starch-based diet.
He then constructed the so called "McDougall Diet", a nutrition plan centered around rice, corn, potatoes and sweet potatoes; with the addition of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole wheat. For the last 30 years he has promoted this plan with books, lectures, newsletters and through his Medical Center in Santa Rosa, California.
Dr McDougall has helped many folks achieve health with his plan and others have not fared so well, but we'll never know about them because only "Star McDougallers" are placed on his website. Dr. McDougall seems to suffer from confirmation bias, he quotes studies that support his diet and neglects others that don't. He falls prey to individual anecdotes and appears to think that they are more powerful evidence than controlled trials. For example, he has done videos saying as much about rheumatoid arthritis, a subject that I very familiar with. He thinks that RA is caused by a bad diet and can be "cured" with the McDougall diet. He even did a study that showed a marginal short-term benefit in a group of patients who ate his diet in a controlled setting. Unfortunately, no study has ever shown that a vegan diet "cures" RA or prevents progression of erosive disease. RA is a complex illness that involves an interaction between genes and the environment. Risk factors include, cigarette smoking, periodontal disease, obesity etc. Similarly, he has indicated that his diet can treat MS, but the study through Univ. of Oregon showed no effect on disease activity in patients treated with his diet. Dr. McDougall is prone to interesting proclamations such as: "dairy is more toxic than cigarettes and alcohol" that serve to diminish his credibility. His answer to just about any malady including fibromyalgia is the McDougall Diet. If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
I have seen patients do well with a starch based diet and others get sick and not do well. His diet is not a panacea, 1 out of 100 people with celiac disease will get sick on a starch based diet that contains wheat. So as someone, who has been on a plant-based diet and has witnessed many others on the same, I can attest that one size does not fit all. The health of any organization is evidenced by it's embracing of dissenting viewpoints. Dr. McDougall seems very intolerant of any contrary viewpoint.