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The diet that best prevents disease, best supports the body’s innate healing mechanisms, and best promotes sustained weight loss is a low-fat diet based on starches, with added vegetables and fruits, and with no animal products or free oils (like olive or corn oil).

— Dr McDougall

Dr McDougall (John A. McDougall) is a physician and nutrition expert with over 30 years of experience in treating disease with diet. He has written several books, including The Starch Solution, to make the all-important dietary information accessible to all. In addition, he runs the highly successful McDougall Program, in which weight loss is one of the main benefits.

dr mcdougall whole food plant based diet for weight loss

The Story of Dr McDougall

In the introduction of The Starch Solution, Dr McDougall talks about his diet when he was a child. Basically, his diet consisted of eating an animal-based diet. Bacon, eggs, beef, pork, chicken, butter, and milk were all a prominent part of his diet.

He had frequent stomachaches, constipation, colds, and flus. He was also overweight. At age 18, Dr McDougall suffered from a stroke.

At the time, he didn’t realize the impact that diet can have on health. No wonder, because no one was telling him that there was such a thing as a diet that is bad for health.

After not receiving satisfactory answers as to why he had suffered a stroke, Dr McDougall walked out of the hospital (against medical advice). He pursued a career in medicine with great passion, determination, and a fierce sense of direction.

During his studies, Dr McDougall went for an internship to Queen’s Medical Centre in Honolulu. There he was (initially) left frustrated at not being able to help patients who were suffering from chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. However, he did make a different observation, which caused a breakthrough in his understanding of disease.

Dr McDougall noticed a significant pattern when he observed the immigrant people living on the sugar plantations in Honolulu. The older people were healthy, slim, and active. They were free from diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.

Their children were not as healthy and were a little heavier, but the youngest generation did have a lot of health problems. How was that possible?

Carefully studying the lives of these families, including lifestyle, work environment, and behavior, Dr McDougall noticed that the elderly immigrants (from China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines) had remained faithful to the diet they had been brought up with, whereas the younger generations had adopted the Western diet.

The older people were eating a diet based on rice and vegetables. In contrast, the younger generations were eating a diet based on meat, dairy, and processed foods.

Over and over, Dr McDougall saw the same pattern repeating: Those people centering their diets around meat and dairy got sicker. In contrast, those people focusing their diets on grains, fruits, and vegetables, remained healthy.

He found the insight he was searching for: In all likelihood, the stroke he had suffered from at an unusually young age was due to the animal-based diet.

Continued research and observation led Dr McDougall to a key insight. There was a worldwide health phenomenon going on. Diet, indeed, was the missing ingredient in human health. He also found that others had made the same discovery: “potatoes, corn, and whole grains led to robust health, while meat and dairy led to persistent, life-threatening diseases.”

Dr McDougall went through stacks of medical journals in which the link between diet and disease was made. He found out that the right diet can not only prevent disease from occurring. Diseases can also be reversed when people stop eating meat, dairy, oil, and refined foods.

The studies were consistent and showed that obesity, chest pain, headaches, arthritis, kidney disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, intestinal distress, asthma, and other diseases could be reversed by healthy eating.

These simple insights put Dr McDougall onto a different course for treating his patients. Over time, Dr McDougall, along with his wife Mary, successfully set up the McDougall Program, which is centered around a starch-based diet.

First, in St. Helena’s Hospital in California. In 2002, after realizing that a hospital may not be the best location for a program focused on diet, Dr McDougall decided to conduct 10-day McDougall programs in California.

This program has had great success. His dietary recommendation allows patients to go off their medications, avoid risky surgeries and regain their health and strength. Thousands of people have achieved significant weight loss, lowering cholesterol levels, and disease prevention and reversal by adopting a starch-based diet.

The Starch Solution and the website drmcdougall.com contain information, recipes, patients’ stories of recovery, and more inspiration. Dr McDougall is also the author of several other books, including The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight loss, The Healthiest Diet on the Planet, and The McDougall Quick & Easy Cookbook. The section on dietary recommendations discusses a starch-based diet is and how it is slightly different (in emphasis) from a whole food plant-based. In our view, they are not contradictory.

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