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John A. McDougall

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John A. McDougall
Born (1947-05-17) May 17, 1947 (age 77)
EducationMichigan State University College of Human Medicine (M.D.)
  • Physician
  • author
Known forAdvocacy of the "McDougall Plan", a low-fat fad diet based on starchy foods and vegetables
Notable work
  • The McDougall Plan (1983)
  • The Starch Solution (2012)

John A. McDougall (born May 17, 1947) is an American physician and author. He has written a number of diet books advocating the consumption of a low-fat vegan diet based on starchy foods and vegetables.

His eponymous diet, called The McDougall Plan was a New York Times bestseller.[1] It has been categorized as a low-fat fad diet.[2] The diet rejects all animal products as well as cooking oils, processed food, alcoholic beverages and caffeinated drinks. As with any restrictive low-fat diet, it may lead to flatulence, possibly poor mineral absorption from excess fiber, and limited food choices that may lead to a feeling of deprivation.[2]


On his website, McDougall states that his interest in medicine started in 1965 (at age 18) after suffering a massive stroke which rendered half of his body paralyzed for two weeks. The principal motivation for his interest in medicine was lack of any explanation for his condition by medical professionals.[3]

McDougall is a graduate of Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine.[4] He performed his internship at Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1972 and his medical residency at the University of Hawaiʻi.[4] McDougall contributed to the Vegetarian Times magazine and has appeared on television talk shows.[5]

McDougall is also a member of the advisory board of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).[6][7] In 2016, he was one of four named plaintiffs in a lawsuit by the PCRM alleging improper influence by the egg industry on establishing cholesterol recommendations in the US.[8][9] The lawsuit was dismissed in 2016.[10]

Medical practice

Diet programs and products

In 2002, McDougall began the McDougall Program at the Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa, California. The program is a 10-day residential treatment program which features a low-fat, starch-based, vegan diet.[4][11]

The McDougall diet is a low-fat starch-based diet that is high in fiber and contains no cholesterol.[12][13] The diet is based on a variety of starches such as rice, potatoes, corn, breads, pasta, and fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.[12] For example, a meal might be made of a baked potato with steamed broccoli, or steamed brown rice with steamed vegetables, perhaps with a piece of fruit for dessert.[14]

McDougall is the co-founder of the now Woodland-based Dr. McDougall's Right Foods Inc., which produces dried and packaged soups, manufactured for it by the SF Spice Co.[4][15][16]

McDougall has promoted his diet as an alternative treatment for a number of chronic disorders, including arthritis, atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis.[12]


His book The McDougall Plan was on New York Times paperback "Advice, How-to, and Miscellaneous" bestseller list.[17] The plan is classified as a low-fat fad diet in Wardlaw's perspectives in nutrition.[2]

McDougall has been criticized for making unsubstantiated health claims.[5][13] Some of McDougall's dietary recommendations are in line with mainstream nutritional advice, such as an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, but others are considered extreme and are not supported by evidence.[5][13] McDougall's diet plan has been called a low-fat fad diet that may lead to boredom with limited food choices, and feelings of deprivation because of exclusion of favorite foods. The high fiber content can cause flatulence and possibly interfere with mineral absorption.[2]

The McDougall diet is very low-fat, high-carbohydrate and vegan.[18] Sodium intake is restricted and no animal products or added oils are permitted. A review noted that "iron, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, and omega-3 are potential nutritional deficiencies from following such a strict diet", but also noted that one study had reported "improvements in predictors for cardiovascular and metabolic disease" in people using the diet, and that "improvements in low density lipoproteins cholesterol (LDL-C), total cholesterol, insulin, BMI, and fatigue severity scale scores were observed" in people using the diet.[18]

In 1992, nutritionist Kurt Butler described McDougall's ideas as "vegetarian extremism" and McDougall as "Americas most influential vegan zealot" who has taken the low-fat vegetarian diet to extremes.[5] He also suggested that McDougall's diet may increase the risk of calcium and iron deficiency and is not safe for children.[5]

Reviewing McDougall's book The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss, nutritionist Fredrick J. Stare and epidemiologist Elizabeth Whelan criticized its restrictive regime and "poor advice", concluding that the diet's concepts were "extreme and out of keeping with nutritional reality". The authors state that failure to consume dairy products creates a risk for osteoporosis, and that if animal products cannot be replaced with peanut butter and soybean foods, vegans may not obtain enough protein.[19] Reviewing The McDougall Program: 12 Days to Dynamic Health, doctor Harriet Hall wrote that the book is filled with anecdotes and questionable statements, and that it makes many claims which are not supported by science.[13] Hall concluded that "Some of McDougall’s recommendations are in line with mainstream advice, but there is reason to fear that strict adherence to his whole Program might result in nutritional deficits that could do more harm than good."[13]

McDougall's diet was studied as a potential treatment for relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, but showed no changes in brain MRI outcomes, MS relapses or disability.[20]


McDougall has written several books, with his wife Mary contributing recipes, which had sold more than 1.5 million copies as of 2008.[11][21]


  • McDougall, John; McDougall, Mary (October 22, 1983). The McDougall Plan. New Win Publishing. ISBN 9780832903922. OL 8187699M.
  • McDougall, John (January 1, 1985). McDougall's Medicine: A Challenging Second Opinion. New Century Publishers. ISBN 9780832904073. OL 2540426M.
  • McDougall, John (August 1, 1991). The McDougall Program: 12 Days to Dynamic Health. Penguin. ISBN 9781101645116. OL 1939857W.
  • McDougall, John (April 1, 1995). The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss. Plume. ISBN 9781101645123. OL 22947920M.
  • McDougall, John; McDougall, Mary (January 1, 1997). The New McDougall Cookbook. Plume. ISBN 9780452274655. OL 21797539W.
  • McDougall, John (March 1, 1998). The McDougall Program for a Healthy Heart. Plume. ISBN 9780452272668. OL 7590602M.
  • McDougall, John (January 1, 1999). The McDougall Program for Women. Dutton. ISBN 9780525942092. OL 939860W.
  • McDougall, John; McDougall, Mary (April 1, 1999). The McDougall Quick and Easy Cookbook. Plume. ISBN 9781101119174. OL 1939855W.
  • McDougall, John (September 1, 2006). Dr. McDougall's Digestive Tune-Up. New Century Publishers. ISBN 9781570671845. OL 1939852W.
  • McDougall, John; McDougall, Mary (May 8, 2012). The Starch Solution. Rodale Books. ISBN 9781609613938. OL 25139164M.


  1. ^ "Paperback Best Sellers". The New York Times. May 26, 1985. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 19, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d Byrd-Bredbenner, Carol; Moe, Gaile; Beshgetoor, Donna; Berning, Jacqueline. (2013). Wardlaw's Perspectives in Nutrition, Ninth Edition. McGraw-Hill. pages 338-339, §10.7, Table 10-7. ISBN 978-0-07-352272-2
  3. ^ "Dr. McDougall Health & Medical Center".
  4. ^ a b c d Stone, Gene, ed. (June 28, 2011). Forks over knives: the plant-based way to health. Workman Publishing. pp. 52–3. ISBN 9781615191468.
  5. ^ a b c d e Butler, Kurt. (1992). A Consumer's Guide to "Alternative Medicine": A Close Look at Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Faith-healing, and Other Unconventional Treatments. Prometheus Books. pp. 24-27. ISBN 0-87975-733-7
  6. ^ "Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine". Activist Facts. Center for Organizational Research and Education. January 8, 2013.
  7. ^ Aslam, Sunny (November 28, 2001). "Vegetarian diet on solid ground, experts say". USA Today.
  8. ^ Tayna, Lewis. "A lawsuit claims government guidelines on cholesterol were tainted by the egg industry". Business Insider. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  9. ^ "The Physicians Committee sues USDA and DHHS, exposing industry corruption in dietary guidelines decision on cholesterol" (Press release). Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. January 6, 2016.
  10. ^ "Federal Court Dismisses Physicians Committee Lawsuit Over Industry Influence on Food Policy" (Press release). Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. October 14, 2016. Retrieved February 19, 2022.
  11. ^ a b Asbell, Robin. "Practicing What He Preaches". Better Homes and Gardens. Archived from the original on June 17, 2008.
  12. ^ a b c Lubkin, Ilene Morof. (1998). Chronic Illness: Impact and Interventions. Jones and Bartlett. page 415
  13. ^ a b c d e Hall, Harriet. (2020). "The McDougall Diet". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  14. ^ "Mary's Mini-McDougall Diet®". Dr. McDougall. Retrieved February 19, 2022. Simple Eating-out Suggestions: A baked potato or sweet potato with steamed vegetables like broccoli (steakhouse)...Steamed rice and vegetables (Chinese)
  15. ^ "Executive profile John A. McDougall". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on November 29, 2016. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  16. ^ Anderson, Mark (December 10, 2014). "Bay Area food company to move operations to Woodland". Sacramento Business Journal. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  17. ^ "PAPERBACK BEST SELLERS". The New York Times. May 26, 1985. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 19, 2022.
  18. ^ a b Langley MR, Triplet EM, Scarisbrick IA (July 2020). "Dietary influence on central nervous system myelin production, injury, and regeneration". Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis. 1866 (7): 165779. doi:10.1016/j.bbadis.2020.165779. PMID 32224154.
  19. ^ Stare, Fredrick J.; Whelan, Elizabeth (1998). "Book review:The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss by John A. McDougall M.D.". Fad-Free Nutrition. Hunter House. pp. 202–203. ISBN 9780897932363.
  20. ^ Katz Sand I (September 2018). "The Role of Diet in Multiple Sclerosis: Mechanistic Connections and Current Evidence". Curr Nutr Rep. 7 (3): 150–160. doi:10.1007/s13668-018-0236-z. PMC 6132382. PMID 30117071.
  21. ^ Peterson, Diane (May 31, 2012). "John McDougall a true believer". The Press Democrat.

Further reading

External links