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John A. McDougall

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John A. McDougall
Portrait photograph of McDougall in 2013
In 2013
Born (1947-05-17) May 17, 1947 (age 74)
EducationMichigan State University College of Human Medicine (M.D.)
  • Physician
  • author
Known forAdvocacy of a low-fat, whole-food vegan diet as preventing degenerative diseases
Notable work
  • The McDougall Plan (1983)
  • The Starch Solution (2011)

John A. McDougall (born May 17, 1947) is an American physician and author who is the co-founder, chairman, and sole board member of San Francisco–based Dr. McDougall's Right Foods Inc. He has written a number of diet books advocating the consumption of low-fat, starchy food. His diet—The McDougall Plan—has been described as a fad diet that carries some possible disadvantages, such as flatulence, limited food choice and poor mineral absorption from excessive fiber intake.[1]

Early years education and career

McDougall is a graduate of Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine.[2] He performed his internship at Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1972 and his medical residency at the University of Hawaii.[2] McDougall contributed to the Vegetarian Times magazine and has appeared on television talk shows.[3]

McDougall is on the advisory board of Naked Food Magazine, for which he is also a regular contributor of articles espousing a plant-based diet.[4][non-primary source needed]

Diet programs and products

In 2002, McDougall began the McDougall Program at the Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa, California. The McDougall Program, based in Santa Rosa, is a 10-day residential treatment program which features a low-fat, starch-based diet.[2][5]

McDougall is the co-founder, chairman, and sole board member of San Francisco based Dr. McDougall's Right Foods Inc., which produces dried and packaged soups, manufactured for it by the SF Spice Co.[2][6][7] He is also a member of the advisory board of the animal-activist group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)[8][9] In 2016, McDougall was one of four named plaintiffs in a lawsuit by the PCRM alleging improper industry influence on establishing cholesterol recommendations.[10][11]

McDougall opposes conventional cancer treatment.[3] He has promoted his diet as an alternative treatment for a number of chronic disorders, including arthritis, atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis.[12] 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]


There is no scientific evidence that McDougall's diet is effective.[1][3][13][14][15] His diet has never been independently tested in a controlled study.[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 extreme and not supported by evidence.[3][13]

McDougall's diet plan has been described as a fad diet by medical experts with possible disadvantages, such as flatulence, limited food choice and poor mineral absorption from excessive fiber intake.[1] 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".[15]

Nutritionist Kurt Butler has criticized McDougall for making extremist diet recommendations.[3] He noted that McDougall does back up his claims with studies from medical journals but his interpretations are often at odds with the authors of the studies he cites.[3] Butler commented that "McDougall's followers risk deficiencies in protein, phosphorus, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B₁₂ and perhaps other nutrients. Children on the diet are especially at risk for calorie deficiency, which can have disastrous consequences."[3] McDougall's suggestions that dairy products cause leukemia and multiple sclerosis is not supported by scientific evidence.[3]

Reviewing The McDougall Program: 12 Days to Dynamic Health, Harriet Hall commented that the book is filled with anecdotes, questionable statements and 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 has written several books, with his wife Mary contributing recipes, that sold more than 1.5 million copies as of 2008.[5][16]

  • McDougall, John; McDougall, Mary (June 4, 2013). The Starch Solution. Book Pub Co. ISBN 9781570671845. OL 16361276W.
  • McDougall, John (2006). Dr. McDougall's Digestive Tune-Up. New Century Publishers. ISBN 9780832904073. OL 1939852W.
  • McDougall, John (August 1, 1991). The McDougall Program: 12 Days to Dynamic Health. Penguin. ISBN 9781101645116. OL 1939857W.
  • McDougall, John; McDougall, Mary (April 1, 1995). The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss. Penguin. ISBN 9781101645123.
  • McDougall, John; McDougall, Mary (January 1, 1997). The New McDougall Cookbook. Plume. ISBN 9780452274655. OL 1939856W.
  • McDougall, John; McDougall, Mary (April 1999). The McDougall Quick & Easy Cookbook. Penguin. ISBN 9781101119174. OL 1939855W.


  1. ^ a b c Byrd-Bredbenner, Carol; Moe, Gaile; Beshgetoor, Donna; Berning, Jacqueline. (2012). Wardlaw's Perspectives in Nutrition, Ninth Edition. McGraw-Hill. pp. 338-339. ISBN 978-0-07-352272-2
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h 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
  4. ^ "Our Advisory Board". Naked Food Magazine. Retrieved September 13, 2016.[self-published source?]
  5. ^ a b Asbell, Robin. "Practicing What He Preaches". Better Homes and Gardens. Archived from the original on June 17, 2008.
  6. ^ "Executive profile John A. McDougall". Bloomberg. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  7. ^ Anderson, Mark (December 10, 2014). "Bay Area food company to move operations to Woodland". Sacramento Business Journal. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  8. ^ "Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine". Actifist Facts. Center for Organizational Research and Education.
  9. ^ Aslam, Sunny (November 28, 2001). "Vegetarian diet on solid ground, experts say". USA Today.
  10. ^ Tayna, Lewis. "A lawsuit claims government guidelines on cholesterol were tainted by the egg industry". Business Insider. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  11. ^ "The Physicians Committee sues USDA and DHHS, exposing industry corruption in dietary guidelines decision on cholesterol". Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. January 6, 2016. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  12. ^ a b c Lubkin, Ilene Morof. (1998). Chronic Illness: Impact and Interventions. Jones and Bartlett. p. 415
  13. ^ a b c d e f Hall, Harriet. (2020). "The McDougall Diet". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  14. ^ Singh, Simon; Ernst, Edzard. (2008). Trick Or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine. W. W. Norton. p. 295. ISBN 978-0-393-06661-6
  15. ^ a b 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.
  16. ^ Peterson, Diane (May 31, 2012). "John McDougall a true believer". The Press Democrat.

Further reading

External links