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McDougall vs. Fuhrman: Notes for you from the great plant-based doctors debate

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Drs. John McDougall, Joel Fuhrman with John Mackey from Whole Foods Market at the Advanced Nutrition Study Weekend debate

The long awaited plant-based diet doctors debate has come and gone.  I took pages of notes during the event so that I could report directly back in to you.

Dr. McDougall arrived for the event dapper and distinguished in suit and tie, while Dr. Fuhrman looked ready to wrestle in a sporty green -shirt with “Kale is the new Beef” blazoned across the front.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, with Lani Muelrath. Mackey moderated the debate

Moderated by John Mackey, Whole Foods Market CEO, the upshot of this conversation was how many similarities there are in the approaches of these two food-is-your-best-medicine physicians. Avoid processed foods and maximize whole foods. Eliminate dangerous meat, dairy, and oils.  You came away with an enriched whole-foods plant-based diet education by sitting in.

So if these guys are 98% on the same page, what about the other 2%?  That’s why I took notes for you.  Reporting in to you with a mix of quotes and paraphrases.

The Dr. John McDougall – Dr. Joel Fuhrman Debate
moderated by John Mackey McDougall Advanced Study Weekend, February 2012

Mackey:  Do you agree that starches form the calorie base of a healthy diet?

Fuhrman & McDougall:  “Yes.”

Mackey:  How are refined grains as compared to unprocessed?

Fuhrman:  With beans ruling as your primary starchy carbohydrate base, select also peas and corn.  Steel cut oats and black rice are also good choices.  Whole grains should be intact.  Consider the glycemic load.  Keep white potatoes to a minimum, sweet potatoes are better.  The white rice diet of Koreans has created a population high in diabetes.

McDougall:  “I want to to win the war rather than every battle”.  Traditionally, peasants ate brown rice.  Yet many healthy starch-based populations have traditionally used white rice.  If you must, go ahead and eat your white rice.  Give up the grease, meat, and dairy, and eat the white rice.  Clearly brown rice is the better choice between white and brown, but “I’d rather you ate white rice than meat and dairy.”  White rice does NOT cause diabetes.  Dr. Kempner’s rice diet which reversed diabetes was white rice and sugar.

Mackey:  What is your opinion on beans vs. grains for starch?

McDougall:  As beans are around 30% protein and too much protein can present  a stress to the kidneys.  Limit them to  1 cup a day to be on the safe side.

Fuhrman:  Eat freely of beans, limit the grains.

At this point there was a short debate over the % of calories coming from protein in beans. McDougall had them at around 30%, Fuhrman placed them much lower.  

Mackey:  Are potatoes good or bad for us?

Fuhrman:  It depends on the person.  I you are overweight or diabatic, limit them.  If not very active, limit.  35 studies show high glycemic load on sedentary overweight individuals promotes diabetes in some poeple.

McDougall:  Glycemic index leads you in a false direction.  Potatoes have a glycemic index of 100+.  Snickers bars, are 68 on the glycemic index.  Potato-based populations do not have diabetes or obesity.

Mackey:  Nuts and seeds:  How much is healthy?  How much is too much?

Fuhrman:  Overweight women should have no more than 1 oz. a day, overweight  men no more than 2 oz. a day.  Eat them with green vegetables at dinner to facilitate absorption.  If you are slim, you can have more.

McDougall:  In July, 2003 I wrote an article titled “What do I do if I lose too much weight?”  Nuts can help you gain.  Nuts are delicacies.

Mackey:  Do we need to eat some amount of animal foods in order to be healthy?

McDougall:  Any amount is dangerous because the behaviors are too difficult to change.  Keep the boundaries clear, because it’s too difficult to do things moderately.  Boundaries are important.  We can’t say if a little clean animal food will make you healthier or not.  But other issues as well as taste addictions are involved. It’s a behavioral issue:  you either have it or not.

Fuhrman:  In our society we have been indoctrinated to block out “vegan” – it’s more useful to engage people in the program without a strict “cut it out”.  1 – 2 servings a week, not more than 6 oz. a week.

Mackey:  What about salt?

Fuhrman:  In Korea, they consume 2x the salt as we do.  Hemoragic stroke is higher in societies with hi carb and salt.  Limit salt.

McDougall:  The is no evidence that limiting salt helps.  Salt is the scapegoat.  80% of the salt in the U.S. diet comes via cheese, salami, and lunch meats.  You are designed as a seeker of minerals/salt.  Sprinkle a little on top of food.   (Dr. McDougall then proceeded to quote from 2 studies to back this up). Put your biggest offense into the foods that matter:  oil, animal food, and highly processed food.

 Mackey:  Do we need  supplements?

McDougall: Vitamin D we get from sunshine.  You may increase risk of fracture by taking large doses of Vitamin D, which also raises LDL cholesterol.  Essential fats you get in your foods.  Using oils is a drug, it’s at best a medicine and at worst a toxin.  If you don’t get enough sunlight, get a sun lamp.

Fuhrman:  Both a deficiency and too much can cause problems.  Taking D3 will bring your levels up.  It’s only a theory that sunshine is better than a D3 supplements.  If you rinse the natural oils off your skin after sunbathing, you rinse off the vitamin D benefit.

Mackey:  What is the evidence that eating more nutrients than the government baseline says ideal is better?

Fuhrman:  The government tests on what the “average person is doing”.   We need to think whole foods, plant-based, nutrient dense.

Mackey:  Why limit fruit to 2 – 3 a day?

McDougall:  Most Americans love fruit.  They are a simple sugar and it can easily become a fruit-based diet.  Limiting to 2- 3 fruits/day keep people from overeating fruit and simple sugar.

What is the optimal diet?

McDougall:  Sweet potatoes plus green and yellow vegetables

Fuhrman:  Vegan diet supplemented with DHA, b12, and iodine

Mackey conclusions and observations on points of agreement: 

McDougall, American’s are poisoning themselves.  The most important thing is to stop eating the rich food and putting poisons in the system.  Fuhrman:  It’s not enough just to eliminate the bad but we need to beef up all the micronutrients.  It is a more complex system.

Points of agreement:

  • Get the poisons out of the diet
  • Eat whole foods
  • Eat healthy starches
  • Eat a plant-based diet
  • You are not going to solve the problems of excess by looking for deficiencies and supplementing.

My personal reflections?  The similarities between these 2 doctors and their dietary approaches are far greater than their differences.  The few points of contention were addressed in this friendly conversation.  That doesn’t mean it wasn’t without its hot spots!  More to share – including a couple of shocking moments -  but I’ll save that for the upcoming Teleclass for the Success Club and FitDream Inner Circle scheduled for Wednesday, February 29.  Lot more to share from the Advanced Study Weekend including more presentations by Drs. McDougall and Fuhrman,  Kathy Freston, Melanie Joy, Doug Lisle, and more.  You don’t want to miss this call!

Thanks so much for coming by. Please join me now  facebook.

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