View Full Version : McDougall Diet/philosophy
12-18-2004, 10:18 PM
I've been reading some books by John McDougall, MD. I really like what he has to say about the role diet has to play in chronic diseases. In fact, much of what he says makes sense to me, BUT... he advocates a super-low-fat vegan diet. No added oils (that includes canola, olive, flax) and he avoids high-fat foods like avacados. This flies in the face of the "healthy fats" theory. Any knowledgeable people care to weigh in on this one?! I know I'm confused!!
12-19-2004, 10:56 AM
I'm sure Christa can shed some light on this topic.
Personally, I would never eat a diet like this unless my health required it. I have enough restrictions with being vegan and my food allergies, I don't need to eat food I don't like on top of it. And my body really needs and craves the good oils. Without borage oil, my eczema really flares, and I feel healthier when I have flax on a regular basis.
12-20-2004, 07:15 AM
Originally posted by PikkuMyy
I don't need to eat food I don't like on top of it.
I can totally relate to not wanting to restrict your diet any more than it already is! Just curious what foods you're referring to in your post. My understanding is that he promotes a starch-based, whole food diet, with lots of veggies and some fruit...
12-20-2004, 08:11 AM
Well, here's my take on it. I have only read one of Dr. McDougall's books in its entirety: The McDougall Program: Twelve Days to Optimal Health , although I did read excerpts of Reversing Heart Disease (I am pretty sure that this one is his, too) in one course that I took on cardiovascular health in grad school.
His 12 day program advocates a very low fat vegan diet for the first 12 days & then starts gradually adding back in more fats like tofu, olive oil, etc., but still in lesser quantities than I probably eat :o ! Because he is dealing with people who have preexisting heart disease, my thought is that he needs to take a more extreme approach to restore health than you would to just maintain health in someone who does not have high cholesterol, bp, triglyceride levels, etc.
All dietary fats, whether good or bad, can contribute to increases in your lipid levels (lipids are basically blood fats - LDL (good cholesterol), HDL (bad cholesterol) & triglycerides). When you are dealing with someone who has too much fat circulating in their blood already, it makes sense to cut their dietary fat in an effort to get that under control initially. Then you add back in the healthy fats but keep out the unhealthy kinds.
Many of these individuals that he is treating probably also have high bp, diabetes, liver stress and other problems. Blood fat levels can also be elevated due to diabetes, hypothyroidism, alcoholism, kidney disease, liver disease and stress. Birth control pills, steroids and blood pressure medicines can cause high lipid levels in some individuals, as well. I see his recommendations as kind of like a fast to flush out all the junk. You get the blood sugar levels, fat levels, bp, and all of that down somewhat by cutting all junk out of the diet as well as drastically reducing fat. I believe that he still keeps the fat levels lower than many others are now recommending even after his first 12 days, though.
For most of us, I personally feel that it is as important to watch the ratio of your omega-3s to omega-6s as it is to supplement your omega-3s. This can be accomplished by limiting omega-6s as well as or instead of upping omega-3s. So, if Dr. McDougall's diet recommends low-fat foods, but keeps the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 right, it may be as good of a bet as heart healthy oil supplements. I haven't seen research on this specifically, but I have seen studies of his dietary approach on individuals with heart disease & he has some pretty impressive results.
I do agree with Emily that I like my fats & don't plan on cutting them out myself, but I also don't have heart disease :) ! You may want to check out Dr. McDougall's response to this issue, as well: http://www.drmcdougall.com/vegetable_fat.html
12-20-2004, 08:25 AM
What are the appropriate ratios of omega 3's and 6's? I have been doing 2 tbsp peanut butter (cause that's what I love!) and 1 or 2 tbsp of ground flax in my oatmeal. Couldn't tell you which gives you which omega though but know they are different! I thought by getting them I was doing the right thing!!! This health thing is hard!! Sometimes I long for my days of diet pepsi and on the go food although I think diet pepsi is disgusting now and used to drink 2 big gulps a day in the summer!!
12-20-2004, 08:36 AM
I'm not a dietician (disclaimer!), but my understanding is that you should be eating a ratio of 2:1 (2 times as much omega-6 as omega-3). Many Americans eat about 10-20 times as much omega-6 as omega-3.
Flax is a source of omega-3. Peanuts have more omega-6 than 3. I'm sure that someone has a list of some good sources of both O-3 & O-6 - someone?? O-6s aren't bad, we just want to make sure that they aren't all that we eat.
12-20-2004, 09:33 AM
Christa, thanks for that link!! It really helps clear up what I thought was a discrepancy between his "philosophy" and that of vegan dieticians of note.:) I started out feeding us ground flax seed instead of oil, but about a year ago, I discovered the convenience of flax oil (and have about 5 bottles in the freezer that I got on sale!!). I think I'll work my way back to the "whole food" as it really is a concept I believe in!
So I guess the "Sinful Chocolate Pudding" from How It All Vegan wouldn't be on the diet, huh?!:eek:
12-20-2004, 10:53 AM
Vegma - I think you already figured out the answer. Although his diet was designed for those with major health problems, of which I don't have any, it seems like in my area, some people are eating his diet just for health in general and there have been some restaurants (like the famous Millenium, for a long time) which did not use oil in their cooking. Since I have no reason not to eat oils, I don't care to limit my diet further, especially at a restaurant. However, if I had such problems I would certainly do it. I believe it also really emphasizes whole foods (i.e. wheat instead of white) and although I eat a lot of whole grains, I have no desire to cut out white altogether. A gal's gotta have some treats nowadays!
Also, it also comes down to a difference in reasons for being vegan. While I enjoy the health benefits of veganism, I'm not doing it for that, so I don't make the health aspect a priority when choosing my food. Veganism comes first, then comes the health part.
On that note, a friend of mine who is a bit overweight (and veggie) has started substituting whole grains for white and is really happy with it. Her husband made her whole wheat pasta one day and didn't tell her and she didn't notice the difference, so she's been eating it ever since. Since visiting them for Thanksgiving, I am now also eating whole wheat pasta since I like it almost as much as white and it's so much better for me!
VegNews' new issue has an article on Canola Oil and how it has the best ratio of Omega 3:Omega 6. It also compares the various aspects of different cooking oils, which was interesting. I personally only use Olive oil, canola, and grapeseed for cooking. And I use flax and borage as supplementation. Grapeseed has lots of antioxidants and also can withstand higher temperatures than canola or olive without smoking and is healthier than peanut (which is often used for high temps.)
12-21-2004, 06:56 AM
Thanks for clarifying, Emily! I was clueless as to what foods you didn't like! We've been <almost> 100% whole grain for the last 3 or 4 years with the exception of an occasional purchase of sour dough or french bread from a local bakery. I make our regular bread, but I haven't had any luck making a good sour dough starter...yet!
Yes, I can see how the motivation for eating vegan makes a difference in the approach. For me, becoming a mother at 40, made the health aspect doubly important (providing my child with the healthiest start in life and taking care of myself so I can be here for him!). The awareness of the plight of animals has, of course, come with the changes we've made. I'm guessing my lil' one will grow up to either be an animal rights activist or else he'll rebel by eating at McDonalds! :eek:
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