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The Health Science Podcast | Episode 059. | December 21, 2023
059: You’re Not the Problem… The Food Is with Dr. John McDougall
059: You’re Not the Problem… The Food Is with Dr. John McDougall

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Renowned as a board-certified internist, author of 13 national best-selling books, and co-founder of the McDougall Program, Dr. John McDougall has made a lasting impact on the field of plant-based nutrition and disease reversal.

During his interview with Dr. Frank Sabatino, host of the NHA Health Science Podcast, Dr. McDougall went deep into his experiences, challenges, and advocacy efforts for people to live more healthful lives, shedding light on his remarkable journey as one of the most recognized names in the plant-based movement.

Challenges Faced at St. Helena’s Hospital

One notable aspect of Dr. McDougall’s career was his tenure at St. Helena’s Hospital, where he faced challenges in implementing his McDougall plan. Despite being a pioneer in advocating for dietary approaches over traditional medical interventions, he encountered resistance, particularly from colleagues invested in the financial success of cardiac surgeries.

The hospital’s reliance on the revenue generated by cardiac procedures created a conflict with Dr. McDougall’s holistic approach, highlighting the struggle between profit and patient well-being.

Informed Consent Legislation Efforts

Dr. McDougall’s commitment to patient education led him to advocate for informed consent laws, addressing the need for transparency in treatment options. Notably, he played a pivotal role in passing legislation in Hawaii and California.

In these efforts, Dr. McDougall sought to ensure that patients, especially those facing conditions like breast cancer and diabetes, were fully informed about the available choices, including dietary interventions. His advocacy reflects a dedication to empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their health.

Dietary Intervention for Multiple Sclerosis

Dr. McDougall discussed the outcomes of a one-year study dedicated to treating multiple sclerosis (MS) through dietary changes. The results were remarkable, with a significant decrease in insulin levels and a tremendous improvement in fatigue among participants with MS.

Another independent one-year study in New Zealand, using the McDougall diet, yielded similar positive results, emphasizing the efficacy of plant-based nutrition in managing chronic conditions.

Long-Term Compliance and Results

Dr. McDougall highlighted the findings at Oregon Health and Science University, revealing that nearly 85% of people remained compliant with the program for a year. This adherence is exceptional, especially considering the challenges of maintaining compliance with traditional medical interventions.

The key to this remarkable compliance, according to Dr. McDougall, lies in the fact that participants experienced not only improvements in their MS but also overall health, creating a strong motivation to continue.

Telemedicine and Continued Practice

Dr. McDougall’s commitment to promoting health extended beyond traditional settings, as he embraced telemedicine, especially in response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the closure of his resort-based clinic, he continued his practice, reaching patients through virtual platforms. This adaptation underscored his dedication to providing accessible healthcare and ensuring continuity in patient care.

Dr. McDougall’s Food Philosophy

Throughout the interview, Dr. McDougall emphasized the foundation of his dietary approach, which centers around starches. While acknowledging the importance of vegetables, he stressed that the majority of the plate should consist of starches like potatoes, rice, and beans.

Dr. John McDougall’s decades-long commitment to promoting plant-based health is evident with his innovative programs and unwavering dedication to empowering individuals to take charge of their well-being.

The success stories from his studies and the sustained compliance of participants underscore the transformative potential of a plant-based lifestyle. As Dr. McDougall continues to advocate for informed choices and holistic health, his impact reverberates across borders, inspiring a paradigm shift in how we approach nutrition and wellness.

Episode Highlights

[03:00]             A pioneer in the lifestyle medicine movement spanning decades.

[04:30]             From overweight and suffering a stroke at 18, to being a leader in the plant-
                           based movement.

[08:00]             Generational habits determined the health of Dr. McDougall’s patients in Hawaii.

[09:15]             From in-person care to telemedicine, COVID forces change.

[16:00]             What Dr. McDougall has to say about heart surgeries.

[18:40]             Discovering it was about the money, not healthcare.

[25:00]             Visible results of reversing disease with the McDougall program.

[27:45]             The power of fireside chats.

[34:30]             A diet of starch is the McDougall protocol.

[40:00]             Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods business.

[43:30]             Popular diet drugs are making people sick.

About Dr. John McDougall

John McDougall, MD is a board-certified internist, author of 13 national best-selling books, the international on-line “McDougall Newsletter,” and co-founder of the 10-day, live-in McDougall Program in Santa Rosa, California.

He is a clinical instructor at four schools, training young physicians and licensed in five states in the United States to practice.

Other McDougall activities include seminars and health-oriented adventure vacations. Scientific results of the McDougall Program are published in the Nutrition Journal: ( and in MS and Related Disorders:

Dr. McDougall has authored several national bestselling books that cover a wide range of topics, providing valuable insights into achieving optimal health through a plant-based lifestyle.

  • The McDougall Plan
  • McDougall’s Medicine: A Challenging Second Opinion
  • The McDougall Health Supporting Cookbook, Volume 1
  • The McDougall Health Supporting Cookbook, Volume 2
  • The McDougall Plan: 12 Days to Dynamic Health
  • The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss
  • The New McDougall Cookbook
  • The McDougall Program for Women
  • The McDougall Program for a Healthy Heart
  • The McDougall Quick and Easy Cookbook
  • Dr. McDougall’s Digestive Tune-up
  • The Starch Solution
  • The Healthiest Diet on the Planet

Learn more about Dr. McDougall at

About Dr. Frank Sabatino

As a recognized authority on the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle, Dr. Frank Sabatino has cared for and inspired thousands of people for over 40 years. Dr. Sabatino has a PhD in cell biology and neuroendocrinology and has done extensive landmark research on calorie restriction, stress, and aging. He currently is on staff at the TrueNorth Health Foundation in Santa Rosa, CA, and serves as the Director of Health Education at the NHA.

Dr. Sabatino’s passion and life’s work include raising awareness about the benefits of whole-food, plant-exclusive nutrition (without added salt, oil, or sugar), health rejuvenation and stress management.

About NHA

The National Health Association (NHA), founded in 1948, is a nonprofit organization that promotes the benefits of a plant-based diet. The Association provides educational materials, educational events, and services to thousands of people around the world.

The mission of the National Health Association is to educate and empower individuals to understand that health results from healthful living. The NHA recognizes the integration of all aspects of health: personal, environmental, and social.

The NHA also provides travel experiences around the globe through the NHA Plant-Based Travel and cruise division.

More information:


A unique benefit of the NHA Conference is the selection of two medical students who receive a full scholarship to the conference.

Contact Wanda Huberman for more information on how to apply for the scholarship.  [email protected]

NHA membership

For a very nominal investment, you can enjoy incredible benefits of the NHA membership.

Members of the NHA enjoy a subscription to the award-winning quarterly health journal, Health Science, access to the “Members Only” section of the NHA Website (which contains all 43 years of back issues of the magazine),  the ability to download for free many classic out of print eBooks on the history of the Natural Hygiene Movement, including Fasting Can Save Your Life and The Greatest Health Discovery, discounts on books, and early notice of the NHA events.

Only $35 a year for basic membership within the United States.

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