McDougall Program Diet Review: Criticism

Grade: F Dr. McDougall writes a book based on misinformation (hogwash) in a attempt to convert you to his vegan (no animal products) agenda.


John McDougall, M.D. is an internist who is also a vegan (eats no animal protein). The McDougall program consists of 700-1100 calories a day with no more than 5% fat, 7-15% protein and 75-90% carbohydrates.

Praise for The McDougall Program:

I have none.

Criticism of The McDougall Program:

Oh my, where do I begin?

1. Everything McDougall says is just plain wrong.

This was the worst diet book I’ve ever read. He begins the book by stating that most of the popular nutritional wisdom is based on myths such as (are you ready for this?):

“Sugar is bad for you and olive oil is good for you. Both of these are myths.”

McDougall explains that eating sugar is better than olive oil because it contains less calories per gram than fat. One should never eat oil if they want to lose weight. It is much better to sprinkle sugar on your cereal than dip your bread in “dangerous” olive oil.
Are you laughing yet? I don’t think I need to waste your time by explaining how this statement is false. Why is this guy writing a book on nutrition when he knows nothing about it?

Here are some other McDougall pearls of wisdom:

“The rich American diet is made up primarily of carb-deficient foods. Meat, poultry, and fish have no carbohydrate.”

Um, certainly he can’t be referring to citizens of the United States who are the biggest carb addicts in the world. Surely he must be referring to the Eskimo population in Alaska—who incidentally have the lowest rates of heart attacks and strokes due to their low-carb, high-fat diet.

“In general, high-carbohydrate, high-fiber, low-fat foods make insulin work more efficiently and reduce the amount of insulin needed by the body…on the other hand, high fat foods dramatically increase insulin production.”

McDougall must have slept through his biochemistry and physiology classes in medical school because actually the opposite is true. High-carb foods dramatically increase insulin and fat has no affect on insulin.

“One of the most common concerns I hear form people who follow the McDougall program faithfully is ‘I’ve lost too much weight.’ My response is many people just think they’re too thin when they’re really not.”

I can imagine these patients look like emaciated prisoners of war if they are only allowed 700 calories a day.

“I recommend non-stick Teflon skillets because you can’t cook with any oil.”

I agree, it’s far better to use Teflon which is linked to many health problems including cancer, than to use a small amount of oil. Don’t you agree?

2. A starving dog would turn his nose up at these recipes.

I remember buying McDougall’s cookbook in 1994 on the recommendation of a die-hard vegan. I made about five recipes and they were all disgusting. I complained about this to my vegan friend and even he admitted that Mary McDougall, who invented the recipes, was a terrible chef.

In summary, the McDougall Program is basically false propaganda to convert people to veganism. I am not opposed to veganism but I am opposed to the misinformation that was presented by Dr. McDougall.

The pros and cons of a vegan diet will be covered in a separate article. In the meantime, avoid anything by McDougall like the plague and if you want a great vegan cookbook, get John Robbins, May All Be Fed. When I was a former vegan I used to make recipes from May All Be Fed and bring them to vegan potlucks and they never failed to elicit rave reviews.



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