Interview with John McDougall, M.D.
Dennis Hughes: How important is it to you personally to eat organic foods?
Dr. McDougall: We make the effort for a couple of reasons. One is the whole idea of trying to keep the environment as clean as possible and secondarily, because I think it is the environmental chemicals that are causing cancers and also diseases as serious as Parkinson's disease.
Dennis: So for you, eating organic foods is a personal choice?
Dr. McDougall: Yes, but it's something I don't teach directly, because there are so many things I ask people to do in terms of change of diet. There's one thing I ask them to do that really makes the largest impact on environmental chemical intake: I ask them to leave out foods that are high on the food chain. Ninety percent of our dioxin intake, which causes cancer and other serious problems, comes from eating dairy. This applies to other environmental chemicals as well. So if you cut out the dairy and meat, you've really cut down on your risk.
Dennis: Are you a vegetarian yourself?
Dr. McDougall: In practice I am, but some people have bad associations with "the cult of vegetarianism" so I tell them that I eat turkey every other Thanskgiving. Then they get the point that I don't eat the way I do for any religious principles, or animal rights issues--I eat this way because it's healthy. But if you want to eat meat in small amounts on occasion, you can still enjoy good health.
Dennis: There are also brands now that are made from animals raised with more natural lifestyles and feeds.
Dr. McDougall: That's certainly true, but you're still dealing with rich foods. You're dealing with high fat, high protein, low carbohydrate, low fiber--and if that's the centerpiece of your diet, which it is for most Americans--I don't care how organic it is you're still going to have a high likelihood of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. These foods are just too rich. The problem with people in this country is they like to eat like kings and queens. They eat the richest diet ever known, and as a result they look like kings and queens. The solution to the problem is to make feasts special again; have rich foods only on special occasions. It's the answer to health problems individually and also nationally.
Dennis: Do you also try to avoid bio-engineered foods?
Dr. McDougall: Yes, both in our personal diet and our company, Dr. McDougall's Right Foods, which has no genetically engineered foods in the products. Why? Because it just didn't sound right. Research is preliminary and there's arguments on both sides.
Dennis: Can you tell us about your new book, "The McDougall Program for Women"?
Dr. McDougall: In addition to being interested in the dietary practices of people, I'm a medical doctor and through the years I've been really concerned about misinformation given to patients. A lot of my writings have been about misinformation in terms of bypass surgery and other types of operations. I went into medicine with the idea that I was going to save all these lives with all the tricks and tools that medical doctors learn. And what I found was that very few of my patients got well. That I often did harm to them. This was quite disturbing to me as a young doctor. But what was even more disturbing to me was to find out that this failure had been fairly well documented in the scientific literature. Now that literature sits on the library shelf, because it doesn't fit into anybody's advertising campaign.
What I've done through the years, in addition to teaching good health habits and good diet to people, is to try to protect them from the medical business by informing them of things that are wrong. Science says one thing and the public believes another because the public relations machine benefits the economics of the drug industry and the medical industry. Anyway, the book talks about the basic issues of health and disease in women. Chemical estrogens in rich foods cause the early onset of sexual maturity in girls. Breast cancer is an environmental disease that has to do with the fats and synthetic chemicals in your diet and also the lack of plant chemicals in your diet to protect you. Mammography is a fraud. The scientific literature clearly says that what we are recommending is over-exaggerated. The Jan. 8, 2000 issue of The Lancet carried an article stating that mammography is unjustifiable. Actually, of the eight studies done, six of them show that it doesn't work--and yet the American public believes that this is a time honored, definite way of saving their lives from breast cancer. There's also a chapter in the book on natural treatment of breast cancer. I published the first study in the 1980's on treating breast cancer with a healthy diet. I was considered a radical then, but there have been many studies in major journals since then that say once you get breast cancer if you change your diet you will live much longer.
Dennis: Does a rich diet also affect menopause?
Dr. McDougall: Yes, menopause comes later with the rich American diet compared to a healthy diet. This is due to the over stimulation of the body with estrogen over a prolonged period of time, from factory farmed animals which are brought to maturity faster with artificial growth hormones.
Dennis: What about osteoporosis?
Dr. McDougall: The cause of osteoporosis is primarily diet. With all of the red meat and poultry, seafood, cheese and eggs, the rich American diet is a very acidic diet. That acid has to be buffered when you eat it. So the bones dissolve and then changes take place in the kidneys that cause the body to urinate the bones through the kidney system out into the toilet. Sometimes bones resolidify and they form calcium kidney stones.
Dennis: So we should eat more alkaline foods, to balance the acid/alkaline ratio in our bodies?
Dr. McDougall: Yes, eat fruits and vegetables to adjust the body's pH toward greater alkalinity.
Dennis: More proof for a more vegetable-centered diet. Even if you don't use the buzzwords "vegetarian" or "vegan", it really seems like that's what you're proposing.
Dr. McDougall: That's what almost every scientist in the world is saying. That you should eat more plants, and less animal products, and less processed foods.
Dennis: Do eggs fall into the same category as other animal products?
Dr. McDougall: Yes, they are very acidic, very high cholesterol, no carbohydrates, no fiber. Have one at Easter.
Dennis: Once again, eat like a king--once in a blue moon. Not every day.
Dr. McDougall: Right. The book ends with a whole section of recipes for a healthy diet.
Dennis: Let's talk about your natural foods line. When did you start McDougall's Right Foods?
Dr. McDougall: Five years ago. We're in 4,000 stores now.
Dennis: How may products are in the line?
Dr. McDougall: Sixteen. Cereals, soups and dinners.
Dennis: Are they catching on well?
Dr. McDougall: Yes, they're all natural ingredients, as organic as possible. They're very low fat and high fiber, no cholesterol. They're tasty and they're selling well.
Dennis: Are they made locally?
Dr. McDougall: Our factory is a 45,000 square foot facility located in South San Francisco.
Dennis: It's good that you're making healthy foods available, as well as educating with the books.
Dr. McDougall: The whole idea is to make it so simple that people can't say no. If people have excuses like "it doesn't taste good" or "I don't have time," with our products those excuses are gone.
Dennis: Regarding your books, what would be the first book for a beginner to read?
Dr. McDougall: I think probably The McDougall Program: Twelve Days to Dynamic Health. For the last 14 years, I've been running the live-in center at St. Helena Hospital. People come from around the country and live at the hospital for 12 days. But it doesn't look like a hospital because it's so beautifully decorated and such a nice setting. This book is based on that program and tells you how to do it at home.
Dennis: Doesn't your wife Mary write the cookbooks?
Dr. McDougall: Yes. Mary and I are a team of 28 years and without her I wouldn't be where I am today.
Dennis: Great! Janice and I have been together 12 years, over 10 of which we've been publishing Share Guide. I like these Mom and Pop ventures.
Dr. McDougall: It's nice to work together. It's a lot of fun.
Dennis: Are there any closing tips you'd like to give to our readers?
Dr. McDougall: I think it's very important that people realize that they can
regain lost health. A lot of folks out there think they're trapped; being fat,
sick and dependent on drugs--and that's not the case. Well over 80% can get off
their medication. Essentially all of them can get their weight down, and get to
feeling and functioning well again by doing something cost-free: by eating the
right kinds of foods. Actually, you can cut your food bill up to 40% by cutting
out animal products and processed foods. Add some exercise and clean up your
habits and you will get far greater results than any pill could ever give you.
If everyone knew they had that option , I would be the happiest doctor in the
For more information about The McDougall Program and Dr. McDougall's Right Foods visit www.drmcdougall.com.