Category Archives: Plant-Based Diets

Dr. Klaper: “Pouring Olive Oil On Food Does Not Suddenly Make It Heart-Healthy”

This is an excerpt from the presentation by Dr. Michael Klaper given at the Healthy Lifestyle Expo in 2012. He addresses olive oil, saying, “pouring olive on food does not suddenly make it heart-healthy.”


  • Restaurant food is “salt, sugar, and fat.” Eat before you go.
  • The Greeks have the highest rate of obesity in Europe.
  • Olive oil is 14% saturated fat.
  • “Remember, your body is never not looking.”
  • “Excessive saturated fats (even olive oil) stiffen the walls of the arteries and make them less responsive to nitric oxide which dilates the vessels and increases blood flow to the organs.”
  • How to stir fry without oil: Saute in seasoned vegetable broth.
  • For salad dressing without oil: Blend vegetables, fruits, nuts, vinegars, etc., puree and pour over greens.

Dr. McDougall’s Picture Book

For the past year or so, I’ve been unabashedly endorsing a whole food, plant-based diet. After all these years and all these studies, I’ve come to believe it is the diet most health-promoting for most people. I’m often asked to describe it. What foods do you include, do you eliminate, do you sprinkle, do you shovel? Well, Dr. McDougall just published a very elementary picture book of his Starch Diet, one of the best versions of a plant-based diet out there. (Raw food diets, fruit diets, “vegan” diets, vegetarian diets, etc. are all types of plant-based diets, but each of them has drawbacks which I’ve discussed over the years.)

Not one to mince words, he calls it: “Dr. McDougall’s Color Picture Book: Food Poisoning And How To Cure It By Eating Beans, Corn, Pasta, Potatoes, And Rice.” (I’ve linked the entire 62-page book here in pdf format.)

In a nutshell, The McDougall Diet:

  • Is based on starches with vegetables and fruits.
  • Does not contain any animal foods or vegetable oils.
  • May contain some salt, sugar, and/or spice.

That’s it, seriously. Find foods you like that fit this description and eat them until your heart and stomach are content. No portion control, no counting calories. No kidding. The diet has been tested in randomized clinical trials of free living people and it works … it works for weight loss, diabetes prevention, heart disease prevention, arthritis management and prevention, and a slew of other chronic ailments, support for which you can find on my blog and of course on McDougall’s site. It works because it’s difficult to eat thousands of calories of low-fat, fiber-rich, health-promoting plant foods without feeling full.

Here are a few slides.  Beans soups are my mainstay:


I just developed a wonderful fat-free hummus that I eat on sandwiches like this. You can buy fat-free hummus too:


I was surprised at this, that he didn’t promote vegetables more. But since this post is turning out to be a testimonial, I’ll add that I’ve found this to be the case. I can eat a big bowl of steamed vegetables and feel absolutely stuffed but it disappears in several hours. On the plus side, eating lots of non-starchy vegetables is a great way to lose weight, if that’s your goal:


It’s Not The Sugar


Sugar is a distraction.

Dr. Campbell was so fired up about the new “Fed Up” documentary, he wrote a Part 2: “Fed Up”. Part Two.  He stands by his claim that:

“… the evidence showing sugar to be a major factor in obesity is relatively weak.”

When I first saw promotions and the trailer for this movie I thought it was odd that they harped on about sugar without homing in on the real causes for obesity and chronic illness. It didn’t occur to me that there was a less overt motive. It did occur to Campbell:

“I also wrote the article because the so-called experts in the film (journalists are experts?) are those who have previously made it clear that they strongly disagree with the whole food plant based diet. I am convinced that a major intent of “Fed Up” — especially given its vigorous PR — was to counter the unusually successful movie documentary “Forks Over Knives” and its main message.”

“Based on my prior familiarity with the views of most of the film’s ‘actors’, I believe that ignoring the much more comprehensive part of the story was intentional.”

What are the real causes of obesity? Meat and cheese, says Dr. Barnard:1

“The real causes of the obesity epidemic have become clear in figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Over the past century, the most notable changes are huge increases in meat eating — rising from 124 pounds of meat per person per year in 1909 to over 200 pounds in 2004 — and in cheese intake — rising from less than 4 pounds in 1909 to 34 pounds today. That means Americans are shoveling in 75 pounds more meat and 30 pounds more cheese — every person every year — compared with a century ago.

The fact is, sugar is a convenient whipping boy.

The more we set aside the meat and cheese and embrace simple vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans, the healthier we will be.”

1Are Sugar and Sloth the Causes of Obesity — Or Just Convenient Whipping Boys?, November 2013

We Absorb Fewer Calories When We Eat Whole Foods (The Case Of Almonds)


This is what a 1-ounce serving of almonds looks like (about 22 nuts).

For a while now I’ve been saying that the calories listed in food tables and data bases are really just rough guides, e.g  you’ll never be able to pack a measuring cup the same way twice, especially with a whole food.  Two peaches (or apples or carrots, etc.) have different sugar contents, and so, different calorie counts. (Which is why listing a food’s calories to two decimal places, as USDA’s Nutrient Database does, is pure fantasy. Although you do need benchmarks.)

That is all beside the issue of how many calories we actually absorb. Remember my write-ups about resistant starch? Some of the starch we eat (in pasta, potatoes, bananas) never gets digested and ends up feeding the bacteria in our colons instead of feeding us.  So, 200 calories of pasta does not deliver 200 calories.

Here’s a little study that found quite a discrepancy between the calories listed for almonds, and the calories participants absorbed from those almonds:

Discrepancy Between The Atwater Factor Predicted And Empirically Measured Energy Values Of Almonds In Human Diets, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 2012

The Atwater general factors (you may know them as 4 kcal/g for protein, 9 kcal/g for fat, and 4 kcal/g for carbohydrate) predicted that a 28-gram serving (about 23 almonds) would contain 170 calories. Participants in this study only absorbed 129 calories. The listed calories were overestimated by 32%.

And get this … It wasn’t just calories from almonds that were poorly predicted. Eating almonds caused an across-the-board reduction in total calories for the day. The calories, mostly fat calories, were excreted in feces:

The digestibility of macronutrients and energy from the diet as a whole was significantly affected by the addition of almonds to the diet (Table 3). The fat digestibility of the total diet decreased by nearly 5% when 42 g almonds were incorporated into the daily diet and by nearly 10% when 84 g almonds were incorporated into the diet daily (P < 0.0001).

When an 84-g serving of almonds was incorporated into the diet daily, the energy digestibility of the diet as a whole decreased by ∼5%. Therefore, for individuals with energy intakes between 2000 and 3000 kcal/d, incorporation of 84 g almonds into the diet daily in exchange for highly digestible foods would result in a reduction of available energy of 100–150 kcal/d. With a weight-reduction diet, this deficit could result in more than a pound of weight loss per month. Nuts and peanuts, being relatively energy dense and high-fat foods, may be expected to contribute to weight gain. However, both epidemiologic studies and intervention studies have suggested otherwise (17–24). These studies show that despite incorporation of nuts into the diet, there were no increases in body weight or fatness.

There are also studies showing this effect with peanuts. Participants absorbed fewer calories (primarily from fat) when the peanuts were whole, more calories when the peanuts were ground into peanut butter, and still more when they ate “isocaloric” peanut oil.

Can you imagine what a mess this makes of studies that try to provide isocaloric diets? Depending on the food, you could be off by 5% to 10%.

This is why it’s better to eat foods as minimally processed as possible. This is also why, probably, the men in that pistachio study could add – a pure add, not a substitution – 120 pistachios a day to their diet and not gain weight or increase their BMI or waist circumference.

T. Colin Campbell: “Let There Be No Doubt: Cows Milk Protein Is An Exceptionally Potent Cancer Promoter”

cheese7When T. Colin Campbell wrote in his book The China Study:

We were finding that high protein intake, in excess of the amount needed for growth, promotes cancer. Like flipping a light switch on and off, we could control cancer promotion merely by changing levels of protein.

The effects of protein feeding on tumor development were nothing less than spectacular. … [In one experiment] all animals that were administered [the carcinogen] aflatoxin and fed the regular 20% levels of casein either were dead or near death from liver tumors at 100 weeks. All animals administered the same level of aflatoxin but fed the low 5% protein diet were alive, active and thrifty, with sleek hair coats at 100 weeks. This was a virtual 100 to 0 score, something almost never seen in research.”

I would never have dreamed that our results up to this point would be so incredibly consistent, biologically plausible and statistically significant.

Let there be no doubt: cows milk protein is an exceptionally potent cancer promoter.

He was criticized for not discussing aspects of cow’s milk and other animal foods which could confound the relationship between animal protein and cancer. Here’s an excerpt from an article by Campbell addressing this concern:

“The adverse effects of animal protein, as illustrated in our laboratory by the effects of casein, are related to their amino acid composition, not to the effects of pasteurization, homogenization, or of the presence of hormones, pesticides, etc. Even though pasteurization and homogenization may cause slight changes in the physical characteristics of proteins, I know of no evidence where amino acid contents are altered by these treatments. This is important because it shows that there will be no difference in the biological effects of animal based protein from grass-fed or feed lot fed animals. Moreover, the casein that we used in our extensive experiments was before hormones were introduced and before factory farming became the norm, thus it mostly represented animals that were grass fed.”
Grass-Fed Animal Agriculture, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

Here’s Campbell in his own words, arguing that “casein (cows milk protein) is the most relevant chemical carcinogen ever tested.”

Dr. Campbell is not extremist or fringe. He spent his career as a biochemist, professor, and research scientist working within mainstream institutions … MIT, Virginia Tech, Cornell. He has “received over 70 grant-years of peer-reviewed research funding (mostly NIH), served on several grant review panels, lectured extensively, and authored over 300 research papers.” He doesn’t just talk about research, he conducts his own, and has had it published in professional, peer-reviewed journals. He has sat on boards and panels and has “actively participated in the development of national and international nutrition policy.”

And after all this, one of his primary messages is … Consumption of animal protein promotes development of cancer.  Consumption of plant protein does not:

Wheat and soy proteins for example did not stimulate cancer development and when wheat protein, which is deficient in the amino acid lysine, was replenished with lysine, it acted just like casein. There have been literally thousands of studies going back many decades showing a similar effect of animal and plant based proteins on body growth and other events associated with body growth–all resulting from their differences in amino acid compositions.

A problem with eating a low-carb diet is that, by default, it has you eating more fat and protein, and that protein is primarily derived from animal foods.

You’ve Just Been Diagnosed With Cancer. What Should You Eat?

EatMorVeg2You’ve just been diagnosed with cancer. What should you eat? A low-carb, Atkins-like diet? A Paleo diet? A vegetarian diet? The Mediterranean Diet? It doesn’t matter? A group of researchers sought to answer this question by applying the precautionary principle to evidence for which a dietary influence on cancer risk was substantial. Their work was published last month:

Applying the Precautionary Principle to Nutrition and Cancer, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 28 May 2014

The precautionary principle is a scientifically and legally defined concept based on the view that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from harm when investigation has found a plausible risk. It places the burden of proof on those recommending the risk.

For example, the current body of evidence indicates that dairy food increases the risk for prostate cancer.  Applying the precautionary principle would have us limit our consumption of dairy.  Those recommending consumption of dairy must show that it does not contribute to cancer.

Based on these researchers’ investigation, this is what you should, or shouldn’t eat (“where evidence is sufficiently compelling”):

  • Limit or avoid dairy products to reduce risk of prostate cancer.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol to reduce risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, and breast.
  • Avoid red and processed meat to reduce risk of cancers of the colon and rectum.
  • Avoid grilled, fried, broiled, and other meats (meat here refers to red meat, poultry, and fish) cooked at high temperatures to reduce risk of cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, prostate, kidney, and pancreas.
  • Eat soy products. If comsumed during adolescence they may reduce risk of breast cancer in adulthood. Soy products may also reduce risk of recurrence and mortality for women previously treated for breast cancer.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables to reduce risk of several common forms of cancer.

I’ve picked out some mechanisms:

  • Dairy – Contributes to prostate cancer risk via a large calcium dose that suppresses vitamin D activation, and by the tendency of milk to increase serum IGF-I concentrations.
  • Alcohol – Contributes to cancer risk via harmful effects of metabolites of alcohol such as acetaldehyde, via lipid peroxidation, and generation of free-radical oxygen species. Alcohol may also disrupt folate metabolism.
  • Red and Processed Meat – Contributes to cancer risk via abundance of heme iron, nitrites, heterocyclic amine formation, and the overabundance of essential amino acids and other nutrients that promote cell growth.
  • Cooked Animal Foods – Contain heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that are genotoxic, mutagenic compounds formed from creatine and amino acids in cooked skeletal muscle, increasing in concentration with longer cooking times and higher temperatures. The National Toxicology Program lists 4 HCAs as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogens.”
  • Soy – Reduces cancer risk via ability of genistein [a phytoestrogen] to increase apoptosis [cancer cell death] and to reduce cell proliferation and blood vessel growth and to modulate sex hormone effects. Soy and other legumes are high in beneficial antioxidants.
  • Fruits and Vegetables – Reduces cancer risk via antioxidants which limit reactive oxygen species. Some components may have antitumor properties, such as glycosylates (a precursor to isothiocyanates) and indole-3-carbonol (precursor to 3,3′-diindolylmethane), which have been shown to induce phase II enzymes responsible for eliminating reactive oxygen species and repairing DNA systems. Some components in soybeans, green tea, turmeric, grapes, tomatoes, and other plant foods have the ability to regulate apoptosis, an important pathway for cancer prevention.

They conclude:

“Overall, evidence suggests that diets emphasizing foods from plant sources—vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes — are associated with lower cancer risk.”

Dr. Campbell Didn’t Like The New Food Movie, Fed Up

FedUpPoster3Dr. Campbell weighed in on the new food documentary, Fed Up. I am pleasantly surprised to hear someone, especially with such credentials, likewise pan it:

“This is a very reductionist idea that seriously short-changes the far more comprehensive diet and health connection.

I know of no evidence that were we to eliminate all sugar from our diets, presumably leaving the rest of the diet the same, we could rid ourselves of disease and restore our health problems.

It may come as a surprise but the evidence showing sugar to be a major factor in obesity is relatively weak. There certainly is some evidence but closer examination shows that much of this evidence may be attributed to its contribution to calories or other factors not measured.”

He also took issue with the variety of “experts” interviewed for the film:

“I have serious trouble agreeing that journalists (even those who are widely known) are ‘experts’.”

… as well as the absence of a definition for what constitutes an “expert”, and the lack of publicized qualifications:

“The consequence of not being clear about qualifications and biases is that the public mostly cannot know who speaks sense and who speaks nonsense, who speaks truthfully and who tells lies.”

He put to bed the idea, advanced in the film, that the “low-fat” diets recommended in the 1970s are responsible for our obesity problem today, because we supposedly ate less fat and replaced it with sugar … but we didn’t:

“During this period (from about 1975 to about 2000), I know of no evidence that we actually ate less fat. If anything we consumed more fat (reviewed in The China Study, page 953). Moreover, the film refers to ‘low fat’ diets as those containing about 30% of diet calories that was recommended by policy makers. This is not low fat, at least when compared to the whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet, at about 10-15% fat.”

In sum:

“This “Fed Up” film … is an abysmal failure that lures unassuming consumers to ignore the big picture while mostly maintaining the present status quo. The film’s assertions have little or no credence or potential to resolve the health crisis (poor health, high health care costs) in the U.S.”

Here’s the trailer:

Dr. Campbell recommends consumption of a whole food, plant-based diet.

Insulin Resistance Is A Normal Adaptation To A Rich Diet

Dr. McDougall on how insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes develop:

“It’s a normal adjustment of the body, when we eat all this rich food, to become diabetic.

The body says, “Hey! That’s enough! You’ve put on 30 or 40 pounds, I need to stop gaining weight.” And so what happens is a normal adaptation, and that is, the body becomes insulin resistant. It resists the effects of the hormone insulin.

Insulin is a powerful hormone that drives sugar into your normal cells and drives fat into your fat cells. Well, the body says, “Hey, you’ve driven enough fat into the fat cells, we got to stop doing this. You’re going to become 50, 100, 200, 500 pounds overweight, and we can’t allow that, that’s a survival issue. You won’t be able to get through the door, or climb up the tree to get away from the tiger.”

So the body becomes insulin resistant. And as a result, the fat doesn’t go into the fat cells as easily, and, as a result, the sugar doesn’t go into the regular cells, and, as a result, the blood sugar goes up, and then you’re told you’re a type 2 diabetic.

You’re still making lots of insulin, often you’re making twice as much insulin as somebody without diabetes. It’s just you now have insulin resistance, which is appropriate. Your body is trying to make adjustments for all those extra calories, all that extra fat, all that extra sugar. You can fix this really easily. You just stop that kind of eating, all that rich food.”

Dr. McDougall supports consumption of a low-fat, whole food, plant-based diet – one based on starches such as potatoes, rice, and corn, and which excludes animal foods and added oils.