What If You Modified Dr. McDougall’s Program To “Starch-Based Paleo?”

Let’s put our heads together. I’ll start.

First, I watched Denise Minger’s very interesting AHS14 Presentation the other day, Lessons From the Vegans: What the Paleo Movement Can Learn From the Success of Plant-Based Diets. I also noted that I’d not have believed or taken any of this seriously had I not seen what “The Potato Hack” did for people (that’s eating nothing but potatoes with herbs, vinegar, spices—no-to-very minimal added fat or animal protein). Since then, it’s been about various starchy things in order to feed the gut biome with Resistant Starch and other plant fibers.

So clearly, what Denise covers seems to indicate that starch-based vegan protocols like Dr. McDougall’s work (for both weight loss and diabetes). But what I found most enlightening is this realization, juxtaposing with very low carbohydrate diets:

  • VLC diets work for both weight loss and diabetes control; but for the latter, one must remain VLC and indeed, a return to “excess” carbohydrate intake often tends to bring on both rapid weight gain and very significant glucose spikes into the 200s and beyond.
  • Starch-based vegan protocols also work for both weight loss and diabetes control; but for the latter, this constitutes a reversal, since by definition, diabetes is a disfunction in carbohydrate metabolism and carbohydrates are precisely the basis of the therapy.

In a potato skin, one can look at the difference between these two extremes (VLC and vegan) as a baked spud with a scoop of butter and sour cream on it. For the VLCers, the problem is the potato. For the vegans, the problem is the added fats (plus, it’s animal sourced but that’s probably superfluous—they don’t do added EVOO either). But, again, through the lens of the VLC extreme, McDougall’s “cure” certainly must strike one as highly ironic, eh?

So I suppose one has to decide what dog they have in the fight. For VLCers, it’s carbohydrate restriction by definition. For vegans, it’s animal-food elimination by definition (and for McDougall, also the elimination of added fats, even vegetable based). What’s my dog? Omnivory, because that’s simply what we are.

However, there is vast flexibility in an omnivorous context. VLCers are still typically omnivorous (unless doing LC veg*n). On the other hand, starch-based solutions appear to have merit, with the added flexibility that in the case of diabetes, the ‘poison’ is the cure.

So, I’m open to the idea that there could be a McDougall-esq paleo approach. A high starch / fruit / vegetable diet that excludes grains and other highly refined foodstuffs, excludes all added fats (but for minimal cooking), and allows for small portions of animal foods like eggs, meat, fish, shellfish, and fowl.

McDougall has a Free Program on his website (Warning: you will have to grit your teeth for all of the cholesterol, saturated fat, and vegan propaganda). He also has a fairly recent book: [easyazon_link asin=”1623360277″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”fretheani-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]The Starch Solution[/easyazon_link].

From The Introduction on the free website, here’s the basis of his program:

  • A diet of plant foods, including whole grains and whole-grain products (such as pasta, tortillas, and whole-grain bread), and a wide assortment of vegetables and fruit.
  • Plenty of spices and usually small amounts of sugar and salt to enhance the flavor of food.
  • Exercise as simple as a daily walk.
  • The exclusion of animal foods, including red meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, and fish – all of which provide toxic levels of fat, cholesterol, protein and, very often, infectious agents and harmful chemicals.
  • The exclusion of all oils including olive oil, safflower oil, and corn oil. Oils are nothing more than liquid fats that increase obesity, which in turn, depresses immune function and contributes to the most common chronic diseases.

So, how might one “Paleoize” it?

  • A diet of plant and animal foods, including a wide assortment of starchy vegetables, legumes, and fruit, with minimal amounts of non-processed eggs, meat, fish, shellfish, and fowl.
  • Grains, except rice, are excluded. Generally, all highly processed and refined foods are excluded.
  • Plenty of spices and usually small amounts of sugar and salt to enhance the flavor of food.
  • Exercise as simple as a daily walk.
  • The near exclusion of all added plant and animal fats. Natural fats (plant and animal) may be used in minimal amounts to cook food, excluding deep frying anything.

I went through the web-based program but saw nothing indicating any sort of macronutrient ratio. Here’s a 10-day meal planner, but I don’t find much use in that for my purposes. I prefer to kinda “reverse engineer” the thing. So, given the parameters, here’s how I might formulate as a starting point.

  • 4 oz. animal-based food per day per 100 pounds body weight.
  • Whatever food, but a good starting point might be 2 days land-based, 2 days air-based, and 2 days sea-based with the 7th day as wild card.
  • The remainder is starchy plants, grain (rice), legumes, other vegetables and fruits.
  • After the animal food limit is reached, all hunger is assuaged with plant foods.
  • No added fats. However, if good success is achieved, experiment with small amounts of olive oil, butter, cheese, etc., but think of it as “herbs & spices;” i.e., flavor and texture enhancers.
  • Don’t discount the value of reduced beef, lamb or chicken stock as extreme flavor enhancers. Very little calories, protein, or fat.

Alright, there’s my shotgun, shit-against-the-wall way of doing things. Your turn. Contributions, refinements, critiques and GFYs welcome. Keep in mind: this is about exploration and not dogma from any extreme. With any luck, some folks, perhaps even adventuresome Type II diabetics, will give this a shot. For the diabetics, I would add (ESPECIALLY if you have been LC or VLC): expect to have to cover heavily with insulin initially (this would be my guess). But, if the claims have merit, it seems to me that insulin requirements ought to gradually diminish over time. But yea, you’re probably going to be freaking right out for a while.

A few afterthought footnotes:

  1. When you watch Denise’s presentation, take particular note that these effects seem to diminish or go away at fat levels above 10-15%. It’s for this reason I’ve shotgunned this to exclude added fat and allow for only minimal amounts for cooking, as well as only 4 oz from whatever animal (including its fat) per 100 lb body weight daily.
  2. Do take a read at Stephan Guyenet’s interesting post about his experience rubbing elbows with the McDougalls, et al, up in Santa Rosa: Thoughts on the McDougall Advanced Study Weekend.
  3. Still Stephan. I just saw this as I popped in to grab the link for #2: Metabolic Effects of a Traditional Asian High-carbohydrate Diet. “A recent study supports the notion that an ‘ancestral diet’ focused around high-starch agricultural foods can cultivate leanness and metabolic health.”

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  1. Angelo on October 14, 2014 at 14:40

    Good article, Richard. I’ve been thinking along the same lines, but always stop short of bullet-pointing things out. :) Personally, I think you nailed it in our first conversation: The Diet of No Diet. Jeet Kune Diet?

    “Jeet Kune Do is not an organized institution that one can be a member of. Either you understand or you don’t, and that is that.” —Bruce Lee

    • Richard Nikoley on October 14, 2014 at 14:44

      “Either you understand or you don’t, and that is that.”

      I have always had a weakness for the idea that “if I have to explain it….” :)

  2. Raza on October 14, 2014 at 11:48

    I’m so on board with this approach and have been thinking along the exact same lines – starch solution plus some limited animal protein like eggs. I’ll be trying this with some diabetics in my family to see if it really can result in blood sugar control and reversal of insulin resistance. Looking forward to it!

    • Dr.+Curmudgeon+Gee on October 17, 2014 at 08:50

      this probably has to be very low fat to work
      may not work for everyone.
      the diet seems boring & bland to me.

  3. FrenchFry on October 14, 2014 at 12:07

    Funny you wrote this, that was practically the basic diet I recommended to someone on the MDA forums to lose excess weight.

    The only difference is that I mentioned to have the daily starchy meal (with an emphasis on potatoes and legumes) with bone broth / gelatine. And one day a week, pig out on eggs, fish, meats, fish, liver, etc.

    And once in a blue moon, treat yourself with some spelt bread and genuine ripe camembert :)

  4. Duck Dodgers on October 14, 2014 at 12:31

    Voilà. Now you’re a Blue Zoner. :)

  5. Richard Nikoley on October 14, 2014 at 12:43

    “genuine ripe camembert”

    I’ll take the genuinely ripe munster. Alsatian.

    2 stories:

    1. I soon became infamous on both COLBERT and DUQUENE as the American Officer Who Loves Pungent Cheese. They went out of their way for me. Hey, they’re French, I show appreciation, I get Red Carpet. As it should be; and the French will always agree. They will go out of their way for you when you demonstrate understanding and appreciation.

    Problem was, my house always smelled like shit. :) (you know know, doncha, Frite?)

    2. I’m on a flight from Paris to Boston. I stopped by the Duty Free on the way out, but I didn’t buy wine or liquor.

    We land in Boston (I was to connect to SF). Everyone stood up, overhead bins came down.

    “Someone shit their pants,” I thought. You know, you’re waiting to get out of the airplane, and everyone is looking around, trying to figure who brought this pestilence upon them. Me too.

    I’d been seated by a marvelously cute gril and had engaged her loveliness in convo. Turned out, our gates were in the sam direction so we set off walking.

    Some hundred yards or so down the corridor, I realize the odorous sloth is following me. I was pretty sure it wasn’t me.

    Then, I remembered my apartment, in the early days.

    Yea, I’d bought a huge big load of munster at the Duty Free.

    • FrenchFry on October 14, 2014 at 12:55

      LMAO :D
      Cool stories :)

  6. sdiguana on October 14, 2014 at 13:02

    In reading the comments on Guyenet’s blog on the McDougall weekend, one commenter speculated that both VLC and VHC (new acronym!) were perhaps adaptations to get us through inopportune times. Sadly no one expanded on it, and one person ragged at him for speculating at all. (must. not. think. for. self.)
    I find it an interesting idea really, I think the justification for it can be seen in simple fasting. When we fast, the body cleans house, optimizes what it has and minimizes waste. Why? To help us survive the lack of food. Hormetic if you will.

    If we have adapted to eat nothing at all during times of no food, why not adapt to ‘odd’ ratios of food as well. The <15% fat or carbohydrate would then just be thresholds to kick in the metabolic machinery.

    The question I have under this train of thought is… are either of these healthy?

    Fasting for a week is great, once a year. Fasting all year round, not so much. What if VLC is great in the depths of winter, VHC for the summer’s bounty, and varying ‘normalcy’ (whatever that is) in the spring and fall…? I’d imagine the mechanisms for cleaning house are meant to run in the short term, and then get back to normal, otherwise acute hermetic stress becomes chronic degrading stress.

    One thing paleo only superficially pushes is the seasonality of eating. Usually its eat seasonal veg and you’re good. What if the ratios of macronutrients themselves ought to be rolling with the seasons?

    • Richard Nikoley on October 14, 2014 at 13:10


      That is all PERFECT thinking, in my view.

    • sdiguana on October 14, 2014 at 13:39


      On further thought…to poke a hole in my argument, I wonder how much HG man stockpiled starches/tubers. Not quite HGs, but I know in studying the Kumeyaay (San Diego area indians), they stockpiled acorns in clay jars for the bad times. In fact they’d make a week long trek up into the mountains near Julian to go get big tasty acorns instead of the crappy coastal live oak ones available near the coast. To them, a good acorn crop in the mountains was a big deal, they’d abandon anything they were farming in the valley to go harvest them instead.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 14, 2014 at 14:03

      Sounds like tigernuts in terms of desirability vs. ease of harvest.


    • Renaud on October 14, 2014 at 15:00

      @sdiguana: I like your thinking, but i think this may be a good reasons why a VLC diet is taken for some sort of starvation by our body, and not the VLF one: we spent eons of evolutionary time eating 80+% carbs before we started to go for meat.

    • Kate on January 22, 2017 at 08:21

      Yes, I reached the exact same conclusion you did. i’m currently doing The Whole30 and it dawned on me two nights ago that VLC really is for winter when all you can do it hunt animals and nothing else is growing, and in the summer , VHC, let the animals go free and just have crops or what you can forage. Spring and Fall have to be something seasonal as well…Spring being stuff that has sprouted and more animal products, and fall being root vegetables and squash. Makes total sense to me that we were designed this way. If you live in the tropics then you can take your pick.

  7. Regina on October 14, 2014 at 13:04

    I think what you describe is what Paul Jaminet refers to as a “low energy” diet. (I hope I am not misrepresenting him). Lately, he has referred to it numerous times in a very favorable way.


  8. Eimear on October 14, 2014 at 13:29

    I have been eating like this for a little while now. I got ‘strict’ with paleo there to lose a few holiday ice-cream lbs and although I shifted what I wanted to, the diet was not sustainable- too hungry and too constipated. I was dreaming about vegan food!! I have since added back in lots of oats, rice and beans, lowered the animal foods, and am still losing some weight, bowels are best they’ve been in ages and I feel full after I eat. Hurrah!

  9. Jake on October 14, 2014 at 13:36

    Interesting to consider that through this analysis (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21745626), low-fat potato products are the easiest way for someone shopping on less than $4 a day to meet the majority of nutrient requirements on a paleo diet.

  10. martin on October 15, 2014 at 03:57

    Interesting, conceptual game.

    I think the key is dysbalance. Shift, shift, shift. Try something new. Provoke, even stress your body (quit your job, though, and leave the city).

    Yes that’s it. I don’t believe (as some atheists seem to do) that through process of rational, scientific you can arrive at a “perfect diet”. Kind of delusional to me. Awfully ocularcentric and generally a far too narrow spectrum of consciousness. Reductionistic. Yawn.

    Nothing is stable, everything flows. Deal with it, embrace impermanence, or carry on aiming for a state of perfection like a flippin zombie, mummy. Yes, the perfection of life is death. So, accordingly, we in our family rotate, change, shift with the seasons, financial constraints and what not. Moods! Experience the full spectrum of life and pleasure, ups and downs, and forget about abstract, detached, ex-situ, extracted macronutrient experiment and studies. Live. Now. Starches/no starches is a false dichotomy. And whatever, anyway, if I have the cash, I can buy some science to contradict your shit anytime. Science is a commodity, who’s the highest bidder?

    Plants stimulate the human body – Loren Cordain (and The Bear) misread this as a clear-cut danger – in various ways. Plants can (and generally do) irritate the human body and can for instance kick your immune system in the arse when needed, which is of course old news to herbalists and naturopaths: they prescribe toxic plants to do just that. It’s all in the dose, the time and mood of application.

    As a Kichwa shaman (for whom diet and healing powers is one and the same gut feeling) said: “Once you know what you’re doing, you can eat anything, anytime”. Mind can override matter – the vagus nerve etc. is a two-way road. The Kichwas, btw, drink a lot of alcoholic/fermented cassava/manioc/yuca. Get drunk on starches before bed time is what the rain forest doctor ordered. Tastes and smells a bit like puke, or perhaps old dish water, and make you feel great – it hits the spot. They also drink tobacco infusions. Also tastes pretty extreme and a scientist would say it kills you, but it’s a very powefully healing experience. The tobacco plant is a healing saviour.

    So, yeah, eat some starches, listen to your gut and adjust the dose accordingly. I tend to prefer my starches to be “safe” – haha – and easy to digest, so I most often ferment them. Gives that alcoholic tingle and consequent clearsighted, pseudo-dizzy tickle, too. Like kefir fermented tigernut pear-banana milkshake with turmeric, ginger, honey, pollen and vanilla (all included in the ferment), which was my after breakfast sweet snack and energy drink to keep me going for a while. That’s a perfect moment when I forget about life. A little death – la petite mort – as the French say.

    PS: There is some indication that starches possibly make me snore more. Snore more, that sounds quite fun, but it isn’t, especially when it results in pushing and shoving from those you share your bed with.

    • martin on October 15, 2014 at 09:25

      Thank you! Indeed, it’s (at least) a two-way feedback loop, did the chicken come before the egg? Terribly complex and what if what we call consciousness is not really consciousness as such, but merely our perception and awareness of consciousness? And, if then, consciousness is a flow of energy, vibrations and patterns, through every single cell and particle and what not of the universe? What’s the matter with mind then? With us? Are we here?

      At any rate, the concept and idea of consciousness needs a complete rewiring in philosophy due to current microbiota-brain axis findings and history. A conception that integrates the primary brain, the gut, is necessary to get a bigger picture of what the hell is going on around us. We’ve come to live predominantly in our secondary brain *and* in that space favoured the eyes far too much. In the process of all that we have unlearned to decipher, even unlearned to pick up messages from the primary seat of consciousness in the human body. Anyway, it’s just a gut feeling. Got to run, got a feeling somebody is watching me, if you know what I mean, and I can hear from the neighbour’s dog that he is coming home in five minutes and I need to see him about something. Or other.

      PS: Rational beings and related fantasies do of course also need a complete reconsideration. Luckily, networked action patterns and, generally, complexity were early lessons of literate civilisation (see pratītyasamutpāda for a 2000+ year old explanation), and those ideas never left the hive mind, but what’s up with science, once we find out that it is conducted by bacteria and not rational, objective agents of truth?

    • martin on October 15, 2014 at 13:47

      You are easily entertained! :)

      If I didn’t spend too much time reading fucktarded blogs like this (to use a common term here :), or twatter, then I would be writing on a book project. It has a working title: “unschool, ferment, regroup: prospects for a return to autonomous medicine” or something like that. When it’s done in five years time, I will post the news on this page, hehe.

      There is a blog on this site: but I never find time to write anything. Too busy finding, cooking, fermenting and eating food, childminding and cleaning up myself and guests :)

    • Rita on October 15, 2014 at 08:36

      Martin, I love your comments. My favorite is: mind can override matter. I wonder though, if mind is brain, but mind is also gut-bug populated, then doesn’t food matter create mind?

    • Rita on October 15, 2014 at 13:18

      Martin, I love it!! Someone needs to write a new opus: Philosophy of the Belly. Your thoughts/writing are very entertaining – let me know if you have a book or a blog somewhere in the world.

      And, Richard – thanks for attracting such unique minds to Free The Animal!!

    • Richard Nikoley on October 15, 2014 at 14:25

      “thanks for attracting such unique minds to Free The Animal!!”

      Thanks for recognizing what I’m about.

    • Gemma on October 16, 2014 at 04:33

      “Nothing is stable, everything flows. Deal with it, embrace impermanence, or carry on aiming for a state of perfection like a flippin zombie, mummy.”

      Wow, Martin!

  11. tina on October 14, 2014 at 14:33

    Talk about hitting home, was vlc for a long time never really lost weight just maintained. Kinda went off this summer and I have ballooned up so fast its really unbelievable. The freak out at the initial blood sugars is right also, sometimes i’m just tired of the whole thing and now i’m back to square one.

  12. Rob2 on October 14, 2014 at 15:14

    Checked out the link to Dr McDougall’s site and found some tasty sounding recipes under the “Education” heading. Worth a look for those who like variety in their starch additions particularly under ‘Featured Recipes’.

  13. Lea Ann Savage on October 15, 2014 at 05:27

    Amy L.H – I love what you wrote here, and I think I’m dealing with SIBO – can you PLEASE email me at LeaAnn@BlenderLady.com ? I’d like to pick your brain about what worked for you to get over SIBO.

    Our stories are very similar in many, many ways. Not only the vegan to paleo switch, but also in the view that a simpler time (when we were primarily an agrarian nation) was clearly a healthier time.

    AND in one more way – have you heard of Bittersweet Magazines? I was fortunate enough to be on the Bittersweet Staff in High School. It was just like the Foxfire magazines, but focused on the Missouri Ozarks.

    • Amy+L.H. on October 15, 2014 at 06:51

      Lea Ann, I’d be happy to help, I’ll send you a message later on today. I have the THM book and wish I could return it. It’s kind of recycled info based on what I already know. Keep the carbs low to low-ish and you’ll be fine, get moving more than just housework, and when in doubt, pray (I’m a Christian and prayer forms my day, every day. In moments of doubt or crisis, food or whatnot, I just put in God’s hands and I always come out OK. Some people meditate or use CBT, whatever works for you, for me it’s prayer).

      Have you ever read Dr. Attia’s post on how all/most diet plans are low-carb diets? You can find it here. Dr. Attia provides some useful info on how, when people adopt any kind of dietary change-for-the-better, the first thing that tends to get dropped is junk food and excess sugar, dropping most carbs from 350+ per day to lower than 200 g/day. It kind of explodes the “myth” of LC diets being all about meat and indicates that any change you can make that takes you away from sugar and junk food is ultimately beneficial, which we all know, but for reasons that contradict the notion that sugar is A-OK for you and fat is bad.

    • Amy+L.H. on October 15, 2014 at 06:57

      Bittersweet Mag – YES! I’m familiar. I’m a die-hard Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, and as she settled in the Ozarks, I am also a fan of all things rural Ozarks (the good and the bad – ever read Winter’s Bone? Chilling story. And the band HaHa Tanka, I love their music, Old Celtic fused with a modern Bluegrass and Southern hymnal tinge. Listening to them, I feel like I’m at a modern Michaelmas festival).

  14. Lea+Ann+Savage on October 15, 2014 at 05:41

    There are two housewives from Australia who have put together a program very similar to what you have proposed. It is called “Trim Healthy Mama” and people call it THM for convenience sake.

    I bought the book (expensive at $35), but couldn’t finish it because I need short, sweet and to the point. But the premise is that you should eat primarily paleo, but when you eat carbs eat them on an empty stomach (after the protein from a previous meal has digested) and with NO Fats.

    People loose weight on this diet, but I can’t stick to it because I can’t stand to eat starches without fats. Ever since I found your site I’ve been consuming a primarily paleo diet with added potato starch (and Prescript Assist) and have experienced a great deal of benefits.

  15. Gina on October 14, 2014 at 16:00

    If someone has type II diabetes, it’s probably more effective to just do the low-fat vegan plans as written until their diabetes is resolved, since most of the doctors who recommend those diets have found that even slight deviations (e.g. eggs, small amounts of meat, added oil for cooking and even nuts) can mess up the whole enterprise. I don’t even see how it would be possible to stay under 10% fat with meat in the diet (grilled chicken is 20% fat), unless one artificially cranked up the carbs by eating sugar or drinking juice (think Jimmy Moore eating butter with every bite to get his macros right).

    If I had metabolic derangement and gut problems, I would eat nothing but potatoes, beans, vegetables and fruit with no added fat until it resolved. Probably take a soil-based probiotic, green tea and amla powder and do some HIIT and take long walks to move things along faster.

    • Raza on October 14, 2014 at 16:08

      Thanks for your insight. You may be right that slight deviations mess up the whole thing.

      With respect to how it’s possible – at least with eggs, I think it would be easy to get under 10% fat – on a 2000 calorie diet, 10% is 200 calories, that’s 22 grams of fat, so you could eat 4-5 eggs (assuming 4g fat each). The rest of the diet would be starches, veggies, beans, and fruits as you mentioned.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 14, 2014 at 16:11

      I see confounders, Gina. See, this is all self reported and as such, absolute complete lying bullshit.

      So, instead os saying you can’t have any, and then when fed up they binge and lie about it, perhaps license to do a little helps them stay on plan.

      I find it very hard to believe that 4-8 oz of combined animal protein and fat, without added fat, for 100-200 lb people is going to overshadow the staples.

      …Hey, I just got back from the market. I had to laf. Never have I had a shopping cart so full of veggies and fruit. Lots of fruit, as I have the staples, already. But pounds. And there sits one $6 tray of chicken thighs that will last 2 dinners for 2. But as if the universe was giving me a high five, right in front of me is a lean lady in her 80s. Alert and sharp. What does she have? A load of fruits and veggies, one package of hot dogs.

    • Gina on October 14, 2014 at 16:47

      The problem is that starches and beans aren’t completely fat-free. Oatmeal, for example, has more than 10% of calories from fat, so I don’t think a starch and egg diet could make the cut.

    • Gina on October 14, 2014 at 16:57


      I bet the hot dogs were for her dog. My kitties get sardines on special occasions. ;)

      You may be right, of course, but if the theory is that there is some magical metabolic state, as Minger put it, that exists somewhere around or below 10% dietary fat, then I can see how deviations might muck up the works. Not for healthy people, of course, but for those trying to cure their diabetes or heart disease.

    • Hugh Anderson on October 14, 2014 at 17:58

      Your math on the grilled chicken is wonky. Yes it’s 20% fat, but if you have a meal of grilled chicken with pasta in a basic low-fat tomato sauce, the entire meal can easily be 10% or less.
      A single egg is over 50% fat, so yes those are hard to fit into a diet that seeks to hit 10% fat.

      But to say that even a little meat will throw things off sounds like an artifact of religious and superstitious attitudes towards meat unless someone fucking gives me a better reason why. This is why I liked Denise Minger’s video (beside the fact that she makes my heart sing) – she isn’t infected with veganism so won’t say things like, “If you eat a gram of meat your diabetes will come back and the boogieman’s gonna get you.”

      In a way I’m kind of pissed that these doctor’s may have hit upon something but scared a bunch of people away with voodoo mumbo jumbo about meat.

    • Gina on October 14, 2014 at 20:26


      Pasta is 5% fat, so you’d have to go heavy on the sauce (assuming it has no oil at all) and really light on the chicken. We’re talking skinless, white meat chicken.

      Now you know how I feel when someone says that a single piece of fruit will ruin months of “fat-adaptation”.

      If there is some as-yet-undefined metabolic state induced by fat restriction, then it could be that added fatty foods could take one out of it, just as added carbs take one out of ketosis. The difference, I recognize, is that ketosis is measurable and “carbosis” is not, so we don’t really know if it’s some kind of state that one can go in and out of (until someone invents carbosis strips to pee on). If “carbosis” is, in fact, a state – one that resolves diabetes and heart disease – then it’s conceivable that one must stay in it more or less constantly until the condition is reversed and that it could, in point of fact, be sabotaged by the slightest increase in fat.

  16. gabkad on October 14, 2014 at 18:10

    What you guys don’t notice is MacDougall has clubbed fingers. Go on now, have a gainer.

    I was watching some videos of a 98 year old cardiothoracic surgeon vegan: clubbed fingers. Poor dexterity on expression…. i.e kind of flapping the fingers without any detail. The I watched (hooror) the winner of the 50+ sexiest vegan……… most of the videos are blurry but there’s one where this 73 year old woman looks 73. At least. Clubbed fingers once again.

    I had not been looking for anything but when someone waves their clubbed fingers around, I notice.

    This is indicative of poor bone metabolism. Usually it’s COPD but with these people it’s protein inadequacy and probably inadequate B12, probably lowish ferritin. Osteoblasts require goodly B12 to function well. You need iron for mitochondrial enzymes.

    So whatever.

    I think balance is key. Eat meat, fish, shellfish, octopus and eggs. But eat vegetables and starched. Stay away from sugar. A couple of vodkas are okay. ;)

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on October 17, 2014 at 20:30

      McDougall has clubbed fingers?
      i have not seen any photos to that details.

      i’ll take a look @ some veg*n around me

  17. gabkad on October 14, 2014 at 18:42

    Just watching a video of Nathan Pritikin. Looks a bit hypothyroid. Don’t know if the thyroid is enlarged or what. Looks sick. He’s dead.

    • Gina on October 14, 2014 at 20:34


      He was sick. He had leukemia due to radiation exposure. He was also diagnosed with severe heart disease. He lived thirty years after the diagnosis of both.

  18. captain joel on October 14, 2014 at 23:08

    Hello, been reading the blog for years, first post. I come from a MEAT obsessed protein bases pale diet, and about 6 months ago for various reasons which includes, issues with body composition, sports related demands, change in perspective such as an interest in ayurveda etc etc I slowly reduced the protein quite significantly and can say I am currently following the so called starch based pale diet as you coin it so to speak. Everything is the same but a huge reduction of protein, i went from 6-7 eggs a day and two big portions of meat to some days no animal protein, most days 3-4 eggs, and if i eat meat chicken or turkey, only pastured and if i eat red meat its very now and again and would reduce the protein for days to come. My skin looks better, feel great, slimmed down (obviously i was trying to bulk up before) and everything seems pretty cool. I was shocked at how much protein I could reduce with no visible deficiencies or issues.

  19. FrenchFry on October 15, 2014 at 01:37

    I will say it again:

    A refinement to the above prescription:
    – have gelatinous bone broth every day with your starches
    – eat liver, fish, eggs, etc, ad lib once a week.
    – make sure you have a serving or 2 of fermented foods every day as well

    gabkad is right: don’t mess up with the B12 and the “saint trinity” of fat soluble vitamins (A, D3 and K2), which calls for a _Sunday_ binge on liver, butter or aged cheese, fatty fish, sea-foods.

  20. Simas on October 15, 2014 at 03:59

    Great article, but for me, it’s not really clear what you were trying to say. If we’re talking about healthy people, one thing was left out, and that is nutrient density. Generally, starch(legumes, grains) are not nutrient dense foods, except for maybe potatoes. If that’s a significant portion of your daily intake, you may suffer from nutrient deficiencies on that type of diet long term, especially B12, zinc, etc. I think most here would agree that carbohydrates are pretty essential and they need to be incorporated into the diet, but we’re not eating tiger nuts anymore, are we?
    Bottom line, I think if you’re generally healthy, the only thing that you have to worry about is not to be in caloric excess. Whether your calories come from fat or carbohydrate, I don’t think that it matters much, if at all.

    On the other hand if we’re talking about type II diabetes management, insulin resistance, VLC, VLF are known to help with that, but NOT to reverse it(unless you lose significant amount of fat on these diets). If you can’t have more than 15% calories from fat on a diet, is that a reversal? No, it’s not.

    Wanna reverse carbohydrate metabolism problems? LOSE WEIGHT! Period. It doesn’t even matter if you look lean on the outside. It’s liver fat that matters most. How does somebody lose fat, it’s up to that person to find out, and starch based option definitely has its place.

    I think this may have been posted before, but it’s fascinating lecture on diabetes reversal:
    more info: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/magres/research/diabetes/reversal.htm

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on October 17, 2014 at 20:38


      interesting, i agree.
      if one has to eat VLC (VHF) in order to keep BG control, it is not “healed or reversal”
      by the same token, if one has to eat VLF in order to control it, it’s not either,


    • Richard Nikoley on October 18, 2014 at 07:57

      First of all, since the control is in the context of high carb, it’s tantamount to reversal.

      Second, in Denise’s video, this is covered. Can’t recall the number–73% comes to mind–but a good number of the subjects were able to transition back to more moderate fat and remain controlled.

    • Simas on October 20, 2014 at 01:30

      73% percent was mentioned in the context of heart disease. No percentage has been provided in the context of diabetes, but this quote:
      “Patients … who were slowly guided through a gradual modification of the diet over many months, were able to transition into a very tolerable low fat, largely vegetarian diet, while leading a normal, active life, without medications, indicating that disease state has been permanently modified”

      “Even a tablespoon of oil in Kempner’s diet would make diabetics go back on the insulin”

      I did not make it clear in my previous post, that I think carbohydrate metabolism problems come from some kind of fat accumulation, and apparently I was wrong in saying that weight loss is the answer, because benefits were seen even without weight loss. That said, I would still argue that this change (being able to get back to more moderate fat diet) happens because of body fat redistribution, or maybe body recomposition, meaning less visceral fat, less liver fat. And I highly recommend the lecture By Dr. Roy Taylor. He treats his patients with 600kCal diets, and it reverses their disease. That is something. And it may not be the easiest way, maybe low fat diet, is better, because I would guess that one does not feel hungry and they get immediate benefits, meaning restored carbohydrate metabolism.

  21. Amy L.H. on October 15, 2014 at 04:18

    Richard, I’ve been thinking along these lines as well.

    I went vegan many years ago for all the usual reasons: animals are peepul too, health, weight loss, etc. I couldn’t stick with it, but for many years I’d go on-and-off with a vegetarian diet that included dairy and eggs, and then steak would call my name and I’d go back to eating meat.

    After baby #1 was born I went back on my semi-veg diet to lose weight – it practically fell off. Not so much with paleo, though. Too meat heavy, I felt like I was eating nothing but meat all day, even with plenty of salads and other veggies, so I had to find something else. I’ve drifted into this type of synthesized diet over the past few weeks and I feel good. An egg or two a day, veggie soup made with bone broth or a salad for lunch, meat or fish for dinner. Sometimes a cheese quiche for dinner, I even eat wheat products from time to time with no issue since I’ve found out what was really bothering my tummy (SIBO) and got that cleared up.

    Any shift in diet from crap to whole foods is bound to offer improvement almost immediately. Paleo did that for me short-term but after a while I just couldn’t do it with meat, meat, meat (and eggs, fish, etc.) all day long. It made me feel sluggish and I wasn’t losing weight. Adding more veg, and a vegan meal or day here and there, has my body feeling like its working properly again. Maybe I’m resigned to a life of constant shifting, or maybe it’s that a semi-vegetarian routine that WELL AND TRULY MOVES with the seasons will be best for me.

    I recall reading accounts of old homesteaders in the Foxfire Books, how they were mostly vegetarian in the summer because it wasn’t cold enough to butcher large animals. Beans, grains, and fresh veg and fruit made up most of their summer diets, and meat was mostly consumed in the winter months (this was in pre-refrigeration days in the south, where even cured meats could spoil in the heat of summer). Makes sense to me; spring and summer are for animals to grow and make new young. Harvest and eat them in autumn/winter, vegetables as they come into season.

    I find that pretending I don’t have a fridge helps me figure out what, and how, to eat on a daily basis. What if we were suddenly plunged into a grid collapse situation? Well, I have homemade sauerkraut, dried venison, sausages, a winter garden full of collards and kale, and buckets of rice and dried beans. I think we’d be OK even if not strictly paleo. Oh, and potatoes. We grew over 100 lbs of potatoes this year. Going back to an older, slower way of living has some benefits for our mental and physical health.

    • Simas on October 15, 2014 at 05:46

      Amy, great post. Just out of curiosity, how did you get diagnosed with SIBO, how did you treat it, and are you taking any prokinetic?

    • Amy L.H. on October 15, 2014 at 06:01

      Simas, I spent almost two years with digestive upset and pain every time I ate. I was chronically bloated and had a feeling like a knife was being twisted into my gut. Eating mostly paleo helped a bit, I thought maybe it was gluten intolerance or IBS. Turns out I was starving the SIBO but I didn’t know I had it.

      After suffering with this for a long time, I finally went to a GI doc who suggested I take the SIBO test, and it was positive. I started Xivaxan (sp?) the antiobiotic usually Rx’d for SIBO, and started to feel better in a week or so. I’ve been off the Abx for a while now and have no recurrence of symptoms, even though SIBO can flare.

      As far as probiotics, I take a generic similar to Align. I can’t afford the soil-based PrescriptAssist. I also eat my own homemade sauerkraut and pickled beets and turnips, homemade raw-milk yogurt, and I have a batch of kimchee fermenting on the counter.

      Since changing from pure paleo or a SCD style diet, to a semi-vegetarian diet with small amounts of meat (about 4-6 oz 4-5 days a week, plus an egg or two), I’m doing much better.

      Lots of meat in my diet was starting to slow me down tremendously, so I looked into the traditional diets that my Central and Western Euro roots would indicate. French cuisine is full of lovely vegetable foods, and I tend toward cooking French, Italian, and Polish mostly. Polish food is so underappreciated, lots of veggies and pickles, fresh meats especially game, wholemeal black bread. Yum, and I’d much prefer to eat this way than forever restrict myself from enjoying certain traditional foods again.

  22. JK on October 15, 2014 at 04:28

    Ray Peat would probably argue that the health benefits relating to diabetes on the McDougal program are a result of very low amounts of unsaturated fats in that diet. Which may explain why health problems return when eating above 15 percent fat, as, in this instance, they would probably be predominately unsaturated plant fats.

  23. David Brown on October 15, 2014 at 06:10

    In all this discussion of LF and HF there little mention of the fact that the LF approach inadvertently reduces omega-6 linoleic acid (LA) intake to preindustrial (safe?) levels. And most HF enthusiasts know to replace seed oils with saturated fat-rich traditional fats. Both approaches do the same thing in terms of LA toxicity. Discussion:

    In a 2013 interview entitled More “Vegetable” Oil? MORE Heart Deaths NIH scientist Joseph Hibbeln said, “Just as all polyunsaturates are not created equal, all high fat diets are not created equal. A good example of this is an animal study we did where we compared three high fat diets. All with 60% of calories from fat, in mice. We compared high fat diets that resembled the linoleic acid, Omega 6 intakes, comparable to the levels at the beginning of the century, which was about 1 percent of calories, and those high fat diets with 8 percent of calories, more similar to the amount of Omega 6 in the diet simply from soy oil in the U-S diet, today. Moving from 1% to 8% linoleic acid in the mouse diets, not only tripled the levels of arachidonic acids, but also tripled the levels of a critical derivative of arachidonic acids, which is an endogenous cannabinoid, which creates a similar affect to marijuana. So it’s the brains own marijuana like molecules, and we were able to triple the body’s marijuana like hormones, three times higher in the liver and about 20% higher in the brains just by altering the linoleic acid in those two high-fat diets. Normally those high fat diets used for mice in studies are composed of high linoleic acid, found in soybean oil. When we deleted that one single molecule, the Omega 6 fatty acid, we were able to obliterate the ability of a 60% high fat diet to induce obesity in the mice…And we did it also in diets that were 35% of calories from fat, and also diets that were 12% of calories from fat. We were able to induce obesity in low fat diets, in the mice, by changing the bioactive properties of the fat, not just that it was high fat and more calories.”

    Here’s one of the research papers Dr. Hibbeln referred to in the above excerpts: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3889814/

  24. Sue on October 15, 2014 at 08:32

    For years, I’ve followed the work of the LF vegans as well as that of the LC and/or paleo crowd. I never fully committed to either one. And I’ve often mulled over the idea of synthesizing the two somehow. My idea is to take McDougall’s plan (he’s my favorite of the LF vegan MDs) as a starting point but (1) leave out the gluten grains, which he does allow, (2) use modest amounts of nuts, seeds, avocado, and olives to reach 10 g of fat/meal (to avoid gallstones, which I am at risk for), and (3) maybe have a modest serving of fish or eggs once a week if craving animal products.

    • Amy+L.H. on October 15, 2014 at 09:27

      Sue, you’ve pretty much described what Richard is talking about in his prescriptive post.

      My descriptive post was pretty much this, except I include very small amounts of gluten grains in my diet: no wheat, but spelt and einkorn flour to make crusts for tarts and quiches, or baguettes for occasional sammies. I am eating semi-vegetarian now, about 30 oz. of meat/fish/fowl plus a few eggs and some cheese protein per week and feeling fine, losing some weight albeit slowly. I’d rather lose it slowly as I have three kids and some loose flesh that will respond better to small losses than dramatic and quick losses.

      I’m not strictly “low fat” but I am conscious of not adding too much fat to my veggies and not eating too much fatty meat. I tend to use my slow cooker a lot, and as such I trim the fatty bits off of my meat to make the end product more palatable – excess grease in any dish just makes it blech!. Naked and trimmed chicken thighs or other parts, or trimmed venison roasts, make for satisfying but not too greasy meals. A tsp. of grassfed butter does wonders for a pound or so of greens or green veggies. Roasted veggies need almost no fat to taste fabulous; the caramelization does all the flavoring for you (think tomatoes, squashes winter or summer, root veggies, garlic.

      You can quite easily synthesize the two plans. Tuscan bean soup with chard or kale and a link or two of sausage or a pound of boneless chicken thighs cooked into a serving for eight; stir-fried rice with cruciferous veggies and shrimp or chicken with ginger and scallions; an all-vegetable soup made from roasted root veggies and onions and garlic but simmered in bone broth instead of veg stock – benefits of carnivory without having to suck in all the meat. Mexican dirty rice made in the traditional fashion: bits of fried game or poultry liver stirred into rice before cooking with peppers and tomatoes.

      In general, I think of meat as a condiment, rather than a main. I don’t avoid it, but I don’t go out of my way to make it the be all, end all of my meals, either.

    • Amy+L.H. on October 15, 2014 at 09:39

      Actually, some wheat, but not a lot. I had some boxed pasta with my kids last night about one cup of cooked product, it didn’t affect me one bit; in fact, I weighed myself this morning and I’m down a pound from three days ago.

      Funny how you can go full circle from “CW is Wrong, Wrooooonnnnnggg!” to “hey, maybe there is something to this portion control thing…” You just have to use whatever hack you mun to get your appetite recalibrated.*

      (*I say this with full recognition that some populations require a lifetime of dietary restrictions that nullify my point – for them. For the rest of us? Just stop stuffing yer faces, already, get in touch with real hunger, real food, and eat accordingly)

  25. Scott M on October 15, 2014 at 10:17

    Just looking at this at first brush, seems like a very healthy diet. However, how is someone going to get to adequate protein on this diet without supplementing with protein powder? I have a hard time seeing someone getting 1 gram / lb of bodyweight on this.


    • sdiguana on October 15, 2014 at 11:03

      I think the 1g/lb recommendation is more for strength training / muscle building than for just ‘living’.

      It does make me curious what the minimum protein levels to maintain muscle mass are though, for someone who is decently strong, but not pushing their genetic limits.

    • Amy+L.H. on October 15, 2014 at 11:14

      Second sdiguana. I found it very difficult to eat the “1 g per lb of lean bodyweight” which for me meant 110g of protein per day. I was buying cartoned egg whites and cooking a cup of them per day with one whole egg, plus turkey bacon to keep the fat ratio low, and eating plain canned tuna with no veggies, and a few whey protein shakes to make up what my diet couldn’t hit with whole foods.


      I see some of the women in my gym who are fitness competitors in their 30s and 40s. yeah, they’re lean. But, lean in an almost sickly way. They have a sinewy look like old, tough animals. I don’t want that for my middle years or my old age. A life lived on scrambled egg whites, spinach, and plain canned tuna is not a happy one for me.

      I’d love to lose some weight, and I’m doing so, but I don’t want to get down to near-anorexic levels of body fat from consuming protein, protein, protein and very little else.

      It depends on your goals. Young people of either gender might be able to maintain a lean physique on less protein simply due to their hormonal profile. Older people likely require a different IIFYM profile to maintain that youthful physique; but sometimes you have to ask yourself what you’re chasing and why you’re trying to maintain a fleeting thing. You’ll forever be attempting to stay ahead of youth, only to find it whipping your ass at every turn, in the end.

    • Bret on October 16, 2014 at 09:26

      In discussions on how “we eat too much,” I am reminded of Mark Sisson. He is extremely fit and cut near the age of 60, and he is also extremely active. He has no apparent trouble from “eating too much,” likely because his natural appetite suits his activity level, which incidentally fits his evolutionarily adapted genetic biology. It probably doesn’t matter what he eats, as long as it is whole, though surely plenty of variety among whole foods helps maintain good micronutrient supplies and balances.

      I suspect we westernized, 21st century humans are throwing a big wrench into our bodily homeostasis by being as sedentary as we are today. I think that constantly sitting on our butts atrophies our muscles, joints, organs, and all the hormonal and enzymatic processes that are influenced by exercise. If nearly all of our ancestors were active, it stands to reason that exercise is a significant cog in our anatomy, which left unsatisfied will cause us some significant problems.

      As such, I think that remaining sedentary — something arguably no PL/HG human would have done — and concurrently trying to force upon ourselves a biologically inappropriate (and thus difficult to tolerate), artificially small food intake will cause problems we can’t foresee or overcome. Biology (i.e. Mother Nature) is likely to win in a contest with will power — if will power is even a valid strategy to begin with.

      When I reflect on how ridiculously complex all the data is on diet alone, I end up back at this exercise-based perspective. We can argue all day long about what kind of exercise matters, or if it matters, if it’s a quality vs. quantity thing, etc, but I’m pretty convinced that being sedentary for most of the day will result in a perpetual uphill climb in the pursuit of good health, to say nothing of limited body fat.

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on October 17, 2014 at 21:33

      i thought it was 1g – 1.5 g/kg

      1 g/lb seems excessive (for me)

  26. Bay Area Sparky on October 15, 2014 at 21:45

    Outstanding writing and content. A rock-solid post in every way. You captured the conversation perfectly and with the perfectly prosaic tone.

  27. Ed+R. on October 16, 2014 at 15:27

    Does anyone remember Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”? While the book goes into all kinds of detail he summarizes his dietary advice in only seven words. “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

    It’s looking more and more like that is not only excellent advice, it seems to be where Richard and many commenters are heading.

    • martin on October 17, 2014 at 00:26

      Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy these mind games, looking for the perfect substance for a diet, they help me conceptually.

      But to me, the quest is woefully misguided as long as you go down that dead end road pointed to by Parmenides and Plato and warned about by Hercaclitus so long ago: everything flows, there is no substance. In other words, you are looking for something that doesn’t exist. Everything is changing all the time, incl. dietary requirements. The environment is changing – solar, lunar and seasonal cycles and so on. It’s all in a flux and what is required by your body today is not what it needs next week and what is available this week won’t be available in, say, deep winter. Unless, of course, you detach yourself from the cycle of life and move into a fridge and keep your supermarket loyalty card happy – but then you might as well just swallow the antibiotics and vitamin pills and stop pretending you’re trying to discover a “natural diet” (how oxymoronic that sounds, ehh?).

      Loren Cordain is wrong about some things, but he is right that we should look deeper and rethink how we eat and if there is one lesson lurking in our past and in philosophy, then it is that substance is an illusion (and pursuing it delusionary and degenerate) and that food would have always been of a changing nature – that is, until grain storage facilities, taxation and debt changed all that and tied humans to specific “substances” and they lost all their flow.

      What a human body needs is change. Not stable formula. We need new stimulation, new irritation, new exaltation. As scientists are now finding out (for instance http://nautil.us/issue/15/turbulence/fruits-and-vegetables-are-trying-to-kill-you ) and as herbalists have known for millennia: plants irritate us, get us going, keep us flowing – tickle the immune system – but it’s just like being tickled by a loved one: if they keep tickling you in the same place in the same way for a long time, then the tickling turns painful. The same with the foods you eat: they must change, rotate and cycle and: flow! If you eat the same all the time – according to some abstract scheme of macronutrients – then you’ve lost your flow. The world is spinning, but you stopped. Zombie.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 16, 2014 at 15:48

      “It’s looking more and more like that is not only excellent advice, it seems to be where Richard and many commenters are heading.”

      It’s always a process. Once Duck and others uncovered that no, Inuit aren’t 80% fat (50% is more like it) and that many wild animals are very damn lean and they have to preserve the seal oil for their lamps and dark cold winters, I began to think that eating tendered, isolated, pressed fats is just not the evolutionary norm so far as I can tell. No fear of fat, but get it as part of the whole foods they are a part of.

      Then, the discovery of tigernuts as a huge, easy to harvest starch source that’s also highly nutritious and I’m suddenly curious about cutting out added fats (salad dressings, fatty sauces, butter / mayo on bread/sandisches, nut butters by the spoonful, butter in coffee, etc.).

      I think it’s worth a try and who knowns, the line between starch / fruit sugar and animal protein may not be at all very important.

    • Duck Dodgers on October 16, 2014 at 16:39

      “Then, the discovery of tigernuts as a huge, easy to harvest starch source that’s also highly nutritious and I’m suddenly curious about cutting out added fats (salad dressings, fatty sauces, butter / mayo on bread/sandisches, nut butters by the spoonful, butter in coffee, etc.).”

      Tiger nuts are actually a rich source of natural whole fats. It’s easy to remember the details because their macronutrient profile mimics human breast milk and the fat profile mimics that of olive oil.

      In terms of not adding extra fats to foods, again, that would align with what the Blue Zone diets supposedly are.

      But, of course, fat does help with absorption of nutrients, etc. So, maybe it does make sense eating whole fats like tiger nuts, avocados, etc. If we can have whole food carbs, why not whole food fats?

  28. Richard Nikoley on October 16, 2014 at 15:50

    …So, in this context, for example, drink a glass of whole milk rather than eat butter or cheese.

    • Duck Dodgers on October 16, 2014 at 16:49

      Seems like many cultures do pretty well on raw cheese though. I know the Masai made, ate and sold butter.

      The Masai preferred their dairy fermented, probably because they were drinking so much (a liter a day I think) and fermenting would have improved the digestibility and reduced excess casein. They would often drink buttermilk from what I understand, which is a byproduct of making butter.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 16, 2014 at 17:34

      And also, refrigeration is a big deal.

  29. pzo on October 17, 2014 at 06:19

    The Minger video is factually awesome! (To say nothing of Denise being soceasy on the eyes.) As always, her research is impeccable and informative.

    My take away, as she notes, is that the extremes of macronutrient proportioning can lead to amazing health benefits. My opinion, reading health blogs and doing my own research for five years now, is that the extremes have been proven to be great interventions for health issues. But are they good for the long haul?

    I think the answers are that the ultra low fat diet is not. They may have greatly reduced chances of heart disease, but I’ll bet their “all causes mortality” is terrible. Lack of protein, fat soluable vitamins, too much omega 6 fatty acids, etc. Without even getting into components and theories, just look at the practitioners. Simply, there are not healthy.

    OTOH, as so many have posted here, VLC does not work for everyone, I will not repeat the problems and symptoms that many have experienced. At least there is no shortage of protein and healthy animal fats! My take is some people can do great on say, <50g day of carbs, many cannot.

    So, perhaps once one has been "intervened," it's often time to head for something like the Perfect Health Diet.

    My latest dietary effort keeps carbs and protein to about 100g/day each, the rest heart healthy animal fats for about 65% fats.

    A couple of related notes:

    1. I have a good neighbor/friend, age 65 who has been vegetarian, then vegan, then raw vegan her whole adult life. She is completely scientifically illiterate (as are most vegans, I've observed.) She loves peanuts roasted in the shell, and eats pounds per week. She somehow has herself convinced that the roasting temperature is low enough to fall into raw food guidelines (104 degrees, FYI.)

    The fact is that she is outwardly, at least, very healthy. She is a singer/entertainer and she lacks no energy.

    My theory is that despite the paleo community's fear of legumes, I think it's the peanuts that are keeping her healthy. The major fatty acid ratios are almost exactly the same as lard, which FYI, is almost the same as human's. Peanuts have all of the essential amino acids, even if not well balanced. Before and even after Crisco, peanut oil was THE go-to frying oil in the South. That was, before, you know, people started dying of heart disease.

    2. I've noticed that just like their co-religionists of other faiths, vegans now just MSU (Make Shit Up) to "prove" a point. They use vegan religion "fact" sites to "prove" that spinach has more protein than beef! Really. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is the what we are up against. The truth may set you free, but it does not always prevail!

    3. I had quite a few ounces of almonds the other day…..hard to stop once started. I was flabbergasted to find my blood glucose was 144 over an hour after eating! Apparently, not all carbs are created equal. I don't get that much response with a cup of grits!

    Keep up the good work, Richard. Yours is the only blog I check into daily or even more often, Mark's, a few times a week. I love your inquisitive and iconoclastic bents.

  30. David V on October 17, 2014 at 20:00

    I have been playing around with Perfect Health Diet, but after watching Denise I decided that maybe we should be eating a varied diet, but simple meals. Today i had:
    Breakfast – Raw vegan, half a pineapple and a banana
    Lunch: Brown rice and a little bit of lean chicken with baked plantains with no added fat
    Snack: high fat, low carb. Big piece of cheese, some sausage, some MCT oil
    Dinner: Sushi, fish on rice
    I’ve been doing something like this for a few days and my energy is higher immediately. I think the key may be not eating fat and starch together at a single meal. Nature never combines starch and lots of fat. (Other than breast milk, which is a wrench in my theory). I watched the Disney’s movie about Chimpanzees. What i noticed was they would move to some fig trees and eat only figs until they had eaten everything on the tree. Then move back to a place where there were nuts. In one scene they showed them hunt/kill/eat another monkey, but they didn’t brring some figs and some nuts and some dead monkey on a picnic for a “balanced meal. Eat a balanced diet, just don’t eat balanced meals. Maybe?

  31. Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on October 18, 2014 at 12:24

    we can learn lessons from them but but Chimpanzee is not homosapien.
    can we just eat real food?

    • David V on October 18, 2014 at 20:35

      Sure, we can just eat real food, assuming we agree on real food. Is olive oil real food or is extracting extra fat that damages our health above a small amount? We probably agree that meat is real food, but that doesn’t tell us how often we should eat it. I agree that eating nutritious food will go a long to helping people stay healthy, but I had dinner at a friends the other night and they served fresh mango with cream. Is mixing cream with fruit really the best way to eat even though both are real foods?

    • Richard Nikoley on October 20, 2014 at 07:30

      For purposes of this experiment, I’m forgoing cheese, cream. A little pat of butter to cook an egg is all. If I want dairy fat, I’ll have some whole milk.

  32. Dr.+Curmudgeon+Gee on October 18, 2014 at 22:10

    yes, there is a debate on what “balanced diet” or “real food” is

    how about

    1) minimally processed
    2) fewer ingredients & all ingredients are from real food

    your diet looks pretty real to me (but too lean for my taste). i also do not eat brown rice unless it’s properly soaked

    i have no fear for SFA & i cook with fat so that it would cook properly & tastes good, but nor do i add extra fat to bring up fat to meat some “macro ratio” e.g., Jimmy this sounds as silly & stupid as low fat dieters adding sugar to compensate fat to bring down the fat %.

  33. Jennifer on October 19, 2014 at 15:12

    I have been intrigued about McDougall’s Starch Solution plan since I first heard of it. There are so many “success” stories all over the place.

    What’s weird to me is that on the “Free McDougall Program,” it says: ” If you follow the diet strictly for more than three years …, take a minimum of 5 micrograms (mcg) of supplemental vitamin B12 each day,” which, to me, is admitting that the program is lacking in vital nutrients over the long term.

    So, I’m thinking, the McDougall program (sans wheat and adding small amounts of protein) might be something to experiment with.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 19, 2014 at 15:23

      Exactly right, Jennifer. Precisely why I laid it out like that. Hell, you could probably just chow down on insects daily (does you house have spiders?) to make up the diff, as all herbivores do to be smarter than vegans, but why not get a bit of flavor and save tons of money at the same time?

  34. Mike on October 19, 2014 at 17:49

    So round and round we go?
    (This is not supposed to be in hostile tone, so please try not to take it that way, just an observation)

    Isn’t this exactly the food pyramid or what the “authorities” recommend you to eat?

    So basically, suddenly we are saying here that you just need to stick to the low fat based food pyramid kind of diet and your diabetes will resolve and you will lose weight.

    After a decade of touting alternative diets, we go back to the food pyramid and admit that it’s the correct way to eat?

    Though, one thing bothers me – when you see the countless obese people who try to follow the food pyramid, you think that you, after trying out different alternative diets, suddenly are able to follow the food pyramid successfully and have no problems. What makes you think you can do it successfully now, when you failed for decades? Just because you call call the food pyramid a Strarch-Based-Paleo?

    I know that there is a slight difference to the food pyramid, but when you allow yourself meat, carbs, fat, everything except processed foods and maybe gluten, your diet is exactly as recommended by the authorities, so why not just rewind 10 years and get a grip and start following the official recommendations?

    • Jennifer on October 20, 2014 at 05:07

      The mainstream food pyramid shows refined wheat/grain products – breads, cereals, pasta, crackers – as the biggest section (6-11 servings!) at the bottom. That’s not even close to what I was talking about.

      The only grains I feel good eating are rice and oats, and that’s sparingly, ideally, and not daily.

      The vegetable section is what expands exponentially here, with spuds, squash, root veggies, legumes – all things veggie. And not just a mere 3 servings either, as this, for me, is the main event…

    • Richard Nikoley on October 20, 2014 at 08:07

      Ditto Jennifer.

  35. Mike on October 20, 2014 at 19:57

    OK, maybe the pyramid is a bit different then in US than it is in Finland.

    Link to Finnish food pyramid (in finnish, but you can see the picture)

    You guys don’t see what I mean? – McDougall diet is practically exactly as the Finnish food pyramid – animal products. Yet there is a huge obesity problem in Finland.

    So the revelation here is that you should not eat crackers. Do we really need 10 years of blogging about paleo etc. to realize that you should not eat crackers and refined grains?

    So take the finnish food pyramid, remove gluten and call it Starch-Based-Paleo, and that’s it.

    I still feel that this is just the similar thing that’s happening in 180 degree health. You try paleo, low carb, what not, get fed up and go back to food pyramid and just are content in being a bit overweight or having to constantly worry about not eating too much.

    Of course, while you have once managed to lose weight and have spent 10 years researching what you eat, you stand a better chance of maintaining your weight on a food pyramid diet, but the jury is out there for the next 10 years. I bet that many people fail again with the food pyramid and get back to trying something else, like low carb.

    If it would be just so simple as one should not eat crackers, and should stick to Finnish food pyramid, we would have no obesity problem in Finland.

  36. Aviel on October 21, 2014 at 03:04

    As a native Swede I bet we have about the same food pyramid as you do in Finland. I haven’t really seen people follow it, like ever, because they also tend to eat a lot of cookies, candy, chips and chocolate. Perhaps Finland is different though.
    It reminds me of when I grew up I used to have pretty low-fat dinners (standard LF, not Mcdougal-style) of rice or potatoes with some meat or fish, some vegetables on the side. No one in my family was overweight and we were all pretty active.
    Since moving out and gaining weight I have experimented for the past 10 years with the low glycemic index, low carb, fasting, Mcdougall, McDougall+High Fruit+Peanut butter, Lean Gains, calorie-counting and other diet plans. I think I developed issues on just about every approach I tried, or it wasn’t sustainable for other reasons.

    I feel like I’ve come full circle. All this dietary madness left a sour taste in my mouth and I have for a while just been gravitating back and forth between all these methods without being able to stick with anything for long and not seeing any noticeable results.
    When Richard posted about using a paleo-McDougall, it resonated with me. I remember that there were times when I could have meals on some moderate carbs, a bit of lean meat and hard-boiled eggs with no added fat, some nuts, olives and sometimes a bit of avocado, legumes, veggies and a fruit – a bit of everything in moderation, and I felt a million bucks with no digestive issues, lots of energy, high libido, and great overall mood.
    Now I just want to kick myself for not connecting the dots and sticking to THAT approach, which is similar to what Clarence Bass does (as believe was mentioned in a comment to another post on FTA). I don’t know why I stopped, but I’m going to do it again.

    I’ll end by the simple observation that the main difference between the food pyramid as we know it and this approach seems to be the quality of the sources. The fact that most grains should be replaced with more tubers, veggies and fruit shouldn’t be underestimated, even though I tend to be a bit more liberal myself.

    • Bret on October 21, 2014 at 05:46

      I haven’t really seen people follow [the food pyramid], like ever, because they also tend to eat a lot of cookies, candy, chips and chocolate.

      I can’t speak for Finland, but this is definitely the case in America as well, in my observation.

      I roll my eyes when low carb advocates claim that Americans have complied with the government’s recommendations — and have grown fat, and that this proves carbs are harmful — because in reality they have not complied. The food pyramid never advises lots of soda, fast food, and all the junk food that you mentioned.

      I agree with you that quality of food source is the real key. If we consume a bunch of highly processed, nutrient-sparse, easily digestible junk, we are likely to get fat and sick. Consume, on the other hand, unprocessed, nutrient-dense food with all its fiber intact (where applicable), and we should be okay.

  37. Richard Nikoley on October 21, 2014 at 07:01

    “I agree with you that quality of food source is the real key.”

    This was really the take-home message of Lustig’s highly refined (had had) presentation, Sweet Revenge I watched yesterday. Sure he goes through all the ways that ADDED sugar Jeff things up, but it’s mostly ‘cut out the sugar,’ increase the fiber via higher quality real foods.’

  38. Mike on October 21, 2014 at 15:14

    Hmm… I struggle to get my point across, it seems.

    My point exactly is, that people who try to follow the food pyramid, are not successful in adhering to it, so the gain weigh.

    I do not agree with “the low carb advocates” that people follow the food pyramid and get fat.

    What I’m saying is that as the food pyramid allows almost anything and especially a lot of carbs which are easy to over eat and cause recurrent hunger in many individuals, that is the reason why people get fat trying to follow the food pyramid.

    Now strict paleo or strict low carb or strict McDougall are quite restrictive diets. When you decide that you do not eat something at all (like gluten) you (might) end up eating a lot less calories, which then helps with weight maintenance.

    Now, if we add a bit of animal products to McDougall and a bit of fat and a bit of dairy, it becomes almost like the food pyramid, or a “eat mostly what you please” -kind of diet, where again there are several opportunities to end up over eating or not adhering to the diet. Since if you allow meat, fat and dairy, then you basically can just go to TGI Fridays and have a stake with fries and cream sauce, because, well, it’s almost allowed in the diet and who cares if you do it every now and then. 10 years of this and Bob’s your ucnle – you are obese again.

    Whereas if you follow any of the restrictive diets strictly, you just do not go to e.g. TGI Fridays to eat a steak, since it’s not even close to being allowed in the diet. Instead you eat e.g. a steak with broccoli at home and end up having less calories. In 10 years, you will have several occasions where you restrict yourself from something, because it is not allowed in your diet, thus you might end up maintaining your weight.

    and in a bit off topic – I would like to know if the McDougall advocates have a high percentage of health and fitness enthusiasts, who have anyways always been slim. I suspect that there are more of those than former obese who can successfully follow the McDougall diet. Or then a couple of obese who have had a real health scare like a stroke, who are scared to death not to adhere to the strict diet.

    Whereas I suspect that in the paleo, primal and low carb group, there might be more of those formerly obese, who can maintain the diet, because it’s actually not limiting that much and you feel satisfied after eating a nice tasty chunk of Salmon with some Hollandaise and vegetables. Satiating and tasty. Whereas a the McDougall would have something like beans with unsalted rice and unsalted vegetables. And the Starch-Based-Paleo would have something like small chunk of cod with sweet potato mash and unsalted vegetables. If one really can stick to eating that for decades, well then there should be no problems adhering to the Finnish food pyramid either, should there?

  39. SusieCruising on October 21, 2014 at 19:10

    Looks like the Perfect Health Diet – weight loss version

    • leo+delaplante on December 12, 2014 at 18:09

      exactly what i was thinking

  40. Stefani Ruper on October 26, 2014 at 12:00

    Hey Richard –

    Your email got me back around surfing your blog. I just want to weigh in and say I’ve been HCVLF (is that what we’re calling it?) for probably the majority of my life, and am at least today, and happy and healthy as a clam.

    Are clams healthy?


    Love this.

  41. Mike S on October 29, 2014 at 15:05

    I just watched Denises talk. I enjoy her open-mindedness and encouraging the exploration of dietary science instead of following dietary dogma. At the same time you can read the youtube comments (always a good idea, lol) and you see the same weird, quasi-religious shit out of the vegans that they always say. It’s the tired old meat equals death and cancer and concentrated evil and growing horns, etc.

    This sort of insight into the validity of a multitude of different dietary options or plans and the very real, very likely possibility that one’s evolutionary history (genetics) plays into what sort of diet works well or doesn’t work well for any individual is nice to see and I think that will be the direction that the science goes in over the next several years. These warring notions of “Diet A is good while Diet X is bad!” need to go.

  42. Sam on December 24, 2014 at 19:24

    This is crazy to read this! I was thinking about eating this way for a couple of days now.

    I am battling SIBO, probiotics made it worse. I get brain fog and fatigue after eating. Sometimes 15 minutes after or longer.

    I am taking an antibiotic for 10 days to try to eradicate this. I am taking Florastor( S Boulardii) so I am at less risk of C. Diff and Candida.

    I was eating the 80/10/10 fruitarian diet and I think it is unhealthy to be gobbling down 4000 calories a day of fruits. I know they are healthy and have great health benefits, but I do not believe that the human body was ment to eat that many fruits. Maybe one point in time we were meant to eat all fruits and veggies, but not now.

    I have also tried a paleo diet and I did not do good at all. I was more constipated than I have ever been. I battle with IBS and it goes from D to C. On 80/10/10 it was D and never eased up. I tried probiotics, Renew life’s, and I believe it made my SIBO worse.

    Today I ate lamb quaters for the first time in a while and I felt good for about 2 hours then I started to feel brain fog and depressed. I am starting to recover, maybe I am low on stomach acid? I am not sure.

    I will try this diet, omitting sweet potatoes right now(fodmap in mind). I will consume eggs, meats, and other animal products in moderation.

    From my understanding there is an Asian group of people that ate mainly starches and small amounts of meat and are the longest lived in the world. They usually are in the 100’s.

    I will eat in abundance a variety of white potatoes, squashes, and other low fodmap tubers.

    I think the best thing to do is to eat your meats later in the day. It seems to be more primal that way. I feel as though our ancestors would load up on carbs before their daily hunt and eat their winnings as their last meal of the day.

    I think 6 oz of meat a day with 1-2 eggs would be a perfect amount of animal products.

    Nuts and seeds could be added, but with moderation. Like 1/4 a cup at MOST during the day. One could easily eat 2500-3000 calories a day on a diet like that. Following close to 80/10/10. Probably 60/25/15 would be more realistic. 60% carbs, 25% protein and 15% fats

  43. Alex on April 20, 2015 at 15:01

    Dr Mcdougal is not telling the whole story, in Japan for instance they have the highest life expectancy but they eat a lot fish.

    Sure, starch based diets were common a hundred years ago, but so was physical activity such as farming that was more than just a common walk, and food was as abundant.

    South India has a high starch based diet but the highest rates of diabetes and heart disease probably in the world. Since many folks are vegetarian a high-carb diet is adopted even by folks who still eat some meat. Sure they are sometimes allowed diary, but let’s not forget that many south indians are lactose intolerant and cheese for instance is not as abundant and used as a main food, like in Italy and France.

    The French eat a lot of fats including animal ones and dairy and have lower CV problems. The problem with Dr. Mcdougal is that for the most part the USDA and American Diet have advocated his approach, the food pyramid has starches listed as the biggest food group, and diary and meat listed just above sweets and fat oils, with fruits and veggies listed right after starches.

  44. MB on April 23, 2015 at 11:12

    In the blog entry itself, it sounds as though you are recommending caution in that diabetics may have to increase their insulin in the first days of a low fat whole foods plant based diet. Apologies in advance if I am reading this incorrectly. However if you look into the McDougall retreats, typical results are for type II diabetics have their insulin cut in half after a few days and be off insulin within a week. If someone does not decrease their insulin dosage appropriately, there is a very real danger of hypoglycemia, which can result in injuries/accidents, seizures, coma, and death. I just wanted to note this since if I am interpreting your cautionary statement correctly, someone might decide to increase their insulin dosage, perhaps preemptively. Someone with type II diabetes should probably make a couple appointments with their doctor if they plan on going this route. Cheers.

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