What I Learned At the McDougall Advanced Study Weekend (Part 2)

Friday Sep 18 | BY |
| Comments (10)

This is the second installment in my series on the Advanced Study Weekend by Dr. McDougall. For the first part, click here.

Dan Buettner – The Blue Zones


I was very excited about the next speaker, who wrote the famous book on the Blue Zones (the places in the world where people live the healthiest and longest).

As a National Geographic journalist, he spent a lot of time in the cultures where people live verifiably the longest. Here are some highlights from the talk:


This is the first Blue Zone they found. Unusual feature: it’s got the same ratio men/women centenarians.  In the US, you have 5 women for each man to reach 100 years of each.

Factors in those centenarians in Sardinia:

1) In diet, barley consumption was the main factor, not wine. Those who ate the most barley lived the longest.

2) Number of daughters: the more the better! They don’t know exactly why.

3) Profession. Farmers didn’t live longer, and maybe it’s because they worked a lot during the growing season but had a sedentary off-season. Shepherds lived the longest probably because they moved every day of the year.

The shepherds had two diets: a portable diet when they would go take care of their animals, consisting of unleavened bread and cheese, At home they ate a pure Mediterranean diet of vegetables and barley. They ate meat 5 times a month on average.

But more important diet and exercise was their family bonds. There are no retirement home! The older you are, the most celebrated you are.


Unusual feature: it’s the place with the longest lived women on planet.

Diet: sweet-potatoes/rice based. They ate very little fish, and in fact he noted that none of the Blue Zones ate much fish.

Philosophy: Hara Hachi Bu – which means to stop eating when stomach is 80% full.

But more important than diet and exercise is their cultural norm. There’s no loneliness. Life expectancy is 8 years shorter if you’re lonely than if you have at least 5 close  friends.

In Okinawa, when you’re 5 years old, you meet 5-6 other people that become your committed social network. You travel with them and end up being close to them all your life.

In Okinawa, there’s no word for “retirement.” But they have a word for your entire adult life, which roughly means: “your reason to get up in the morning.”  Every centenarian knows what it is.

7th Day Adventists, Loma Linda, California

This is an unusual Blue Zone because it’s in the US, but it’s got the highest concentration of centenarians in America.

The life expectancy is dramatically different: 89 years for women vs. 80 for other American women, and 87 years for men vs. 76 years for American men. That’s 11 years longer for men! And they’re good years, too.

The factors he found were:

1) Sabbath: On Friday night you stop everything. There’s a potluck on Saturday, followed by a nature walk which is prescribed.

2) Diet inspired from the Bible. Genesis. For the most part they’re vegetarians, with different degrees of strictness.

He told us the amazing story of a doctor who recently celebrated his 101st birthday. He was doing heavy work plus doing heart surgery at 95! He became vegan in his 50s when he touched the artery of a patient during surgery and could feel it “crunch” between his fingers. That tactile sensation convinced him to become a strict vegan, and he has not had a piece of meat since then.

Nicoya, Costa Rica

In this Blue Zone, they have the highest chance of reaching age 90 (while being healthy).

Their diet consists mostly of:

1) Beans

2) Corn soaked in lime

3) Squash

Ikaria, Greece

This is the last Blue Zone found and maybe the last one to be found. It’s a 99 square mile island in Greece.

Interesting fact: There’s almost no case of dementia there (only 5 mild cases were found). At the age of 85, in America you have a 40% chance of you’re a man and a 60% chance of you’re a woman.

Their diet is a very strict Mediterranean diet consisting of:

1) Beans

2) Potatoes

3) 70 different types greens, including wild greens that are turned into teas. One theory is that those teas are diuretic and they lower blood pressure, contributing to their longevity.

He told the incredible story of a man from Ikaria who moved to the USA at age 22. He lived the American dream, but at age 66 was told he had terminal lung cancer. “Get your affairs in order,” he was told.

Instead of dying in Detroit, he went back to Ikaria and moved with his folks. Hi didn’t even do chemo, but just lived there and ate the Ikarian diet. The author meets him at age 102, making his wine and drinking all of it. “I guess I forgot to die” was his explanation!

Final Conclusions:

He said that none the centenarians he met tried to live a long time. Longevity happened to them. It’s something that ensued, not something they pursued.

But overall the most important things he found to increase longevity and quality of life were:

1) Move naturally (no gym). Centenarians were nudged into movement every 20 minutes.

2) Right outlook. They had daily rituals to reverse worry. They took Naps. They had a sense of purpose. They didn’t “retire” and wait to die.

3) Drink a little bit. Drinking a bit of wine increases longevity.

4) Plant-based diet (90-95%) Centenarians ate 65% starches. Beans were a cornerstone of their diet. If Americans ate one cup of beans a day they would live 4 years longer.

5) Connect – Put your loved ones first.

6) Belonging to faith-based community. Show up to church four times a month increases lifespan significantly. They don’t know if it’s the community aspect, or something else!

7) Hang out with the right tribe: if your three best friends are obese and unhealthy, there’s a 50% chance you’ll become like them. You end up being the people you hang out with!

Finally, he concluded his lecture by discussing an interesting project that he’s working on to create a Blue Zone in a small town in Minnesota, with good results already It will be interesting to see how this turns out!

Michael Klaper, MD
Thriving on a Plant-Based Diet: Avoiding Nutritional Pitfalls While Optimizing Your Health


Dr. Klaper, always an entertaining speaker, discussed optimal plant-based nutrition.

I’m going to point out some highlights but not go over material that was discussed by other speakers at the conference.

Metabolic “Winter” Hypothesis

This is interesting new research, and he provided a link to check it out. bit.ly/winternevercomes

The researchers stated:

“Obesity and chronic disease are seen most often in people and the animals (pets) they keep warm and over-nourished. Similar to the circadian cycle and like most other living organisms, it is reasonable to believe we also respond to the seasons and carry with us the survival genes for winter. Maybe our problem is that winter never comes.” 

As you approach winter, calories got scarce, days got colder and darker, and those are were cues that turned on all sorts of mechanisms of preservation, which turn out to be anti-aging.  But we have engineered winter out of our lives. We’ve turned night into day. And we eat all the time.

How can we turn on those mechanisms again? Through diet and fasting.

He discussed a food triangle that separates food into three corners: Low-density plant foods, high-density animal food and high density plant foods (starches, etc.).

The American diet eats from the bottom circles. Paleo eat from the left corner and vegans eat from the right corner. But the key is to eat from the top corner and never mix fats and starches together. 

This is an interesting idea: separate fats and starches!

When you eat fat and carbs together, your body burns the carbs and stores the fat (as body fat). If you want to gain weight, that’s great, but if you want to lose weight, eat your fat with low-calorie veggies instead! Wait 2-4 hours before eating something that has sugar or starch. Eat your starches or fruit without fat.

Paleo Diets

He said that paleo folks may look buff and young now (because they work out) but they are setting themselves up for heart disease, colon cancer, strokes and autoimmune diseases.


He suggested skipping breakfast altogether for people wanting to lose weight because at night we burn fat. This is based on real-time calculations of metabolisms using special machines. You can extend the night “fast” by not eating breakfast and restricting your eating between noon and 6 p.m.

Pitfalls of Plant-Based Diet

The rest of the talk discussed pitfalls of plant-based diet. A few notes from this:

Supplement with B12, vitamin D, and DHA/EPA (he recommended 300 mg. of algae derived DHA for 90 days if blood tests show you are deficient.

– Eat greens every day

Eat 1-2 tbs of ground flax or hemp + 8-10 walnuts a day 

Iodine can be an issue because soils are depleted. Some seaweed like wakame a few times a week does the job. But caution with kelp: only have a little bit because it has actually too much iodine in it.

Don’t eat oil

Failure to Thrive Vegans

There’s a small percentage of people that can’t seem to thrive on a vegan diet, and end up writing blogs about it. Most people do well but some don’t.

His opinion is that it occurs because the body has gotten used to eating animal foods every day for decades, and can’t seem to make the transition from pre-formed nutrients to plant-based nutrients. He emphasized that this is not normal human physiology.

His solution is to have these patients eat some meat but the smallest amount possible, consumed as seldom as possible so that they feel at their best. He uses it in a medicinal ways for those people that can’t make the transition. After a while, it seems that these people able to give up the meat as their body got used to a plant-based diet.

Michael Wilkes, MD
Clinical Decisions and Shared Decision Making


The next speaker discussed over treatment and unnecessary care in the medical community, and discussed the controversial topic of screening.

This talk is a little difficult to summarize, but in a nutshell:

Unnecessary care is common. It can be:

1) Unnecessary – You won’t benefit from care (no disease present), or the harms of the treatment outweigh the benefits.

2) Ineffective – shown by evidence to be no more effective than placebo. They’ve even tested that with surgery! (Yes, placebo-surgery, called “sham” surgery, exists!)

3) Unwanted. If I told you the risks/benefits, you wouldn’t want it. But you’ve never been told.

  • The US Preventative Services Task Force analyses the evidence. Does this have an impact on health and wellbeing? They grade it.
  • With many tests like PSA (for prostate cancer), there are lots of false positives and many lives wreaked as a result. For one life that could be saved by screening, many people will be unnecessarily treated.
  • We develop drugs for very sick people, and there’s a a huge incentive for pharmaceutical companies to increase the market for these drugs. Once a drug is approved for anything, a doctor can prescribe it for anything else!
  • Make sure you know that the drug you’re being prescribed was studied in the population you belong to, and b) it was studied for the indication you’re being given it for.
  • Ask your doctor “is there data that this is going to benefit me?”
  • 100,000 people die each year of the treatment and medical error (conservative estimate)
  • US: 37th healthiest country in the world. #1: Cuba! We’re doing something wrong.
  • One thing we do worst than eating in this country is dying. We don’t die well and we don’t die the way we want to die. He recommended having durable power of attorney for health care  to “make your wishes known” – What to do in case something bad happens to you. You can do this for free using forms available online.
  • He has a podcast available at: www.essentialevidenceplus.com/subscribe/netcast.cfm

John McDougall
The Extremes of Human Nutrition


Dr. McDougall covered his usual arguments on the starch-based diet.

He compared three diets, with two of them being at one extreme:

The Eskimo Diet (“eskimo” is still the word used in the medical literature, although Inuit is the politically-correct term to use now).

The McDougall Diet

The Rice Diet by Walter Kempner 


 The Diet of Inuit/Eskimos

Those who pretend that the meat-based diet of the eskimo was healthy for them are wrong. The medical literature shows otherwise. They suffered from severe atherosclerosis during all of their known history. There’s no “Eskimo Paradox.”

The McDougall Diet

He went over the results of a study done on the McDougall Diet and Multiple Sclerosis that is showing amazing results already after a year.

The Rice Diet by Walter Kempner 

Dr. Kempner treated morbid obesity and other major health problems with diet of white rice, fruit, fruit juice and white sugar. He used white sugar to lower the protein content of the diet. The diet was:

90% carbohydrates
5% protein
5% fat

The results he achieved were incredible, treating “untreatable” diseases like extreme hypertension, morbid obesity and diabetes as well as related diseases. Yes, white sugar worked in this context.

He said that the McDougall Diet is for the “living.” The Rice Diet is for the “nearly dead.” 

“Most people won’t need it but you should all know about it.” 

He prescribes the Rice Diet to 2-3 patients a year when nothing else can help them.

I hope you enjoyed this series! 

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.


Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Thank you very much for sharing your notes from that event. It is very useful for anyone who could not attend or does not have the time to listen to long audios, especially because it provides different views on diets and health. Thanks for what you do.

  2. Glenn says:

    Funny How Dr. Klaper says that Paleo followers are setting themselves up for future autoimmune disease, when in reality many of them went paleo to put their existing autoimmune diseases into remission. Paleo is now considered the “autoimmune diet”. So it will be interesting to see if, in the future, those that are healing their autoimmunity on a paleo diet will eventually have their AI diseases reemerge, as he predicts

  3. Alan says:

    Hi Fred – Thanks for sharing the info from the McDougall Advanced Study Weekend. Of all the plant based Dr’s out there now who are getting people well, Dr McDougall is my favorite. I pretty much follow his starch based diet, but do eat some nuts and seeds. I do well on it. I have been a vegan for yrs and struggled to some degree until i started eating more starches like white potatoes, sweet potatoes, Winter squashes and plenty of grains, especially brown rice and beans. I still eat a fair amount of veggies, most from my organic garden with lots of greens in the fall and winter. I also eat some fruit. I enjoy the diet very much and doing very well for 60. Worl hard most everyday except on the Sabbath-Saturday !!!
    keep up the good work Fred.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your notes. We have gone whole food plant based for almost 7 months now. My husband and I lost 40 pounds each in 4 months. His blood pressure is now normal, he doesn’t need meds any more. Kidney stones he had disappeared. His blood sugar is now normal, after years of trying everything including the Paleo diet and supplements to bring it down. Once a week, for one meal, we have animal protein of our choice (I skip it mostly 🙂 But other than that, we eat mostly like Brazilians : rice and beans, greens, veggies, fruits, grains every day. I had adrenal fatigue, couldn’t sleep, had horrible PMS and bleeding, that is all gone. I feel great with lots of energy. Whenever people ask me what I did, I tell them: “I went Vegan!” and then I explain if they are still interested.

  5. Sue says:

    Thank you so much, Frederic, for this series and giving us the benefit of your notes. I really appreciate the hard work you put into this to enlighten us even further into the area of good health. Sue

  6. Kristin says:

    I have really been enjoying theses posts, thank you! The question that I have is in regarding not mixing fat and sugar/carbs, which I have heard you mention a few times. So does that mean that adding berries and nuts or seeds together to a smoothie is not a good thing for our body if we want to stay thin? Same question for avocados and a few dates together? Thank you!

  7. Gigi Ward says:

    Beautifully written in simple laymen language. Very easy to assimilate information. I’ve never seen this information put together this well. The article was just long enough, any longer and I wouldn’t have had the time to finish it. I’m going to share this with all my friends & family. TY so much. Keep up the good work! Gigi Ward

  8. Dawn says:

    Thanks very much for your time in sharing this with us. Really interesting and educating

  9. Tim Peterson says:

    Thank you Frederic. This was very helpful! It is great to have all this wisdom encapsulated in this format!

    I have been eating a mostly raw food diet for the last 20 years. You introduced me to the 80/10/10 diet recently but that is also the diet recommendation made by my spiritual master – Avatar Adi Da back in the 1970’s in the Eating Gorilla Comes in Peace..now refined and published as the Green Gorilla.

    I also bought your program on dental health and appreciate that information.

    All my best,

  10. Gail says:

    Thank you. These articles are awesome.

    Comments are closed for this post.