5 Life-Changing Lectures (Advanced Study Weekend Review)

Monday Feb 22 | BY |
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Last weekend, I attended the “Advanced Study Weekend” organized by Dr. McDougall. He organizes this event twice a year and I have attended many times in the past. In my opinion, this is the best event organized anywhere in the world about health. The information is cutting-edge, free of hype and non-commercial in nature.

Here are my notes from this year’s event. I’m not going to review every single lecture, but instead focus on the ones that stood out for me.

Dr. McDougall on the New Dietary Guidelines

Dr. McDougall spent some time reviewing the latest USD guidelines for nutrition. He said that there were some wins but overall they obscure their recommendation using complicated language.

The guidelines are “guided” by industry. However, they are still a step forward if you read them carefully.

  • Even though they now removed the limit on cholesterol, they also write that one should make efforts to limit cholesterol. Go figure…
  • The reason many studies show that eating cholesterol has no effect on blood cholesterol is because of the design of the studies. When someone already eats a diet with over 400 mg of cholesterol, absorption is blocked for more. That’s why eggs show no effect on cholesterol in a diet that is already rich in animal products.
  • However, eggs will raise cholesterol levels in vegetarians.

T. Colin Campbell, Ph. D.


Colin Campbell is the co-author of the China Study but also a relentless researcher. He was sitting just in front of me during the weekend, and I was amazed at his vitality at age 82. His conference was one of the most enlightening ones from the weekend.

The Supremacy of Protein – 200 Years – Has Anything Changed?

Dr. Campbell went through the history of protein from its discovery in the 1840s. Here are some highlights:

  • Studies were done in the 1870s established protein requirements to 52 grams a day but 120g/day was recommended instead.
  • As early as 1908 the overconsumption of protein was associated with cancer
    Chittenden in 1905 discovered that physical endurance and strength increased on a low-protein, plant-based diet
  • It’s the animal protein in the diet that causes heart disease, not just the saturated fat or cholesterol itself
  • In the China Study, there was a 200X variation in rates of different cancers between the counties. It related to blood cholesterol levels. In China, the range was as low as 90 up to 170.
  • They thought that cholesterol was low enough in China, so why the increase in cancer at higher levels?
  • Because blood cholesterol levels was a result of animal protein consumption. It wasn’t the cholesterol itself, but the protein. Because animal protein raised cholesterol level, they could make the connection.
  • In animal studies, more animal protein promotes cancer growth. But you can consume as much plant protein as you want, doesn’t matter, because it’s different protein. It’s a whole food — it’s the full package
  • Epidemiological studies done on different low-fat vs. high fat diets today are a mirage. They consider things like fiber, fat, etc. But NO large-scale study has ever been done on the type of diet we recommend, like the Ornish diet. A whole foods plant-based diet works not for one disease but every disease.
  • All the studies done compare 30% fat to 60% fat. Even from 20% to 60% there’s not much difference. It’s like comparing smokers with two packs or three packs a day. There are no studies done on the food that we recommend: whole foods, 100% plant-based, no oil.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn
Treating the Cause to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease


Another superstar speaker. He’s also 82 years old. He gave his usual lecture on becoming “heart attack-proof” with a few new twists. Here are a few highlights:

  • How do we get heart disease? It starts with inflammation of the endothelial cells lining the walls of our arteries. Cholesterol gets stuck there and goes under the lining. It gets oxidized, and the body tries to get rid of it. Progressively, plaque forms, and its content oozes out. This activates a clotting factor… we get a clot, and BOOM, a heart attack.
  • You can get heart-attack-proof for life in just three weeks. You have to change your chemistry and make sure nothing in your blood gets sticky.
  • Nitric oxide, discovered in 1980-1998 (and for which a Nobel Prize was awarded), is key. It’s a strong vessel dilator and prevents arteries from becoming thick.
  • A single meal at McDonalds can injure your endothelial cells and prevent artery dilation for several hours.
  • Caffeine in coffee injures the endothelial cells (but not in tea), as do olive, soybean and palm oils.
  • To improve nitric oxide function, cardiac patients should eat greens SIX TIMES a day! About fist-sized (once cooked), with balsamic vinegar, cooked for 4-5 minutes. For optimal results, no smoothies. Eat and chew your greens.
  • Never before in Medicine have we had something as powerful as a toolbox as we have with plant-based diet

Why Lunch Matters: Promotion and Prescribing
Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD


This lecture was not about lunch!  It was about the marketing techniques used by pharmaceutical companies to promote their products. It was super enlightening! It focused on the pharmaceutical reps marketing to doctors directly.

(The “lunch” part of it comes from the fact that often these reps pay lunch or other small gifts to doctors. Doctors don’t feel it’s a gift, but they feel obligated to reciprocate. They discovered that small gifts work better than big ones!)

It will be tough to summarize the lecture, but I’ll give you a few highlights:

  • Pharmaceutical reps make 150-300K a year and provide a 13X return on investments to the company. They only work on three doctors!
  • Physicians are smart and naive, and more more susceptible to financial scams and manipulation from marketing techniques. Doctors believe that they haven’t been bought off, even when they have.
  • One fourth of doctors in the US doesn’t see reps from pharmaceutical company. Find a doctor who doesn’t.
  • Marketing of drugs starts seven years before they are on the marketing. It’s illegal to promote a drug before it’s approved but instead, they market a disease with a “disease awareness campaign.”
  • Many diseases have changed names or benign conditions have been redefined by pharmaceutical companies in preparation for a new drug, or a rebranding of an old drug.


  • Pfizer renamed “impotence” “erectile dysfunction” to remove the stigma associated with the condition and prepare for the release of their drug.
  • Heartburn used to be a simple condition, and the advice was “don’t eat so much, don’t drink and take TUMS.” It’s been rebranded as “GERD” with drugs you need to take every day for the rest of your life.
  • Drugs are often renamed. When the Prozac patent came close to expiration, the same drug was rebranded as Sarafem
  • Menopause has been turned from a normal life event to a medical condition. We promote hormone therapy even when menopause is not a disease.
  • For men, “Low testosterone” is the latest of those “new conditions.”
  • More info at  www.PharmedOut.org

Dr. Milton Mills
Are Humans Designed to Eat Meat?


This was a fascinating lectures. When we hear that humans are “natural carnivores,” or even “omnivores,” we wonder what part of it is true.

Dr. Mills went through a detailed analysis of exactly what the differences are between true carnivores and plant eaters and proved that humans can’t be even part-time carnivores. Here are a few highlights

  • Carnivores are animals optimized for predation. They expend little effort to catch their food. They seek weak, diseased and defective animals because they are easier to catch.
  • Herbivores seek lush, verdant and beautiful food. Humans are trying to be carnivores with a herbivore mentality (we seek healthy meat). This beauty paradigm creates species destruction.
  • Hunting doesn’t add up regarding energy deficit for humans. We expend more energy hunting for meat than we get in calories. True carnivores only need to eat every 7-10 days and can eat up to 20-30% of their body weight in one meal.
  • Humans are designed for foraging and walking very long distances at a low energy cost. We’re the only animal efficiently designed for walking.
  • We’re not designed to run fast. We can run fast enough to escape insects and bees. We’re not fast enough to outrun any animal.
  • Hunter-Gatherers who outrun their prey expend more energy hunting than they get from the meat. they obtain most of their calories from plant foods. We can’t even eat enough in one meal to replace the energy expanded from just ONE hunt. Carnivores get enough to eat for a week.

Richard Oppenlander
Food Choices and Sustainability


Normally the lectures focus on human health, but this time Dr. McDougall had two lectures on environmental issues as they relate to food. Richard Oppenlander’s lecture was very enlightening about this very important topic that’s so misunderstood and abused.

  • We are 7.4 billion people on the planet but over 70 billion farm animals. This is unsustainable. Global warming is just one component of global depletion
  • We can’t eliminate fossil fuels now, but we can change the food we eat. All animal food production systems are unsustainable.
  • It’s close to 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions that come from animal agriculture
  • Climate change could be irreversible by 2017
  • We need to change the words we use. Words like CSA, farm to table, traceable, local, organic, grass-fed, cage-free, Paleo, “humane”, real food, sustainable seafood… are all terribly misleading
  • The “real food” movement is flawed. A vegan bar is considered processed and not “real” food, but fish and meat is considered “real food.
  • The movement to eat “less meat” is also flawed. It shifts the focus to seafood, which causes huge problems.
    Every country in the world lacking fresh water is struggling but giving water to livestock.
  • In California, 60-70% of all the water goes to livestock. We’re told to watch our water consumption in the shower which might save 2-3 gallons of water, when not eating meat saves 2000 gallons of water a day.
  • If you love fish don’t eat it. The most important cause of coral death is overfishing.
  • The problem is not overfishing. The problem is fishing. We catch fish to feed farm fish, so even farmed salmon is not sustainable.
  • None of the environmental organizations say anything about eating meat, yet they keep throwing the word “sustainable” without defining what it means.

Michael Greger

Dr. Michael Greger gave one of the best lectures of the weekend, but I’m not going to summarize it because you can download many of the lectures on his website for free.

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.


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  1. Hey Frederic,

    I’ve been following Renegade Health for years now, and have tried many different ways of eating. When it comes down to it, it seems like a high carbohydrate (The Starch Solution), and low fat diet works extremely well. However, I’ve seen results with clients who use a high fat, low carbohydrate diet (Paleo) as well. The common thing among both camps is to never combine high fat and high carbohydrate levels in the same diet. Both of these diets (Starch Solution and Paleo) achieve that. Can you speak to why The Starch Solution is a better choice than Paleo. I’m trying to convince my clients that even though they may lose weight on a Paleo diet, and feel healthier, that it’s nowhere near as healthy as a high starch (plant based) diet, with possibly the use of meat as an occasional condiment.

    • You can get some good results on Paleo because of all of the positive changes in that diet (no dairy, more vegetables, no refined foods, etc.) and because of the weight loss. But you don’t get anywhere near the protective health aspects of the plant based diet. Every animal food calorie you eat is a calorie that could be eaten from a plant-food that’s rich in antioxidants. Animal foods and oils have no fiber. Also, I’m not aware of a Paleo diet being able to reverse heart disease or even stop its progression. And we’re not even talking about the problems with excess animal protein, the environmental toxins in meat, and the overall environmental disaster that comes with animal agriculture and grass-fed beef. You seem to be doing a good job presenting the pros and cons to your clients! It would appear however that getting fat from whole foods sources such as nuts and avocados is okay.

  2. Jacek says:

    Frederic, thanks for sharing your notes from these very wise, progressive thinkers. I wish you continued good health.

  3. Hi Frederic,
    I just want to thank you for our wonderful notes on the weekend. It can be so much information and it so easy to forget most of it but your notes are priceless here. I had to miss Milton Mills as we had Greger talk in Sacramento and I had to get that ready…

    Best to you,
    Linda Middlesworth
    Food for Life Nutrition and Cooking Instructor, PCRM
    Organizer, Sacramento Vegan Society, 2060 members strong.

  4. Get this: people in south of France and Spain, were shameful corridas are still happening, eat the meat of the bull after the fight. A butcher responding to people objecting that eating the flesh of an animal that has been so stressed may not be very good,says:
    « Une bête qu’on enlève de son champ pour la mettre dans un camion et la conduire à l’abattoir est aussi stressée qu’un taureau qui a fait une corrida ! » Paul Bergamo from Vic-Fezensac, France.
    ” An animal that you take away from the field to put in a truck to be driven to the slaughter house is as much stressed as a bull that went through a corrida”.
    Does not that say a lot, as far as the treatment of the animals and as the quality of food people ingest then?

  5. Peter says:

    I liked this as the best!!

    You can get heart-attack-proof for life in just three weeks. You have to change your chemistry and make sure nothing in your blood gets sticky.
    Nitric oxide, discovered in 1980-1998 (and for which a Nobel Prize was awarded), is key. It’s a strong vessel dilator and prevents arteries from becoming thick.
    A single meal at McDonalds can injure your endothelial cells and prevent artery dilation for several hours.
    Caffeine in coffee injures the endothelial cells (but not in tea), as do olive, soybean and palm oils.
    To improve nitric oxide function, cardiac patients should eat greens SIX TIMES a day! About fist-sized (once cooked), with balsamic vinegar, cooked for 4-5 minutes. For optimal results, no smoothies. Eat and chew your greens.

  6. Alan Fogle says:

    Hi Fred – I really appreciate you sharing what you learned while at Dr. McDougalls Advance Study Weekend. I also very much appreciate Dr McDougall. I have been mostly vegan for 25 yrs. Only until i started eating more starches as he recommends – the food most people say avoid – is when i started having more energy to accomplish what i need to each day. I am 60 yrs old and work hard in my organic garden, cut fire wood in the winter and just stay busy working year round. I know that the high starch diet is the key.
    Thanks again Fred

  7. Tim Miller says:

    Great notes, Frederic! Thanks so much. Wish I could have been there, but you make it almost like I was.

  8. Judy says:

    The hunter-gatherer (or paleo) model is not consistent with either the recorded history of mankind or the design of the human body. It is based on evolution, which is a theory, though it is often presented as scientific fact. The earliest recorded history of our world plainly states that early man was neither a hunter nor a forager. He was a gardener. His original diet consisted of herbs that bear seed, and fruits that grow on trees. See the book entitled Genesis, chapter 1 verse 29, and chapter 2 verses 4-8.

    Whether willing to acknowledge a personal God or not, all honest seekers for truth should consider the scientific merit of the information that claims as its author the only being who could have been present when this world began–its creator. As human anatomy and physiology indicate, man was not designed to eat the flesh of animals. His teeth and gastrointestinal tract are distinctly different from those of meat-eating animals like tigers and wolves. Man’s anatomy is designed to eat plants.

    Early man as a hunter-gatherer is a myth generated by pseudo-science. Gardening is as old as written history.

  9. Gail says:

    I really appreciate these notes.
    Thank you

  10. Ida says:

    Thank you, just need to better understand sth. Did the lecture mention olive oil as bad for the heart?
    Best regards,

  11. Hilary Teske says:

    Many thanks for the invaluable information, Frederic. It’s just a pity that so few people know these facts and follow them.

  12. Louise Wells says:

    Thank you for taking the time to share this with everyone.

    I like to place things in an easy-to-understand-way. From all the information I have researched so far the simple solution is; The power is with us and where we spend our money.

    Louise Wells

  13. Marisa says:

    Thank you for putting this together Frederic!! I would love to be able to attend the conference one day. I’m curious as to your thoughts about cases like Kevin Gianni’s who mentioned his hormones were effected from being vegan. Do you think there is a vegan way to remedy that? I agree that plant based is the way to go but are there any cases where you think someone should eat meat? I respect both of your works and have learned so much valuable information, thank you!!!

    • There are different kinds of vegan diets. You can be a junk vegan. You can consume a lot of oils as a vegan. You can also be a raw vegan, which for many people tends to be a very unbalanced diet (lots of fruit sugar but also lots of fat, and not enough calories). The diet I recommend is not “vegan” per se. Avoiding animal foods is just one component. A person could eat a tiny amount of animal food as part of a whole food diet and still be healthier than a vegan consuming oils and refined foods. When you eat in the way I recommend (95%+ plant based, no oil, whole foods only, eat enough calories, eat both raw and cooked, low sodium, B12 supplements, etc.), you get the benefits and I don’t see people coming down with such problems. I think people who say that the vegan diet didn’t work for them were eating an unhealthy vegan diet. Could be also because they’re making a fast transition to a vegan diet and their bodies is used to meat. One could eat a bit of meat on occasion and remain healthy. It’s the whole picture that matters and sadly, most vegan diets don’t have a good overall health picture.

  14. ROSEMARIE says:


  15. Bella says:

    This is riveting, thanks for summarizing! Regarding Richard Oppenlander’s talk, I understand that many buzzwords are misleading, but I wonder why “CSA” is misleading. Any insight?

    • I think he meant that environmental organizations focus on that as “the solution.” Community-supported-agriculture is a good idea. But it’s not the solution or anything close to it when it comes to the scope of the problem we’re trying to solve (climate change). That’s what he meant I think…

  16. Cynthia says:

    I appreciated your review of these outstanding presenters at the McDougall Weekend Frederic. I liked how your notes just honed in on the “new” information.

    Richard Oppenlander made some great points about human meat eaters not being “carnivores” that I may just bring up the next time someone laughingly describes themselves as such (usually as a jab at vegans), but then again, I haven’t managed to convince people of becoming vegan by taking them on when they are full-flamed ahead with this belief system. Better to just go on not being seriously ill at 65 and being able to respond to their incredulity with “I eat low-fat vegan for one thing.”

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