McDougall Program?

So, I am almost finished with Dr Bernstein's Diabetic Solution which touts low carbs, which requires less insulin, and therefore blood sugars are more tightly controlled. Lower numbers, lower errors. My coworker keeps bugging me to try Dr McDougall's program.

Dr McDougall's website states "The human diet is based on starches. The more rice, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beans you eat, the trimmer and healthier you will be -- and with those same food choices you will help save the Planet Earth too."

McDougall's site also states "In Childhood Diabetes: These patients will usually drop their insulin needs by 30%, and their blood sugar levels will be more stable (less "brittle") on a starch-based diet. Most important, their risk of complications is markedly decreased with a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Insulin adjustments are made as usual, with the aid of urine-sugar, and blood sugar tests, under a doctor's supervision."

Has anyone successfully controlled type 1 diabetes with the McDougall Program? His philisophy is opposite Bernstein's, so since Berstein's diet makes sense to me, McDougall's doesn't.

What do you think?

I’ve been following Bernstein’s program for almost 2 years, with great success (last A1C was 5.1). Whenever I try to add carbs, even complex, low glycemic ones like beans, my BG becomes very difficult to control. I’m not familiar with McDougall’s program, but I can’t imagine it would work as it’s the exact opposite of Bernstein’s

I’ve never heard of the McDougall Program, but I know someone who follows Bernstein’s and it works like a charm. I just get depressed every time I think about it… Not ready to give up carbs… Ugh.

We know the effects of carbs. Makes no sense that a diet based on starch & three fruits daily would lower BG. We don’t need a double-blind study to know this is absurd. Few diets higher in carbs than the American one. With low fat, low protein (which isn’t healthy), all that’s left is to eat carbs:)

Dr. McD is another diet doc looking to make bucks selling his food products, books & expensive spa clinic. He’s pushing low calorie/high fiber for weight loss. That doesn’t work long term.

I see no evidence to back up his claims.

From his site; “Atherosclerosis is remarkably uncommon in the few cases of diabetes found in counties in Africa and Asia where the diet is largely starch-based.” Few cases of diabetes with starch based diets in Africa & Asia? Is he kidding! “Both forms of diabetes, childhood and adult, are rare in parts of the world where people’s meals are based on starches.” Where did he get this piece of misinformation. One study cited referenced on the bottom of the page. Hardly anything on which to base such an assertion.

“You will want to keep your sugar between 150 mg/dl and 350 mg/dl while you are changing your diet these days (higher levels are safer than lower levels.)” I’d run from any doctor who advocated keeping BG this high. Given his diet plan, that’s where BG would be followed by mega insulin doses.

Note that all the studies he includes are quite old ones. More nonsense.

Dr. McD also claims cow’s milk in childhood causes T1. Nice to know he’s solved the riddle.

John McDougall is a member of the same group as Neal Barnard (Reversing Diabetes) and Gabriel Cousens (Cure for Diabetes). McDougall and Barnard are key members of PCRM which is an arm of PETA. If you have ethical concerns about eating meat or dairy products, you may wish to consider a vegetarian or vegan diet. That is a choice. Vegan/vegetarian/raw diets can markedly reduce your caloric intake, which can may insulin needs. I have not studied McDougall’s program, I have read Barnard and Cousens work, so I can’t really comment, but there does not appear to be any science or clinical support for the diets.

I found the claims by this group McDougall/Barnard/Cousens to be unsubstantiated. In fact, the claims by Cousens that a raw diet “cures” type 1 diabetes was in my opinion criminally dangerous. In either case, you are a smart adult with a meter. You can try the diet and see the results on your meter. The results should be obvious in a very short period of time.

Thanks guys.
I thought there was a chance that Bernstein only made sense to me because I am an engineer. He is an engineer, and we geeks sometimes make sense to eachother and no one else. Everything that comes out of his mouth, although maybe uncomfortable (the thought of never eating a piece of fruit again makes me sad), makes total sense to me.

I have no moral objection to eating meat, dairy, or eggs. I believe that God created them (the beasts, fowl, and fish) for the use of man…and that includes eating them. = ) I still respect everyone’s right to be vegan or vegetarian, though.

I’m also an engineer, and thought Bernstein’s book was a good read and I did learn things from it. But I have not modified my diet to attempt his diet. Reasons:

  1. Diet is far too restrictive for me. Total carb for the day 30g e.g. two slices of bread - and then nothing else except protein and fat (no vegetables or fruit of any kind, no nuts, no milk, no yogurt, no hummus, no salsa). I eat a lot more than 30g a day in vegetables alone let alone everything else and honestly don’t think I could keep this diet unless I had absolutely no other options.

  2. I’ve had T1 for 35 years, weigh the same as I did in college, and do not need to lose weight. I don’t want to lose weight. So the weight loss appeal of this diet, which is a win for a lot of T2’s, is for me a negative.

  3. He is opposed to aerobic exercise, and is opposed to treating low BG with fruit. I am in favor of both.

  4. One largely overlooked portion of his diet is that it restricts protein to eat exactly the same amount every day - so if you’ve reached your 30g of carb and your protein for the day and you’re still hungry, then you’re left to eat - what? Sticks of butter? I can’t think of any pure fat that would be appealing to me.

  5. I prefer real food to manufactured food - the recipes I see in his book and here for pseudo-sandwiches and pseudo-cookies and pseudo-pizza and pseudo-everything do not appeal to me in any way. I don’t eat desserts (except for special occasions) because I can’t eat the real things (full of refined sugar). I want real, fresh produce not fake food.

  6. I like to travel and when I do I like to eat the native food. There was a thread here about some Bernstein-follower who was going to vacation in Mexico and everyone told her to pack cans of tuna and not to touch any local food - which she did. I would never do that - I would feel way too deprived - what’s the point of traveling if you’re not going to try to experience the local culture?

  7. In fact I just got back from Japan where I spent three weeks working. I ate Japanese food at every meal and had really excellent blood sugars - better than here in the US even though I was continually eating things I’d never eaten before. The reason, I believe, is not the carb content of their food (I had noodles or rice with every meal, often both), but primarily the reasonable portion sizes. I ate out at every meal and was always served a reasonable amount of food - never a US size heap - only occasionally did I leave behind some of the rice if they served too much. Also helpful was the mass transit system (Tokyo train system) which forces some amount of walking every day. If I had been eating cans of tuna the whole time, what would I have learned?

  8. I’m not ready to treat food as medicine, which is what I believe Bernstein is doing in essence. I still love to eat, and love to try new foods.

  9. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind and try the Bernstein diet. I think it is certainly a possibility as I get older. I do believe it seems likely to work - IF you can keep to it. But it would be extremely hard for me to keep to his diet because of the need to so severely restrict carb and to so carefully measure protein intake for each meal.

That said, I wouldn’t take advice from someone that advocates eating huge or unlimited amounts of potatoes, etc. like the other books you mention. Portion control, with fresh vegetables and fruits and meals with a reasonable amount of carb, a reasonable amount of protein, and a reasonable amount of fat is my goal. I didn’t need anyone’s advice for this - except my Mom’s. And its the best advice I’ve ever had.

(p.s. I believe in evolution and am amazed by your statement to the contrary. To each his own I guess.)

One thing I've noticed about these doctors who claim to reverse type 1 diabetes or see improvement in blood sugars with their high-starch plant diets, is that they always have testimonials from people right after they've been diagnosed. Most of us have our blood sugars improve once we're diagnosed and paying attention and going on insulin...duh....and also, most of us have a honeymoon phase where we can do all kinds of things and keep stable blood sugars.

I struggle with whether or not to do carb restriction or eat like normal people. I can't follow Bernstein entirely because it drives me crazy to be that rigid. I just try to keep my carbs as low as I can, while allowing myself occasional treats like dark chocolate. But no bread, pasta, beans, other candy, etc. And the main thing is keeping my portions down.


My 16 yr old eats horribly... I try to tell him to at least respect the "law of low numbers" he sees what the larger does do to him. I hope...when he gets older...he will want to change what he eats....but right is tough. He has never been a "good" eater and he is a carboholic. I can only try to keep him at the 75 carb per meal they had him on.

I don't believe that any testimonial on a web site is legit.

Dear Katsz,

Sorry if this is not helpful because I'm sure you've tried everything - but have you tried to get your son interested in eating "paleo"? This is low-carb for the younger genration. There are some good books out there on it, by people like Robb Wolf. A bunch of my male college students are into this. They would turn up their nose at "Atkins" but "Paleo", which is almost the same thing in many respects, is cool. It goes along with lifting weights and things.


The appeal of his diet is not losing weight for me. I am more curious about the reversing and preventing complications. I have been diabetic for over 26 years, and that is the same amount of time I have gone without c peptide. I have nephropathy and occasional mild gastroparesis. I didn't have a honeymoon period, but I walked around sick for a long time before diagnosis, so who knows how much damage I have done. I am concerned, also, about using the processed foods he recommends. Like you, I think a stick of butter has to be healthier than I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. Natural has to be better.

About the religious reference, I was trying to make a joke by quoting, or misquoting the bible. Some people think it is immoral to eat animal flesh, similar to eating human flesh, I was trying to be light hearted, but unfortunately not everyone thinks I am as funny as I think I am. Oh well.

Never heard of it....will look into it. Can't hurt. Thanks!

BGs may very well be stable -- at 350 mg/dl!!!!!

When he talks about urine sugar, it sounds to me like the book is VERY old, or maybe just old-fashioned.

If weight is not an issue, and if the person is active, a moderate amount of carbs shouldn't be a problem, but if you are sensitive to carbs, like I am, and if you need to lose weight, then reduced carb can be very effective, because you would use less insulin, and insulin has been proven to be a fat-storage hormone.

I don't do Bernstein, but I do limit carbs -- I average about 70 - 75g of carb a day. I've eliminated bread, pasta, rice and potatoes, and am making up the difference with low-carb veggies (which is hard, because I don't really like them all that much) and meat, eggs, and cheese. I didn't use to eat much meat, but now I am eating it every day, and it has made a difference in my BGs. I don't feel particularly hungry, and I have lost 16 lb. (which I gained when I was depressed and pigging out on carbs the first half of the year -- my version of McDougall???). I'll let you know what my A1c turns out to be when I get it done in March!

I have read too many first-person accounts of success with limiting carbs for me to believe what McDougall says, and I'm not willing to experiment with my body unless it makes sense.

I was just reading my Safeway/one-touch handy booklet for a healthy diabetic diet. Heinz ketchup was pronounced healthy. Galileo was condemned for saying the earth orbits the sun. We have glucometers we can find out the truth for ourselves we do not need external truth. What we need is ideas that we can test. Well I ate starch at Costco and my BG went to the moon. If you can eat starch and it doesn't then eat starch.

My first question would be, Are your coworkers Diabetic?

Other than that, I would probably ignore their advice. I'm reading Bernstein's book. I love it for the learning curve it allows me. Knowing that insulin "is the key" is a far cry from all the information I'm getting from his book about how sugars are processed. I agree that his diet is far too rigid for me [i love a snack of apple with peanut butter!]. BUT, in two days with cutting back on my carbs[going from a 240 avg to a 100 avg] and sticking to carbs that are not so sugar-refined, I have been able to keep my BG levels lower. Totally worth it. :)

Good luck!


While I appreciate Bernstein's "theory of small numbers" I don't follow his program. My normal diet has plenty of fruit, whole grains and vegetables - about 160 net carbs per day (after backing out 35 grams or so of fiber) and I have good control. I practice the "theory of small numbers" by being very precise when I weigh food so that my insulin/carb match is as close as possible. I even bring a small scale with me when I go out to eat.


@ Jag1

I've always been fascinated how other countries have a lower rate of Diabetics. Can I ask you what you ate in Japan? Like a sample meal?

Lots of people have found success by using a more moderate approach while still using Bernstein's principals. Eliminating bread, pasta, rice and potatoes has proven beneficial for many T1s as well as T2s like me.