On Day 1 of the program, Ben weighed 313 pounds, had been diagnosed with Diabetes, Hypertension, Hyperlipidemia and Heartburn, and was taking Glipizide, Metformin, Lisinopril, Lipitor and Tums.
When I first met Ben I was working in my role as a part-time staff physician at John McDougall’s Health and Medical Center at the Hotel Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa in Santa Rosa California. John McDougall MD and his wife, Mary, have been developing programs and gaining experience for over 30 years. Their most successful program is their 10-day residential program, now in its tenth year. Based on his success he was approached to develop a similar program for Whole Foods Markets. The result was the 8-day McDougall Whole Foods Immersion program.
Ben had applied for and been selected to attend the March 2011 program. Participants of this program undergo initial laboratory testing and physical exams during the first two days of their program. On the morning of March 5th he had had fasting his blood and urine tested. In the afternoon we met in my clinic room for his history and physical examination, to review his laboratory results and adjust his medications.
Going from the standard American diet to a low fat whole food plant based diet centered on starch (i.e. the McDougall diet) presents challenges for both physicians and patients. Physicians and patients both find it difficult to believe that the proper diet can lead to rapid improvements in their health. Patients have a hard time believing they can “reverse” and/or “cure” chronic diseases. Physicians need to exercise caution for patients on medications for diabetes and/or high blood pressure. They need to shift from “putting patients on medications” to “stopping and/or reducing medications”. Fortunately Dr. McDougall, with his years of experience, provides excellent guidelines and is available for questions. These guidelines and my experience led me to recommend that Ben stop his blood pressure medication, Lisinopril, which he agreed to do. I recommended that he stop both his diabetes medications, Glipizide and Metformin. Since his sugars had been running high he decided to stop his Glipizide but continue his Metformin at 25% of his regular dosage. I advised that he follow his fasting sugars closely and if they got below 150 to stop the Metformin. I advised him to continue his Tums as needed. I had the hotel staff elevate the head of his bed by 4 inches. His lipid medicine, Lipitor, was continued so he would be able to see the effect of diet alone on his cholesterol level. The plan was to discontinue that medication at the end of the week. By the third day of the program his heartburn was gone and he stopped his Metformin.
In the morning of the last day of the 8-day program he repeated his fasting blood work. In the afternoon we met again for his medical recheck. He had more energy and his heartburn was gone. His fasting blood sugar had improved from 159 to 129 and he was on no medication! His blood pressure was the same but he was not taking his blood pressure medication. His cholesterol had dropped 67 points! He had lost 3#. He was given a slip to repeat his glucose and lipid panel in several months.
He continued on the McDougall diet with a regular exercise program. Four months later his cholesterol was 202. This was 50 points less then when he was diagnosed with diabetes in 2003. His fasting blood sugar had continued to improve and was 100. He continued to check his fasting sugars at home and stopped 1 month later as they were in the upper 70’s. Six months after the program his cholesterol had continued to decrease and was 182. This was lower then the 189 when he was on Lipitor. Nine months later he had lost a total of 70# and is continuing to adjust his lifestyle and lose weight.
As impressive as his “numbers” are, his quality of life is dramatically better. He was now able to beat his 6-year-old son in a foot race. He had been a manager in the specialty purchasing area for Whole Foods. He was buying products like cheese that were no longer on his diet. He switched his position so now he is a service manager. Beyond work his family is also benefiting. He reports that his wife and children are following the diet about 95% of the time.
Ben is an example of the power of following a proper plant based diet with Vitamin B12 supplementation. More examples like Ben’s can be found on John McDougall MD’s website under “Star McDougallers”. Beyond these examples of dramatic improvements everyone can improve their health and decrease the likelihood of developing a chronic disease by going on a proper plant based diet.