Mark Fergusson, Chief Organic Officer (CEO/CFO) Down to Earth Organic & Natural

In many Asian and South Asian cultures, the health benefits of rice and other staple starches are well established. Lacking this cultural knowledge, many people in Western countries have bought into fad diets that encourage the consumption of high-fat protein from meat and dairy products. These diets discourage people from eating starches and carbohydrates (grains).

As consumption of animal protein has increased, the rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease have also skyrocketed. This trend is not isolated to the United States. Over the past 50 years, members of the growing middle class in countries such as Japan, China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam have begun to incorporate more meat, dairy and processed foods into their diets. As a result, rates of chronic disease are skyrocketing across Asia as well. As Western lifestyles are adopted globally, chronic disease is going global, too.

Now, Western doctors are confirming what many Asian cultures have known and practiced for centuries: better health may be found in a low fat, plant-based diet high in starches from whole foods.

One physician from Hawai’i, who had an opportunity to see the effects of diet on health first hand, is strongly speaking out about the benefits of a traditional Asian diet and the dangers of the modern western diet. He is concerned about the almost cult-like low carb diet fad and what he explains are extremely dangerous Paleo diets (heavily meat based diets based on what he describes as the fallacy that our ancestors lived predominantly on meat). In the 1970’s, Dr. John McDougall treated sugarcane plantation workers, many of whom were first-generation immigrants from China, Japan, Korea and the Philippines. He noticed that the first generation of immigrants were generally healthy and fit, and remained so as they aged. However, their children and grandchildren increasingly adopted a Western diet full of processed foods and added sugar, salt and fat. As a result, they became progressively more overweight, and began to suffer from a range of chronic health problems – heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.

When his conventional treatments for these diseases failed, (his patients were never cured, their conditions deteriorated) Dr. McDougall became convinced that diet was the key factor in determining health. Taking inspiration from the cultures of origin of his healthiest patients, Dr. McDougall developed and began to prescribe a nourishing, low-fat, starch-based diet. Over the past 30 years of treating patients, he reports that this diet helps alleviate weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and a host of other chronic problems. While many “no carb” diet gurus claim that bread, pasta, rice and other starches are stored as fat, Dr. McDougall disagrees. Recalling the slim and fit physique of first generation Asian immigrants he asks, “Where are all these obese Asian rice eaters?” Dr. McDougall emphasizes that our physiology suggests that we are not meant to be carnivores, but rather we’re meant to be “starchivores,” or starch eaters. Check out Dr. McDougall's lecture, "The Diet Wars."