Our Misplaced Obsession With Protein: Garth Davis, MD On High Fat, Low Carb Diets, Bad Science & How To Separate Nutritional Fact From Popular Fiction

“…that’s what medical school does – it teaches you to treat symptoms; it doesn’t teach you to treat a larger cause; it doesn’t teach food as medicine.”

Garth Davis, MD

This week marks the return of Garth Davis, MD — a veteran weight loss surgeon who took it upon himself to determine exactly why so many people are plagued by obesity. A quest that led him down a deep research hole to identify the ultimate human diet to maximize and maintain weight loss; optimize human health; and prevent (and even reverse) lifestyle disease — both for himself and his patients (tune in to RRP 50 for our first conversation).

About 7 years ago, the good doctor became his own patient. At the time, he was suffering from high cholesterol, high blood pressure and a fatty liver. In other words, he was downright sick; headed towards a future plagued by obesity and chronic illness. Ironic, yes. But not surprising given the demanding hours of the surgeon lifestyle, lack of exercise, a preference for salty, fatty foods, and the convenience of fast food options in the hospital cafeteria. In fact, there was a Wendy’s in the University of Michigan hospital where Garth did his internship and residency, resulting in a daily dose of  double cheeseburgers — a habit he maintained for years.

Let’s just say I can relate.

Current conventional wisdom in his field is that overweight patients should adopt a very low carb, low to no fruit, high protein diet — hop on board the ketosis bandwagon. Like many, and without inquiring further, Garth simply bought into this idea as truth. He even wrote a book in 2007 advocating this approach to food, called The Experts Guide To Weight Loss Surgery*.

The only problem? This approach to diet failed him and many other friends, colleagues and patients. He knew there had to be a better solution. And his patients needed help beyond knee-jerk surgery. Finally ready for a personal change, he took it upon himself to research — truly research — nutrition for the first time.

His study became an obsession. The more he delved into the peer reviewed work, the more convinced he became that there is absolutely no legitimate science to back the long-term health claims surrounding the strongly held belief that if we want to be thin and healthy we should eat a high protein low carbohydrate diet.

What did he find? If we want to prevent obesity and disease; attain and maintain ideal weight management; and achieve true optimal health and long-term wellness, we need to embrace our inner herbivore.

Sound far-fetched? Before you balk, understand that (much like me) adopting a plant-based lifestyle absolutely revolutionized Garth’s health beyond what he could have imagined. Not only did he drop the weight that plagued him for years, all of his blood markers suddenly and quite magically normalized. His allergies vanished. His sleep improved, his energy levels skyrocketed and he got off his statin medications. In short, he finally began to walk his talk. As his life began to turn around, he wanted to be an example to his patients. For the first time in his life, he began exercising.

Then he did the extraordinary. Despite never having been an athlete, in 2011 he completed Ironman Texas in 12 hours and 6 minutes.

His personal results nothing short of extraordinary, Garth has become a crusader intent on teaching people real nutrition. I encourage you to peruse his Facebook page for a litany of highly entertaining and informative rants on how the internet pseudo-experts are manipulating the science to push high protein diet and how to parse fact from fiction in the scientific literature. Come October, you can get the full unabridged Garth in his new book, Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession With Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It*.

Let’s face it. Most doctors are kind of boring. What really distinguishes Garth from the fray is his acute talent for effectively communicating his knowledge with passion and charisma in a way that catalyzes positive long lasting change — and that my friends is rare.

This is an in depth exploration of all the questions that profoundly confuse the mainstream. Subjects I get asked about everyday, such as:

  • the scientific truth behind low carb, high fat diets;
  • the health implications of the ketosis lifestyle;
  • the pitfalls of reductionist food science;
  • the impact of politicized regulatory bodies and lobbyists on medicine;
  • the nutritional benefits of a plant-based lifestyle;
  • the relationship between meat intake and diabetes
  • what’s the deal with gluten? (his opinion on this might surprise you);
  • plant-based versus paleo;
  • the relationship between saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes; and of course
  • the differences between animal and plant protein and the impact on muscle protein synthesis

Dr. Davis is nothing if not outspoken. His position is unequivocal.

Bottom line? I wanted this show to be the one podcast that would cut through the morass of confusion and hype surrounding popular diet trends and set the record (and my perspective) straight. Let’s just say Dr. Garth delivers, and then some.

This is one for the ages. I sincerely hope you enjoy the conversation.

Peace + Plants,


Listen & Subscribe on  iTunes | Soundcloud | Stitcher | TuneIn

Production, music & sound design by Tyler Piatt. Additional production by Chris Swan. Graphic art by Shawn Patterson.


Find Garth: The Davis Clinic | Facebook | Twitter

Pre-order Garth’s new book: Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It* (Release date Oct 6, 2015)

Background, Context & Reference:

Notable People Discussed in today’s podcast:

Other Podcasts Relevant to Today’s Conversation:

  • RRP 50: Original interview with Plantpower Crusader Garth Davis
  • RRP 140: Eradicating Lifestyle Disease With Cardiologist Robert Ostfeld, MD
  • RRP 79: China Study Critics With T. Colin Campbell
  • RRP 80: Rethinking The Science of Nutrition With Howard Jacobson, PhD
  • RRP 77: Michael Klaper, MD On Leveraging Plant-Based Nutrition to Prevent Disease
  • RRP 128: Is Butter Really Back? Cardiologist Joel Kahn, MD
  • RRP 007: Dr. Michael Greger of NutritionFacts.org

*Disclosure: Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

The Plantpower Way  is now available at these fine retailers!

Amazon*  |  Barnes & Noble  |  IndieBound  |  Penguin

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