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Dr. Garth Davis: Weight Loss Surgeon Turned PlantPower Crusader

By September 19, 2013August 7th, 202331 Comments

Today on the show I have the great pleasure of conversing with Dr. Garth Davis — 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 health — both for himself and his patients.

About 6 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 short, he was pretty sick.  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 that I can relate.

Conventional dogma in his field is that overweight patients should eat nothing but protein — hop on board the low carb ketosis bandwagon. 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, quite ironically given his profession as a weight loss surgeon.  Astoundingly, nutrition just wasn’t on the medical school curriculum, and almost never came up as all that relevant in the countless weight loss surgery symposiums he regularly attended.

His inquiry went deep.  And the more he delved into the peer reviewed research, the more convinced he became that there is absolutely no 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?  First and foremost, that Western Medicine has been failing us when it comes to the most crucial aspect of maintaining health — nutrition.  And that if we want to achieve ideal weight management, optimal health and long-term wellness, we need to turn conventional wisdom on it’s head and embrace the idea that humans are herbivores.  

That’s right.  Herbivores.  

Sound far-fetched?  Before you balk, understand that adopting this way of eating 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 nonetheless completed Ironman Texas in 12 hours and 6 minutes.

His personal results nothing short of extraordinary, Garth has now become somewhat of a crusader to teach people real nutrition.  How to read scientific literature, and how the internet pseudo-experts are manipulating the science to push high protein diet.  And now he’s in the midst of writing a book on the subject.  The Protein Obsession* (Harper Collins / Harper One) should be out next year.

Dr. Davis’ opinions on the paleo diet and the low carb diet craze are outspoken and unequivocal.  And don’t get him started on the trendy idea that saturated fat isn’t the enemy and we should all be eating bacon for breakfast.  For his words on these subjects alone, this interview is a must-listen if you want the straight up truth about eating right.

We are all capable of doing so much more than we think we can.  Let Dr. Davis inform and inspire your own journey.

Enjoy the show!


*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 and affiliated sites.


  • majaiba says:

    super show, here is few more facts about hydration, no need drink plain water to hydrate, water is digestion, transport nutrient to and from cells, dissipate heat, major component of the muscles and organs. Here is 50K incredible gift

  • BYOL says:

    Rich, this is one of the best interviews yet. This one is going to be hard to top. It would be fun to see Dr. Davis and Dr. Greger do an episode together!

  • richroll66 says:

    Thanks Ant!! Would love to go round 2 with Garth in person. Always better in person but glad I nabbed him!

  • Lisa Ray says:

    Awesome interview!!! How perfect for it to be episode #50. This will be the episode that I refer people to now if they are interested in improving their diet. Still hoping that you may someday recover your lost interview with Dr Greger. 🙂

  • Randy says:

    Rich I will be sharing this podcast with as many that will listen. So many of my athlete friends are so worried about their protein drinks after races or workouts, I found just eating fruit seems to work nicely for the recovery.
    Thanks for helping get the message of the whole plate based diets. It helps me to show/tell others what we don’t need the SAD diets.

  • nandasmom says:

    This is one of the best interviews yet! After every podcast I encourage family and friends to listen but I am really pushing this one! It answers a lot of questions about diets and reaffirms my commitment to a whole foods, plant based diet that I started 7 months ago (not to mention the 30 pounds I have lost!). Thanks for a great interview Rich! Looking forward to his book coming out.

  • Aaron Kester says:

    Hey Rich definitely try to get something scheduled with Plant Positive, I asked him and he sounded interested in doing your show!

  • JimBerridge says:

    Rich, one of the best podcasts to date. Awesome how you found someone with such credibility to challenge the paleo orthodoxy out there today. No magic bullet here but just lots of science and evidence to challenge the trends. Much respect,

  • JasonRH says:

    Congrats on the 50th episode Rich, the podcast has been awesome and this is a great interview to round out 50.

  • Just sayin' says:

    Atkins didn’t die of heart disease…you sound uninformed when you say that. Unless of course you have some proof that he did die of heart disease then go for it! Otherwise it just sounds uninformed in the same way as the low carbers who call vegans weak and malnourished.

  • dlinnell says:

    Best podcast ever. Get Garth back on again in person someday soon. Plant Positive too!

  • Troy Delaney says:

    Great podcast Rich!. Although I am still really confused about saturated fat. It seems the science is sided with whoever funds the studies.

    When you guys mentioned that the majority of the paleo community figureheads were fat, who were you referring to? All the ones I know of (RobbWolf, Mark Sisson, Abel James, Mat Lalonde) are in great shape.

  • Jeremy says:

    Nothing new here, just substitute a couple of evil foods and macros and it sounds like a pro-paleo podcast.

  • Tamiko says:

    Dr Davis should be surgeon general!!!!

  • Olivier says:

    Sorry Rich … that was the first podcast I really disliked. I had the feeling that the whole purpose of the show was to create a nasty paleo ‘box’. I hate all sorts of boxes … vegan, paleo, … and I think you do as well. Your podcast did a really good job to avoid this kind of emotionally driven nonsense until now.
    I cannot believe all the stereotypes that were thrown around. And with his MD-like sweet orator-skills, I can literally see all the people swallowing his every word like gospel. Sorry guys, as a PhD, biomedical Harvard trained scientist I can tell you … most of what he said can be heavily debated, scientifically … and I hope it will be in future podcasts. And no, i am not here to fight for the paleo camp. I am not here to fight for any camp for that matter. I am here for rational, science-based, non-emotional, objective discussions … for everyone to build their own opinion.

  • Total Flow says:

    Atkins may not have died of heart disease but it looks like he did have some serious cardiovascular problems…which is certainly a mark against his diet which is marketed as being heart healthy.

  • Peter says:

    Great interview, I have shared it on twitter and facebook

  • JjW says:

    Screw up “literally” and you literally (or not) screw up your credibility with some thinking folks.

  • sarah says:

    So Olivier, tell us something. Don’t just flash your credentials. Take one of his points and make a counter-point. As far as I can tell, this was an incredibly informative interview with an MD who has been studying and researching diet for much of his career.
    It’s great you hate boxes, you iconoclast you, but let’s face it: Paleo recommends certain foods, and Dr. Davis takes issue with those recommendations. Seems simple enough to me.
    If you’re truly rational and science-based (doesn’t everyone say that)…prove it.

  • lee says:

    But those substitutions aren’t just empty words. They are the crux of the whole diet.

  • Hugh says:

    To clarify, the Cochrane collaboration study was on whole grain, not refined grain.

  • Hugh says:

    I must say much of what Dr Davis says is very reasonable though.

  • lancemateas says:

    Great interview! I loved the Paleo discussion and am looking forward to his book. I think it’ll be a great read.

  • Rudy Shepherd says:

    This was amazing! Thanks so much for passing on such comprehensive information from amazing role models.

    I was so hoping you were going to ask him what he thought of the 80/10/10 diet. I am so curious about it. I bought the book after hearing from Mike Arnstein and then Durianrider.

    Btw, I went vegan this summer after reading Scott Jurek’s book and then your book in succession. It has been an amazing transformation. I have lost 15 lbs and I ran my first ultramarathon in September and I am getting ready to run another in a couple of weeks.

    Plant power!

    I can’t wait for the t-shirts.

    Also, when are you going to have Scott Jurek on the podcast and any chance you might have Dr. Douglas N. Graham (80/10/10) on the podcast?

  • Greg says:

    Rich, yet another high quality show. Could you please supplement the Show Notes with a list of the book titles and authors that were discussed.

  • Slaven Beram says:

    Great podcast man. What’s the URL of that blog that you were talking about in the end. Positive something …

  • seb says:

    I’m also interested in that url, couldn’t find it.
    Anyone can help ?

  • John says:

    Hi Rich, I am not a vegan or vegetarian but have really enjoyed listening to some of your podcasts. This was not one of them. Have you personally read Denise Minger’s critique of the China Study? You seem to imply that paleo people claim the China Study has been debunked. If you read her critique and understand it, you will realise that is not the case at all.

  • richroll66 says:

    Hi John. Thanks for your comment. I am well aware of Denise Minger’s blog post. This is what most paleo folks point to as the ultimate dismissal of the China Study but I and many others I deeply respect are not swayed by her claims and arguments. We discuss this study at length in my podcast interviews with T. Colin Campbell and Howard Jacobson.

  • Josh Meckel says:

    WOW!!! I do not get on here very often to comment but damn!!! This episode deserves a huge thumbs up! I am sharing it like crazy because it is so interesting to get a glimpse behind the curtain of our health care system. Thank you Garth for sharing your story! I hope someday we can bring you to Spokane Vegfest. I know that your story would make a huge impact. 🙂 You give me so much energy to keep working on this health movement. We can make a difference! 🙂

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