Noted Plant-Based Doctor Dr. John McDougall Dead at 77 — What Was His Cause of Death?

His daughter shared the sad news on Instagram.

Lauren Wellbank - Author

Jun. 26 2024, Published 12:35 p.m. ET

Dr. John McDougall died at the age of 77
Source: themcdougallprogram/Instagram

Plant-based physician Dr. John McDougall has passed away at 77 years of age. A statement sharing the news, which was signed by McDougall's daughter Heather McDougall, appeared on the McDougall Program's official Instagram account on June 25, 2024. Credited with being the creator of the high starch vegan diet, Dr. McDougall leaves behind quite the legacy.

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Read on to learn more about why Dr. McDougall championed that particular vegan diet, as well as what his family has to say about Dr. John McDougall's cause of death.

Dr. John McDougall and his wife pose in front of flowers
Source: themcdougallprogram/Instagram

Dr. John McDougall and his wife.

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What happened to Dr. John McDougall? He died at 77.

Dr. McDougall passed peacefully in his sleep on June 22, 2024. In the Instagram post announcing the doctor's passing, his daughter spoke glowingly of her father, touching on how he would want people to honor his memory by living their best lives, which she says should include kindness towards animals, the environment, and ourselves by way of making healthy lifestyle choices, something he has been promoting since he was just a teen.

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What was Dr. John McDougall's cause of death?

While no details have been released about the exact cause of Dr. McDougall's death, his daughter's post confirmed that he died at home and in his sleep.

It's unclear at the moment whether the stroke that he had at the age of 18 played any role in his death, as the event did have a profound impact on his life. According to Heather McDougall's Instagram post, "this illness left him with a lifelong disability," in reference to his stroke.

At the time, the stroke left the doctor paralyzed for weeks, and it's part of what prompted him to pursue a career in medicine and to develop the diet he is known best known for creating.

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Dr. McDougall's website details the events of his stroke, explaining how his entire view of the medical profession changed after spending half a month as a patient in a Detroit hospital. When none of the doctors he saw could explain why he had suffered a stroke — or perhaps more importantly, how he could avoid having another one — he decided to change course at college, and instead focus on getting into medical school so he could help himself and others.

In a particularly lighthearted portion of the website, Dr. McDougall noted that it didn't take him long to hypothesize that his diet was to blame for his health, joking that eggs, hot dogs, and double cheese pizzas can be blamed for both is "brain damage" and the "good fortune" he believes the stroke afforded him after he recovered.

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Dr. John McDougall is best known for his starch solution diet.

After college, Dr. McDougall interned as a doctor on a Hawaiian sugar plantation, where he zeroed in on his theory about the connection between health and the human diet. He would frequently see older patients who stuck to their traditional diets and remained profoundly healthy into their 90s, and would compare them to their less-healthy descendants who grew up eating an American diet rich in processed food.

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It was then, according to The Daily Mail, that Dr. McDougall really started focusing on his high starch diet theory, which prompted him to create a weight-loss program, write 13 best sellers, and to eventually go on to receive the American College of Lifestyle Medicine's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. McDougall's legacy won't be forgotten with his passing, and it sounds like his daughter plans to continue his work as well. She closed the family's Instagram statement by promising that The McDougall Program would continue to run as it always has. "Look what you made, Dad," she wrote before signing off. "We'll take it from here."

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