Garth Davis, MD, Proteinaholic


DrGarthGarth Davis, M.D., is the medical director of the Davis Clinic at the Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, and starred on the hit TLC show Big Medicine. He is certified by the American Board of Surgery and is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a Fellow of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Recently named a “Super Doc” by Texas Monthly, he has been featured in The Houston Chronicle and other outlets. Garth lives in Houston with his family. He is the author of Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession With Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It (HarperOne).


Caryn Hartglass: Let’s move on because we have so much more to talk about. And I want to bring on my next guest. I’m really excited about this. We have Garth Davis MD, the medical doctor of the Davis Clinic of the Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. He’s starred not only as a medical doctor but he played one on TV in the hit TLC show, Big Medicine. He is certified by the American Board of Surgery, and is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and a fellow of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Recently named a “super-doc” by Texas Monthly, he has been featured in the Houston Chronicle and other outlets. Garth lives in Houston with his family, and he is the author of Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It. Dr. Davis, thank you for joining me today. How are you?

Dr. Garth Davis: I’m great! Happy to be here.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Well, I was off in Costa Rica last week, and I brought your book with me, and got to read it there. I have the… it’s a heavy hard cover, and when you travel, you want to travel light, but I took this with me and it was worth it.

Dr. Garth Davis: Okay, great. Glad you liked it.

Caryn Hartglass: And I’m also a fan of Howard Jacobson who wrote this book along with you, so. Anyway. I’m glad you wrote this book. Number 1, there have been a lot of people who’ve been preaching plants for the decades. I’m a vegan for over 28 years, and I’ve been following this subject for a long time. But we need more doctors that are preaching the power of plants because we have this image of medical doctors. You’re gods, and you know how to save us, and we need to hear this important message about nutrition from knowledgeable medical doctors. So thank you for that.

Dr. Garth Davis: No, happy too. Yeah, doctors, they’ve really… I kind of feel let down. The public… It’s not really their fault; it’s the whole medical system. You know, it’s not… You’ve probably heard this before but Western medicine isn’t healthcare, it’s sick care. And doctors are really good at taking care of someone once they get sick. They’re not very good at preventing them from getting sick in the first place, which is what I really want to do in the future.

Caryn Hartglass: Now you had a transformation, where you were preaching one gospel, and then through some sort of epiphany, you found another path. Can you just give us a brief summary of that?

Dr. Garth Davis: Yeah, well you know how they say there’s no atheist in a fox-hole and people get epiphanies pretty easily once they get sick, and I had gone for a life-insurance policy test, and I kind of failed. I failed to get the best rates because my cholesterol level was sky-high and I was hypertensive, and I had liver function tests, they were elevated. I had also gone to get my eye exams done, and I cholesterol deposits in my eyes. And I was like, “You know this is crazy!” I knew at this point, I was only 35 years old, and I knew where this was going to lead me. And I started thinking about it, and I started really looking into health, cause all I had thought about what was you usually think about as a doctor which is how do I cure disease, what surgeries, what medicines. I started to question what I had learned in medical school, and is there another way, and one thing that really got me to think that way, was that the fact that despite the fact that we spend more of our GDP and more money on health care than any other country, we’ve got one of the lowest longevities in the world. And so why not look at the countries that do well, and have good longevities, and look at the cultures that are surviving, and what I found is no matter where I looked was that plant-based diets tended to lead towards longer lives, so I started changing my diet, and it changed my health, and the health of my patients, and 9 years later, things are perfect.

Caryn Hartglass: Things are perfect. I like that. Well good for you!

Dr. Garth Davis: I have lower blood pressure. Much more athletic. I feel stronger, faster, everything 9 years later I’ve aged in reverse.

Caryn Hartglass: Now what boggles my mind is how many medical doctors don’t have that epiphany, and they continue down the path they were trained in and don’t want to really acknowledge something so simple.

Dr. Garth Davis: Well you know there’s this kind of paternalistic deal in medicine. I mean first of all you have to understand, we don’t learn in medicine any nutrition, there’s no talk about how nutrition ties into heart disease, or cancer, or longevity. In all my years of studying medicine, no one told me about nutrition, it just wasn’t brought up. And I gave a talk, quite recently, to a group of endocrinologists reviewing the data that meat causes diabetes, and that a plant-based diet is better off, and they were fairly accepting. You have to be accepting of the science, the tons of science backing plant-based diets, my book is all about the science. But, one guy said to me, “Okay, that’s fine. It might be that a plant-based diet is better for you, but no one’s going to go on it, so why even think about it?” There’s this view that no one will actually change, so why even bother. Like no one’s going to stop eating a cheeseburger, so let’s give everybody Lipitor just, protect against it. And that’s kind of the mindset in Western medicine, is people aren’t going to make lifestyle changes, and that they’re not… And really if you think about it, if you go to see your doctor, you get 15 minutes with your doctor. And that’s not enough time for them to; to really council you on how to do preventative health care. And so they don’t have the time, they don’t think the patients care, so they just don’t bring it up.

Caryn Hartglass: And that’s the big problem. And I’ve heard it so many times, everything that you’ve just said from so many doctors. But if the doctors changed, and the patients heard it enough from their doctors that would make a tremendous difference, because I’m sure you’ve experienced that.

Dr. Garth Davis: Yes. Groups like PCRM are starting to go to medical schools and seeing if we can start getting this as part of medical school education. And that would be huge, if you could start affecting these young doctors’ minds before they get out and have the dogma implanted in their brain, that would be a huge asset.

Caryn Hartglass: You mentioned your book is all about the science, and it is, and I want to say that it is very easy to read, so thank you for putting it in layman terms so people can appreciate and make sense of because that’s really important.

Dr. Garth Davis: Yeah that was really our goal, was to… There was just so much science but I had to explain it the way I explain it to my patients so that it’s accessible because I don’t want to leave the science out otherwise people think I’m just lying to them. But at the same time I don’t want it be so boring, that you’re like, “Ugh. This is horrible.” So I try to give people an idea about how to read the science, and show what’s out there.

Caryn Hartglass: And this is a big problem today, with the internet with all kinds of bloggers and people trying to sound like experts, and some of them writing in such a way where it does sound kind of impressive. We seem to have these two schools of thought where people are promoting whole, minimally processed plant foods, and there’s this other circle of people who are promoting meat, and butter, and all kinds of animal products, and a lot of people are swallowing it, literally.

Dr. Garth Davis: Yeah, because that’s…. people love to hear good news about their bad habits. And you know the funny thing is, and it’s part of the reason I wanted to write this book, because I have got this huge experience with thousands of patients. It’s not just me writing a blog, and I see these guys writing these blogs on the high fat diets, and things like that, and they haven’t treated a patient ever. They’ve never put someone on a diet and then followed them for months, and months, and months. And some of the top names that you come across don’t treat patients at all. And that’s ridiculous. They have no ability to test what they’re saying in a practice. The problem with these ketogenic diets is that you’re going to have a good response early on, and so people will equate that early good response with this being a good diet, and this is absolutely is not the case. You got to look at the long-term repercussions of doing so and you know look around world. Show me a society that eats a mainly ketogenic diet. There aren’t any and those that do get close have very poor health. And so look at the plant based diet. One of the longest cultures in the world, are the Seventh Day Adventist in Loma Linda, California, specifically, the vegans in the Seventh Day Adventist community seem to be the healthiest of them all.

Caryn Hartglass: You’re not related to Dr. William Davis are you?

Dr. Garth Davis: Oh God no!

Caryn Hartglass: There is a medical doctor who is preaching a completely different diet and lifestyle.

Dr. Garth Davis: I mean that book, compare his book to my book. There’s just no science in that book! Very little science. Lots of speculation, lots of strawman arguments. It’s really… But written so that its sounds authoritative. But how can you say that wheat is the biggest killer when some of the healthiest cultures in the world have eaten mainly wheat? It doesn’t stand… It doesn’t make sense when you look at it in real life and the epidemiology just doesn’t make sense.

Caryn Hartglass: Let’s talk about the word “vegan” for a moment. You do not shy away from that word, and yet there are a number of doctors, medical doctors, who are promoting a whole foods plant-based diet who don’t like to use the word “vegan”. Why do you use it?

Dr. Garth Davis: Yeah, you know I probably should shy away from it a bit. I mean I use…

Caryn Hartglass: No, I love it!

Dr. Garth Davis: Look to me being vegan is more than health, right? You’re vegan not just for your health, you’re vegan because of the environment, you’re vegan because of the ethics and I think these are things that people should think about when you go to eat food, and so I kind of like that ethical, moral, reasoning. And the other thing is, that I really like people… It’s to just choose a whole-foods plant based diet if you’ve been a meat-eater all your life. I think you really have to… Part of convincing yourself, I mean part of getting me to change was the fact that I started studying it, yeah it was good for my health, but just because something is good for our health, doesn’t mean we do it. I mean people do bad things all the time for their health. But when you start getting all those other things in there and you realize the absolute cruelty that goes into a cheeseburger, and the absolute damages as far as water and pollution and topsoil, and all that kind of stuff that goes into eating a cheeseburger, it just makes it less palatable, and it can really help affect change if we start thinking in those broader terms.

Caryn Hartglass: Thank you and I don’t want you to give it up, so I’m glad you’re using the word. I agree with you. Okay. There was a… I read a lot of these kinds of books, things promoting plant-based eating and all the science behind it, and even though if you just think of it from a really simple non-scientific point of view, to me it makes sense. I’ve been doing it for decades, but it’s great to see more and more science. And the one thing that I, that popped out to me that I hadn’t really heard before or realized before was our fruit, and what you mentioned is not that fruit has a lot of protein but it has the building blocks of protein, the amino acids.

Dr. Garth Davis: Right. Yeah, I mean it’s not, it’s not a complete supply but it certainly is adequate. Look, I mean you know, look at our closest genetic relatives and they eat mainly fruit and plants and things like that. A chimpanzee only eats meat if it’s in a starvation situation. And so you obviously can thrive on eating mainly plants and fruits and things like that. The fact of the matter is you don’t just get amino acids from the actual fruits, but you’re also… Your body is constantly turning over your own body cells, and recycling the amino acids that you already have in a structural form, and so we have this constant labile supply of amino acids in our bodies so it’s very difficult for someone to become amino acids deficient. I mean it would be really difficult and usually never occurs unless you’re also calorie deficient. And so as long as you are getting enough calories, you ought to be getting plenty of amino acids in order to maintain your body’s health.

Caryn Hartglass: I love that you use the concept of recycling with our amino acids. That just made me feel very good about myself!

Dr. Garth Davis: It makes you feel… But I mean look, protein is important and it’s so important that nature has is everywhere and that nature had created a situation where we recycle ours and so it’s just… People don’t come into doctor’s offices protein deficient. You just don’t see that. I mean I got friends that are “fruitarians” you know, raw, vegan fruitarians that eat mainly fruits and they’re the healthiest people I know. And they’re not lacking. I check their lab values and they’re not lacking protein. I checked I don’t know if you know, Kristina Fullyraw, theRawfully Vegan? Rawfully vegan website. She came in and did a video and I checked her labs. Her protein levels are perfect. I mean that girl eats mainly; she basically eats fruit all day long. And she’s doing fine.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s amazing. That’s amazing. You mentioned earlier in the program about meat causing diabetes.

Dr. Garth Davis: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: And I don’t think a lot of people know this, or believe this, or would really be surprised to hear this. Now when did people start talking about how meat causes diabetes?

Dr. Garth Davis: It’s been going on for a while. I mean the more we study diabetes; we realize that diabetes isn’t a carb problem; it’s a carb utilization problem. In other words, carbs aren’t causing the diabetes, but carbs are a problem because you can’t utilize the carbs properly. So the reason you can’t utilize the carbs properly it is because what we found in this concept that I talk about a lot in the book called “intramyocellular fat” which is fat inside the muscle cells. So what happens is you eat a lot of fat, and there’s certain amino acids that stimulate the fat to go into muscle cells, so when the fat gets into muscle cells, it interferes with the muscle cells’ ability to form insulin receptors, and then if you can’t make insulin receptors, then you’re not sensitive to insulin. Then you eat a carb, and your carb, your blood sugar gets high, and you’re body has to crank out even more insulin to try to get the sugar inside the muscle cell, and it can’t do it. That’s the central problem, is the fat inside the muscle cell, not the carb itself. The high carb or the high blood sugar is the symptom not a disease.

Caryn Hartglass: And I’m sure many people have their jaws hanging right now just hearing that.

Dr. Garth Davis: Yeah. There’s been a lot of really good studies that kind of go over… studies in the book, the epic studies, things like that that show that meat intake is definitely correlated with diabetes, and if you look at the Seventh Day Adventist studies where they followed Adventists for many years. They followed thousands of and ten of thousands of them, and those that ate meat had a considerably higher rate of diabetes than those that didn’t. In fact the vegans had… less than 2% of the vegans had diabetes. And I don’t even know how those vegans got diabetes, but I mean you can’t eat a lot of fat junk food as a vegan, but 2% is pretty low considering that were talking about in the 20 years having 30% diabetes in the country.

Caryn Hartglass: Wow. Whew! Oh my goodness. Well, not if enough people get out and see your book and read it.

Dr. Garth Davis: I hope so.

Caryn Hartglass: And understand it. Okay, now you train a lot of people who are overweight.

Dr. Garth Davis: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: And what are some of the challenges encouraging a plant based diet? What are the most, biggest complaints, or challenges you hear from your patients?

Dr. Garth Davis: I mean, it’s all… Well there’s, people bring up cost a lot, but cost is really kind of a BS excuse, okay, so, a plant-based diet could be very, very cheap. It’s just… You know I give people diet plans and stuff like that that just uses canned beans, and frozen mixed vegetables, and frozen fruits. It’s really affordable. I think prep time, people bring up a lot. They have a hard time prepping though, you know, cause you’re eating a lot of salads and stuff like that, so it’s a pretty easy prep. But I think really what happen… the biggest challenge for me used to be that people were always like, “Where am I going to get my protein?” I mean that was why I wrote the book. People were like, “I can’t do that cause then I’m not going to get enough protein”, so that’s the main reason I wrote the book. If someone gets to the point where I was like, “Oh my god. I’m not healthy. I don’t feel good. And I’m prepared to make changes.” The changes really aren’t that difficult. What I find is that people are actually kind of surprised how easy it is to eat this way and absolutely thrilled with how great they feel after starting to eat this way and so I don’t really push, I don’t say, “You have to be vegan or you have to be vegetarian.” I just want people to be eating a lot more fruits and vegetables and beans and nuts and seeds and grains and a lot less meat and dairy, and I explain that all to them and they tend to start gravitating towards the healthier food items after a while.

Caryn Hartglass: Now when you made this change your whole family was on board at the same time, is that correct?

Dr. Garth Davis: Immediate family: my wife, and my kids kind of have to eat whatever she serves them. They were babies when we started this, we just had our first kid, so they’ve kind of grown up vegetarian and they don’t know… I mean they know different, they just would never even dream of eating meat. Kids really gravitate towards fruits and vegetables. We’ve kind of trained that out of them. But my kids are disgusted at the thought of eating meat. They’ve eaten meat, they think it’s disgusting and they don’t want to eat it.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay. There’s that one other piece of exercise and I was just kind of smiling because there’s an article in The Wall Street Journal from yesterday, “Sloan Kettering’s Quest to Prove Exercise Can Inhibit Cancer”, and I’m not a big fan of Sloan Kettering here in Manhattan. I’ve had to deal with them and I think they’re really slow to come to some of the things that we’ve learned a lot about in terms of natural healing with plants and exercise. But exercise is important, isn’t it?

Dr. Garth Davis: Oh absolutely! It’s a huge part of making yourself healthy. You gotta stress your body a little bit and that stress to the body actually creates a stress response, and it’s that stress response that so helpful for things like cancer. So if you do some exercise you generate free radicals, which sounds bad, but then your body generates the enzymes to fight them and you get this thing called “superoxide dismutase ” which is a fancy word for a super antioxidant, and that’s what prevents the cancer. But I mean exercise is so important for your heart, it’s so important for your mind, it’s so important for muscles, it’s so important for your weight, and so it just needs to be part of a healthy lifestyle.

Caryn Hartglass: Now in your past you starred in the hit TLC show Big Medicine but you were preaching a different story at the time, correct?

Dr. Garth Davis: Yeah, I mean at that point in time it was all about the surgery. There really wasn’t anything to do with diet. In fact I wrote a book called The Expert’s Guide to Weight-Loss Surgery, and in there I preached a high protein “eat your meat first diet”, which obviously I’ve since learned my ways, and…

Caryn Hartglass: Any chance of a new show, like “Big Plants” or something like that?

Dr. Garth Davis: You know, until there’s a lot of marketing behind that kind of stuff… There’s no big, big broccoli that’s going to put a lot of money behind a show like that. It’s not like meat, dairy, and sugar, that all have their very well funded boards.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. Sick care is all about the money. Yes. It’s all about the money. Yeah. Well Dr. Davis, thank you for writing this book Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It. It is outstanding, and…

Dr. Garth Davis: And also I just found out that Kindle is doing a one-month promotion of my book, and so if you go on Amazon, you can get the Kindle version for $1.99.

Caryn Hartglass: Whoa! Get it! Today! Absolutely, that’s terrific.

Dr. Garth Davis: Yeah

Caryn Hartglass: And probably an easier way to travel to other places cause you can carry it in a Kindle, unlike what I did!

Dr. Garth Davis: You can do with the Kindle.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Great. Thank you so for joining me on It’s All About Food and for writing the book, and for doing all that you’re doing and helping so many people.

Dr. Garth Davis: Thanks Caryn. Enjoy being here.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Take care.

Dr. Garth Davis: Take care.

Caryn Hartglass: Alright, that was Dr. Garth Davis author of Proteinaholic, again I’m going to say, How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It. Excellent, excellent, excellent. All right we have. I don’t know, about six minutes left? Right? And I wanted to talk a little bit more about Costa Rica. And when I was there, there are just some things that kind of stand out that… like I said you can learn from walking in these undeveloped areas, outside of the cities where there’s farming and very simple houses, and some of them are just shacks that people live in. I love looking at the cows that are there. The cows that are grazing. They are thin. They’re not as big and bulky as some of the cows we get to see here in the United States. Of course most of the cows here that are raised in the United States we don’t see because they’re hidden in factory farms or on feedlots, and the thing that really is profound is looking at these cows’ udders, because you barely can see them. They’re small, and they’re high above the ground. You know if you look at the cows today that have been given antibiotics and hormones, the ones who have given recombinant both rbh, ugh! Recombinant bovine growth hormones in order to give more milk, their udders had expanded to the point where they couldn’t even feed their own baby calf if they wanted to because the calf can’t get underneath the udder because it’s so heavy and so large and so close to the ground. And it’s just kind of stunning and beautiful to see the more natural animal, non-human animal of course, grazing peacefully. I didn’t know what end they were going to have because people in Costa Rica as anywhere drink milk and do slaughter animals, for me but these animals looked a lot happier and a lot healthier and had very small udders which was really, really refreshing. While I was there I got to experience some of the local foods and that’s one of the things I love about traveling, and we can get a lot of these foods here in the United States. They’re just a lot more expensive. I like to eat fresh, locally, and I have to admit I had my fill of papaya, local papaya, and one of my favorite foods there, if you’ve never had a chance to try it, it’s something called the “pejibayes”, the “pejibayes”. I don’t even know if I’m pronouncing it correctly. P-E-J-I-B-A-Y-E-S. It’s a fruit that’s related to the coconut and it’s much smaller. They grow in clusters on these thorny trees and they’re about the size of a plum and they come in red, and yellow, and green, and what people do is they boil them in salty water, and I remember the first time I had them. They were just incredible. And everytime I’ve had them since, they’re incredible, but they have a flavor like chestnut and pumpkin and after they’re cooked, you peel them and just eat them, and they just have a little pit in the middle, of course that you discard, but it’s a really wonderful, rich food. It’s so exciting because you can’t get them here. I haven’t seen them, and such a treat when I’m there to try them. So if you ever get the opportunity to try them to try the pejibayes I highly, highly recommend them. So good. And very, very filling. I’ve heard that they’re like 200 calories each so they’re pretty dense. Yeah. So I hope you read our, “What Vegans Eat” post from this past week cause they’re some, some fun stuff there. And we have some new recipes up as always, and you should check them out at There’s an event coming up this Thursday in Brooklyn called “Food Bytes”. You might check out, and that “food” B-Y-T-ES and I’ll be going there and reporting on it, and letting you know about it next week but it’s a conference that promotes all kinds of new food businesses. They’re not all vegan but a lot of them are, and it’s going to be fun to see what some of the new products are out on the horizon. And there you have it! We’ve come to the end of the program and I thought it was really phenomenal. Really impressed with my first guest D. Anthony and Dr. Davis’s book is outstanding, so I hope you get a chance to pick up that Kindle version for $1.99 and share it. We need to be spreading this message of plants for so many reasons. Thanks for joining me and tuning in love today, and have a delicious week. Bye-bye.

Transcribed by Zia Kara, 3/20/3016

  4 comments for “Garth Davis, MD, Proteinaholic

  1. Are you acquainted with Dr. Nowzaradan who promotes low carb high protein diets? His patients are extremely obese. Different formula for them?

    • We are not acquainted with Dr. Nowzaradan. We do not recommend low carb high protein diets for anyone. The diet Dr. Garth recommends along with the other doctors and nutritionists we promote all recommend a whole food, minimally-processed plant diet.

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