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With a heavy heart, we share the news of Dr. John McDougall’s passing. A visionary physician and author, beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, mentor and friend, Dr. McDougall died peacefully at his home on Saturday, June 22nd, at the age of 77.

Food & Fertility

Updated April 15, 2022

By John McDougall, MD

Attractiveness is a quality that arouses interest and pleasure. People are drawn to each other by clues indicating good health rather than superficial qualities, such as the shape of a nose or the size of a cleft in the chin. The ideal picture of good health intimates fertility, productivity, strength and youth. A person’s healthfulness is communicated to others, most importantly by sight and scent, and the health messages we send are dependent on the food choices we make.

At the most intimate level, attractiveness serves as a signpost for powerful sexual performance, resulting in the intermingling of high-quality genes. A man wants to share his sperm, and a woman her eggs, with the healthiest mate possible in order to enhance the likelihood of successful pregnancies and fit offspring. Signs of good health suggest the parent(s) will also be successful providers of a safe shelter, adequate sustenance and protection for the family. Good health predicts longevity.

Unhealthy Foods Reduce Fertility and Potency 

Eating an animal food-based diet diminishes sexual performance, femininity and masculinity. The male hormone testosterone, which in part determines sexual development and interest, has been found to be 13% higher in vegans (people following a strict plant food diet) than in meat-eaters. Men who consume meat and dairy-based diets are likely to become impotent (erectile dysfunction) earlier in life than men who eat fewer animal foods because the artery system that supplies the penis with circulating blood is compromised by atherosclerosis. Fortunately, a healthier diet has been found to improve erectile dysfunction.

A woman’s fertility is tied to her diet. Being either underweight or overweight reduces her chances of becoming pregnant. Furthermore, the kinds of foods she chooses to eat affect fertility. Consuming 5% of total energy intake as vegetable protein rather than as animal protein (especially red meat and chicken) was found to be associated with more than a 50% lower risk of ovulatory infertility.

One of the greatest threats to reproductive success is the high level of environmental chemicals concentrated in our foods. Estimates are that 89 to 99% of our body’s environmental chemical intake comes from foods that are high on the food chain: meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. The chemicals found in these foods damage the genetic material of men and women, and are important causes of birth defects. These chemicals also interfere with the actions of testosterone. Decreased ejaculate volume, low sperm count, shortened sperm life, poor sperm motility, genetic damage and infertility all result from consuming animal products that contain estrogen-like environmental chemicals. When a mother consumes these types of chemicals before and during pregnancy, the extra estrogen influences the development of the male fetus. It increases the risk that the baby boy will be born with a smaller penis and testicles, as well as a serious deformity of the penis (hypospadia) and an undescended testicle (cryptorchism). Independent of the genetic damage from these environmental poisons, men and women who consume fewer plants increase the risk of birth defects, such as Down’s syndrome.

Body Fat’s Role in Attractiveness

By observing fine art from past eras, we see that there have been changes in what is considered “ideal body shape.” The desire has spanned from thin to plump among individuals and cultures. However, body fat must be compatible with successful sexual reproduction. Too little body fat on a mother may result in infertility, or low-birth weight, high-risk babies. At the other end of the weight spectrum, obesity is associated with infertility and poor birth outcomes. Overweight women grow larger than normal babies, often too large to fit through the mother’s birth canal. This results in higher rates of Cesarean sections, more birth injuries for the infant and a higher risk of death to mother and child. Between too thin and too overweight are various body sizes that are attractive to different people and contribute to successful procreation. An ideal weight in the 21st century is considered trim.

Two common ways people attempt to lose excess weight are by portion control (semi-starvation) diets, and by making themselves sick with low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets based on bacon, butter and Brie (cheese). Weight loss results are only temporary for both methods because the pain of hunger becomes intolerable, and only a few determined dieters can sustain feeling ill without carbohydrates in their diet. I recommend a starch-based diet for a healthy, attractive body weight. Think of meals as rice, beans, and kale; sweet potatoes and broccoli; potatoes and cabbage; and corn and squashes.

If people who are otherwise healthy* and following the McDougall diet consider themselves too thin, then they should consume more foods that are higher in calories, such as breads, pastas, dried fruits, and lastly, nuts (and nut butters), seeds (and seed spreads), avocados, and olives.

*Losing too much weight may also be a sign of illness, such as diabetes, heart failure, and cancer. A visit to a general medical doctor would be in order.

This chart records what Dr. Walter Kempner (founder of the Rice Diet) would have considered a reasonable adult weight in proportion to height. He also recommended that people with diabetes, heart, kidney, or blood vessel diseases should weigh l0 to l5% less than the optimum figures presented in this chart. These figures will help reassure people that they are not becoming too thin on the McDougall Diet.

Height or weight should be at or below:

Height Weight Should be below* pounds
4 ft 11 in 91
5 ft 94
5 ft 1 in 97
5 ft 2 in 100
5 ft 3 in 104
5 ft 4 in 108
5 ft 5 in 112
5 ft 6 in 117
5 ft 7 in 122
5 ft 8 in 127
5 ft 9 in 132
5 ft 10 in  137
5 ft 11 in 142
6 ft 147
* Fully Dressed


Height Weight Should be below* pounds
5ft 2 in 110
5 ft 3 in 115
5 ft 4 in 120
5 ft 5 in 125
5 ft 6 in 130
5 ft 7 in 135
5 ft 8 in 140
5 ft 9 in 145
5 ft 10 in 150
5 ft 11 in 155
6 ft 160
6 ft 1 in 165
6 ft 2 in 170
6 ft 3 in 175
6 ft 4 in 180
6 ft 5 in 185
* Fully Dressed