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Ted Barnett, MD, is also known as “Dr Veggie.” An interventional radiographer by day, he has been a plant-based advocate, educator, activist, and gadfly in Rochester, NY and nationally since the early 1990s.

Ted got his first glimpse of the power of plants in 1991 when he stumbled upon Dean Ornish's book about reversing heart disease through an extremely low-fat diet. Already sold on the ethical and environmental benefits of eliminating animal consumption, he was doing his due diligence to make sure that a vegan diet wasn't going to compromise his health and that of his growing family. Hopefully, he thought, it won't be any worse than a regular diet.

Ornish's randomized controlled trials, rare in studies of nutrition and lifestyle, provided actual proof of the efficacy of a low-fat, mostly plant-based diet to reverse arterial damage, including before and after angiography. As a radiographer, Ted was impressed by the pictures. His family went vegan overnight.

Over the past 27 years, Ted has been in the forefront of the movement to get lifestyle medicine known, respected, and practiced by the medical profession. We talked about his journey, and the obstacles, and the big challenges still confronting the lifestyle medicine movement as it seeks to deliver true wellness to the masses.

We covered:

  • discovering lifestyle medicine: a “sloping forehead” moment
  • “vegan sounded dangerous to me”
  • the danger of advocating medical solutions at odd with the health of the planet
  • the difficulty in getting funding for nutritional and lifestyle interventions (no prospect of profit for the funder)
  • the research curve is always being pushed in the direction of profit
  • Barnett's First Law: “Expensive solutions to problems will be much more widely known than in ones, even if they are not nearly as good”
  • “there's nobody in a 3-piece suit pushing broccoli and  brown rice”
  • the mental obstacles to acceptance of lifestyle medicine
  • you don't need prior approval from an insurance company to put in a stent, but you can't get them to pay for nutrition education
  • why Ted is now skeptical of large studies, and prefers smaller ones
  • parachutes and randomized clinical trials
  • the old and new problems with the PREDIMED study
  • doctors come to lifestyle medicine when their own health is on the line
  • how a 15-day intervention can lower cholesterol from 220 to 151
  • the research challenge: how to make lifestyle change sustainable
  • studying for and taking (and passing – yea, Ted!) the first ever Lifestyle Medicine Boards
  • the Lifestyle Medicine Vital Signs
  • lifestyle medicine is far more individual than pharmaceutical medicine, and far harder to measure the factors that lead to success
  • cracking the code on supporting patients following their intensive introduction to plant-based nutrition
  • the specialization problem – “you can't take out your own appendix, but you can change your own diet”
  • the costs of diabetes, from diagnosis to renal failure
  • Barnett's Second Law: “Nobody gets credit for bad things that don't happen.”
  • “If you make fun of another doctor, they will turn out to be right.”
  • how to reach those not ready to change by changing the culture
  • what happens to us when we “flip the switch” to an acceptance of the data
  • the lessons of Flatland
  • Moai and the need for human connection
  • new practice models that are eligible for insurance reimbursement
  • getting lifestyle medicine onto the top of options on electronic health records
  • and much more…

Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box or audio recording box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.

Talk Back


PDF: Barnett's General Laws and Rules of Medicine

Rochester Lifestyle Medicine

Rochester Area Vegan Society

Rochester Lifestyle Medicine Institute (they're looking for funding support)

Dr Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease, by Dean Ornish, MD

The PREDIMED Study (Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet)

PREDIMED partially retracted

Flatland, by Edwin Abbott

The CHIP Program

Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge: systematic review of randomised controlled trials,” by Smith and Pell

“Physician Competencies for Prescribing Lifestyle Medicine” (PDF), by Liana Lianov, MD, MPH and Mark Johnson, MD, MPH

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The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.

You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website,


Thanks to Plant Yourself podcast patrons
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for your generous support of the podcast.


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