Diet & Weight Magazine

Diet Doctor Podcast #31 – Dr. Ken Berry

By Dietdoctor @DietDoctor1

He has a website and a very popular YouTube channel where he produces a ton of videos to just give as much information to as many people because he believes so dearly and so strongly in the benefits of low-carb lifestyle and he approaches this from a very unique perspective.

He says if we're going to change the way we've been eating from an ancestral standpoint we need to have extremely strong data to support that and as he points out, that type of approach, that type of data or perspective is lacking in almost every recommendation we currently have as a mainstream nutritional guidelines or really flies in the face of common practice in medicine and nutrition and he is not shy about pointing that out.

So as any discussion with Dr. Berry this is very entertaining and energetic, with a great perspective from him so I really hope you enjoy this. Please visit us at to see the whole transcripts and of course to see all our recipes and guides and all the other wonderful information at Enjoy this interview with Dr. Ken Berry.

Dr. Ken Berry, thank you so much for joining me on the Diet Doctor podcast.

So tell us a little bit about that background, about the journey, and then we'll get into some of the specifics of what you're doing now.

And I would tell you that you need to lose some weight because it's not healthy being this overweight. And it's very simple, it's simple science, you just eat less and move more. That's all you have to do. It's calories in calories out. And I fully believed that. I fully believed that the laws of thermodynamics applied to human nutrition and trying to lose fat, or adipose tissue, I thought that that applied.

And so therefore - simple science, you just had to get up off the couch, put down the Cheeto's and the bacon and you would start to lose weight and that's as simple as it got. And at that time when I first started practice I was a relatively slender, healthy, young physician and I had my own health and I just noticed through the years that people kept getting better and sicker and their A1c's kept going up and their inflammatory markers kept going up. And you know this, as a doctor you always secretly suspect your patients are noncompliant.

And so I thought, well, I'm obviously in crap and sit on the couch too much and so I climbed up in the attic, got all my nutrition notes down, which you know, the listeners might see as this huge tomes... it literally was a paperback book about 3/8 of an inch thick and a maybe a half semester's notes, probably a quarter semester... Because it was only one day a week we had nutrition.

Then you could take back over yourself. Or if you were in the burn unit, you know, your calories and your fluid... you have to double and triple that for somebody with a severe burn. So really the bulk of my nutrition education was how to take over the nutrition of somebody who couldn't feed themselves. So maybe out of that half semester, maybe 10% of that, probably less, was the care and feeding of just a normal human out on the street. And I can sum it up in three statements that we were taught.

Number one - eat lots of whole grains, number two - eat no saturated fat and number three - jog. Like that is the totality of my medical school nutrition education on how to just give a normal guy with a wife and a job and a family and a dog and a recliner, this is what I should tell him to do. And that is the totality of what I was taught. And so I'm like okay I got that... three basic premises there.

I'm going to implement those immediately and so I got rid of all saturated fat, I had lots of whole grains and even spent the extra money for the stoneground, blah-blah-blah and then I started to jog every day or every other day at least. And I did this religiously for a month or two and gained another 5 or 10 pounds.

And my numbers got even worse. And it was at that point, that was my epiphany... "Oh, dude, you don't know what the hell you're talking about." That was me looking in the mirror, going, "You have no idea what you're talking about." These people have not been noncompliant. You've just been giving ignorant advice to all your patients who you thought you were helping.

And I think doctors get false assurance from that. And then they fall back on that self-esteem protector of, well my patients are just noncompliant. And that gives you the conscious wherewithal to say, yeah, I'm doing a good job, they are just not listening. Because I know I'm doing what that professor with a long white coat... I am doing what he said. The drug rep is very attractive and you know, they seem to know they're talking about. So they're not upset with me, so I must be doing a good job.

Because when you break down almost every other diet on the planet ultimately it's a calorie restriction diet that's dressed up with different window-dressing literally. You know, if you're talking about Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, biggest loser, they're all calorie restriction, they all basically teach you to semi-starve yourself for the rest your life. And yeah if I took people and locked them in my barn and just fed them lettuce and water, they would lose weight, they would approach their ideal body weight and even surpass it and lose even more.

But they would be miserable, they would hate me... It would not be a fun life. So the very fact that the biggest diets that get the most advertisement and the most talk up in the media are long term semi-starvation diets. That's what you're telling people - starve yourself for the rest your life and you will lose weight and you will keep it off and then pretend that's sustainable, which is not, obviously.

And so I had to look for a diet that's sustainable, that was enjoyable, that people would actually do and that would move all their markers of disease and inflammation in the correct direction. And so I thought, well this high-fat or high-protein, moderate fat and low, low carb, that was everybody's message on that side of the fence was you got to cut out all the grains and sugars and carbs and stuff. And I thought okay that's exactly backwards to everything I thought I knew, but let me try that for a month because that sounds like a diet that I could actually do.

And so the drug rep who sells statins will focus you on how important lowering someone's LDL cholesterol is and they'll exclude all everything else, they wouldn't even talk about it. But most doctors will harken back if I remind them... You know, an elevated A1c, being a diabetic... that's probably a bigger risk factor for heart disease stroke and all the other complications, that's probably more important than LDL cholesterol.

Even if you think LDL cholesterol is real and you should treat it. Still, somebody with an A1c of 12, that's probably a bigger risk factor for morbidity and mortality than that slightly elevated LDL. And so I kind of ignored the total cholesterol and LDL increases because I felt so much better. I could actually talk to patients without constantly having to clear my throat and move my neck and swallow because of the chronic severe GERD, reflux, it was really, really bad.

And so when the Nexium drug rep would come to my office I got all those samples... the patients didn't get the Nexium, I got them all. I took two a day for years before I learned about this way of eating. So after two or three months I was like, "Dude, I feel so much better and I've lost I don't remember how much weight." But I was well back down under the 297 that I was at my peak. And I thought, I'm going to try this with my most metabolically ill patients. With the highest BMIs... They have a BMI of 45, 50, 55. They are on the list for gastric bypass.

I'm going to say, "Why don't you try this for a month? You got nothing to lose, you're going to get your gastric bypass, your Roux-en-Y, you know, your bariatric surgery in a month or two. Why don't you try this in the interim? Because I think it's going to shrink your liver size if nothing else and the surgeon will appreciate that when he's doing your surgery, but also it might help."

And so I had a large percentage of those guys... probably 20 or 25 I talked to about this diet. And back then I was also looking at the bulletproof diet, which is basically the same thing, just a different way of talking about it. And they all came back for the monthly checkup and they were like, "Dude, I feel better and I have lost 10, 15, 20 pounds. Is this something I can do for another month?"

And I'm like, "I think you should do it for another month because I'm doing this myself." And that kind of gave them some reassurance, "Oh, this is not some crazy thing you don't know anything about. Dr. Berry is eating this way too." And so they come back for their two months checkup and they lost more weight. Their numbers were better, they felt better... I had people who were on the list for a knee transplant, a replacement to get an artificial knee.

And two or three of those guys said, "I'll call the surgeon and cancel my appointment." And I told them, if it gets worse, I'll call you and we'll do it. But it feels so much better now, I'm just going to keep doing this diet. And you know, as a Dr., anything that makes everything better, you are like, "That sounds fishy".

So we in Tennessee are actually trained. We do C-sections and, you know, vaginal births and all that and so we were on call the night before, the next morning we were discharging all the vaginal births and the chief resident said, don't forget to write vitamin D drop prescriptions for all the exclusively breast-fed babies. And I'm like, "What? Why? Why does that mean?" And he said, "Humans don't make vitamin D in their breast milk." And I'm like, "There's no way that's true."

And so later when I did have time to research that I didn't argue, I just went along, wrote the prescriptions, but later when I researched and I found that a doctor in the Carolinas had already done the study and she found that when you put breast-feeding women on 6400 IU of vitamin D3 three a day which is mimicking what we've gotten thousands of years ago being outside all day and do what we do women make plenty of vitamin D for their baby. And so looking back my chief resident who was a very smart guy, very intelligent, very well-read, my attending obviously was the attending at a teaching university for a reason, he's a smart guy.

But they both had no idea... not only they were wrong about that fact, but the underlying concept of how did we get here if that is in fact true, to me that blew me away. Like I looked up to those guys and still do, they are very intelligent when it comes to certain things. But even just that basic premise they missed the magnitude of that, like no, that's totally wrong.

And so the whole-grain thing, first of all human beings have only eaten grains of any kind, in any meaningful percentage for the last 10 to 12,000 years. And so we've been on this planet as a species for at least 200,000 years. And so anything that makes you more fit to reproduce and live, that's good. So you were to think we would've discovered the grain thing 10s and 20,000s of years ago if it was that big of a deal.

And so I'm always suspicious of any new finding or discovery that flies in the face of our ancestry and just good old common sense. And immediately that flies in the face of two of them and then when you start to look at the actual any meaningful research about grains or whole grains, it's ridiculous, there's nothing there. So therefore yeah, you don't need grains at all.

Our ancestors for 99.95% of our existence on this planet maybe ate a grain every now and then by accident. They might have eaten a grass seed as they were picking up the meat off the ground but they didn't go out of their way to look for grains or to try to grow grains... that's not what they did.

What do you find in your patients when they eat whole grains and how they do?

And so if you come to me with some new thing like oh everybody needs this now, if you're going to try to override the common sense of the situation and the ancestral appropriateness of it, you better have some damn good research. I mean some over-the-top research if you hope to cancel out the ancestral appropriateness and the common sense of the situation because that's why we do research.

And so then the more I started to look at this and like, wait a minute, we've only been ingesting dairy products like this for about 8000 or 9000 years. I mean, you know, of course we had it before, but once a human being was weaned from the breast, they drank water their entire life. That's it, that was it for 99.99% of our time on this planet.

There you go, there is your ancestral appropriateness... We didn't do that. And then also another thing I like to bring into this is life always finds a way, we've heard that, right? And so if dairy were really that magical of a nutrition source there would be some weasel or some vermin or some rodent or some bird that would have adapted its behavior to steal the milk of mammals.

There would be some weasel that snuck in and suckled at the cow's tit in the middle of the night or something. It would have some kind of anesthetics so the cow would know... just like mosquitoes suck blood because it's very nutritious for them. There would be some other animal that did that, because we know of animals that will sneak in and steal eggs, that will actually confiscate other bird egg and put their eggs in that nest so that that bird does all the work, very, very evolutionary smart, but there is no example of any other animal stealing the milk of mammals.

It just doesn't happen and so that's weird. Also no mammal drinks the milk of another species of mammals. There is no example of that in biology. And a big part of my training was comparative anatomy and animal biology and so that didn't happen and that doesn't make sense. If it's such a great source of nutrition some animal would've found a way to steal that nutrition, because that's what animals do. We try to get stuff the easiest possible, but no animal ever did that.

So with all that in the back of my head I started looking at the research. There's none there. There is no meaningful research that trumps all those other things. And then we go back to kind of how I live my life. If you tell me this common sense thing is wrong you better have some good data to back that up, that's very hard data that can't even be argued with. And nobody has that. So I stopped drinking milk and that's one of the biggest reasons that my chronic allergies and my chronic dandruff...

And that helped the reflux as well. All those things got better when I stopped any liquid dairy at all. And so the only dairy I'll even entertain now is full fat cheese, real cheese or butter or ghee, maybe some heavy cream every now and then, but I just don't touch liquid milk because it's made for the species that made it.

And I use to tell my patients, "If you want to gain weight as quickly as possible, then you need to drink lots of cow's milk every day, because that's why cows make their milk like they do, because the calf has to gain about 1200 pounds in a year. That's what they do. And so if you want to gain weight and when I say weight, I mean fat, drink lots of milk because that will get it for you. And a lot of people have noticed that their health improves and their weight loss quickly accelerates when they get the liquid milk out of their diet.

They are made for cows or goats or whatever and so when you bend those proteins you potentially make them much less inflammatory to your system. So all you're left with is no sugar, all the fat and then a modified protein, because the microbe bent the protein to make cheese or to make kefir or to make yogurt and I think that's why a lot of people find they can include those things in their diet and they are not nearly as inflammatory or fat provoking as just drinking milk.

And so I have a lot of kickback from this subpopulation of young healthy, lean twentysomethings who are in the trainer's sphere or the nutritionist's sphere and they've never been obese, they've never been overweight or inflamed or sick, they've been blessed with good genetics and they can eat whatever and feel great and look great. And that worked for me, I mean when I was 22 I was this tall and weighed 185 or 190 pounds.

I had a sixpack without trying, I mean I was a very lean guy. And so if you had taken nutrition advice from me at that time I didn't know anything about what I was talking about, because whatever I did worked for me. That's who I get the most kickback from is these young healthy guys saying, no, it's all about calories, stupid... it's science. And it's like you don't know, because first of all you're a young punk who has never had to even think about his diet. You could live on Doritos and Twinkies.

Most doctors were like, "Wait a minute, show me the science", and I flip that on them and I say, "No you show me the science. Because what I'm talking about is evolutionarily appropriate, ancestrally appropriate, it makes common sense. So for you to trump that in your medical practice and recommend something that is contrary to what we've done for 99% of our time on this planet, it sounds like it's you who should have the data, not me."

And in my mind that is the ultimate malpractice. Is that if you're so mentally lazy, you're not even going to think about this, you're just going to repeat what the drug rep said or you're going to repeat something you heard on CNN or Fox News last night.

That's it, you're going to read the conclusions of medical studies and that's how you're going to practice medicine? That's pretty crappy. And you know and so I try to get in that guy's face and say, "What are you doing?" I made an YouTube video, "Why are there fat doctors?" Explain that to me.

He is probably actually increasing the risk of having a flare up of their diverticulitis because there was a huge study done with 43,000 participants that shows without doubt what causes diverticulitis or flare-ups at least. It's being overweight, is eating processed foods, is smoking, is alcohol, it's all those things. It has nothing to do with, oh, you ate some strawberries and a seed got trapped in your diverticuli-

Even though that is based on no research. Human beings have eaten nuts and seeds since before recorded history, but yet somehow now that's the cause of diverticulitis. But that's the kind of doctor I'm trying to reach. And I think we're having an effect. I think they're here in this and it's making them uncomfortable.

Nurses and mid-level providers are really coming on board with this and I have had numerous physician assistants and advanced practice nurses come to me as a patient and say I believe in what you're doing, but my supervising physician won't allow me to talk about.

And so then we discuss ninja level ways of getting this information to the patients without them getting in trouble with their supervising physician. I think currently what we're doing mainly with physicians is just making them very uncomfortable. Because, you know, physicians like to know what they're talking about. They like to know that they know. When there is no doubt about this; this is settled science, that's the term we hear a lot.

And now we're throwing up in their face, no dude, this is not settled science at all. You are practicing actually quite precarious medicine. You may be standing on a foundation of sand. You may be giving your patient bad advice. And if that makes a doctor uncomfortable, good. Because doctors jobs are to think and to read and to research and to read outside their field especially.

You don't get to just do what the drug rep who came and brought the new samples to you. That's not... uh-uh... You don't get paid and you don't get the prestige of being a doctor if that's how you're going to practice medicine, you don't deserve it.

It's supposed to be evidence-based, like oh, we tell you this because it's based on all this research, but in reality especially when you start talking about things like Statins and the new medications for type 2 diabetes and all that kind of stuff there's no meaningful research that backs these drugs though, right?

Nobody looks at all-cause mortality if you are taking these drugs. They just look at all, oh, look, it lowered your A1c by 1/10 of a point. And they don't even compare it to the other drugs on the market. They just compare it to placebo.

But I'm poisoning you a little bit each day. You're going to have inflammation, you're going to have bad lab markers, you're not going to feel good, you're going to be irritable, you're going to get obese, too overweight or too skinny, you're just not going to be healthy and vibrant and vigorous. And so then when I remove that slow poison from your diet and you get better everybody is surprised by that.

Really, is that shocking? And so I think what most low-carb diets do is they remove the slow poison of sugar, grains and industrial seed oils. That's the three big steps of any ancestrally appropriate diet and people get better. But it's not because you've added something magical to their diet or to their medical regimen or to their supplement regimen. That has nothing to do with this. What you've done is you just stopped poisoning that mammal and then the mammal gets healthier when you stop poisoning it.

And so I think when you feed a human being the proper human diet, they get healthier and they get happier and they get more productive and they get more successful. It's almost like you give them a superpower when you start feeding them the diet that their DNA knows what to do with.

And so I think if you don't have a gallbladder you can eat low-carb, I think if you have thyroid problems, you need to eat low-carb, if you have fatty liver you absolutely must eat low-carb to reverse that. Gastric bypass, yes you can eat keto/low-carb. You could just keep asking me the questions and so that's why I've started calling it the proper human diet, because then it makes the question silly.

Hey Doc, I don't have a gallbladder... Can I eat the proper human diet? You're like, think about your question. Yes, of course you can. And so now when they say, "I have X, can I eat the proper human diet?", it becomes a silly question. Of course you should eat the proper human diet. I'm sorry that you had the misfortune of having one of your body parts taken out by a surgeon that you may or may not have needed done but you still need to eat the proper human diet because that's what we're talking about here.

There are other very sick alcoholics who you run the risk of seizures and electrolyte abnormality, all kinds of stuff, and so you might wean them slowly over a month or two, but both of those guys need to stop the alcohol because they are alcoholics. Same goes for eating lots of carbs and sugars and industrial seed oils.

Some people might feel terrible and you might increase the risk of having certain things if they transition too quickly. It doesn't mean they shouldn't eat the proper human diet. It just means they might need to take a month or two or three. And for some people it's a social thing. None of their family is on board with this.

And so if they did an overnight change, it would just destroy the household dynamic, so they can't do that. Other people who are young and metabolically healthy, I think they can switch to low-carb overnight. I think there's zero danger of doing that. But yeah, I think different people should come at this with different speeds just like some alcoholics need to wean slower than others.

And so I kind of came to low-carb and keto and then now I consider the carnivore diet which is eating only animal products, only full fat animal products... some people think it's eating only red meat but I think probably... thinking again of the common sense and the ancestry ideas, we probably ate nose to tail; we ate the liver and we used the bones.

We ate the whole animal. I think that the carnivore diet is a subset of the ketogenic diet and I have actually had people come in and say I'm not going to follow you because now you are carnivore, you're not keto anymore. And I'm like no, I think carnivore is the ultimate ketogenic diet and also the ultimate low-carb diet because it's almost zero carb. And I have been eating carnivore or carnivore-ish for months over a year now and it's actually taken me a step further in reclaiming my health.

And I actually feel better now at 50 being a carnivore than I felt at 35. And, you know, if somebody's 20, that's not going to mean anything to them. But somebody out there listening who has been 35 before and now been 50, they understand what a huge statement that is. Like I'm not on any drugs, I don't take anything, I don't take any supplements, I don't take anything and I feel better at 50 than I felt at 35... that's powerful.

They feel great, they are doing great, but for some people and I'm one of them, I have to go even lower carb than 50 total grams a day or even lower than 20 total grams of carbs a day. If I get above 10 g of total carbs a day, I will start to get inflamed and I'll start to bloat.

And so I don't know if there's something even in the keto approved veg that inflames my gut which leads to inflammation elsewhere, but all I know is when I eat lots of fatty meat and butter and bacon and eggs I feel amazing, all my numbers and my labs which I get checked every six months look exquisite, my energy is off the chart...

You know, Neisha is a little bit younger than me and basically she's like, "You know, I feel like I'm the old one in this couple, "because you never shut up and you never sit down. How's that possible?" And so for a while she was not on board with the low-carb, because she's younger and she's just more metabolically healthy.

But now- and she has Hashimoto's. And so she kept kind of pooh-pooh in the low-carb like, that's silly, I don't know whatever. And then she got mono. And usually for her mono when she has a resurgence it's six weeks on the couch. And she just happened to think, "I'll try the stupid low-carb thing he's doing" and within a week she's already recovered from her mono and her Hashimoto's, which also gave her daily symptoms... was much, much better.

And so at that point she was a convert. And so she didn't listen to me and do what I said. She just tried it for herself and she felt so much better and now she's here with me today at this conference and she's 15 weeks pregnant and she's eating lower carb... She is eating so low-carb right now that would make any obstetrician very nervous to know that she's eating that low-carb.

But she's doing great, the baby is doing great, everybody's great, we are very healthy and very happy. And, you know, the official guidelines from the nutrition entity... I can't think of their initials right now is that the average pregnant woman should eat about 300 g carbs a day.

All you're doing is you're parroting what you were taught by the professors at the nutrition school that was sponsored by Kellogg's or Post or Kraft. So you maybe should reassess that... are you actually harming patients with your research? Because I promise you, you don't have a single controlled trial that you're basing your dietary recommendations on. You should probably think about that.

It's not easy and that's why you with your YouTube channel with hundreds of thousands of views for every- actually I don't want to inflate the numbers, I don't know, but I know there's thousands of views that you get and the number of people you reach with this message- I mean this is the groundswell that we need that's happening.

And you know they just issued new guidelines and they actually list low-carb as a viable option to try. It's at the very bottom of the list, that's great... but you know yourself, big changes like this take decades. And there's a joke in the academia and in medicine that before you can change a treatment paradigm all the old guys have to die. Because they are the ones who thought of what we currently practice.

And so it's my calling, it's my mission to not let there be grandparents that we lose and limbs that we lose and kidney function that we lose waiting for all the old guys to die before we can change the paradigm. I'm trying to change the paradigm not from the top down, but from the bottom up. And so I've actually had people come to me and say, you know, I took your advice... It changed my life... my husband was not onboard.

But after he saw the change in me, he's now keto. And we have changed so many people in our community that our doctor that we all go to finally had to say, "Whatever you're doing, keep doing, and I'm going to look into this keto thing myself." And so it's a very powerful statement about this way of eating, about eating the proper human diet that when you do it, the change in you is so drastic that your neighbor sees this and says, "What are you doing?"

Your husband finally stops seeing what you're doing as nagging and starts seeing it as lovingly trying to say, you should really try this. And then the doctor in this community has seen so many of his patients who failed on his nutrition advice... suddenly they are like they've bloomed, they now have superpowers compared to what they used to be as a human so much so that he's looking into this. He's like, what the heck!

Or they go talk to their doctor and he's like, "Me and wife are doing keto, but I was afraid to talk about it. But I think it's a great thing, keep doing it." And so you and I and everybody in this community are changing the world, changing the paradigm from the ground up and I think that's just the most beautiful thing that I could ever be a part of and I am very grateful.

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