Neal D. Barnard

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Neal Barnard
Fargo, North Dakota
Alma materGeorge Washington University School of Medicine
OccupationPhysician, psychiatrist, writer
EmployerFounder, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine; adjunct associate professor of medicine at George Washington University
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Neal Barnard
Fargo, North Dakota
Alma materGeorge Washington University School of Medicine
OccupationPhysician, psychiatrist, writer
EmployerFounder, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine; adjunct associate professor of medicine at George Washington University

Neal D. Barnard (born 1953) is an American physician, author, clinical researcher, and founding president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), an international network of physicians, scientists, and laypeople who promote preventive medicine, conduct clinical research, and promote higher standards in research. An advocate of a low-fat, whole foods, plant-based diet, he has also conducted research into alternatives to animal experimentation and has been active in the animal protection movement. As of 2013, he is an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.[1]

Barnard is the author of more than 50 published papers on nutrition and its impact on human health, and more than 15 books.


Barnard grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, in a family of cattle ranchers and physicians. He received his M.D. from George Washington University School of Medicine.[1] He trained as a psychiatrist and is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He provided psychiatric services at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York, George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and the Calvary Shelter for Homeless Women in D.C., then shifted his focus to researching the impact of diet on human health, and finding alternatives to the use of animals in research.[2] He has published his research in several academic journals, including Diabetes Care, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Lancet Oncology, and the American Journal of Cardiology, and is an invited peer reviewer for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.


In 2003, he was awarded a US$350,000 research grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the effect of a low-fat vegan diet on diabetes. The study results, published in Diabetes Care, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that "both a low-fat vegan diet and a diet based on American Diabetes Association guidelines improved glycemic and lipid control in type 2 diabetic patients," but "these improvements were greater with a low-fat, vegan diet." [3] These studies are now cited by the American Diabetes Association Clinical Practice Recommendations and in the policy statements of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. With colleagues at PCRM, he developed an insulin ELISA assay that utilizes monoclonal antibodies from hybridomas maintained in media free of animal products.[4] The test proved as effective as methods that use animal products, and is now produced commercially by Millipore.[5]

Barnard headed two clinical trials testing the effects of plant-based diets in the workplace, working with GEICO. Results published in 2010 and 2013 showed significant reductions in body weight, blood sugar, and absenteeism.

Peter Lipson, a physician and writer on alternative medicine, has been heavily critical of Barnard's view that diabetes can be "reversed" by diet, saying that it relies on an over-simplifed view of the disease.[6]

In 2004, he formed The Washington Center For Clinical Research, a nonprofit subsidiary of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine that aims to conduct research into the role of nutrition in health.[7] He is now an adjunct associate professor of medicine at GWU and is also a life member of the American Medical Association.[8]


Barnard has written more than a 15 books about nutrition that have collectively sold over two million copies.[1] He is also the editor-in-chief of the Nutrition Guide for Clinicians (2007). Nutritionist Marion Nestle, while disagreeing with Barnard's vegan principles, wrote that he raises "provocative questions that deserve serious attention."[1] Physician Dean Ornish has called him "one of the leading pioneers in educating the public about the healing power of diet and nutrition."[9] and Henry Heimlich described his "tremendous influence on dietary practices in the United States."[10] Salon praised his ability to promote a vegan diet "with such eloquence as to make the proposition sound almost inviting."[1]

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine[edit]

In 1985, Barnard founded the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). The organization is opposed to some medical and scientific practices that it considers harmful to human health, and promotes the health benefits of a vegetarian and vegan diet.[11] PCRM is based in Washington D.C., where a staff of seventy operate within a $9 million budget.[1] With PCRM, Barnard has successfully campaigned against live-animal teaching labs for medical students, something he refused to take part in himself when he was studying medicine. According to, by 2001, over half of U.S. medical schools had stopped using live animals for teaching purposes, and by 2012, 94 percent of schools had abandoned the practice.[1] Barnard also promotes the use of alternatives to animals in medical research.[11]

In 1991, Barnard founded The Cancer Project, originally as a PCRM program. It became an independently incorporated organization in 2004, with Barnard as president, aiming to educate the public on diet’s role in cancer prevention and survival by providing nutrition and cooking classes for cancer patients throughout the U.S.[12]

In 2009, PCRM erected a series of billboards at Washington’s Union Station Metro calling for healthier school lunches. The images depicted an 8-year-old Florida girl saying “President Obama’s daughters get healthy school lunches. Why don’t I?” suggesting that vegetarian options should not be reserved for those who can afford the $29,000-a-year tuition at Washington’s Sidwell Friends School. The White House was not amused and insisted that the billboards be removed. Barnard refused and called on the White House to support reforms to school lunches.[13]

Criticism of the Atkins diet[edit]

As president of PCRM, Barnard has been at the forefront of criticism of the Atkins Nutritional Approach, a low-carbohydrate diet, known as Atkins diet. He runs a website advising of potential health consequences, and warning of the possibility of legal liability for doctors who prescribe the diet.[14] In 2004, he approved the release by PCRM of a medical report on the death Robert Atkins.[15] The New York City medical examiner's office said the report had been "inappropriately obtained" by a cardiologist, who said he had provided it to PCRM for research purposes only. Barnard said the cardiologist was aware the report would be released and justified it to expose the effect of the diet on Atkins' health.[16]


He appears in the 2011 documentary feature film Forks Over Knives, a film that traces the careers of T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyn. Barnard also features in the film Super Size Me and Mad Cowboy: The Documentary.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Wadman, Meredith. "Profile: Neal Barnard", Nature, 206, 12: 602.
  2. ^ Sharkey, Joe. "Perennial Foes Meet Again in a Battle of the Snack Bar",The New York Times, November 23, 2004.
  3. ^ Barnard N.D. et al. "A low-fat vegan diet improves glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in a randomized clinical trial in individuals with type 2 diabetes", Diabetes Care, 2006, 29(8), pp. 1777–1783.
  4. ^ Even, Megha S. et al. "Development of a novel ELISA for human insulin using monoclonal antibodies produced in serum-free cell culture medium", Clinical Biochemistry, Volume 40, Issues 1-2, (2007), pp. 98–103. PMID 17123500
  5. ^ Testing for insulin without the pitter-patter of little feet, Newsguide, January 31, 2007.
  6. ^ Lipson, Peter (12 October 2009). "Medicine is hard and should be practiced with caution". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved September 2014. 
  7. ^ Washington Center For Clinical Research,, accessed February 6, 2011.
  8. ^ "Biographical Sketch",, accessed February 6, 2011.
  9. ^ Barnard, N.D. Foods that Fight Pain. Harmony Books, 1998.
  10. ^ Barnard, N.D. Food for Life. Harmony Books, 1993.
  11. ^ a b "About PCRM", PCRM, retrieved November 16, 2007
  12. ^ Ask the expert, Neal Barnard, M.D., The Cancer Project, retrieved November 17, 2007
  13. ^ "White House Decries Physicians Committee's Poster, Which Mentions Obama Girls", Washington Post, retrieved April 27, 2012
  14. ^ "Legal Alert". Retrieved December 6, 2011. 
  15. ^ Mary Carmichael, Atkins Under Attack, Newsweek, February 2004
  16. ^ Tara Godvin, "Doctor: Atkins Data Wasn't for Public", Newsday, February 13, 2004.

Further reading[edit]

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