Neal D. Barnard

Neal Barnard
Born July 10, 1953
Fargo, North Dakota, US
Nationality American
Education MD
Alma mater George Washington University School of Medicine
Occupation Doctor, psychiatrist, writer
Employer Founder, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine; adjunct associate professor of medicine at George Washington University

Neal D. Barnard (born 1953) is an American doctor, author, clinical researcher, and founding president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), an international network of doctors, scientists, and laypeople. 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 2015, he is an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.[1] He founded the nonprofit Barnard Medical Center in 2016 to integrate the fields of nutrition and medicine into one prescription for complete primary care.[2] On April 4, 2016, Barnard was inducted as a fellow into the American College of Cardiology.[2] Quackwatch includes Barnard in its list of, "Promoters of Questionable Methods and/or Advice."[3]

Barnard is the author of 17 books and more than 70 published papers on nutrition and its impact on human health. He stars in three PBS specials about diet and health.


Barnard grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, in a family of cattle ranchers and doctors. 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.[4] He has published his research in several academic journals, including Diabetes Care, JAMA, 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. He also hosts continuing medical education (CME) conferences for health care providers each July in Washington, D.C. The fourth-annual International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine included 735 health care providers, representing 25 different countries.


With colleagues at the Physicians Committee, Barnard developed an insulin ELISA assay that utilizes monoclonal antibodies from hybridomas maintained in media free of animal products.[5] The test proved as effective as methods that use animal products, and is now produced commercially by Millipore.[6]

Peter Lipson, a doctor 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.[7]

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.[8] He is now an adjunct associate professor of medicine at GWU and is also a life member of the American Medical Association.[9]


Barnard has written 17 books about nutrition, including the USA Today bestselling-book Dr. Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes and New York Times bestselling-books 21-Day Kickstart and Power Foods for the Brain. 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] Dean Ornish has called him "one of the leading pioneers in educating the public about the healing power of diet and nutrition."[10] and Henry Heimlich described his "tremendous influence on dietary practices in the United States."[11] 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

In 1985, Barnard founded the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The organization is opposed to some medical and scientific practices that it considers harmful to human health, and promotes what it says are the health benefits of a vegetarian and vegan diet.[12] The Physicians Committee is based in Washington D.C., where a staff of seventy operate within a $9 million budget.[1] With the Physicians Committee, 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 2016, 100 percent of schools had abandoned the practice.[1][13] Barnard also promotes the use of alternatives to animals in medical research.[12]

The National Council Against Health Fraud describes PCRM as, "a propaganda machine whose press conferences are charades for disguising its ideology as news events."[14]

In 1991, Barnard founded The Cancer Project, originally as a Physicians Committee program. It became an independently incorporated organization in 2004, with Barnard as president, promoting a message about diet's role in cancer prevention and survival by providing nutrition and cooking classes for cancer patients throughout the U.S.[15]

In 2009, the Physicians Committee 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.[16]

Criticism of low-carb diets

As president of the Physicians Committee, 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.[17] In 2004, he approved the release by PCRM of a medical report on the death of Robert Atkins.[18] 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 the Physicians Committee 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.[19]


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


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Wadman, Meredith. "Profile: Neal Barnard", Nature, 206, 12: 602.
  2. 1 2 "President". Barnard Medical Center.
  3. "Promoters of Questionable Methods and/or Advice". Quackwatch. Stephen Barrett. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  4. Sharkey, Joe. "Perennial Foes Meet Again in a Battle of the Snack Bar",The New York Times, November 23, 2004.
  5. 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
  6. Testing for insulin without the pitter-patter of little feet, Newsguide, January 31, 2007.
  7. Lipson, Peter (12 October 2009). "Medicine is hard and should be practiced with caution". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved 2014-09-01.
  8. Washington Center For Clinical Research,, accessed February 6, 2011.
  9. "Biographical Sketch",, accessed February 6, 2011.
  10. Barnard, N.D. Foods that Fight Pain. Harmony Books, 1998.
  11. Barnard, N.D. Food for Life. Harmony Books, 1993.
  12. 1 2 "About the Physicians Committee", PCRM, retrieved November 16, 2007
  13. "One last U.S. medical school still killed animals to teach surgery. But no more."], Washington Post, retrieved July 7, 2016
  14. Jarvis, William. "Physician's Committee For Responsible Medicine (PCRM)". National Center Against Health Fraud. NCAHF. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  15. Ask the expert, Neal Barnard, M.D., The Cancer Project, retrieved November 17, 2007
  16. "White House Decries Doctors Committee's Poster, Which Mentions Obama Girls", Washington Post, retrieved April 27, 2012
  17. "Legal Alert". Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  18. Mary Carmichael, Atkins Under Attack, Newsweek, February 2004
  19. Tara Godvin, [ "Doctor: Atkins Data Wasn't for Public"], Newsday, February 13, 2004.
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