Physician Profile: David J.A. Jenkins, M.D., Ph.D., Sc.D.
David J.A. Jenkins, M.D., Ph.D., Sc.D., is one of the world’s leaders in nutrition research. He developed the glycemic index and devised a dietary portfolio that lowers cholesterol nearly as powerfully as cholesterol-lowering drugs. But for Dr. Jenkins, practicing medicine runs in the family. He comes from six generations of doctors, including his father. His grandmother, who told stories going back 100 years about the doctors in his family, always encouraged Dr. Jenkins’ interest in medicine.
Dr. Jenkins was born in London and spent the latter part of his childhood in western Australia. After studying the health benefits of fiber at the Medical Research Council in Great Britain, Dr. Jenkins developed the groundbreaking glycemic index, which shows how carbohydrates affect blood sugar. It is now widely used in diabetes, lipid control, and weight-loss management.
Dr. Jenkins works at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and is the Canada research chair in nutrition and metabolism and a teacher and clinical researcher at the University of Toronto. His studies examine the use of plant-based diets in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cholesterol, and cancer.
In 2003, Dr. Jenkins showed that a vegetarian diet incorporating soluble fiber, soy protein, almonds, and plant sterol ester-enriched margarine lowers serum cholesterol concentrations about as effectively as cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Dr. Jenkins first learned about PCRM many years ago through his mentor, Dr. Denis Burkitt, and became a co-investigator in PCRM’s National Institutes of Health-funded study on diet and diabetes.
His concerns extend beyond personal health to the health of the planet. Current dietary habits, he feels, are unsustainable. At PCRM’s 2007 Art of Compassion gala, Dr. Jenkins was awarded the Benjamin Spock Award for Compassion in Medicine. “It was a great honor—the highest honor one could achieve in medicine,” said Dr. Jenkins. “I’m not sure it was justified, but I am extremely grateful for it.”