Atkins Diet: Not What this Doctor Ordered

According to Dr. Fuhrman's books, Americans consume about 40 percent of their calories from animal products, which has contributed to the increase of cancer and heart disease in the past fifty years. So how does this information impact high-protein weight-loss plans like the Atkins diet? Consider this passage from Eat to Live:

The Atkins diet (and other diets rich in animal products and low in fruits and unrefined carbohydrates) is likely to significantly increase a person's risk of colon cancer. Scientific studies show a clear and strong relationship between cancers of the digestive tract, bladder, and prostate with low fruit consumption. What good is a diet that lowers your weight but also dramatically increases your chances of developing cancer?

A meat-based, low-fiber diet, like the one Atkins advocates, includes little or no fruit, no starchy vegetables, and no whole grains. Following Atkin's recommendations could more than double your risk of certain cancers, especially meat-sensitive cancers, such as epithelial cancers of the respiratory tract.1 For example, a study conducted by the National Cancer Institute looked at lung cancer in nonsmoking women so that smoking would not be a major variable. Researchers found that the relative risk of lung cancer was six times greater in women in the highest fifth of saturated-fat consumption than those in the lowest fifth.

The March 18 issue of Lancet includes research suggesting that the Atkins diet can also cause some other major health complications. Steven Reinberg of Healthday News reports on a case from the study:

The patient had followed the Atkins diet, including Atkins supplements. She went to the hospital with difficulty breathing and was diagnosed with a condition called ketoacidosis.

Ketoacidosis results when dangerously high levels of acids called ketones build up in the blood. Ketones are produced in the liver during starvation. A low-carbohydrate diet such as Atkins can lead to ketone production, Lessnau's team notes.

"She had to be admitted to the intensive care unit," Lessnau said. "The diet actually caused her acidosis."

Lessnau is surprised that this problem with the Atkins diet has not been reported before. "This is something that is not well-diagnosed or may be underreported," he said.

"The Atkins diet is not a safe diet in everybody," Lessnau said. "It can cause potentially life-threatening problems."

Dr. Fuhrman says most weight loss plans are a waste of your money.

For more about how Dr. Fuhrman does recommend losing weight, read this outline, and these thoughts on diets.

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European Research: Restricting Animal Products Reduces Weight Gain, Cancer

In Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman warns against eating regular quantities of animal products, refined grains, and oils, urging you instead to get most of your calories from vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, and raw nuts:

Vegetable and fruits protect all types of cancers if consumed in large enough quantities. Hundreds of scientific studies document this. The most prevalent cancers in our country are mostly plant-food-deficiency disease. Raw vegetables have the most powerful anti-cancer properties of all foods.

Research shows that those who avoid meat and diary have lower rates heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.1

Studies have confirmed that individuals consuming a vegetarian diet (one based on plant matter and not dairy or refined grains) live longer than non-vegetarians and almost never get heart attacks.

With this in mind, consider this recent weight loss study from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. The eating habits of 22,000 people, meat eaters and vegetarians, were tracked over five years. In the end results found that all participants gained a few pounds, but individuals who adopted a vegetarian or vegan diet gained the least. Reuters reports:

"The weight gain was less in the vegans than in the meat-eaters and somewhere in between in the other groups," said Tim Key, of Britain's Cancer Research UK charity and the University of Oxford, who conducted the study.

"The lowest weight gain was in people who changed their diet to eat fewer animal products," he told Reuters.

In addition to stressing the importance of physical activity for sustained health, the study also comments on the link between diet and cancer:

[The study] also showed that diet is second only to tobacco, as a leading cause of cancer, and, along with alcohol, is responsible for nearly a third of cancer cases in developed countries.
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Obesity All Over the News

The global obesity epidemic is getting plenty of attention, and rightly so.

In Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live he address the state of obesity and weight loss and many of the health complications of being overweight:

Obesity is not just a cosmetic issue—extra weight leads to an earlier death, as many studies confirm.1 Overweight individuals are more likely to die from causes, including heart disease and cancer. Two thirds of those with problems also have hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, or another obesity-related condition.2 It is a major cause of early mortality in the United States.3 Since dieting almost never works and the health risk of obesity are so life threatening, more and more people are desperately turning to drugs and surgical procedures to lose weight.

Health Complications of Obesity
Increase overall premature mortalityLipid disorders
Adult onset diabetesObstructive sleep apnea
Degenerative arthritisFatty infiltration of liver
Coronary artery diseaseRestrictive lung disease
CancerGastrointestinal diseases

(Rather than losing weight with a temporary diet, Dr. Fuhrman advocates permanently shifting the focus of eating to the healthiest and most nutritious foods.)

Recent news is full of new angles and thoughts on obesity. Reuters reports one such study links obesity to migraines:

As BMI increased, so did the frequency of migraine attacks. The [research] team notes that 4.4 percent of the normal weight group had 10 to 15 headache days per month. This increased to 5.8 percent in the overweight group, 13.6 percent in the obese group and 20.7 percent in the morbidly obese group.

The percentage of subjects who reported severe migraines also increased with BMI group, from 53 percent in subjects of normal weight to 57 percent in the overweight group, 59 percent in the obese group and 65 percent in the morbidly obese group.

According to Reuters another study claims that many parents can't admit their children are overweight:

Many parents do not identify their child as "overweight," but will select a sketch of a heavier model when asked to choose one representative of their child, new study findings show.

"Comparisons between images and sketches showed that parents' visual perceptions of their children more clearly reflect their child's physical appearance than words they might use to classify the child's weight," study author Dr. Helen J. Binns, of Northwestern University in Chicago.

The AFP is reporting that Sweden will begin screening four-year-olds for obesity:

In addition to registering Swedish four-year-olds' height and weight development, pediatricians will be asked to survey their BMI, which measures the relative percentages of fat and muscle mass in the body by dividing weight in kilos by height in meters and which is considered the best index for obesity.

"In most children, weight problems won't surface until later, but by checking four-year-olds we hope to find people who are especially at risk, who are genetically predisposed to become overweight," Carl-Erik Flodmark, head physician at the child obesity center in Skaane in southern Sweden.

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Warning Labels from the Surgeon General on Soda?

Marilynn Marchione of the Associated Press reports that new studies by two groups of researchers claim that consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks actually causes obesity. While it is widely agreed that soda contributes to weight gain, labeling soda as a standalone cause is a new idea that's ruffling some feathers. Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Thun says:

"Caloric imbalance causes obesity, so in the sense that any one part of the diet is contributing excess calories, it's contributing causally to the obesity," Thun said. "It doesn't mean that something is the only cause. It means that in the absence of that factor there would be less of that condition."

Does it merit a warning on soda cans?

"I think it would be a good candidate for a warning," Thun said. "It's something that should be seriously considered."

In Dr. Fuhrman's book Disease Proof Your Child he discusses soft drinks and rising obesity rates:

Obesity rates have risen in tandem with soda consumption in the United States, and in the last twenty years the consumption of soft drinks by teenagers had doubled.1 Twelve to nineteen-year-old boys consume thirty-four teaspoons of sugar a day in their diet, and about half of that comes from soft drinks. Children start drinking soft drinks at a very young age, and advertisements and promotions by the soft drink manufacturers are aggressively marketed to the young.

Annual Soft Drink Production US.gif

Source: Data from the National Soft Drink Association, Beverage World, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (

Soft drinks and processed foods are full of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is not only fattening, but this inexpensive and ultra-concentrated sugar has no resemblance to real food made by nature. It is another experiment thrust upon our unsuspecting children with unknown dangerous consequences. Besides sugar, corn syrup, and chemicals, these drinks often contain caffeine, an addictive stimulant. Children crave more and more as they get older. By adolescence most children have become soft-drink addicts. It is no surprise that six out of the seven most popular soft drinks contain caffeine. Contrast this high level of sugary "liquid candy" with the meager intake of fresh produce by children and teenagers, and it is no surprise that we have an obesity epidemic beyond all expectations.

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