Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, Zone Diet--All Poop Out...

A new study has determined that fad diets like Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and the Zone produced only modest weight-loss with limited sustainability. Ian Ayres of the Freakonomics blog has more:

A randomized control year-long study looked at the impact of four different diets (Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone Diets) on a group of overweight and obese subjects who were looking to lose weight. The diets produced only “modest” average weight loss of about 6.4 lbs (2.3 percent of original body weight) and found no statistically significant difference in weight loss for the four different diets.


People do a pretty good job of losing weight for about half a year, and then their weight tends to drift back toward their pre-diet number. The difficulty of sustaining weight loss can be seen in this figure taken from a 2-year randomized study of the Weight Watchers program:

Now, news like this is rather redundant. Diets programs like Atkins and Weight Watchers are nothing but hype—BIG wastes of time! According to Dr. Fuhrman diets like these are doomed to fail. He explains:

All those second rate diets fail, because without addressing adequate micronutrient density, people crave more food than their body requires for good health.


In spite of the more than $110 million consumers spend every day on diets and “reducing” programs (more than $40 billion per year), Americans are the most obese people in history. To be considered obese, more than one-third of a person’s body must be made up of fat. A whopping 34 percent of all Americans are obese, and the problem is getting worse, not better.

Unfortunately, most weight-loss plans either don’t work or offer only minor, usually temporary, benefits. There are plenty of “rules and counting” diets, diet drugs, high-protein programs, canned shakes, and other fads that might enable you to lose some weight for a period of time. The problem is that you can’t stay on these programs forever.

Here’s my UNEXPERT opinion. Ditch the “diet” and change your lifestyle. Hey, it worked for me—Healthy, with a Vengeance!

Carbs Okay for Weight-Loss

Honestly, I hate using the word “carbs.” It’s a such a fad word, for fad diets, but carbs are in the news and this report caught my eye. One nutritionist claims carbs can actually help promote weight-loss. Check out this video from ABC News:


I don’t know about “resistant carbs.” Sounds like mumbo-jumbo to me, but fiber certainly isn’t and whole foods are loaded with fiber; like beans, bananas, green vegetables, and squash. And as Dr. Fuhrman explains, these foods/carbs do in fact encourage weight-loss:

When you eat high-carbohydrate foods, such as fresh fruits and beans, you eat more food and still keep your caloric intake relatively low. The high fiber content of (unrefined) carbohydrate-rich food is another crucial reason you will feel more satisfied and not crave more food when you make unrefined carbohydrates the main source of calories in your diet.


Don't fear eating foods rich in carbohydrates and don't be afraid of eating fruit because it contains sugar. Even the plant foods that are high in carbohydrate contain sufficient fiber and nutrients and are low enough in calories to be considered nutritious. As long as they are unrefined, they should not be excluded from your diet. In fact, it is impossible to glean all the nutrients needed for optimal health if your diet does no contain lots of carbohydrate-rich food.

Clearly, the taboo against carbohydrates is ill-informed. Refined junk—like white rice, bread, and sugar—are the “carbs” you want to avoid, but wholesome fiber-full foods like fruits and vegetables are the key to a healthy diet. More from Dr. Fuhrman’s Food Scoring Guide:

I urge you to start eating a diet that contains more high-nutrient plant foods today. Eat fewer animal products and fewer processed foods, and replace these calories with more fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and beans. At minimum, I recommend that you cut back on animal-product consumption from servings a day to one serving a day. Better yet, when you use animal products, add them to a dish in small amounts like condiments so that the total amount you consume each week will be even less. Eat vegetarian dinners frequently.


Make this dietary transition an exciting adventure where you learn new great-tasting recipes with high-nutrient plant foods. Design a food plan that uses large quantities of the most powerful anticancer, disease-fighting foods on the planet, make it taste, and then test it to see what kinds of results you get. I can tell you now that the results will astound you!

So, when you hear fad-terms like carbs, zone-diet, and south beach, just ignore them and focus on natural things like fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds—phooey to the hype!

Diabetic Confusion: Low-Carb Unhealthy, Veggies Healthy

And that’s the truth! If you’re looking to get healthy, lose weight, and prevent and reverse disease, DON’T even consider “low-carb” or high-protein diets. Here’s why in a nutshell. Dr. Fuhrman explains:

Americans already eat approximately 40 percent of their calories from animal products; we have seen a tragic skyrocketing in cancer and heart-disease rates in the past fifty years as a result of such nutritional extravagance.1 You can lose some weight on the low-carb diet, but you run the risk of losing your health at the same time.

Now, most health experts agree—even Dr. Fuhrman—that eating a lot of carbs is a bad idea, but Dr. Fuhrman’s criticisms focus on the refined and process carbohydrates. Here’s why he thinks this stuff is bad news:

Diets containing refined grains and refined sweets are consistently linked to stomach and colon cancer, and at least twelve breast cancer studies connect low-fiber diets with increased risks.2 Eating a diet that contains a significant quantity of sugar and refined flour does not just cause weight gain, it also leads to an earlier death.

Once you kick the refined junk to the curb, you’re left with the good stuff—the healthy carbs! In fact, these carbohydrates are important brain and muscle fuel. Let’s check back with Dr. Fuhrman:

Our bodies need carbohydrates more than any other substance. Our muscle cells and brains are designed to run on carbohydrates. Carbohydrate-rich foods, when consumed in their natural state, are low in calories and high in fiber compared with fatty foods, processed foods, or animal products.

You can find these healthy carbs in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes, and, as Dr. Fuhrman points out. Plant foods likes these are the benchmark of healthy living. Here Dr. Fuhrman talks about the power of plants:

Increasing your consumption of high-nutrient fruits and vegetables is the key to disease resistance, disease reversal, and a long, healthy life. The potential reduction in disease rates shows no threshold effect in the scientific studies. That means that as high-nutrient vegetables and high-nutrient fruits increase as a major portion of caloric intake, disease rates fall in a dose-dependent manner—the more the diet is comprised of these foods, the better your health will be.3

So, what’s wrong with “low-carb” diets—A LOT—Atkins-like diets dupe people into believing that increased consumption of animal products and decreased consumption of plant foods is healthy—WRONG! Dr. Fuhrman elaborates:

It is an interesting phenomenon to me low-carb dieters search to find small pearls of dissent in the scientific literature to support their views as they ignore thousands of well-performed studies, I wonder why they are so attached to their diets or views that they can’t accept the preponderance of evidence and modify their stance.

And when you exam the facts, you’ll quickly realize the profound link between eating too much animal products and saturated fat and diseases; like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Again, Dr. Fuhrman explains:

Today, the average American consumes 100-120 grams of protein per day, mostly in the form of animal products. This high level of animal product consumption has been linked to not just heart disease and strokes, but to higher rates of cancer, as well4…


…High-protein, carbohydrate-restricted diets also are heart unfriendly. One comprehensive study on the Atkins’ approach showed that after one year on the diet, blood flow to the heart diminished by an average of 40 percent and inflammatory markers that predict heart attacks increased.5 The low levels of plant fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidant nutrients on these unbalanced, low produce diets expose the diabetic patient to additional risks.

Okay, by now we’ve worked up a good information-base—low-carb bad, veggies good—so let’s check out this study appearing in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It suggest that low-carb is better than low-fat for preventing diabetes. Amanda Gardner of HealthDay News is on it:

"One study is never enough to change a recommendation, but this study is interesting in that it shows that a low-fat diet is no better than a low-carbohydrate diet in preventing type 2 diabetes," said Thomas Halton, lead author of a study in the current issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. "The one diet that did seem to show a protective effect was a vegetable-based, low-carb diet which consisted of higher amounts of vegetable fat and vegetable protein, and lower amounts of carbohydrate."


The findings, Halton added, were a bit surprising in that most doctors and nutritionists recommend a low-fat diet to prevent type 2 diabetes. "This study showed that a low-fat diet didn't really prevent type 2 diabetes in our cohort when compared to a low-carb diet. I was also surprised that total carbohydrate consumption was associated with type 2 diabetes, and that the relative risk for the glycemic load was so high."

Now, despite the dirty term “low-carb” the study is looking surprisingly good, but just to be safe, let’s look at the actual study, pay very close attention to the conclusion. From The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:

Background: Low-carbohydrate weight-loss diets remain popular; however, the long-term effects of these diets are not known.


Objective: The objective was to examine the association between low-carbohydrate-diet score and risk of type 2 diabetes

Design: We prospectively examined the association between low-carbohydrate-diet score (based on percentage of energy as carbohydrate, fat, and protein) and risk of diabetes among 85 059 women in the Nurses' Health Study.

Conclusion: These data suggest that diets lower in carbohydrate and higher in fat and protein do not increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in women. In fact, diets rich in vegetable sources of fat and protein may modestly reduce the risk of diabetes.

Vegetable fat and vegetable protein—not the high animal fat fallacy perpetuated by Atkins and his ilk. In fact, when you strictly limit all the meat, dairy, and oil in the typical Atkins menu and upgrade the fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes, you’re left with a diet naturally free of refined carbohydrates and packed with nature’s best foods! One more quote from Dr. Fuhrman:

Knowing that the right micronutrients in the right proportions are easily available to us in whole, natural foods is wonderful. But we no longer get our foods in natural form from the wild. Most of the food we eat is concocted in factories. These processed foods do not contain the level and diversity of the vitamins and minerals we get in natural foods. For example, the fruits and vegetables that primates eat in the wild are loaded with micronutrients, giving these primates a diet far richer in many essential vitamins and minerals than the diets consumed by any humans in the modern world.

Clearly these primates are eating the right kind of low-fat diet and NOT monkeying with dangerous high-protein diets. For more on this topic, be sure to check out Standard American Low-Fat—JUNK—Diet.

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