Short and Long-Term Dangers of High-Fat Diets

This is part of a weeklong review of the popular Dr. Atkins high-protein low-carbohydrate diet-style. See Monday's post for an overview. The following is from Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live:

An argument can be made for the usefulness of diets like the one advocated by Atkins because they often do result in weight loss. Being overweight is such a health risk that there are some real health benefits one receives from losing weight, even if the mode of weight loss places the person at increased cancer risk. Losing weight--even by a high-protein, high-fat, low-fiber diet--will lower triglycerides, decrease insulin resistance, and lower blood pressure.

These high-proteins strongly forbid refined carbohydrates, junk food, and the nutritionally depleted white pasta, white rice, and bread that most Americans consume in large quantities. That is the good part. They also frequently recommend that the dieter consume hundreds of dollars of nutritional supplements each month, Sure, the supplements are better than nothing on such an unbalanced diet, but they do not make it safe.

The conventional American diet is so unhealthy and fattening that an obese individual following the Atkins diet may derive some marginal benefit if he or she can use it successfully to keep his or her weight down, because of all the various adverse medical complications associated with obesity and because the added supplements add some missing micronutrients. However, the reality is that no matter how many supplements add some missing micronutrients. However, the reality is that no matter how many supplements are taken and how much psyllium fiber is prescribed, it is simply impossible to make up for so many important substances that are lacking in the diet. There are too essential nutrients that have never met the inside of a vitamin jar, and no supplemental gymnastics can ever offset the destructive effects of so much animal food and so little fibrous produce. Plus, on his plan, consuming even a moderate amount of the healthy carbohydrate foods such as fruits and starchy vegetables stops ketosis and you regain your weight.

High-fat diets are unquestionably associated with obesity, and eating meat actually correlates with weight gain, not weight loss, unless you radically cut carbs from your diet to maintain chronic ketosis.1 Researchers from the American Cancer Society followed 79,236 individuals over ten years and found that those ate meat more than three times per week were much more likely to gain weight as the years went by than those who tended to avoid meat.2 The more vegetables the participants ate, the more resistant they were to weight gain.

The Atkins diet, along with other similar plans, is virtually the opposite of the one dictated by our heritage. I has almost no fiber, utilizing instead the precise foods that science has established as the primary cause of cancer and heart attacks, and specifically excludes the foods that have been shown to have a powerful anti-cancer effect. Then you are told to take hundreds of dollars of supplements each month to make up for the deficiencies. Does this make sense to you?

(from his book)
Eat To Live
(Typical menu)
Total Calories
188 gm
60 gm
167 gm
19 gm
67 gm
314 gm
Saturated fat
60 gm
2 gm
5920 mg
592 mg
B carotene
212 mcg
8260 mcg
Vitamin C
30 mg
625 mg
543 mg
877 mg
187 mg
593 mg
18 mg
22 mg
1.5 mg
8.1 mg
Vitamin E
10 IU
22 IU
5.4 gm
77 gm
0.034 mg
0.168 mg

The Atkins menu above, like most of his meal plans, averages 60 percent of calories from fat. Obviously, the Eat to Live menu has fewer calories and almost no saturated fat and is much higher in fiber and other (anti-cancer) plant-derived nutrients.

Remember, the grams of fiber consumed, when acquired from natural foods, mark the level other phytochemicals--which may make a difference between a long life and a premature death.

Its is difficult to imagine a physician, practicing as a nutritional expert, selling millions of book while recommending 60 grams of disease-promoting saturated fat a day.3

Telling people what they want to hear sell books, products, and services. Atkins continues to make irresponsible statement in support of his dangerous advice. Take, for example, statements from his winter 2001 Health Revelations Special Report (an advertisement brochure for his newsletter):

  • Reverse heart disease with filet mignon!
  • Stop strokes with cheese!
  • Prevent breast cancer with butter!

The worst part is the most people do not have comprehensive knowledge of the world's nutritional literature and research and therefore are not in position to evaluate his fraudulent claims. As a result unfortunate things like this can happen, click here.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at what happens when you tell the truth about Atkins.

1. Sherwood, N.E.R. W. Jeffrey, S.A. French, et al. 2000. Predictors of weight gain in the Pound of Prevention study. Int. J. Obes. Relat. Metab. Disord. 24 (4): 395-403; Astrup, A. 1999. Macronutrient balancers and obesity: the role of diet and physical activity. Public Health Nutr. 2 (3A): 341-47.

2. Kahn, H.S., L. M. Tatham, C. Rodriguez et al. 1997. Stable behaviors associated with adults' 10-year change in body mass index and likelihood in body mass index and likelihood of gain at the waist. Am. J. Public Health 87 (5): 747-57.

3. Alavanja, op. cit.; Lichetenstein, A.H., E. Kennedy, P. Barrier, et al. 1998. Dietary fat consumption and health. Nutr. Rev. 56 (5) pt. 2: S3-28: Kromhout, D.B. Bloemberg, E. Feskens, e al. 2000. Saturated fat, vitamin C and smoking predict long-term population all-cause mortality rates in Seven Countries Study. Int. J. Epidemiol. 29 (2): 260-65; Staessen, L., D. DeBacquer, S. De Henauw, et al. 1997. Relation between fat intake and mortality: an ecological analysis in Belgium. Eur. J. Cancer Prev. 6 (4): 374-81.

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Comments (2) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Boneth - December 5, 2006 8:14 PM

Wow didnt u know that the Akins diet is actualy bad for you

Andy - April 29, 2010 6:08 PM

The high-fat association with obesity is simply because of the shocking amounts of carbohydrate people consume. Without glucose, there is no insulin release, and without insulin release, fat cannot be stored.

Any diet that lowers triglyceride levels and causes a decrease in body fat simply must be beneficial to health.

Switching to a ketogenic diet saved my life. I lost nearly 80 lbs and have never been fitter or happier.

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