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.
1. Word Health Organization. 1996. Food balance sheets, online at http://apps.fao.org.cvs.down.
2. Jacobs, D. R., Jr., J. Slavin, and L. Marquart. 1995. Whole-grain intake and cancer: a review of the literature. Nutr. Cancer 24 (3): 221–29; Cohen, L. A. 1999. Dietary fiber and breast cancer. Anticancer Res. 19 (5A): 3685–88; Williams, G. M., C. L. Williams, and J. H. Weisburger. 1999. Diet and cancer prevention: the fiber first diet. Toxicol. Sci. 52 (2 supp.): 72–86; Gerber, M. 1998. Fibre and breast cancer. Eur. J. Cancer Prev. 7 (supp. 2): S630S67; La Vecchia, C., M. Ferranoni, S. Franceschi, et al. 1997. Fibers and breast cancer risk. Nutr. Cancer 28 (3): 264–69.
3. Bazzano LA; He J; Ogden LG; et al. “Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of cardiovascular disease in US adults: the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Epidemiologic Follow-up Study.” Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76(1):93-9.
4. Kelemen LE; Kushi LH; Jacobs DR; Cerhan JR. “Associations of dietary protein with disease and mortality in a prospective study of postmenopausal women.” Am J Epidemiol 2005;161(3):239-49.
Kant AK; Schatzkin A; Graubard BI; Schairer C. “A prospective study of diet quality and mortality in women.” JAMA 2000;283(16):2109-15.
Meydani M. “Nutrition interventions in aging and age-associated disease.” Ann NY Acad Sci 2001;923:226-35.
5. Fleming RM. The effect of high-protein diets on coronary blood flow. Angiology 2000;51(10): 817-826.