Earlier this week, the New York Times published an opinion piece by Dr. Dean Ornish entitled “Eating for Health, Not Weight.”
Dr. Ornish states, “Perhaps the biggest misconception is that as long as you lose weight, it doesn’t matter what you eat. But it does… Some diets that may help you lose weight may be harmful to your health over time.”
To illustrate his point, Dr. Ornish brought up a recent study that made news: the study compared three different diets all containing the same amount of calories: a low-fat, high-glycemic load diet, a moderate-glycemic load diet, and a very low-carbohydrate, low-glycemic load diet. The study aimed to figure out which type of diet would work best for maintenance of prior weight loss. A decrease in calorie expenditure (“slower metabolism”) is expected upon weight loss – when you weigh less, you require fewer calories. The researchers found that the very low carbohydrate diet produced the smallest decrease in calorie expenditure compared to pre-weight loss levels. The conclusion was that the low-carb diet may be preferable for maintaining weight loss, because the smaller decrease in calorie expenditure would theoretically make it possible to eat more calories than on the other diets and maintain the same weight.1
News like this sends a dangerous message to the American public, making low-carbohydrate diets seem very attractive: “as long as you lose weight, it doesn’t matter what you eat. Dr. Ornish adds, “never underestimate the power of telling people what they want to hear — like cheeseburgers and bacon are good for you.”
A faster metabolism does not mean better health; in fact, it likely means the opposite. Also, the number of calories burned daily on each of these diets is irrelevant because it is probable that none of the diets were healthful (the actual foods eaten on these diets were not reported, only details on carbohydrate, protein, and fat content). Weight, though important, is not the only measure of health. Based mainly on low-nutrient animal products, low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets are associated with impaired endothelial cell function, increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and greater incidence of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all causes.2-6 What good is weight loss if the weight loss diet brings on heart disease, diabetes, and/or cancer?
Dr. Ornish makes an excellent point in his article. The only thing is, we should also make the point that the diet-style most favorable for health is also the most favorable for weight loss. You don’t have to choose one or the other.
Putting the emphasis on health instead of weight takes one off the dieting merry-go-round, and into a healthful, sustainable eating style that produces effortless weight loss as a side effect. For weight loss and for health, macronutrient composition (low-carb, low-fat, high-protein, etc.) is not the important factor – maximizing micronutrient density by eating healthful foods and avoiding disease-causing foods is the key.
Our nation’s eating habits are beyond fattening – they are destructive to our physical and emotional health.
The addictive nature of the unhealthy foods at the core of the Standard American Diet is not merely disease-causing and fattening; but also destructive to the intellect and emotional well-being; the SAD contributes not only to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, but also to depression, dementia, and even criminal behavior. These eating practices are destructive to our own health and the health of our children, possibly even their children – the current American diet is likely fueling an future explosion in human suffering due to childhood cancers, autoimmune diseases, and further increases in rates of the lifestyle diseases that already plague Americans.
Dr. Ornish says “About 75 percent of the $2.8 trillion in annual health care costs in the United States is from chronic diseases that can often be reversed or prevented altogether by a healthy lifestyle.”
The only reason a nutritarian diet is not promoted by all as the answer to our nation’s health problems is that it is not favorable to the pharmaceutical industry, the high-tech medical procedure and medical industries, and the powerful food interests and chemical industry that heavily influence government. Powerful economic forces favor the status quo.
The wide adoption of a nutritarian diet by the masses could have a major impact on global warming, save Medicare, booster our sickly economy burdened with massive health care costs, and increase American intelligence, productivity and competitiveness.
An overwhelming amount of evidence indicates that we can win the war on cancer in America with a nutritarian diet too. We can donate billions to publicize almost worthless mammograms and pay drug companies to search for more chemotherapeutic agents, or we can practically wipe out breast cancer right now. If I was in a position of political influence and power it would be G-BOMBS in every pot. G-BOMBS are the super foods I recommend eating every day for excellent health – greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds. While helping to bring our bodies to their ideal weight, these foods exert powerful anti-cancer, cardioprotective, and anti-diabetic effects, and they fuel our bodies’ natural healing, antioxidant, and detoxification systems. Read more about G-BOMBS.
If you want weight loss AND excellent health, eat your G-BOMBS (instead of counting your carbs).We all have some influence and the best place to start is the health revolution that begins with you.
Image credit: Flickr: William Ismael | Willpower LifeForce
1. Ebbeling CB, Swain JF, Feldman HA, et al. Effects of dietary composition on energy expenditure during weight-loss maintenance. JAMA 2012;307:2627-2634.
2. Wycherley TP, Brinkworth GD, Keogh JB, et al. Long-term effects of weight loss with a very low carbohydrate and low fat diet on vascular function in overweight and obese patients. J Intern Med 2010;267:452-461.
3. de Koning L, Fung TT, Liao X, et al. Low-carbohydrate diet scores and risk of type 2 diabetes in men. Am J Clin Nutr 2011;93:844-850.
4. Fung TT vDR, Hankinson SE,Stampfer M, Willett WC, Hu FB. Low-Carbohydrate Diets and All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality: Two Cohort Studies. Ann Intern Med 2010;153:289-298.
5. Trichopoulou A, Psaltopoulou T, Orfanos P, et al. Low-carbohydrate-high-protein diet and long-term survival in a general population cohort. Eur J Clin Nutr 2007;61:575-581.
6. Lagiou P, Sandin S, Lof M, et al. Low carbohydrate-high protein diet and incidence of cardiovascular diseases in Swedish women: prospective cohort study. BMJ 2012;344:e4026.