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Atkins Versus Ornish: This Time, It's Personal

Dr. Dean Ornish, he of the ultra-low-fat vegetarian diet, has written a New York Times op-ed piece, "A Diet Rich in Partial Truths". It's apparent he's feeling the sting of the recent cover story of New York Times Magazine questioning the wisdom of low-fat diets. Dr. Ornish comes out swinging:

The high-protein diet (which is almost always high in fat), for example, has become very popular; just about everyone knows someone who has lost weight on this kind of diet. Given the American epidemic of obesity, isn't that a good thing?

Not necessarily. You can lose weight with fen-phen, too, but that doesn't mean it's good for you. When you go on a high-protein, high-fat diet, you may temporarily lose weight -- but you may also mortgage your health in the process. The only peer-reviewed study of the effects of a high-protein diet on heart function found that blood flow to the heart actually worsened and heart disease became more severe.

Comparing the Atkins diet to fen-phen is serious stuff.

I'm not qualified to comment on the science of this issue, but I will make two observations:

  1. In Ornish's world, it's easy to stick to his diet. In the real world, it isn't. On the Atkins program, you can walk into almost any restaurant and find something to eat. Even in a nutritional slum like Taco Bell, you can order chicken soft tacos and discard the tortillas. Try finding ultra-low-fat, vegetarian, oil-free food anywhere outside your own kitchen. It isn't easy.
  2. From an evolutionary perspective, Atkins' ideas seem make sense. Before the advent of agriculture (and, correspondingly, the effective end of evolution by natural selection among homo sapiens), we ate what we could hunt (meat) and gather (fruits, nuts, and seeds). It's not precise, but Atkins' diet roughly parallels that eating pattern. Ornish would have us switch to foods that human beings have only begun to eat recently (given a long view).
More to come on this topic, I'm sure.


Im so glad you love to eat dead animals.
Why not opt for human meat and just complete the
evolutionary process once and for all?
Then you can become part of a superior and fully self sustaining species. Could you possibly ask for more?

Interesting you should bring up the evolutionary process. Note the differences in nature between herbivores (plant eaters) and carnivores (meat eaters): Herbivores have flat teeth for grinding, fingers for gathering, long digestive tracks for breaking down fiberous foods, and they sip their water and sweat to cool themselves. Carnivores on the other hand have sharp teeth and claws to tear apart flesh, short digestive tracks, they lap their water and pant to cool themselves. Amylase is an enzyme that breaks down starches and is present only in the saliva and pancreatic juice of herbivores, not carnivores. Humans have this enzyme. Humans tend not to eat uncooked flesh, so the question to you is how did we survive before we discovered and harnassed fire?

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