The Nation's Health + [Low-fat diet]

Fat is not the demon

So my patient, Dane, generously volunteered to be on the Dr. Oz show, as I discussed previously.

What we didn't know, nor did the producer who contacted us mention, that Dane would be counseled by low-fat guru Dr. Dean Ornish on a strict low-fat diet. The teaser introduction essentially tells the entire story.

Ironically, that is the exact opposite of the dietary program that I advocate. I rejected the 10% fat diet long ago after I became a type II diabetic, gained 30 lbs, and suffered miserable deterioration of my cholesterol values on this diet. I also witnessed similar results in many hundreds of people, all following a strict low-fat diet. In fact, elimination of wheat--whole, white, or otherwise--along with limitation or elimination of all other grains has been among the most powerful health strategies I have ever witnessed.

I now regret having subjected my patient to this theatrical misinformation. Dane is a smart cookie--That's probably why he was not allowed more than a "yes" or "no" during Dr. Oz's monologue, else Dane might have pitched in about some ideas that would have tripped Oz and Ornish up.

In their defense, if we took 100 Americans all following a typical 21st century diet of fast food, white bread buns, Coca Cola and other soft drinks, chips, barbecue sauce, and French fries, converting to a plant-based, high-carbohydrate, grain-rich diet is indeed an improvement. People will, at first, lose weight and enjoy an initial response. (The occasional person with the Apo E4 genetic pattern, heterozygote or homozygote, may even enjoy long-term benefits, a topic for another day.)

But the majority of people, in my experience, after an initial positive response to an Ornish-like low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet will either plateau (stay overweight, have low HDL, high triglycerides, plenty of small LDL, and high blood sugars) or deteriorate, much as I did.

Thankfully, Dane has been a good sport about this, understanding that this is essentially show business. I believe he understands that the information was all well-intended and, after all, we are all working towards the same goal: reduction of heart disease risk.

By the way, regardless of which diet you follow, it is, in my view, absurd to believe that diet alone will do it. What about vitamin D normalization, thyroid normalization (thyroid disease is incredibly common), omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, identification of hidden sources of risk (something that is unlikely in Ornish, since small LDL particles skyrocket on a low-fat diet), postprandial glucoses, etc., all the pieces we focus on to gain control over coronary plaque? Eating green peppers and barley soup alone is not going to do it.