The Nation's Health + Nutrition

Nutrition: The Ornish diet made me fat

I got that kind of question today that tempts me to roll my eyes and say, "Not again!"

"If I want to reverse my heart scan score, should I do the Ornish diet?" You know, the one by Dr. Dean Ornish: Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversal of Heart Disease .

I personally followed the Ornish program way back in the early 1990s. I reduced fat intake of all sorts to <10% of calories; eliminated all fish and meats, vegetable oils, and nuts; ate vegetables and fruits; and upped my reliance on whole grains. I used many of his recipes. I exercised by running 5 miles per day. (Far more than I do now!) I avoided sweets like candies and fruit juices.

What happened?

I gained 31 lbs, going from 155 to 186 lbs (I'm 5 ft 8 inches tall), my abdomen developed that loose, fleshy look, hanging over my beltline. My HDL plummeted to 28 mg/dl, triglycerides skyrocketed to 336 mg/dl, and I developed a severe small LDL pattern. I experienced a mental fogginess every afternoon. I felt tired and crabby much of the time. I sometimes struggled to suppress an irrational anger and frustration over the silliest things. I required huge amounts of coffee just to function day to day.

Hundreds of my patients suffered similar phenomena.

Few of us wear bell-bottomed jeans, tie-dyed t-shirts, or say "groovy". Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in is an "oldie", it's no longer cool to hold your index and middle fingers up in the "V" sign of peace. Even Ladybird Johnson has passed.

So should go the misadventures of the ultra low-fat diet, as articulated by Dr. Ornish. His day came and went. We learned from our mistakes. Now let's do something better.

Keep your eyes open for the New Track Your Plaque Diet.

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