Dr. Dean Ornish never misses an opportunity to worm his way into print. You’ve got to give him credit: he is a self promoter par excellence. When John Tierney posted twice on his New York Times blog about the Israeli study that I posted on previously, Ornish couldn’t resist. He asked if he could post another take on the study. Full post here.
Here is a point he made that readers of this blog (mine) should find amusing. And unbelievable.

What I’d like to focus on here is an encouraging phenomenon that I’ve been predicting for some time: the convergence of dietary recommendations. While people who promote different diets like to accentuate the differences between them, there is actually an evolving consensus of what constitutes a healthy way of eating for most people. While some significant differences remain, a greater agreement is emerging among nutrition experts than most people realize.
Before Dr. Atkins died, he preached the health benefits of bacon, burgers and brie in his books and in my numerous debates with him, including those at the annual scientific meetings of the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and the American Dietetic Association. However, the “Atkins diet” used in the recent NEJM study was vegetarian. A vegetarian Atkins diet? Why? Perhaps it was because this approach would provide the best outcomes. And it did.
Ironically, the “Atkins Diet” used in this study was actually closer to the nutritional guidelines I recommend than the traditional American Heart Association “low-fat” diet, which is not very low in fat, encourages consumption of red meat and does not limit the intake of refined carbohydrates.

Jesus sat down and flat out bawled.
This version of the Atkins diet was closer to Ornish’s than the to the AHA low-fat guidelines?!?!?! Give me a break. Ornish is trying to weasel in on the success of the low-carb diet in this study by claiming that it is close to his own diet. And he’s doing so because the article stated that the subjects on the low-carb diet were encouraged to get their protein from vegetarian sources. Dr. Ornish obviously failed to read the response from the lead author of the study, who wrote that the actual diet the subjects followed was the typical Atkin Diet, not an Ornishified version of such.

This is kind of funny that some could think of a “vegetarian low-carb” diet. Is it a new suggested strategy? could be interesting idea but this wasn’t the case here. Our low-carb diet was based on Atkins, the participants read the book and the recipes were more or less comparable to what you know in the states. Beef is the main red meat. What could be different?

And that’s from the horses mouth, so to speak.
I find it interesting and a little sad that Ornish has retreated to the Rodney King (“Why can’t we all just get together?) take on the diet wars. I suppose that now that his untenable theories of the proper diet have been stomped to the dirt by a pile of research papers over the past few years, that it’s the best he can do under the circumstances.


  1. I’m looking forward to his illuminating post on saturated fats. Wonder if he’s gonna trot out the HDL is just a unnecessary garbage truck theory? I actually hope he does, he’ll get laughed at and trounced upon in a very public space.
    I’ll bet he does. It’s the only way he can contort the emerging data to make sense with his own misguided notions.

  2. Wow…Ornish is getting skewered in the comments section. Here’s my favorite:
    “Ornish is like a squid expelling ink in a panicked attempt to escape the cold-blooded shark of science.”

  3. Ornish debated Atkins? That had to be fun. You’d think he’d have no problem in debating Dr. Eades, after going head-to-head with Dr. Atkins. How about it Dr. Ornish?

  4. Dr. Eades, I can’t imagine your frustration with a person who considers himself a man of science. Dr O. can’t read, can’t reason yet has many followers, ready to jump into the quagmire with him. What is so bad is that his ego keeps him in business. At the same time, his ego will be his downfall. A real scientist would demand that the “real” Atkins diet be examined so that he can compare the “vegetarian” Atkins as opposed to the “real” Atkins diet, since it means so much to him. However, a real scientist would know that the “real” Atkins diet is a healthy diet. He would have at least tried it himself. He would have consulted other doctors knowledgeable on the Atkins diet to form an intelligable conclusion, without turning into a cartoon character. But, of course, we know what happens when you cut off ketones to the brain. 😉

  5. Remember what i mentioned about DOrnish and his mini-bar consumption ?!
    Bless him he ‘lost’ and is now trying to smarm his way into the ‘troupe’ of validated belief.
    He is the prodigal son almost returned..albeit with a tofuburger !
    At least his simpering acknowledges he was wrong albeit not overtly.
    All those gents, Bray par example , who do nowt much else but improve sales of Mistakes were made but not by Me..they’re the real arses.
    Serious question that i canny seem to get answered.
    Protein stims some insulin right ?
    If one is having trouble shifting fat and one is def (thats def. def. def.) not eating too many cals from fats and is def under 30 grms or carbohydrate could it be that the excess protein is stimulating insulin and so the bod is not sufficiently stimulating glucagon and thus not accessing the ffa’s stored ?
    Thanks much for all you do and give and i’d wager i could say that in the almost certain(i never normally say such a daft thing) belief that myriad others feel the same..as its sometimes said ‘ere.
    Hey Simon–
    It shouldn’t be the protein. Protein stimulates the release of glucagon along with the insulin. It’s the ratio of insulin to glucagon that matters, not either hormone by itself because they counteract one another.

  6. I sometimes wonder whether Ornish is a man seeking a dignified climb-down, feeling increasingly trapped by his position, having to some degree painted himself into a corner.
    His pleas for the recognition of common ground and some of the other arguments in the full post feel like the deployment of a smoke screen, on the other side of which he hopes to appear, magician-like, without having had to say “okay, I was wrong.” I am put in mind of this quote by John Maynard Keynes:
    “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?”
    Pay Now Live Later

  7. If the low carb diet group was secretly eating the Ornish diet, how come they had the greatest increase in HDL? Why did thegy need all those garbage trucks?

  8. Do doctors such as Ornish actually have a large following of patients they can point to who really do improve their health, go off medications, feel better than they ever have in their lives since following these doctors’ prescribed low-fat regimen, and swear by a low-fat diet as a saving godsend for them? Do their patients actually live out long, contented, disease-free lives (so far)? Are there long-term low-fat eaters out there who are just as enthusiastic about low-fat as we are about low-carb? I am assuming a majority of readers of this blog are converts from the low-fat movement because they tried it and it failed them, then they tried low-carb and succeeded in their weight loss and health goals. Dr. Ornish can quibble about studies and get books published til the cows come home, but can he point to thousands of heart-disease free patients/readers? Based on everything I’ve been learning about nutrition, I would suspect he can’t, and that should be the ultimate determinant of his claims.
    Hey Ethyl–
    Whether he can point to thousands of satisfied patients or not, I don’t know. But I do know that he does.

  9. How in the world did the word ‘vegetarian’ even get INTO the originally published article? Who said it, wrote it, or whatever? Obviously even the lead author of the study thinks it’s ‘funny.’ How did that word get in there in the FIRST place!?!
    It sounds like it could have even been a set-up to trap vegans/vegetarians into making statements exactly like Ornish seems to be, and then turning the tables on them. (“Ta-Da, red meat really WAS the main source of protein and fat!”).
    I haven’t a clue how the word got in there or why. Seems bizarre to me. Maybe your right in that it was a trap, but that implies a degree of much more clever forethought than I’m used to in academics.

  10. Arguably four events catalysed the wide spread acceptance and proliferation of the current high carbohydrate diet in our society.
    1. The introduction of the K ration in 1941.
    2. The introduction of the RDA in 1941 which took into account the rationing of such things as dairy and meat products which created a captive audience for………….. three guesses
    3. In the early 1950s, United States Department of Agriculture nutritionists made a new set of guidelines that also included the number of servings of each food group in order to make it easier for people to receive their RDAs of each nutrient. The RDA placed an emphasis on ……..three guesses.
    4. The indictment of fat in general by Ancel Keys in the causation or contribution to CVD which favoured the consumption of ……..three guesses in place of fat.
    Guess what the ‘K’ in K ration stands for?

  11. A bit off-topic, but here goes: researchers say in 40 years, all Americans will be fat.
    Please note that 1) they conveniently ignore the fact that some people don’t gain weight no matter what they eat — my wife and son among them, and 2) they are calling for “societal efforts” to stop this trend … uh, that’s a polite way of saying “more nanny government.”
    Yes, we need more active intervention in our lives from the people who told us to base our diets on carbohydrates.
    Keep fighting, Mike. That way when 40 more years have passed (I believe you’ll be celebrating 100 years on earth around that time) you can say the researchers were wrong and you helped ensure as much.
    I suppose if we all keep listening to these researchers recommendations, we will all be fat.

  12. Somewhere inside Ornish must be having an internal meltdown what with how mainstream healthy carb restriction has become. At this point it is impossible to refute that fat restriction is vastly inferior to carbohydrate restriction. That, or years of learning to cope with a chronic feeling of starvation + kooky meditation has left him devoid of any ability to fully grasp reality. It could very well be possible that he is insane enough to truly believe that this has been his position all along.
    Jesus is going to need intensive psychotherapy after witnessing the sum of responses to the study.

  13. Ornish won’t even accept MY challenge to acknowledge a high-fat, low-carb diet as a healthy lifestyle change alternative since “we all agree.” I won’t be holding my breath on that one either!
    I wouldn’t hold my breathe either. We could get kind of blue before ol’ Dean comes around.

  14. thanks much.
    Then the only thing i can seem to think/come up with is that i’m fluided upto the gills cos of the buerre i eat.
    When i last was deadly strict about curtailing dairy and still eating 2000 cals a day( i counted religiously) i seemed to lose 10-15 pounds as i recall in about 14 or so days..it seemed bizarre.
    Anyways thanks a lot.

  15. Dr Mike,
    I never cease to marvel what a topsy-turvey world this is. Just recently we had in Sydney the Dalai Lama, who in his discourses said that in order to follow his teachings we must maintain a healthy skepticism at all times, examine everything, and that his own stance was non-theistic humanism. The unexpected stance of a man of religion.
    Then we have Ornish, a man of science, who as a matter of faith follows his views despite mounting evidence that his position is wrong, is in fact deleterious to cardio vascular health.
    Strange times indeed.
    Michael Richards

  16. LC-miss/Mrs/Mr Hiya….We have not really the slightest idea what the Buddha actually said as per the bibb-el too and its kinda preposterous to even think we can cleave owt from it.
    Probs is the folks who defiy the Dalia Lamu and others will never take his suggestion as well he should know as that ways he’d be like every other oik sans his robes and such like.
    I’ve seen it with Thera monks after disrobing some 20 or more vassas under their belts;ardest thing they’ve ever done is becoming, no buddhist quip intentional there !, a person ordinaire.
    Mr Robey should stick to fixing his rolexs and pateks and shooting around birds.
    The great irony for me about the perennial wisdom when compared to evol biology par example is that the perennial wisdom doesn’t , by comparison, seem very wise.
    And as have lived in Thera, Zen and Benedictine enclaves for 2.5 yrs i have some experience.
    Remember these 3 words and these 3 words will imply all else in the universe and after i’d divinated you thus you’ll be, with a LC diet of course..goes without saying, in the ‘pure land’ henceforth..or at least a few seconds.
    You ready…

  17. Dr. Eades – I have a question sort of off this Israeli topic. I have read The Protein Power LifePlan and last night I looked through the iron chapter again. I recently had my ferritin tested and it was a mere 23. Granted I don’t get a lot of iron in my diet, but I do take a B-50 supplement that has iron in it. Your book says 50 was good and I am hearing from other sources that it should be 70-90. I am tired a lot. I give blood every two months, which I’m sure is contributing to my low ferritin levels.
    In your experience is 23 okay or should I consider an iron supplement? I don’t want to quit giving blood because I actually LIKE it, but I’m wondering if a ferritin of 23 would make me tired, or if I should look elsewhere for the cause. My CBC panel is so far okay, which is why it was never picked up before this.
    Thanks for any insight you can give me. I’m in need of a lot of basic information about low iron. Your book does a wonderful job of tackling the high iron question.
    A ferritin of 23 is pretty low and probably does indicate a low iron level. I don’t think it would hurt in your case to take an iron supplement or eat plenty of red meat, which contains heme iron, the most easily absorbable variety. But, run all this by your doc who knows you a lot better than I do.

  18. Dear Mr Fellows with a capital F,
    The Dalai Lama asserts Darwinian evolution and said so explicitly in Sydney. And, yes, this is rather off topic. I was merely saying that Dean Ornish, the so-called man of science, acts like a religious fanatic, while the DL, a man of religion, has far greater faith than DO in the scientific method. Nothing more or less. Perhaps I should have kept this to myself, but found the comparison amusing, and so expressed it here.
    PS, perhaps you are familiar with this brilliant dissertation on the space-time continuum by Professors Spike Milligan and Peter Sellars:

  19. Simon, to put it bluntly–it’s a matter of class–and power. Far be it from me to tell the Dalai Lama that being himself an atheist while the ordinary Tibetan deifies him is an incredible contradiction… That he wants to reinstate the old Tibetan power structure, which was dictatorial, while he decries Chinese dictatorial interference in Tibet, well… six of one, half dozen of the other.
    The educated among the Buddhist world have always maintained it as atheistic. It’s the lower classes who never gave up the gods and demons of their local culture and incorporated them into their regional Buddhist traditions.

  20. In fact, the Buddha was not an atheist – he came with a particular mission, a corrective to the overly credulous climate of his time, in which people sought material favors from God using mantras, ceremonies, etc. Buddha therefore emphasized the impersonal nature of the cosmic consciousness.

  21. George, that’s a Martin Luther overlay upon the Buddhist tradition.
    Dr Mike, what is it about dairy that halts weight loss for some people?
    Like simon fellows, I find that when I’m scrupulous about eliminating dairy, then I lose weight, but the minute I eat cheese, it’s over. I’m talking about a slice that you put over a tuna melt, without the bread! In other words, very little, sometimes less than an ounce. Also, it’s real cheese, not the cheese food you find being used in restaurants nowadays.
    I don’t know what it is that halts weight loss for some when they consume dairy products. Most of the medical studies I’ve read seem to show the opposite – people who consume dairy as part of their weight-loss regimen lose more. I suppose some folks could have allergies to one or more of the proteins found in dairy, and that could somehow halt weight loss.

  22. Hi Dr. Eades,
    A quick update on my last post – my doctor did ask me to start taking iron tablets to get my low ferritin up. I’m also hypothyroid and starting taking levothyroxine (T4) to see if I can get my free T4 and free T3 levels up (both are low) and my slightly high TSH of 4.1 down. Both the ferritin and the thyroid issues are likely contributing to my constant tiredness.

  23. Totally off-topic, but don’t know where else to post this:
    Came across your blog last week when I did a Yahoo! search for “Leptin & hunger”, which led to your 2006 post on leptin. Which led me to devour your blog. Which led me, at my very next meal, to eat LC. And have been LC for about a week, which has led to a 2-lb. weight loss and a total reduction in carb cravings (said the self-proclaimed Queen of the Carboholics).
    Drove straight to Borders and purchased PPLP; have devoured it as well.
    Questions, though, about site links:
    –Have attempted to view archived posts, but when I click on a random month from the drop-down in archives, it brings me back to the home page.
    –Have attempted to view posts through “Site Map”, but when I click past the 1st page, brings me to the post on “2010 Nutritional Guidelines”.
    Any chance of getting these fixed, so I can get my fix? Of blog posts, that is?
    Thank you for your non-conformist, ever-vigilant questioning of the very medical establishment that you’re a part of. For being a free thinker and not a sheeple (can’t remember who wrote that in their comments, but it was brilliant!). And for your constant attempts at dissecting what is truth from what is hysteria. Your credentials plus your scrutiny puts you worlds above your peers. About time.
    First, welcome aboard. I’m glad to have you as a reader.
    Second, thanks for the very kind words. I appreciate them.
    Third, I checked, and you are right. The blog archives are messed up. I just upgraded to the newer blog software, which is probably the cause of the problem. I’ll get in touch with my web guy and have him get to work on it. Thanks for the heads up.

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