A few days ago MD and I did a written interview with Jimmy Moore who runs the Livin La Vida Low Carb blog.
You can read the interview in full here.
As you can see, at the end of the interview Dr. Dean Ornish took exception to one of our answers. Let me take this opportunity to explain my answer more completely.
The question Jimmy posed to us was:

If you had the opportunity to ask low-fat diet guru Dr. Dean Ornish anything you wanted, what would that question be and why?

(The reason for this particular question was that, unbeknown to us, Jimmy had an interview set up with Dr. Ornish and was going to ask him our questions. As usual, MD had her answers finished in plenty of time; I dilly dallied getting mine finished until after the Ornish interview.)
MD’s question to be posed to Dr. Ornish was:

How much Lipitor do you take?

From Dr. Ornish’s response, he obviously misinterpreted her question. He seems to think she implied that he does take Lipitor. She was simply asking how much he takes. His answer is that he has never taken Lipitor or any other cholesterol-lowering medication. I’ll take him at his word on that.
My question (a response, really) was:

Actually, I almost had the opportunity to ask Dr. Ornish a lot of questions, but he bailed. A few years ago one of the networks–CBS, I think–tried to schedule a debate between the two of us. Dr. Ornish declined.

I learned an interesting thing several years ago about how Dr. Ornish operates. He was going to appear on a local Denver radio show in a debate with our partner in our medical practice. His ground rules for the debate were that he, Dean Ornish, could decide AFTER the debate whether or not the show could be aired with him on it. Our partner ate him for lunch and he (Dr. Ornish) refused permission to have the show aired with his name or voice. The producer of the show was so infuriated that she aired the debate using herself as the stand in for Dr. Ornish. Unfortunately, she could not even tell the listeners what was going on.

Apparently in a venue like CBS in which he can’t dictate the terms of engagement to his sole advantage as he could with the Denver radio station, he is unwilling to debate the merits of his ultra-low-fat philosophy.

Dr. Ornish vehemently denies these statements.
All I can tell you is that I got a call from someone in the publicity department at Warner Books (the company that published the Protein Power LifePlan) asking if I could be in New York on some specific date to debate Dr. Ornish on CBS (I think it was CBS, although I wouldn’t swear to it. It was one of the networks for sure, however). I said sure. This person then called me back a day or two later and said that Dr. Ornish had declined the debate. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I suppose there could have been a conflict with his schedule.
The second part of my answer was that Dr. Ornish proceeded with a radio debate with our partner with the proviso that the debate could only be aired if he (Dr. Ornish) approved it after the fact. Our partner at the time was Dr. Ron Rosedale, author of the book The Rosedale Diet. I am basing my response on what Dr. Rosedale related to MD and me the day or so after this debate took place. Dr. Rosedale would have nothing to gain by lieing to me about it, so I took him at his word. I will be seeing Dr. Rosedale at the end of this month; he is giving a talk right after mine at the American Society for Bariatric Physician’s conference in San Diego. I will ask him then for some clarification on Dr. Ornish’s denial that such an event took place. If Dr. Rosedale can remember the people involved, I’ll see if I can track down the specific radio show and get a tape that I can post. No matter what, I’ll post what I find out.
To give the devil his due, Dr. Ornish wrote an excellent piece for MSNBC that deserves reading. He gives a good overview of the positive health benefits of fish oil along with a caveat for people with specific problems that should be heeded. The fact that Dr. Ornish has written such an excellent article proves that the law of averages is hard at work.


  1. At the very end of the interview, in one of the updates, Dean Ornish says: “First, I have never taken any cholesterol-lowering drugs, as my cholesterol level has been below 140 mg/dl since I was a teenager.”
    I’m curious. Isn’t there such a thing as too LOW cholesterol? I thought I read it can actually indicate that something’s wrong! –Anne
    Hi Anne–
    Indeed it can. A number of studies have shown that a cholesterol level that is very low can be associated with all kinds of problems, including psychosocial ones. People in the prison population tend to have low cholesterol levels. What that means vis a vis Dr. Ornish, if anything, I don’t really know.

  2. Hello Dr Eades,
    Didn’t know you knew Dr. Rosedale. I have recommended his book to some of my diabetes patients with excellent results. My only problems with his diet are:
    It’s extremely low in fruit, which I think has benefit, if eaten in moderation, for just about everyone.
    He’s fairly anti-saturated fat.
    Do you feel the same? I’m especially curious as to how he came to his conclusions having been your partner.
    Daniel Chong
    Hi Daniel–
    We were partners with Ron for several years in Boulder until we moved away. Ron is a smart guy and a very good doctor, but he and I argued constantly about the saturated fat issue. He went to medical school at Northwestern and worked with a big name in the anti-saturated fat movement and I think Ron got irreparably tainted. He, of course, believes differently.

  3. Dr Mike-HI! I read the interview you and Dr Mary gave and it was excellent. As for Dr Ornish well, I will never be a member of his fan club. Thanks for the interesting read, as for the law of averages.well what can one say? Everyone has to be right at least once in their life!
    Hi Tess–
    Glad you enjoyed the interviews. Yes, the law of averages apply even to Dr. Ornish.

  4. Dr. Eades,
    I’d very much like to see you take a stab at AtkinsExposed’s Faulty Science (http://atkinsexposed.org/atkins/3/Faulty_Science.htm) section where they “seem” to debunk a lot of low carb research. The author is a PETA wacko with an obvious vegetarian agenda, but the reference section is pretty extensive. Not that your plan is Atkins, but its not wholly dissimilar either.
    Hi Viking Dan–
    Oh, so many idiots, so little time.
    I took a look at the site and it kind of got my blood up. I’ve got a few more posts I’m thinking about right now, but I’ll try to get around to debunking the so-called debunkers.

  5. I thought it was Ornish who said “cows are big animals at the top of the food chain”, but alas, it was Weil.
    It would be hilarious if that tape could actually be found. I imagine a carbed-up Ornish stealthily breaking into the radio studio’s archives late at night… looking for the tape… heart racing…
    Hi Karen–
    Who knows. Maybe it will turn up. If I get my hands on it, be assured that you will hear it here.

  6. Yes. Dr. Greger was trolling on the ActiveLowCarber forum basically telling them they’ll all drop dead of heart attacks. They made short work of him.
    Even so, it’d be good to hear a reply to his “expose” from an expert such as yourself.
    Thanks for your time,
    Viking Dan
    P.S. Might there be a new book/plan incorporating IF and LC in the future?
    Hi Viking Dan–
    I’ll give it a shot in due course.
    A book about IF? Maybe in the future, but who knows?

  7. Hi Dr. Eades,
    Regarding my previous question about Dr. Rosedale’s saturated fat opinions, this is a fascinating topic for me, and I hoped you’d be so kind as to go a little more into it, or point in the right direction to find the answers.
    Basically, I don’t understand how two well-educated, obviously intelligent and sensible doctors can “argue” over an issue like saturated fat. If it’s harmless, then it’s harmless right?
    Or, is it not that simple. You know better than I that “research” can be used to “prove” just about anything. Because of that, I have been drawn to using more common sense reasoning (ie eat what humans were designed to eat and have eaten for millenia) in determining what is right and wrong nutritionally.
    When using that logic (the only logical opinion in my mind) I don’t understand how someone like Dr. Rosedale, or Cordain, could argue against saturated fat. Cordain has even proven to himself that, paleolithically, it was consumed in decent amounts for at least part of the year.
    Anyways, if you have a moment, your take?
    Daniel Chong
    Hi Daniel–
    Dr. Rosedale had a saturated fat bias, I think, before he ever started practicing. Consequently, I think he kind of feared putting patients (or himself) on a diet with a lot of saturated fat. I, on the other hand, didn’t have that bias. I, myself ate (and continue to eat) a lot of saturated fat, and I put patients on saturated fats. I watched their lipids closely, and, after many years of such observation coupled with an extensive reading of the medical and anthropological literature, I realized that patients did fine on a fair amount of saturated fat as long as they stayed on a low-carb diet. I didn’t take care of patients on any other kind of diet, so I can’t speak to the issue of saturated fat added to, say, a high-carb diet, for example.
    Dr. Rosedale hasn’t had the same degree of experience with patients on higher saturated fat diets, so I think he just feels more comfortable keeping the saturated fat lower.
    Hope this helps.

  8. Thanks for the information. I love your website! 🙂
    Anecdotal, n=a friend. A 62-year-old male friend of mine began Ornish because his doc wanted to continue to increase his statin meds. This guy refused to do that and so started the Ornish plan. About six months later, his doc told him to get off the diet ASAP because his triglycerides had shot up into the 800 range. In fact, the doctor told him to back off of the carbs and start eating more meat! I think my friend is happier now. He always seemed grumpy on that plan, plus he was forever picking at his wife’s plate of food whenever I had dinner with them – like he was constantly starving!
    Thanks again for the informative website.
    Hi Baily–
    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that same story. It’s a pretty classic case. I once got a call from an orthopaedic surgeon who had heard me on the radio in Ohio. I was on a local PBS talk radio show talking about the virtues of the low-carb diet. This orthopaedist had just had a heart attack and was on the Ornish diet. He told me that he was laughing like crazy at all the ‘nonsense’ he was hearing me spout off. Then I said the magic words: if you go on a high-carb low-fat diet, you’re going to run your triglycerides up and drop your HDL. That got his attention because that’s exactly what had happened to him on the Ornish diet. He pulled to the side of the road, listened to the rest of the show, wrote down the info, got Protein Power, and the rest is history. His lipids normalized and he felt a ton better. He became a huge low-carb disciple and a friend.

  9. Funny how Ornish gets a LOT of credibility and media exposure — although probably very few actual adherents. (Who could eat that way, anyway?) And you and your bretheren get way less press, but far more many fans, and people who actually live that way.
    Not fair, is it?
    Hi Walt–
    As I’ve always told my children: no one ever said it has to be fair.

  10. First and foremost, great site! I recently stumbled across this blog and have been extremely impressed by the depth and breadth of information.
    Quick question:
    This is not meant to be an attack or insult in any way whatsoever, but given your stance on low-fat diets, the cholesterol hypothesis, and cholesterol lowering medications, why do you choose to allow advertising for products like Lipitor on your site? Allowing big pharma to reach out and touch your visitors seems a bit strange…..
    Hi Jon–
    Thanks for the kind words about the site.
    I signed up for Google ads to generate a little revenue to help underwrite the hosting of the site. I have no control over the ads that Google places on the site. They have some kind of mechanism to search for words and display ads appropriate to the subject matter. I wrote a post a few months back about the terrible experience I had with America West Airlines and, sure enough, I had a half dozen ads for America West on my site.
    As I understand it, one can go in an somehow block certain categories of ads, but it is way beyond me minimal techie abilities at this time.

  11. Hi Dr. Eades! I’ve lurked here off and on ever since I discovered LC (lost 50lbs on a doc supervised PSMF).
    I have PCOS and wonder if, before bariatric surgery, docs ever screen women for PCOS. Perhaps I’m an extreme example of PCOS, but nothing other than PSMF allowed me to lose weight. I’ve looked at some bypass sites hoping to find what kind of assessment they do prior to surgery. PCOS is underdiagnosed (in my opinion)and I wonder if there are women having bypass who would do better to try a low carb diet/lifestyle? I ask out of curiosity and because I was close to the 100lb cut off. Do you have any thoughts?
    None of my docs spotted the PCOS or recommended LC to me until I started trying to start a family and couldn’t. 10 years of being overweight all because it never occurred to anyone to do a simple blood test or consider a diagnosis beyond ‘fat pig’. I get the feeling I could’ve done a gastric bypass without anyone ever thinking of PCOS–I hope I’m wrong.
    I do have your books btw, just didn’t understand the LC point-of-view at first. I had Ornish’s book too, had being the operative word. 🙂
    Hi Michelle–
    Glad you found the low-carb diet and glad you found someone to diagnose your PCOS. It’s starting to be picked up on more and more. Sadly, I’m sure that many people go through gastric banding or bypass without ever having been checked for PCOS.
    Most of the studies I’ve read show that a low-carb diet is the optimal diet for someone with PCOS, so it looks like you’re finally on the right trail.
    Good luck.

  12. Gotcha! Sounds to me like a low-carb/high technology reader needs to step forth and accept the challenge!
    When you get a bit of extra time – this site shows, step-by-step, how to filter specific ads:
    Also, I know this is out of place, but I have a question about IF for you. Due to my schedule (2 jobs, full time school), and the potential health benefits, I’ve been contemplating giving IF a shot. Thing is, I’m an athlete with a fairly high level of muscle for my height (5’6, 170, around 9-10% bf) and I’m worried about losing LBM.
    Right now I eat 4-5 times per day, spread evenly throughout the day, and take in 160-200g protein. My diet is fairly low in carbs, but I eat copious amounts of vegetables and some fruits. I can’t imagine being able to fit all the protein/calories into a condensed eating window, and from what I know (possibly incorrect) going lower on the protein may result in negative nitrogen balance and loss of LBM.
    Any input would be greatly appreciated!
    Hi Jon–
    Thanks for the techie link. Maybe I’ll screw my courage to the sticking place and give it a whirl.
    I plan on posting on the IF and muscle in the future, but just as a preview I can tell you this. The IF produces big increases in insulin sensitivity and in IGF. Both increase protein transport into muscle, and so are good for bodybuilding. The important thing is to eat on eating days. Even if you have to take in nuts, nut oils, cheeses, and other dense calorie/protein sources. You need to make sure to get enough cals and prot to build and maintain muscle mass.

  13. Sir Hola…. a break from building the Yurt. Dean-baby is a huge devotee of Swami Satchidananda( he might have shuffled of to some Nibbanic paradise..the Swami that is not Dean Ween; not that i believe in such infantile tripe,thats an afterlife not Deans partic brand of tripe..pun intentional given his veggie ethos at a childs age mythic thinking is a lovely and sweet concept; as an adult it’s plainly delusional.. and yes its a harsh word) and all the yogic dietary bollocks that such fellas preach/propogate seems to be as a direct result of that discipleship and as can be seen he don’t have the science to back it up.
    Castles in sand Guvnor.
    You know the phrase about brushes.
    Very applicable……….. and if he weren’t so tarred up in his identity,his position and the status that’s afforeded him, likely cos of his biochemistry, he’d be smart and admit inconsistencies.
    As it is he simply just does bad science with his ‘heed’ in the sand.
    Hi Simon–
    Not only daft as a brush, he king of looks like one, too.

  14. Dr. Mike:
    I too read Dr. Rosedale’s book and he definitely has a lot of interesting things to say, but his stance on saturated fats left me disappointed. However, Dr. Rosedale’s advice is still better than Ornish’s.
    For example, I work with a true-blue vegan. She stays away from grains mostly because products made with grains usually contain eggs, milk, butter, etc. She is a very intelligent PhD but she looks like a dish-rag and constantly complains of being tired and having very high cholesterol. Hmmm, according to all vocal sources, saturated animal fat causes that 😛
    The only reason Ornish gets away with his theories is that some of them are good: lower stress, eliminate processed foods, sugar and white carbs, so initially people following his plan, who were following the SAD diet, feel a heck-of-a-lot better. However, as they say in power on-line gaming, the “damage over time” scenario will kick in.
    We are very lucky to have a high-profile Doc such as yourself slugging away at all these falsehoods. Thanks again.
    Hi Hellistile–
    Thanks for the kind words.
    I posted a while back (maybe before you started reading ths blog) on the improvements Dr. Ornish found in patients on his program.

  15. I think Hellistile nails it. When anyone takes himself off processed food, there will be an initial benefit because of all the additives avoided. But after a while, the lack of animal protein will start to affect the person.
    On a similar vein, could it be that PCOS is not so much a disease that manifests by itself, but is actually brought about by our highly processed, high HFCS foods? I’m willing to bet that in countries where the majority of women still eat natural foods that PCOS is rare.
    Hi LC–
    I don’t know about the PCOS and processed food. I’ve never seen any data on it one way or another. That doesn’t mean the data doesn’t exist, it just means I haven’t seen any. If you come across some, let me know.

  16. Just to add my perspective to the cause of PCOS. They believe it’s genetic. Often there’s a family history of diabetes and even fertility problems HOWEVER that is not the case with me.
    My endocrinologists were very surprised when I told them no one in my immediate or extended family had diabetes. There’s no history of infertility either.
    The theory the docs and I worked out (because I always like to know why) was that my root cause lies in my sensitivity to prednisone (for asthma). I spent a decade with suppressed or underfunctioning adrenal glands. There’s no way to prove the connection in hindsight, but the adrenal issues are when all the PCOS symptoms started. Prior to the adrenal issues I had maintained an 80lb weight loss for 4 years with low fat/low cal/high exercise. While I was sick, I gained very easily and couldn’t lose weight doing what I did before. Plus I had to limit exercise due to muscle cramps all over my body as well as narcaleptic levels of energy (in fact, sometimes I did have problems staying conscious). I got a diagnosis, got treatment for the adrenals, replenished my B vitamins (which helped with the fatigue immensely) and was fine except now I had full blown PCOS.
    Who knows, maybe it was lurking in my genes and the adrenal stuff kicked it into overdrive. But there is no family history, which is unusual.
    It’ll be interesting to see what science digs up on PCOS as they become more aware of it. I’m really hoping for some new treatments as I can’t tolerate Metformin or Fortamet.
    And now you know more than you ever wanted to about my sordid past 🙂
    Hi Michelle–
    Thanks for the elaboration. I’m glad you and your medical team seem to be getting a handle on the situation.

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