Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Flavor Diet Fad Author Says Low-Carb Blogger Not Smart Enough To Talk About Nutrition

The release of this study last week of one patient who allegedly developed ketoacidosis as a result of being on the Atkins diet has stirred quite a debate regarding whether or not this is true. It has even caused the lead researcher of the study pleading for "any alternative explanation" for why his patient got sick the way she did. Be sure to read the excellent responses from several medical professionals explaining why it wasn't necessarily the low-carb diet that caused the problems with this patient.

Even as the premise of this "study" of a single patient who developed ketoacidosis is in the midst of being proven to be a public sham, that hasn't stopped the Atkins haters from using this opportunity (yet again!) to throw everything they've got at the low-carb lifestyle.

You will recall from the original story a quote from a health "expert" named Dr. David L. Katz.

To refresh your memory, here's what he said about the Atkins diet along with my responses:

"The Atkins diet is at odds with a strong foundation of knowledge about the fundamentals of healthful eating and sustainable weight loss," Dr. Katz asserts. "But the burden of proof has always been the other way around: diets at odds with conventional dietary wisdom must prove themselves healthful. In my opinion, the Atkins diet never did, and never will, meet this test."

I retorted those claims against the Atkins diet by asserting Katz' so-called Flavor Point Diet is "one of the biggest fad diet books you'll ever read" and explained that the proof of the Atkins diet being "healthful" is in the dramatic difference it has made in my life from the 410-pound man I used to be into the vibrant, athletic human being I am today.

"Do you want to see the pictures of that morbidly obese man I used to be and compare them with who I am today? Can I show you my medical history dealing with cholesterol, blood pressure, and breathing problems because of my weight and now I don't have to worry about ANY of those conditions as a result of being on a low-carb diet? The list goes on and on, my friend, and I'm happy to oblige you with the information upon request."

Dr. Katz did respond to my blog post and sent me a retort of sorts to what I had written.


Let me start out with where we agree. I make my living as a scientist, running research trials. I agree that one case report does not 'proof' make. But I am not rushing to 'beat up' on Atkins because of this case report. I have been beating up on Atkins for years, never wavered, never will. This case report was just a current excuse to agree with myself.

Well, at least he's being honest about his utter disdain for the low-carb lifestyle. I'll give him credit for that.

You are welcome to look into my background, or not, as you see fit. But suffice to say that having written a textbook on nutrition for health care professionals, I am well-versed in the fundamentals of good nutrition. The Atkins diet is at odds with them. With or without the case report, I would advise against the diet.

Dr. Katz, nobody is denying you have the credentials to speak with authority on the subject of nutrition. But I think you are so grounded in what you THINK is healthy from a nutritional standpoint rather than looking at ALL the data that has come out, especially in recent years, showing the healthy, disease-preventing benefits of the Atkins/low-carb nutritional approach.

I urge you to continue educating yourself about the subject field you think you have mastered because it appears there's a lot more you could learn if you would just be open to looking at the data. As a researcher, I thought that's what you should already be doing, right? Just because the Atkins diet "is at odds" with conventional approaches to good nutrition does not mean it should be dismissed altogether without a closer examination of its benefits. It changed my life forever for the better.

That's not to say it doesn't induce weight loss- at least temporarily. But so do cocaine use, cholera, and tuberculosis. I advise against those, too. Attached is a paper of mine, published in Annual Reviews in Public Health, that makes the case more fully.

Are you serious, Dr. Katz? Comparing the Atkins diet with cocaine use, cholera and tuberculosis? Talk about grasping at straws to make a point. It is an absolute insult to even make the connection between people who are livin' la vida low-carb and these diseases and addictions! Come on, Dr. Katz! You can do better than THAT!

I read your "paper" with all your reasons for opposing the Atkins diet. Frankly, I think you have become so jaded by your own thinking that you have forgotten how to think outside the box. If researchers in the past had used your kind of thinking, then we would have never discovered cures for diseases that were once thought to be incurable.

Incredibly, the Atkins diet could be just the answer that somebody is looking for regarding their obesity, but people like you are preventing that from becoming a reality with your alarmist fearmongering about low-carb living. It is simply a disgrace for someone who purports to be helping people improve their health to ridicule and shame a sound nutritional plan.

You wrote that 'The Flavor Point Diet' is the biggest fad diet of all. You are wrong on two points. First, were it a fad diet, it would be a long way from the biggest, regrettably; those laurels do, indeed, go to Atkins, with South Beach a distant second. And it is not a fad diet at all.

Let's look at "The Flavor Point Diet" for just a moment and you decide if it's a fad or not. It reads like one long infomercial for a low-fat/low-calorie (1200 per day)/portion-controlled diet focusing on the proper flavor balance of the foods you eat to offset the excessive sugar and salt added to foods these days.

It's more of the same old message we've heard for years and years and years. And where has that gotten us? Obesity is at an all-time high! THAT alone is why people are turning to nontraditional nutritional approaches such as the Atkins diet, Dr. Katz. We are tired of being told to settle for that way or no way. Not anymore! There's a better way to live a long, healthy life while maintaining your weight in livin' la vida low-carb.

What definition are you using - and what training, expertise, or true knowledge of nutrition allows you to apply a definition of your own choosing? The fact that you've lost weight does not make you a nutrition expert. I have driven over suspension bridges- doesn't make me an engineer.

Ah, I knew my credibility on speaking about the subject of nutrition would be called into question. While I readily admit I don't have all those letters after my name like you do, Dr. Katz, I do have some cognitive ability believe it or not! My opinions are based on my own experiences and research on the subject of nutrition and nothing else.

I realize the fact that I lose weight does not make me a "nutrition expert," but does that mean my thoughts and questions about the subject don't count? Not hardly!

As someone who has actually gone through the agony and pain of losing weight, I have a perspective you will NEVER have about weight loss. Walk a mile in the shoes of a fat person, Dr. Katz, and maybe you will understand the helplessness and hopelessness that comes from feeling like you will always be overweight or obese.

My voice in this debate is of someone who cares very deeply and sincerely about helping people overcome their weight problem as I have so they will no longer have to worry about whether they are going to have a heart attack, develop diabetes, or even die because of the weight that's pulling them down.

No, I don't have the medical degrees like you do, but I do have a passion and vigor for helping people educate themselves about good nutrition and encouraging them to DO SOMETHING about their weight before it is too late. You can write all the books in the world, but personally involving yourself in the lives of real people is what separates what you do from what I do on a daily basis.

When people need a lift, I'm happy to give it to them to help them make it to another day until they ultimately reach their goal. What are you doing to help people like this, Dr. Katz?

A fad diet requires a fad. But the makings for a fad diet stem from a reinvention of the basic principles of nutrition. Were you to read Flavor Point, you would see that all tried and true principles of good nutrition are respected, defended, and applied. There is no silly exclusion of a macronutrient category. And if your assessment that the diet is a 'fad' is based on your expert knowledge of sensory specific satiety - please share your insights. But if it's simply something you've never heard of, are you entitled to label it a fad merely because of your own ignorance? I rather doubt you have heard of cutaneous T cell lymphoma, but that's not because it's nonsense. It's because you have not gone to medical school.

Yadda yadda yadda. I've explained my position on this already.

So, in short: my opinions are based on years of work. Medical school, two residencies, 9 books written, dozens of trials conducted, thousands of patients seen. Yours are based on the fact that you have lost weight, and have Internet access. No offense, my friend; your e-mail to me was perfectly civil, so I suspect you're a nice guy. For what it's worth, so am I.

I respect your years of training and experience in the medical field, Dr. Katz. Nobody is denying you that. But my opinions should not be dismissed just because I've only "lost weight, and have Internet access." You forgot to mention several other things that I have: a willingness to share my weight loss experiences with people in a similar circumstance as I once was, an ability to communicate those ideas in an educating, encouraging and entertaining manner, and a desire to see people succeed at weight loss for themselves. It's more than just being "a nice guy," but rather a compassionate and understanding guy to the reality of obesity. That is something that people like you, Dr. Katz, completely miss.

By the way, I live by the principles I preach. My weight has been perfectly stable for 25 years. My health is perfect. I have no cardiac risk factors. My family shares the diet, and the benefits - my wife, and all 5 of my children. I'll put what I do up against any approach any day, any how, any time. I stand by my assertions. If you stand by yours, we can agree to disagree. But even from opposite sides of that divide, I extend to you my very best wishes.

Well, I applaud you for being able to stick with your nutritional approach for so long, Dr. Katz. I have said it over and over again that if you find something that works for you to control your weight, then do it for the rest of your life. I fully intend on continuing the low-carb lifestyle for the rest of my long and healthy life on Earth. I am also happy to put my nutritional approach up against any and all others as the way to improve health.

Isn't it interesting after Dr. Katz basically mocks me as a stupid nobody who doesn't have any business sharing an opinion on nutrition throughout his e-mail that he chooses to be civil in the last paragraph? Is that what they're teaching at Yale these days, Dr. Katz? Rake 'em over the coals and then be kind at the end? LOL! THANKS for joining the conversation, but I'm still not convinced. And I would venture to say most of my readers aren't convinced either! Nice try, though.

3-28-06 UPDATE: A reader who saw a repost of this column at offered some additional insight into Dr. Katz today.


Dr. Katz has been a long-time LC antagonist and is one of a generation of medical professionals who have been tragically mis-educated. It is understandable that he would believe that the famous US medical research system could not possibly
be so wrong. It is understandable that he would put faith in his medical education which cost him a great deal of time and effort to complete. Understandably he is only repeating what he has been taught.

Nonetheless the low-carb point of view is supported by a great deal of anecdotal evidence, extremely strong indicators, and
thousands of personal experiences, and this cannot be ignored. Unfortunately Dr. Katz uses his presumed "authority" as a replacement for an objective review of the available evidence, and as an excuse not to think independently. If he did, he would see what many individuals have seen, namely that the "low-fat" theory is not based on science, but rather on merely wishful thinking from the very beginning. They are treating the symptoms of our diseases rather than the the cause.

Actually, Dr. Katz has his facts exactly wrong - thirty years and billions of dollars of research has largely failed to support low-fat. This theory is not, in any real way, well-established, except as a vast, unthinking dogma. However, science has hidden this reality behind its wall of unassailable "authority", out of embarrassment, consternation and a understandable desire to avoid potential liability. They are only repeating the mantra in the hopes that they no one will notice their too-evident error and ignorance of the subject.

Suddenly we are back to "there's no silver bullet" and "portion control" - the exact opposite of what we have been told for thirty years - or arcane molecular genetics. The acknowledged weakness of low-fat theory is the only reason low-carb gained a toe-hold at all. They can pull this off because the medical/scientific establishment is deeply entrenched in a vast
beauracracy, and the junk food, sugar and pharmaceutical industries are powerful and wealthy lobbies, which are using all the legal roadblocks at their disposal to repress meaningful research.

So we are fighting a willfully blind system, truly David vs. Goliath, but we know how that turned out. There is hope if honest
researchers and practitioners stand up for the truth. As they say, the numbers, and thousands of real peoples' experiences, don't lie, and aren't they more important than threadbare theory and the admission of professional ignorance? While dietary
fat has been studied to death, with outrageously prejudiced conclusions, the effect of sugar on diet has never been well studied, so we do not have the scientific leverage to prove our case.

As for Dr. Katz's "argument from authority", there is no magic knowledge taught in medical school, nor in law or engineering schools for that matter. A professional degree merely means that one has read a few textbooks and passed some classes that others haven't. Anyone can read these books and take these classes who has the time and resources, or read them independently. No one needs a degree to be expert in nutrition or any other subject.

The problem is, if the information in the textbooks and classes is wrong, then the students are all misinformed. As they say with computers, garbage input produces garbage output. No, Dr. Katz has no magic knowledge or monopoly on the truth, which the rest of us cannot review. All he has is legal protection, so he never has to accept a greater truth. The good news is he says he is willing to put his knowledge to the test anytime. Any honest reflection on the research will reveal to him the sad truth, about which he has every right to feel disillusioned and even angry at the gross error of his medical training. Until then, his resistance and refusal is merely a position of blind arrogance and pride.

Until then, tragically, he is doing his patients, and the world, more harm than good. What needs to happen is thirty more years of solid research to prove the evident case of low-carb to the non-believers. If the system and Dr. Katz are honest, this will happen. As you say, his authority is supposed to serve the needs of people, not the other way around. I challenge Dr.
Katz to put his book-knowledge to the test of real people's experiences, if he truly cares about the welfare of his patients.

Well stated! Dr. Katz, are you up to the task of treating people in the real world rather than in your test tube world?


Blogger Newbirth said...

The dietician who drives me to church doesn't think much of my diet either, but my cholesterol has improved, HDL up, LDL down, weight down, 15.3% of my body fat is gone, and I am happily chugging along in Lifetime Maintanence (Phase 4 in the Atkins diet).

Now if I could stop working overtime at work and spend more time at the gym, life would be perfect. :)

And oh yeah, I eat more than the recommended "5 a day" of fruits and veggies. I think my salad alone (10 oz. of Romaine) is more than 5 servings, plus the veggies with lunch (7-8 oz.), plus the raw veggies for a snack (6 oz.). Yeah, I eat WAY more than the recommended "5 a day." I wonder if Dr. Katz eats this much? I was supposed to have a tomato, too (4 oz.) but accidentally left it at home. :-p

3/21/2006 10:06 PM  
Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...

The reason why we have problems in the world today are because of Jokers like that.

Wow, you've got all these facts in your noggin Doctor - Big Deal - show me in reality how it works! Just because you have had a stable metabolism your whole life and it is genetic (as you said your family is the same) doesn't give you practical experience, in order to help people who actually have a weight problem!

How did humans ever evolve without the aid of Dr. Katz and the Junk Food Industry he inadvertantly props up ?

Oh wait - we didn't. We got buy on meat, veggies and fruit!

Jimmy, you are to be respected and Thanked for the positive and encouraging example you set and the thousands of people around the globe you are helping!

The reason why Dr. Katz doesn't like Dr. Atkins is perhaps Dr. Atkins can sell more books than he can!!

3/21/2006 10:51 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

The reason why Dr. Katz doesn't like Dr. Atkins is perhaps Dr. Atkins can sell more books than he can!!

That's because Atkins' plan works better. :)

A couple people at work now greet me with "Hey, Slim." :)

3/22/2006 1:16 AM  
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3/22/2006 1:31 AM  
Blogger Geo said...

It's hard to miss Katz's condescending tone... Oh well, chances are that one day he will join the majority of people facing a weight problem and the other serious health issues related to insulin resistance. Each person becomes insulin resistant at a different rate. The other factor that compounds this arguement is that low fat dieting does work -- for a time... After the body is fueled with items like pasta, rice, baked potatoes, and sugar-laden low fat garbage for enough time, the body just can't process it efficiently and stores it as fat.

Maybe Katz's "flavor" diet is high in nutritious foods like we know the low carb diet to be. I don't know and I don't care to find out because I have already found the diet that is right for my health.

3/22/2006 10:06 AM  
Blogger Kent said...

I don't know how you get more flavorful than the grilled steak I am eating tonight.

That said, I would welcome such snide comments. Nothing creates more resolve in me to stick with this WOE than to have someone say how dangerous it is or how its benefits aren't long term. It just gives one more reason to prove it for another day. Dr. Katz is a blessing in disguise for my resolve today.

3/22/2006 5:54 PM  
Blogger Ronald said...

It's sad to see such closed-mindedness(sp?) from someone who is supposed to be otherwise. He could find out one day that he was wrong, about low-carbs diets, all his life.

Though his diet has a nice name. I'll give him that. ;)

3/23/2006 5:35 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

What is clear from your exchanges is that Dr. Katz sees no reason to have an intelligent exchange with you. My simple response to him is prove it, i.e. do a scientific study to prove that his diet, which I have to admit sounds to me like a bunch of pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo, actually works as well or better than Atkins or any other diet, low or high carb. There is plenty of evidence for Atkins and other low carb diets in the scientific literature. I haven't researched it carefully, but if he had any studies behind him he'd be trumpeting it from the rooftops like Dean Ornish, not withstanding that Mr. Ornish's low fat diet also included stress reduction and exercise and did not use a mortality endpoint(but that's a different subject.

Having said all that, looking at the Amazon website for his book, he does appear to have helped at least some people lose weight and improve their health which you have stated many times is all you wnat to help people with.

To summarize, in any future exchange with this man, arrogant jerk though he appears to be, try to be courteous, don't let him get under your skin, and make him PROVE his assertions. Thanks for your time and the space to express my thoughts.

3/23/2006 2:17 PM  
Blogger low carb tennis guy said...

I actually found Dr Katz to be well spoken, and not a jerk at all, though he does seem to be a bit full of himself. I think his opinion of Atkins stems from his erroneous belief that carbs are a macronutrient, and vital to a healthy diet, and I doubt he'll ever believe otherwise. However, as I've read on this blog plenty of times, the body does NOT require carbs, but it DOES require Protein and Fat, and in the absence of carbs it can and will create it's own. I know nothing about his diet, and I have no desire to learn about it, so I will not comment on whether it's a fad diet or not. I'm quite happy with Atkins, which helps me lose weight, keep it off, and feel great. I no longer have indigestion or acid reflux, and I have the energy to run 6.5 miles per day, and play tennis competitively in leagues. Even when I was in my 20s, with no body fat at all no matter what I ate, I only ran 3 miles per day.

3/23/2006 3:13 PM  

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