Drs. Michael & Mary Dan Eades are still strong believers in low-carb
I cannot tell you how thrilled and honored I am to introduce to you today two very special people in the world of livin' la vida low-carb. This husband and wife team works tirelessly promoting the principles of low-carb living that we cherish so dearly because of the changes they have made in our lives with weight loss and improved health.
Of course I'm talking about Drs. Michael (MDE) & Mary Dan (MRE) Eades! I recently named them one of my low-carb movers & shakers of 2006 because they really are literally on the frontlines of promoting the healthy low-carb lifestyle to the masses through their books, television show, public appearances and blogs.
Be sure to visit the official web site for the Eades at ProteinPower.com as well as the always thought-provoking personal blogs of both Dr. Mike and Dr. Mary Dan. I had the distinct privilege of meeting them in Brooklyn, New York at the low-carb science conference that was held there.
You'll never meet two more gracious people who have opened themselves up to a world looking for answers about their weight and health problems. I think you will quickly sense that in my interview with them today.
1. I am pleased to welcome to the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog today Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades, the husband and wife co-authors of the low-carb book "Protein Power," among many others. Since your original book was released in 1995, literally millions of lives have been positively changed forever by finding this way of eating as their permanent solution for weight loss and disease management. Did you ever dream over a decade ago that this diet plan based on what our ancestors ate that would become the center of your lives and be such a hit with so many people around the world?
MDE: No, not really. We hoped it would be successful, of course, as did our publisher, but at the time that it came out, the low-carb approach, Atkins included, was as far out of favor with mainstream Americans as it seems to be today with the media. The early and mid-90s were the peak of the low-fat craze.
I remember our going one day to a bookstore to count the low-fat cookbooks and the low-carb cookbooks and the score was 660 low-fat and 0 low-carb (at least in our local Barnes and Noble) at that time. We used to say in interviews that we were out to change the way America eats and I think we were without doubt a part of a change that did occur and that is really still happening.
2. In just the past few years, the low-carb diets have seen the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat in the court of public opinion. While most of us low-carbers are grateful that the "low-carb craze" and all those disgusting processed Frankenfoods are now gone from our supermarket shelves, the unfortunate remnants of that fallout is that so many people have been unreasonably discouraged by misinformed medical professionals and the media that livin' la vida low-carb is too "dangerous" and "unsafe" for people to be doing at all. What do you as doctors and subscribers to this way of eating say in response to such criticisms?
MDE: Balderdash! The low-carb marketing craze, which rose like a tidal wave and crashed like a tidal wave has indeed swept away the bad and, unfortunately, much of the good (as tidal waves will do) but I’d wager that the number of people doing some variant of carb-watching is at an all-time high. The nomenclature has changed and marketers are justifiably frightened of and shying away from the words ‘low carb’ but the concept thrives. People are much more conscious of carbs, of starch, of sugar, of HFCS, of trans fats and of eating closer to the field and pasture than ever before.
Because the science of low-carb is utterly sound, and getting stronger it seems with every new journal publication, it won’t go away. As an effective tool for weight loss and revitalizing health it works like no other. That’s why it’s been around since Banting and why no matter what ‘fad’ comes along, it will be back again. It works, pure and simple.
MRE: The low-carb marketing craze—and that’s just what it was: a marketing craze—was based on the idea that low-carb was about switching from low-fat junk foods to low-carb junk foods. Low-carb junk foods are maybe a little better than low-fat junk foods, but they’re still junk foods.
Until people can get their arms around the idea of a quality whole-food low-carb diet, they’re not going to be successful. The fact that so many low-carb junk foods were promoted provided grist for the mills of the misinformed naysayers who want nothing more than to be able to seize upon any reason to trash low-carb. The promoters of these foods gave them the opportunity.
3. Speaking of that dastardly media, their transparent hatred for anything and everything to do with low-carb is evident in the stories they put out there with such hyperbolic headlines meant only to further present a convoluted interpretation of what this way of eating is all about (such as the recent saturated fat study). I try to respond to a lot of this misinformation at my blog and I notice that both of you do it at your respective blogs as well. But what more can be done to help educate people about the truth concerning low-carb and all of the incredible positive scientific research that is coming down the pipeline supporting livin' la vida low-carb over the next few years? Can the media keep on ignoring the preponderance of the evidence?
MDE: Well, they have so far. When Knopf brings out Gary Taubes’ book (which I think will probably be in the late winter/early spring of 2007) the media will have a much tougher time ignoring the facts. (When it hits, watch out; it’s huge, detailed, incredibly well researched, well documented, and well-written and, like his NY Times Sunday Magazine cover story back in July 2003, it should grab more than a few headlines.)
MRE: Despite their arresting and prosecuting Galileo for proclaiming the Earth wasn’t at the center of the universe, the Catholic Church could only suppress the truth for so long. Ultimately, the truth will out. As those of us who have followed the low-carb diet know, there is no better way to lose weight and improve health.
Now the research community knows this based on the recent spate of published, peer-reviewed studies, all of which demonstrate the superiority of the low-carb approach. It will take a while for this information to filter down to the local doctors who are spending so much time treating patients and fighting with insurance companies to stay abreast of all the recent scientific literature.
4. There has been a definite move away from using the term "low-carb" in describing the lifestyle that many on the Protein Power and Atkins diets, for example, have become accustomed to using since now there is such a stigma attached to it. Is there a downside for people who support low-carb living to continue using the term "low-carb" when talking about nutritional approaches such as Protein Power or do we need to consider changing the terminology to make our message more palatable for people to give the low-carb lifestyle a serious try? Why or why not?
MDE: Really only if you’re trying to sell something—a book, a TV show, a product. As I noted in a previous question, the marketers are already doing just that. Carb Sense has relabeled its low-carb line as Eat Well Be Well or something like that, I think.
And you’ll note on a lot of products that used to say ‘low-carb’ that they now just add a sunburst or tag that lists some low number of carb grams along with some low number of fat grams and/or 0 cholesterol or sodium or some other thing. It’s as if low-carb has just become a mainstream choice, like low-fat or low-cholesterol have done. Maybe "carb conscious" is a decent euphemism.
MRE: It’s a low-carb program. I don’t have a problem calling it that. Having said that, however, the South Beach Diet, which is clearly a low-carb diet, marketed itself to great success by claiming to not be a low-carb diet. The author got the best of both worlds, I guess. His readers got great results and he didn’t get tarred with the low-carb brush.
Still, I’m not a mincer of words, so I think it should be called low-carb or carb-restricted. I like the term Paleolithic diet also, but, unfortunately, some authors of Paleolithic diet books have tended to make their version of the Paleolithic diet a low-fat one, leading to some confusion.
5. Low-carb programs such as Protein Power are definitely meant to be a lifetime commitment for people to not only maintain their weight, but to maximize their health with a solid nutritional approach. That is why I have committed to eating this way for the rest of my life, despite the constant cries from people that I am destroying my health (even after losing 180 pounds!). How would you respond to those people who only believe low-carb is a short-term method for losing weight, but not safe to do over the long-term?
MDE: They need to take an open-minded and critical look at the hard clinical research, which is coming in almost every day. To my knowledge, there has never been a head-to-head trial between low-carb and low-fat/high-carb that has turned out any way other than the low-carb plan’s kicking the other’s tail. Mike regularly blogs on the truth or fallacy of studies that come out and our Discussion Board has compilations of the pertinent articles available to anyone who wishes to learn more about it themselves. Those of us who have implemented this lifestyle ourselves for decades prove the point that it’s a long-term healthy lifestyle—as anyone who tries it will also do. If the rest choose to ignore what’s obvious, it’s to their detriment and I’m sorry for that.
MRE: The idea that the low-carb diet is for the short term only slays me. It’s just a way for these idiots who embrace low-fat to save a little face. Early on in the low-carb movement these morons always went around with the cry on their lips: show us the studies, show us the studies. All you low-carb advocates say that low-carb does all these wonderful things, well, show us the studies. Well, we have shown them the studies.
Over the past 6 or 8 years there have been dozens of well-controlled studies showing at the worst that low-carb is the equal of low-fat in terms of weight loss and at the best that low-carb is vastly superior. In no case in these published studies has low-fat bested the low-carb diet in anything. So, now that the low-fatters can’t obfuscate the issue by demanding to see the studies, they have retreated into saying, "Oh sure, it works for the short term, but it can’t be safe over the long run."
I say: show me the studies. Show me the studies demonstrating that the low-fat diet is safe in the long run. These studies don’t exist. What we do have, however, is about 2.7 million years of archeological data showing that the low-carb diet was the diet humanity cut its teeth on.
6. Have you read independent researcher Anthony Colpo's book "The Great Cholesterol Con" where he discusses the positive role of saturated fat in the diet and how the cholesterol concerns that doctors have are more about lining the pocketbooks of the pharmaceutical companies than on protecting the cardiovascular health of their patients? What are your thoughts regarding saturated fat and cholesterol?
MDE: There is quite good evidence that saturated fats (especially certain ones, such as stearic acid) are beneficial for health—even cardiovascular health. Stearic acid, found richly in beef, for instance, has been clinically shown to lower cholesterol—if that matters, a connection for which, in our view, a case can’t really be made by the science. As to doctors lining the pockets of the drug companies, I think that’s a pretty unfair to subscribe evil motives to most of them.
You have to realize that most doctors, busy in their practices, get the vast bulk of their ongoing medical education courtesy of the drug companies—through meetings sponsored heavily by drug companies, through the ‘information’ the drug reps who visit their clinic ‘teach’ them, through the literature they read, which is heavily subsidized by drug company ad dollars. They prescribe cholesterol lowering drugs, blood pressure drugs, and diabetes drugs along with a high-carb diet (destined to make those drugs more and more necessary) because that’s what they were trained to do—to follow along with what the mainstream is told is correct. I know; we were those people twenty some odd years ago.
MRE: I agree with Colpo (though I haven’t read his book, I have skimmed through it) and Dr. Uffe Ravnskov that saturated fat isn’t an issue. There is no conclusive evidence that saturated fat causes any kind of problems. What I always find strange is the idea that people who worry about saturated fat usually also believe that palmitic acid, a 16-carbon saturated fat, is the most dangerous one of all. These people advocate consuming large quantities of high-carbohydrate foods instead of saturated fats. The irony is that the liver converts excess carbohydrate into palmitic acid, the very saturated fat they fear the most.
7. Many of my readers have enjoyed your PBS program "Low Carb CookwoRx" and all the yummy recipes you have shared on that show. But low-carb cooking programs are virtually dead at this point with popular shows from people like Blaine Jelus, George Stella and others sadly being cancelled and replaced with new chefs making high-carb, low-fat dishes that are decidedly unhealthy. UGH! What resources would you recommend for people who are wanting a place to find delicious and healthy low-carb recipes?
MDE: Other than our show on PBS, there may not be much out there except the occasional repeat of Rachael Ray purporting to do a low-carb meal that includes dried fruit and pasta. (Don’t get me wrong; I love Rachael Ray and watch her show regularly, but she’s no expert on low-carb and that shows.) Most of our show’s episodes are available for purchase on VHS through its website and so I suspect some of the others might be available, too. Beyond that, I guess it’s back to reading cookbooks of which we now have two: "The Low-Carb Comfort Foods Cookbook" and the companion book to the show "The Low-Carb CookwoRx Cookbook." Also, we add new recipes from time to time on our blogs (especially on mine) and just by doing a Yahoo or Google search for low-carb (name of dish) you’re likely to find some useful recipes.
MRE: I wouldn’t say these shows were dead. PBS just picked up "Low Carb CookwoRx" at the network level and will be showing it on their HD network starting in 2007. Also Create, which is PBS for cable, picked up the show in high-def, standard def, and digital and will begin airing in February of next year. Were this show not watched by a whole lot of people, it would not have been basically upgraded in the PBS hierarchy and renewed.
8. Where do you see low-carb going in the near future? Five years from now? Ten years from now? Will there ever be a time when this way of eating will be on an equal footing with the low-fat diet?
MDE: I think for at least the remainder of this year, the words ‘low-carb’ will be anathema for selling anything. After Gary Taubes’ new book hits the shelves, all bets are off. I think he’ll do what no researcher seems able to do, make people listen to the facts. I find that amazing; the testimony of actual physicians working day to day with patients and of scientists doing hard research is viewed by the public as somehow suspect, but the word of a journalist changes their minds. I say thank goodness at least something will change their minds. And yes, I do think (in fact I think it’s happening already) that low-carb will not only achieve the same footing as low-fat but will ultimately eclipse it.
MRE: Low-carb has been around literally for several million years. It’s going to be with us for a lot longer. It has only been fairly recently that the light of serious scientific scrutiny has been shined on this way of eating, and the evidence is all positive. Unfortunately, good things take a while to get widely accepted, especially in the face of a lot of naysaying know nothings.
9. If you had the opportunity to ask low-fat diet guru Dr. Dean Ornish anything you wanted, what would that question be and why?
MDE: How much Lipitor do you take?
MRE: 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.
10. One of the things I enjoy the most about my low-carb weight loss blog is the people who give me the privilege and joy of encouraging and educating them on a daily basis with information they can use as they are livin' la vida low-carb. Do you have any specific words of inspiration for them as we conclude this interview?
MDE: Don’t be swayed in your opinions about nutrition by what this or that talking head says about it today or tomorrow or next week. Adopt a true, serious low-carb diet, follow it diligently, and then believe what you see in yourself, in your body, in your lab work. That’s the best evidence I can think of for deciding if a diet is "right" for you.
MRE: One of the best things about the low-carb diet is that it works so quickly. People don’t have to give it a three-month test drive to see if it is going to live up to its promise. I always tell those uncertain as to whether or not to try to give it a week. In one week on a low-carb diet people can get rid of GERD, sleep better, feel better, think better, get rid of excess fluid, and lose weight to boot.
For those folks on a low-carb diet, I can only say congratulations. You are on a regimen grounded in several million years of natural selection that will keep you healthy while keeping you free from hunger like no other eating program around. Keep it up because it will pay countless health dividends over the rest of your long life.
10-2-06 UPDATE: After reading the answers provided by the Eades for Question #9, Dr. Dean Ornish wrote me the following e-mail regarding what they said:
"All of this is completely false. And I have never taken any cholesterol-lowering drugs."
I responded back to Dr. Ornish, who I have also interviewed, to share what was "false" about what the Eades had alleged about him. As soon as he responds, I will post him comments here.
10-3-06 UPDATE: Okay, I heard from Dr. Dean Ornish with his response to the allegations made about him by Drs. Mike and Mary Dan Eades in my interview with them.
I welcome an open dialogue, which is why we had an in-depth interview last week, Jimmy--but it is not helpful for people to say things that are simply not true.
First, I have never taken any cholesterol-lowering drugs, as my cholesterol level has been below 140 mg/dl since I was a teenager.
Second, this story he tells about the Denver radio show is completely false. No radio show would agree to such terms, nor would I ask for them. Clearly, I'm not "unwilling to debate the merits of a low-fat diet" since I debated Dr. Atkins and others on numerous occasions.
I think it's time to get past these adversarial, personal attacks and try to find common ground, which is why I wrote an essay about this in TIME magazine.
Thank you. With best wishes and warm personal regards,
Dean Ornish, M.D.
Founder and President, Preventive Medicine Research Institute
Comments? Questions? Response from Dr. Eades?
10-4-06 UPDATE: I got a response from Dr. Mike Eades...er, sort of. He blogged about the Ornish controversy at his popular blog today and promised to show evidence that supports the position he took. If you want to dig a little deeper into why they answered #9 the way they did, then read this post!