Saturday, October 07, 2006

Post-Ornish Interview Challenge To Low-Fat And Low-Carb Supporters

Did you enjoy my four-part interview this week with low-fat diet advocate Dr. Dean Ornish? There was obviously so much more I could have asked him during the interview, but that transcript you read was actually less than 40 minutes long when I recorded it. Neither one of us wanted to spend four or five hours on this interview that would have taken a whole month to transcribe and then post the transcript! Nevertheless, it was quite revealing and I hope people learned something new about Dr. Ornish that they never knew before.

Perhaps Dr. Ornish would be willing to do another one again sometime and allow me to delve a little deeper into some of his beliefs and why people who support the low-carb lifestyle think they are grossly erroneous. He certainly seemed interested in coming together with low-carb advocates to help educate others about what they can do to get fit and live a healthier lifestyle. This interview was a very good start in that direction.

Just in case you missed my interview, here are all four parts:

- Extra Calories From Fat Makes You Fat
- HDL Cholesterol 'Garbage Trucks' For Fat, Cholesterol In Body
- Burden Of Proof On Low-Carbers For Supporting Studies
- Low-Carb Blog 'Powerful Force' For Educating On Diet, Health

Before I get into my analysis about what Dr. Ornish had to say during the interview, I thought it would be beneficial to let you know that he was extremely respectful and kind to me throughout the process of setting the interview up all the way to the last words he spoke to me on the telephone. Like him or not for what he believes, Dr. Ornish certainly opened himself up to me to do this interview with him without any pretenses or requirements despite knowing my obvious objections about what he believes. By the way, the words you read in my interview are EXACTLY what he said to me.

Dr. Ornish with his wife Anne and their son Lucas

You may not know this, but Dr. Ornish also got married over the summer to his beautiful bride Anne. When I originally attempted to set up the interview with him back in May, he personally wrote me back about his pending wedding and honeymoon and assured me that he would be very interested in being interviewed by me. After returning from his travels during the summer, we got together just as he promised we would on Tuesday, September 25, 2006.

It was sometimes difficult to hear him during the interview since he was talking on his cell phone with people talking in the background and he was walking and driving during it. Then he had to put me on hold a few times, but apologized profusely for taking time away from the interview when he got back to the phone. Like I said, Dr. Ornish gave me all the professional respect and credence that he would have given a New York Times reporter and I appreciated that very much.

At the end of the interview, Dr. Ornish seemed very sincere in his desire to start working together more with low-carb advocates like me and others to share with people where we have common ground on diet and nutrition. While even he admits there are some pretty major differences of opinion about what a healthy diet is, there are areas where we do agree.

Here are 20 common areas that came out during the interview:

1. Weight loss isn't about low-fat or low-carb.
2. Sugar, white flour, and white rice are not good for you.
3. Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables should be consumed.
4. Take fish oil supplements for adequate omega-3 fatty acids.
5. Most people are eating too many simple carbs in their diet.
6. Sugar and refined carbs are nutritionally deficient.
7. No weight loss plan works for everybody.
8. Diet junk food is not as good for you as whole foods.
9. Dietary recommendations should be based on science.
10. People need a spectrum of dietary choices to choose from.
11. Eating something unhealthy does not ruin your diet.
12. Refusing to call a weight loss program a "diet" to begin with.
13. We must deal with the root cause of most obesity: depression.
14. Sugar substitutes are an excellent alternative to sugar.
15. We need healthier food choices available at restaurants.
16. America is exporting poor dietary habits to other countries.
17. People must be educated about healthy living.
18. Change in diet and lifestyle can make a real difference.
19. A constant goal to help people lose weight and get healthy.
20. Never losing the passion or desire to spread the message.

Granted, there were a lot of things Dr. Ornish said about low-fat diets, HDL, cholesterol, legumes and soy products, fat, heart disease, the Women's Health Initiative study, and saturated fat, among others, that are worthy of debating, but I think those of us who support livin' la vida low-carb should at least attempt to promote all of the things in that list compiled above as areas where both low-fat and low-carb advocates DO agree. That's not an unreasonable request, is it?

The benefactor of doing this is obviously Mr. and Mrs. Overweight and Obese out there who are desperately looking to dig out of their hole of despair and make themselves thinner and healthier. That's a noble cause worth pursuing, right? If so, then why don't we start working together to push these things more often in a combined effort with low-fat supporters? I know, I know, they have said some nasty things about livin' la vida low-carb and we've gotten in our digs, too. But the time for arguing is over because this nation and world is in an obesity crisis!

This is a public challenge to anyone who believes in the principles of low-fat or low-carb: starting today, can we at least agree that those 20 areas of agreement that I found between Dr. Ornish and I are a consensus between us about what a healthy diet should look like? Not to sound too Rodney King-like ("can't we all just get along?"), but we can make a much bigger difference in the lives of those who are so jaded by the infighting among health advocates by converging on the commonalities rather than clashing about our differences. Does anyone disagree?

Dr. Ornish, if you were sincere in your desire to see this change truly come about (and I don't doubt that you were), then I ask you as arguably the most recognized name and face in the low-fat movement to push for this among your supporters and make it a reality henceforth. Likewise, low-carbers need to be open and willing to do the same for the sake of those tens of millions who need to lose weight and get healthy.

Are low-fat advocates and low-carbers up for the challenge?

10-9-06 UPDATE: Well, one low-fat advocate has reached out her hand to my olive branch between low-fat and low-carb. Her name is Fiona Haynes from the About Low-Fat Cooking web site who wrote a fantastic post about my interview with Dr. Ornish.

Here's what she said:

After years of trying to lose weight on a low-fat diet, and failing, Jimmy Moore lost 180 pounds on a low-carb diet. Not surprisingly, he is a tireless and passionate supporter of all things low carb, and pulls no punches with anyone, especially an anti-low-carb media. Recently, Mr. Moore interviewed Dean Ornish, M.D., who is equally passionate about eating low fat as a way to reverse heart disease. Did sparks fly? Find out in Jimmy Moore's fascinating four-part interview with Dean Ornish, published in his Livin' La Vida Low Carb blog. This interview is a must-read for anyone interested in healthy eating and weight loss, regardless of dietary allegiance.

THANK YOU, Fiona, for recognizing that we can and should try to find the common ground so we can help others acheive weight loss and improved health. In the long run, this strategy will work so much better than the constant bickering and backbiting.

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Blogger Unknown said...

>9. Dietary recommendations should be based on science.<

How can we all "just get along" when there is no science to back up low-fat unless other interventions (such as exercise or quitting smoking) are involved. OTOH, low-carb has more and more studies coming out supporting it. I'll keep eating this way no matter what because science and history are on my side, while low-fat consistently fails. I want to eat the way my body wants me to eat, and that is low-carb.

>13. We must deal with the root cause of obesity: depression.<

Huh? I went from "overweight" to "obese" because I finally got on depression meds. I am one person who needs them - I become suicidal without them - but the treatment for depression, rather than depression itself, was the cause of my obesity. Before meds I was a modest 30 pounds overweight; on meds I became 70 pounds overweight.

Depression doesn't cause fatness; being addicted to sugar and grains cause it.

10/07/2006 8:09 PM  
Blogger Jake Silver said...

I think that low-fat and low-carb are actually pretty similar. Eating lots of veggies, fruits and whole grains. No sugar, no HFCS, no hydrogenated fats. Low-carbers might choose to keep their breakfasts of bacon and eggs but I'll still take my oatmeal and whey protein over that any day of the week.

10/08/2006 7:51 AM  
Blogger AnOldHouse said...

Jimmy, I give you a ton of credit and admire you for your journalistic integrity in interviewing Dr. Dean Ornish.

But unfortunately, preposterous concepts like needing fewer HDL "garbage trucks" as a justification for seriously lower HDL levels on his ultra-low-fat vegetarian lifestyle, a lifestyle fraught with serious nutritional deficiencies and absolute supplement dependencies, reliance on a multifaceted intervention to falsely proclaim that his diet (alone) reverses CHD, his involvement with McDonald's and the interests of other highly suspect corporate entities, all combined with his involvement in the PCRM (nothing but a fake front for PETA) are things that I simply cannot ever resolve with him.

Yeah, so he talks a good game and happens to agree that junk food is junk food. BFD. Who doesn't?

Even Dr. Robert Atkins had the guts to just say "I don't know why this/or/that is but this is my observation" rather than making up and to this day continually perpetuating ridiculous stories about "garbage trucks" to dismiss the blatent failure and outright dangers of the diet he promotes.

I think the man is a complete fraud and and lacks integrity and credibility.

10/08/2006 6:18 PM  
Blogger Calianna said...

Yeah, so he talks a good game and happens to agree that junk food is junk food. BFD. Who doesn't?

Um... doesn't Krispy Kreme belive you deserve to eat their donuts?

And doesn't Coke believe that their sugary colas can be part of a healthy diet?

Aren't there a plethora of other junk food pushers who are desperately trying to maintain sales with the same claims?

10/08/2006 9:06 PM  
Blogger TiredMama said...

I think there is more and more consensus on the basics of a healthy lifestyle, at least among the people who care to think about it:

- real food, made with fresh ingredients like meats, eggs, fruits and veggies;
- no trans-fats and HFCS;
- little to no sugar - sweets as rare treats, not a dietary staple;
- drinking water instead of high-sugar, high-sodium, high-caffeine beverages
- regular exercise
- stopping smoking, excessive drinking, and other addictions.

Where people disagree is on the relative percentage of fat and carbs in a healthy diet.

I believe the right percentage is the one that works for you. We are all different, and can tolerate different levels of the various macronutrients.

As long as we stay away from the fake foods we all agree are bad, we can disagree on the details of what we eat without any of us having to be wrong.


10/09/2006 6:32 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Right on, karishma! That's my stance on the issue exactly. Find what works for you and then do it for the rest of your life. We don't have to have a right or wrong way, just the right or wrong way for ME! That's why I push for both a low-fat and low-carb approach to be offered side-by-side for people to decide which is best for them. Unfortunately, that is not happening right now. THANKS for sharing your comments. GREAT BLOG you've got there, by the way!

10/09/2006 6:50 PM  
Blogger renegadediabetic said...

I beleive that everyone is different and there shouldn't be a one-size-fits-all approach. I've known a few people who have done very well on Weight Watchers, even keeping their weight off. Low fat diets failed me big time, but if it works for someone else, great. I suspect more people are better suited for low carb than we realize. While attending Weight Watchers week after week, I saw several people, myself included, that didn't seem to be making any progress.

If the medical establishement would at least acknowledge that the low carb approach is a viable alternative to low fat, more people would realize that low fat isn't working for them and switch, instead of stubbornly clinging to the only approach that they think will work.

10/10/2006 1:58 PM  
Blogger Daniel Marleau said...

From an academic, scientific perspective there's a great video called, "Which Diet Works: A Nutrition Review." It's presented by a distinguished clinical dietician (Gail Underbakke) from the University of Wisconsin, Medical School. She reviews the studies in a way that's easy to understand.

Watch Video

Or go to,

3/30/2007 4:15 PM  
Blogger erin said...

Dean Ornish is the best, but fyi that's his son from his previous (second) marriage not with Anne. They did not marry until last year...

;) E

9/17/2008 4:38 AM  
Blogger erin said...

FYI Lucas is the son from Dean's previous (second) marriage (before he married Ann)

;) he is a great man and doctor.


9/17/2008 4:41 AM  
Blogger Fred Hahn said...

I applaud you Jimmy. But I must say Ornish is stuck in his low fat dogma and doesn't have the guts to admit it. His new Spectrum idea is his attempt at getting out of it.

I once met him and we sat and I started to speak about low carb. He got up from the table and walked away from me. Very rude.

8/18/2010 1:27 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

He's certainly stuck on dogma. That's one reason he hasn't been back on my podcast since I interviewed him about THE SPECTRUM. If you can't take the heat then get out of the kitchen I suppose.

8/18/2010 2:57 PM  

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