So it caught my attention when I learned that Dr. Ornish wrote an essay carried by the New York Times ("Eating for Health, Not Weight," 9/22/2012). In it he writes that the purpose of diets should not be to lose weight. Rather, the purpose should be to improve your health. By virtue of eating for health, you'll control your weight. More importantly, you'll feel better and keep disease away. An interesting point he makes is that being obese doesn't always lead to disease. Studies like this one run in JAMA this year (and covered in another NYT piece) have implied that obese people live longer than thinner people.
Just like our Healthy Indian Diet team, Dr. Ornish advocates that whatever you eat should be "low in unhealthful carbs (both sugar and other refined carbohydrates) and low in fat (especially saturated fats and trans fats) as well as in red meat and processed foods."
He points out that his own diet is not to be considered "low carb" or "low fat." After all, low fat diets have caused many people to consume more processed carbs, thus worsening the rate of obesity in this country. And low carb diets like the Atkins Diet is something Dr. Ornish argues causes more bad than good.
Dr. Ornish points out a recent study, one we covered here in the past, that a "low carb" diet (like Atkins) stresses the body and thus increases overall inflammation (as seen in increased levels of CRP and cortisol). In his essay, he cites large studies showing people on low carb diets having a higher chance of developing and dying of heart disease. Now, he does not deny that a low carb diet helps many people lose weight. But he writes that a low carb diet that can be misunderstood, and if people cut down the natural plant-based food, they can do themselves more harm than good no matter how thin or fat you are.
When I've written low carb in our book or on this blog, I've meant low bad carb, like processed foods, white bread and white rice. Like Dr. Ornish, we've advocated something similar: "what you eat is as important as what you exclude — your diet needs to be high in healthful carbs like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy products in natural, unrefined forms and some fish, like salmon. There are hundreds of thousands of health-enhancing substances in these foods."