In the 1990s, as general manager of Heart Foods, Inc. (we manufactured cayenne-based circulation formulas), I noticed a lot of conflicting information about diet and heart disease. As an example, Dr. Julian Whitaker said eat ‘low fat’ while Dr. Atkins said ‘high fat’ – and both were discussing heart disease.
Our customers had questions; they were buying cayenne to promote circulation and prevent a heart attack – but what should they eat for breakfast? Who was right and who was wrong!
In search of answers, I went to the Atkins-Whitaker debate in New York City in the spring of 1997. With all due respect to a hefty Dr. Whitaker – who must have been 50 pounds overweight – he debated in favor of a low fat vegetarian diet, but did not provide any clinical support for his anti-fat position. Ultimately Whitaker argued that eating meat was cruel to animals (another topic).
The bounding, rosy-cheeked Dr. Atkins was walking the talk – and most importantly – he provided definitive clinical data to support his conviction that a high natural fat diet promoted healthy weight loss, prevented and reversed diabetes, and supported a healthy cardiovascular system in thousands of his patients over a ten year period.
Early on in his career, relying on the American Heart Association’s high carb dietary advice, Dr. Atkins found himself overweight, tired, and possibly pre-diabetic. He had to take a nap at noon and was always hungry! When he read about Dr. Alfred Pennington’s successful carbohydrate-restricted weight loss study with overweight DuPont executives, he decided to try it on himself.
Carbohydrate-restriction got Atkins’ attention. He lost 28 pounds in 6 weeks – kept it off – and was not hungry between meals. He enjoyed sumptuous meals and reversed pre-diabetes without drugs or daily exercise. Atkins’ own personal history of success and his debate performance got my attention as well.
I began researching Diet Heart issues, and since 1997, have never found any evidence to suggest that Dr. Atkins was wrong. In 2001, I sold my share of the cayenne business, started Diet Heart Publishing, and wrote and published 21 Days to a Healthy Heart – a book that provides an Atkins-based 21 Day Plan to prevent and reverse heart disease.
What I learned
If you are pre-diabetic or diabetic – 25 percent of the U.S. adult population – like Dr. Atkins, consider a restricted carbohydrate, high natural fat diet. Like Atkins, limit or restrict carbs to no more than 40-60 grams per day – and choose them principally from the vegetable kingdom. Remember, that fruit is a concentrated source of sugar – how bears fatten up for winter. Fruit should be eaten sparingly and in season.
As we know, 80 percent of diabetics die of heart disease. Diabetes – Metabolic Syndrome – Heart Disease and Heart Failure represent a life-shortening deadly disease cascade characterized by high blood sugar, high insulin, hypertension, elevated triglycerides, and low HDL (so called ‘good’ cholesterol).
As a result of these blood sugar and blood fat abnormalities, circulating blood becomes sticky and clot-prone. An inflamed blood circulation system promotes blood vessel injury and unwanted blood clotting that can only be neutralized and reversed by reducing the carbohydrates in the diet – especially the easily-digested, refined carbohydrates that had no place in the American diet in the first place.
What to do
There is no “one-size-fits-all” diet as the official low fat Dietary Guidelines suggest. (The latest USDA MyPlate icon is another example of cryptic, meaningless advice.) Instead I would recommend people base their individual diets on what was good for their healthiest ancestors:
Consider your metabolism, the climate you live in, the seasons of the year, and the type of work you do. (A tailor and lumberjack have different needs.) Also, keep in mind that myriad individual biochemical differences dictate that each of us arrive at our own diet, a plan that will help us gain optimal health as we burn off unwanted pounds.
We must begin to look at highly processed milk products the same way we look at highly processed grains, sugars and oils: They are the foods of mass destruction – the primary cause of degenerative disease. Whether its autism and asthma in children or dementia and Alzheimer’s in seniors, the Twin Tower culprits of degenerative disease are excess highly processed carbohydrates and excess highly processed vegetable oils.
Modern highly processed food products are heat-damaged – oxidized – and in the amount we are currently consuming them – they are pro-inflammatory and disease-promoting. Traditional protective diets never included these modern, highly-processed chemically manipulated fats, grains and oils. There is no substitute for our traditional fats like butter, coconut, palm oil and lard.
Strictly avoid any margarine, vegetable shortening, and all the highly processed vegetables oils that contain polyunsaturated, chemically unstable omega 6 linoleic acid, like Canola and soybean oil. Also, avoid highly processed boxed breakfast cereals; breakfast bars; products like Pop Tarts and Breakfast Strudels; so called Lunchables and packaged dinners; pasteurized, homogenized milk; processed, heated cheeses – and the tons of highly processed foods that contain them.
As much as possible, cook from scratch and choose the safe, nutritious foods that sustained our ancestors for numerous generations. It’s not a perfect world – there is a reason people have chosen convenience foods – but the price we are paying is widespread accelerated aging and the almost certain coming collapse of our ability to pay the bill – more than a trillion dollars and growing!
If you want to safely jump start weight loss and improve your lipid profile, find a used copy of Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution. (I have bought copies for as little as 50 cents!) Also, Life Without Bread by a “German Dr. Atkins” is a great, readable guide to extending healthy longevity by restricting carbohydrates to no more than 60 grams per day. My latest book, Cereal Killer, is a succinct introduction to fat versus carbohydrate issues.
Best of all: If you want to thoroughly study the history, science and politics of ‘low fat equals good health,’ I strongly recommend Gary Taubes’ excellent Good Calories Bad Calories, published in England as The Diet Delusion. While not an easy read at times, there is no better book to retire – for once and for all – the American Heart Association’s failed carbohydrate-emphasized, anti-fat diet.
“A stitch in time saves nine.”
Category: Atkins Life