Dean Ornish Addendum

September 13, 2010


A few people wrote to me in response to my last blog post on Dean Ornish. They felt I unfairly attacked him and that this was not justified or worthy of me.

One person said:

Fred, I am really interested when you contradict information, but kind of turned off, reading attacks on other people who are either misinformed or liars. This level of negativity - and personal attack - does it really serve you?

I suppose there is some truth to her comment. But the problem here is far larger than many people realize. I'm sure that she thinks that Dr. Ornish is right about a low fat diet and that I am just trying to be a contrarian for the sake of it. This is not so.

Here is a rebuttal by the Atkins foundation to the survey that Dr. Ornish either tried to use to his advantage on the Huffington Post or was simply incapable of understanding. I strongly lean in the direction that he used this survey to support his low fat dogma.

Short story: I met Dr. Ornish a few years ago at an amazing Ferrazzi Greenlight Big Task health conference in Sonoma California. One of the relationship building tasks we were to perform was to meet and greet each other over the course of the weekend.

At one dinner, we were instructed to do a sort of round robin meet/greet exercise where we would rotate seats and talk for 5 minutes to the person to our right and then to our left then rotate tables again. This was fun to do. You meet some extraordinary people this way who you may otherwise never have broken the ice with.

One of the people I excitedly met was Dr. Ornish. We spoke for a second about the conference and then I asked him why he felt that a very low fat, plant based diet was so healthful when so much of the scientific evidence was to the contrary; that there is good information that grains are very harmful and that saturated fats are actually health enhancing. Without saying a word or batting an eye, he promptly stood up and walked away from me.

He didn't wave me off, say a bad word or smile and make an excuse for why he had to suddenly leave. Nope. He just stood up and walked away.

He could instead have educated me, the lay person, as to why I was misinformed. After all, we were at a conference that was designed to discuss health issues. He could have challenged me to explain my position and both of us could have enjoyed a little nutritional tit for tat. It was not to be.

One other thing I want to mention was that the survey in question only had the subjects fill out a food questionnaire once - at the beginning of the survey! In other words, the researchers had no idea what these people were eating over the course of the next 20 odd years. Could Dr. Ornish have missed this bit of information too?

And another very interesting thing that the survey reveals is that, since the subjects were all eating at least 35% of their calories from carbs what we can glean from this survey is that it is the combination of carbs and animal protein that may be detrimental - not the animal protein itself.

I will say that when it comes to the health and well being of people I am a tad militant. I do care very much for people and I have dedicated my life to putting forth honest and scientifically sound exercise and nutritional information. People like Dr. Ornish make it increasingly difficult for me to help my clients because their level of influence trumps mine at every turn.

Here's what I get:

"Hey Fred did you see the Huffington Post blog by Dr. Ornish yesterday? Looks like your low carb ideas are not so healthy after all!"

This kind of stuff has serious consequences. In a heartbeat it can change the mind of a client who I have worked long and hard on to get them to see that fat is not evil and that grains are extremely damaging to their health.

As long as people like Dean Ornish are out there peddling snake oil, I'll be there to call them out on it when I feel it necessary. He is more than likely a good father, loving husband and friend to many. But his low fat crusade has got to be exposed for what it is or the health of this nation will continue to spiral downward.