Low-Carb vs Vegan and Vegetarian Diets – Time to Retire The Fad

Girl Who Does Not Like VegetablesI have absolutely nothing against vegetarians and vegans.

Everyone is entitled to make their own decisions about their health and what they do with their bodies.

There is no perfect diet for everyone and people can get results on a variety of different diets.

The main purpose of this website is to help people make informed decisions based on real evidence.

I Often See Vegans Claim That Low-Carb Diets Are “Dangerous”

There are a lot of claims made by vegan proponents that resemble propaganda more than anything else.

One of those claims is that low-carb diets are “dangerous” – that they lead to heart disease, cancer and whatnot.

This is completely wrong and has no scientific basis at all.

In this article, I am going to debunk the myth that vegetarian and vegan diets are superior to low-carb diets, because we do have first-rate scientific evidence that this is not true.

Low-Carb Proven Superior to a Low-Fat Vegetarian Diet

Doctor Thumbs Down

We do have a randomized controlled trial (RCT) comparing a low-carb diet (Atkins) to a low-fat near-vegan diet (Ornish).

RCTs are the best types of studies to prove cause and effect in humans.

This is scientific evidence, as good as it gets.

The study is called The A to Z Weight Loss Study and was conducted by researchers at Stanford.

In it, they tested 4 different diets: Atkins, Ornish, Zone and LEARN. I’m going to focus on Atkins and Ornish.

The study subjects, who were overweight or obese women, were given a diet book, either The Atkins New Diet Revolution or Eat More, Weigh Less and received some counseling on how to follow the two diets.

The Atkins diet, as I’m sure you know, is a low-carb, high-fat diet that includes lots of animal foods and vegetables.

The Ornish diet is an ultra-low-fat vegetarian diet (fat as 10% of calories) that includes almost no animal foods. Small amounts of non-fat dairy and egg whites are allowed in moderation. More details on the diet here.

A total of 77 people were assigned to the Atkins Diet group, while 76 were assigned to Ornish. The study went on for 12 months.

This study is representative of real world results. People buying a diet book, making a commitment towards a diet and doing their best to stick to it.

The Study Results

All diets are hard to stick to. At the end, the Atkins group had gravitated towards a 30% carb intake, while the Ornish group had started eating about 30% fat (and probably some amount of animals).

Weight Loss: Individuals in the Atkins group lost more weight, 4.7 kg (10.4 lbs), while the Ornish group lost only 2.6 kg (5.7 lbs). However, the difference was not statistically significant at 12 months.

A to Z Study Weight Loss Graph

When you look at health biomarkers, you see where the low-carb diet really starts to shine:

  • Systolic Blood Pressure: Down 7.6 mmHg on Atkins, down 1.9 mmHg on Ornish.
  • Diastolic Blood Pressure: Down 4.4 mmHg on Atkins, down 0.7 mmHg on Ornish.
  • HDL (the good) Cholesterol: Up by 4.9 mg/dL on Atkins, didn’t change at all on Ornish.
  • Blood Triglycerides: Decreased by 29.3 mg/dL on Atkins, down by 14.9 mg/dL on Ornish.

Other markers like glucose and insulin also improved further on Atkins, but didn’t reach statistical significance.

LDL cholesterol improved slightly on the Ornish diet at the 2 month mark, but then the difference diminished and was not statistically significant.

There was a staggering difference in the dropout rate. 88% of the Atkins group made it to the end, compared to 78% on Ornish.

To put the data another way, the relative risk of dropout was 1.9 for Ornish compared to Atkins, meaning that the low-fat vegetarian dieters were almost twice as likely not to make it to the end of the study.

Out of all 4 diets, the Atkins dieters were most likely to make it to the end. However, the difference was not statistically significant.

Basically, there were several very important advantages for the Atkins diet, while there were zero advantages for the Ornish diet.

Atkins did the best out of all 4 diets, while Ornish did by far the worst.

This is scientific evidence, as good as it gets, that low-carb diets (that include meat) are superior to vegan diets, at least for overweight / obese premenopausal women.

If you want to see the lead researcher of the study, Dr. Christopher Gardner, explain the results, then watch this video.

Interestingly, Dr. Dean Ornish, despite being very aware of this study, still has the audacity to claim (lie) that low-carb diets are dangerous and peddle his diet as the optimal human diet.

What About The China Study?

Vegetables

The china study is an observational study that apparently proved the harmful effects of animal foods and has been used heavily as vegan propaganda.

This study was an observational study conducted by a biased scientist who was madly in love with his theories.

Citing an observational study when you already have randomized controlled trials showing the opposite result is meaningless.

The data from the china study has been analyzed by objective scientists and they discovered that the data in it did NOT support the author’s conclusions.

Put simply, the china study and the conclusions derived from it are pseudoscience.

Read these excellent articles for critiques of the china study:

Ethical? Maybe. Healthy? Not Really.

Girl Disgusted by Vegetables

I applaud everyone who wants to eschew animal foods for ethical reasons.

I personally don’t lose sleep over eating other living beings, but I prefer my meat to be properly raised and treated humanely.

But the evidence of health benefits for vegan diets is shaky at best and mostly based on cherry picking and selective citation of data.

Vegan diets may be healthier than the standard western diet, but pretty much any diet fits that description.

I’m sure that in the short term, people can see vast health benefits on a vegan diet, primarily by reducing their intake of toxic foods like added sugars, refined grains, trans fats and high-Omega-6 vegetable oils.

But I am 100% certain that a plant-based diet that includes at least some animal foods would be much, much healthier than a diet that contains none.

Just in the same way as a very low-carb diet based strictly on animal foods would be much healthier if it contained at least a little bit of plants.

Humans are omnivores. We need both animals and plants.

If You Choose to go Vegan, Make Sure to Get All The Nutrients You Need

Every person has the right to decide what they want to eat.

If you choose to go vegan, make sure to be prudent about your diet and getting all the nutrients that you need. Supplement if you must.

Read books by some of the vegan docs, even though they’re biased against low-carb then I’m sure they at least know how to safely apply a vegan diet.

At the end of the day, there is no one right way to eat. Some people thrive on a low-carb diet that includes animal foods, others may do fine on a vegan diet.

I’m going to continue eating my low-carb, real-food based diet knowing that all the available evidence shows that such a diet is at least healthier than the diets it is compared to, and that includes vegetarian and vegan diets.

Different strokes for different folks!

83 Comments

  1. Mark Shields says:

    Your blog is among the best, great job… I’ve been sharing your stuff on my FB fan page, Saturated Fat and Cholesterol.

  2. I think the Inuit would disagree with you about the need to add plants to the diet.

    They’re useful, they have medicinal properties but considering (1) the wide range of available plants across the world and (2) the seasonality of plant food, especially in the temperate zones, it’s unrealistic to say humans can’t live without them. We’d kind of have to, when adapting to certain locales at certain times of the year.

    The only reason veganism is ever healthy is they have access to supplements. Pre-industrial cultural groups that didn’t have access to a worldwide food-trading network and who were faced with eating vegan due to a lack of meat turned to cannibalism to make up the nutrients. Dr. Weston Price observed this in the early 1900s.

    The only context in which “there is no perfect human diet” makes sense is if you are talking about specific foods. There *is*, however, a *most appropriate human dietary pattern.* And that is basing your “food pyramid” on animals, including fat, some organ meats, and bone broth, and then *supplementing* with whatever edible plants are available when they are available.

    Bonus: You aren’t as hungry, so you don’t need as much food as measured by calories.

    • Even the Inuit traditionally had plants in their diet. There are arctic-growing berries and herbs, the Inuit would go berry picking as well as hunting. It is true they mostly ate raw and boiled meat, organ and fish, but it is a myth that they did not eat plants as food.

  3. John Staunton says:

    And no other diet has been proven to do that, if anything there are heart scans out there that show reduced blood flow to the heart on Atkins diet. Also how is a 10% difference between the two groups equal to a drop out rate of nearly double?

    • There are no studies showing a reduced blood flow to the heart on Atkins. That is vegan propaganda, based on a study of a single meal, I believe.

      The study I cited above actually shows improved cardiac risk factors on Atkins, improved much more than on the Ornish diet.

      Regarding the drop out rate:
      76 assigned to Ornish, 59 finished – drop out: 17 people, or 22,3%.
      77 assigned to Atkins, 68 finished – drop out: 9 people, or 11,7%.

      Relative risk of drop-out: 22,3% / 11,7% = 1,9 – meaning that the Ornish dieters were 90% more likely to drop out of the study.

  4. Dima Pel says:

    Wondering if you heard about this study. A pretty interesting read suggesting limitation of processed meat products and possibly red meat to less than 100g/day.

    Cheers,

    http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/11/63

    • This study only shows a significant association for processed meat, not regular meat.

      “After correction for measurement error, higher all-cause mortality remained significant only for processed meat”

      I agree that processed meat can be bad. Unprocessed meat from grass-fed animals is the best.

  5. You left out the part where “Retention… was not significantly different among groups (P = .30).”

  6. Olena S. says:

    Hi Everyone,

    I am vegan. I am healthy and feeling well. But it is not what I am writing about. I just want to be fair to the sources, if you use word “propaganda” it does have negative connotation and does show attitude. Which is not supportive to the statement that you have nothing against vegans and vegetarians.

    I can say that there is lots of meat supportive studies that sound like propaganda. It is not fair to my opinion. Rather than that I am reading info that you are posting and I found lots of useful suggestions.

    • Olena

      One question: – From WHERE do you obtain your iron and B vitamins…? I’m assuming you MUST supplement heavily, as there are NO plant sources of either (and, if you think you’re going to become as strong as Popeye by munching spinach – and other green leafy veg – think again; Popeye was a marketing tool used to promote spinach as a source of iron back in the ’30s, before it was realised that dark leafy greens contain oxalate, which not only prevents humans from absorbing THEIR iron (and, if you’re an omnivore, the iron of anything they’re consumed with). There is NO decent source of non-heme iron, so I hope you’re supplementing.

      It’s the same with B vitamins, particularly B12; humans CANNOT assimilate it from plant sources (and, no, fortified grains are next to useless; not only do they contain anti-nutrients (oxalate is an example of an anti-nutrient; they’re substances which prevent the assimilation of nutrients) such as phytates, they only serve to cause obesity, CHD, stroke, diabetes (types 2 and 3 – yes 3 – you know it better as dementia. Do you know what the primary cause of dementia is…?! An extremely low fat diet – low in SATURATED ANIMAL FAT, cholesterol and B12; oh and statins of course which, with your ‘ultra healthy diet’ you’ll find yourself on soon enough (it’s not saturated fat that causes CHD, it’s grains, my dear, and DON’T get me started on the evils of soy: – infertility, premature menopause, thyroid disorders (I’ll try to unearth an excellent study I read on the correlation between veganism (and particularly women who follow a vegan/fruitarian diet) and hypothyroidism; not only that, it can destroy your endocrine system (hence the infertility and early menopause) and the phytoestrogens in soy can cause premature puberty (I’ve read horror stories of girls as young as 3 who’ve begun menstruating due to being fed soy formula as babies).

      As far as I’m concerned, veganism isn’t a ‘lifestyle’ – it’s an EATING DISORDER! I’m LCHF Palaeo – and have been for over 10 years. I’ve been criticised because I’m cutting out a whole food group – and so are you; the difference, however, is I’m cutting out a food group which can do me nothing but HARM – you’re cutting out a food group which can do you nothing but GOOD. As far as I’m concerned, veganism is a long, slow suicide; I’ve known at least 6 people who’ve killed themselves by being vegan. Lack of iron and B vitamins (particularly B12) leads at first to anaemia, then to liver damage, irreversible central nervous system damage and dementia.

      I suspect 2 things about you: – 1) you’re a kid (if you’re any older than 20/25, I’ll be VERY surprised) and/or 2) you’ve not been vegan long enough to experience malnutrition symptoms yet.

      Cows, sheep, pigs, goats, chickens, etc., are BRED to be eaten and, if they’ve been fed a natural diet and slaughtered humanely (halal slaughter is objectionably cruel as halal law dictates that an animal must be fully conscious when it’s killed) then I have no problem with it.

      However, it’s YOUR life, if you choose to slowly kill yourself that’s YOUR business; if however, you have kids and are raising them vegan, then that’s EVERYONE’S business, as that’s child abuse by malnutrition. Equally, if you have a carnivorous pet (a cat or a dog, for example) and are feeding it nothing but plants, that’s also everyone else’s business, as that’s animal cruelty.

      But provided you’re only killing yourself, go right ahead, darling… The lack of iron and B12 will catch up with you eventually…

      • I would like to add to Olena’s and Sarah’s conversation. I used to work at a natural food store like Whole Foods but a small chain. Their profit margin was based on supplements and we were all trained to sell as much as we could. They had “specialists” that would walk someone through all the supplements they needed, setting up appointments and making promises they could not keep.

        This store had wonderful grass fed beef and free range chicken and produce but it was all about the supplements. I was the deli manager and I talked with several women, with orange faces, anemic and gaunt, literally dying from veganism but refusing to do anything about it. Pass the carrot juice and wheat grass, good profit on that too.

        This was pre LCHF and in the deli we used lots of grains, flour, rice, farm raised salmon and pasta oh my. But we did have wonderful beef and chicken and vegetables,.

      • Olena S. says:

        Hi Sarah and everyone who is reading it,

        I am 41. I do eat fish twice a week. I do not take any supplements or vitamins. I feed my dog with raw meat, herbals, eggs, pumpkin, and bones. I have a daughter who is vegetarian, raised on regular diet until she was able to make conscientious choice at 19.

        I do vegan style for humanitarian reason, because I believe that I can make a difference by reminding people to feel compassion for any living creatures. Yes, my formula is not perfect, maybe never will be, but I am in search for the right answer and welcoming any opinion.

        In support to Kris, I would say that vegan style of eating obviously is not superior to any real diet, because vegan style is not a diet for any health reason but a spiritual choice, though for business reason, as Dona mentioned, vegan style become commercialized for “selling point”.

        It is wrong. Completely wrong as wrong as to sell Asceticism or Humanism.

      • Just so you know there are plenty of other iron sources out there besides spinach. For example:

        Legumes: lentils, soybeans, tofu, tempeh, lima beans.
        Grains: quinoa, fortified cereals, brown rice, oatmeal.
        Nuts and seeds: pumpkin, squash, pine, pistacio, sunflower, cashews, unhulled sesame.
        Vegetables: tomato sauce, swiss chard, collard greens.
        Other: blackstrap molasses, prune juice.

        Also by adding vitamin c rich foods and omega 3 rich foods with the above increases absorption rates. Also if meat was a great iron source then why are many meat eaters deficient? Is there something else going on?

        In regards to B12, animals get their B12 from consuming certain microorganisms found in soil and then become sources of B12. You can get B12 from nutritional yeast (fortified kinds) and fortified foods like soy milk. Or do you not agree in on supplementation?

        I do believe meat eaters supplement too. No amount of testing (especially ones who test subjects couldn’t even follow the diet properly) can convince me that eating foods suggested on the Atkins and cutting out nutrient dense foods can be good for ones health. And if one is serious about health and their food choices then they will follow through, unlike the test subjects. The jury is still out for me on either eating meat or not (still doing my research) but please please please don’t refer to studies following a rigid diet like Atkins or even Ornish when including all natural organic foods like fats, proteins and carbs is necessary for your body’s survival.

      • Foxy4Eva says:

        Sarcasm to get your point across shows arrogance and disrespect to the person you are addressing… I am not a vegetarian but I completely respect others point of view and more importantly I realize that what is great for one is not great for another… add your beliefs to a diet and there is no such thing as a perfect diet for everyone. One important factor I have noticed is that most vegetarians are much kinder, not only to animals but to all life forms… including sarcastic humans :)

      • Patrick Brett says:

        “Cows, sheep, pigs, goats, chickens, etc., are BRED to be eaten…”

        “…if you have a carnivorous pet (a cat or a dog, for example) and are feeding it nothing but plants, that’s also everyone else’s business, ***as that’s animal cruelty***.”

        Would you raise, slaughter and eat a cat or dog? Why/why not?

      • Ok, so feeding a dog a vegan diet is animal abuse…. but breeding and slaughtering billions of animals a year is absolutely fine? Just wondering, as a meat eater do you campaign for better conditions for the animals you eat? Or do you just like to think of them as your slaves? Because ya know, they’re just “bred to be eaten”, so obviously that makes them soul-less or something.

        Humans have zero dietary requirements for animal products. You can spin it whatever you want, but that’s the bottom line. Animals don’t produce B12 any more than we do. Paleo and plant-based diets can both be healthy because relatively speaking they both eat much much healthier than the standard diet of processed crap and junk, so both sides can produce health arguments.

        It’s funny that you try to demean the previous poster by claiming they must be a kid yet your reply reflects the maturity level of one.

        There’s a lot of anger and delusion in there, not to mention a complete disregard for the millions of healthy long-term vegans out there, and also the millions of people who have cured serious illnesses by adopting a plant-based diet. Maybe you should lay off the meat and relax for a bit.

    • Hey Sarah, there’s no need to be rude. If Olena is doing well and getting good results with the way she eats, then I see no reason to discourage her.

      I believe that some people can do fine on a vegetarian or vegan diet. I’ve got no reason to believe that everyone on those vegan blogs and message boards claiming they’ve seen health benefits are lying.

      The point of this article was NOT to bash anyone’s food choices, merely to debunk the myth that these diets are superior to low-carb diets, which is obviously complete nonsense and is scientifically proven to be false.

      To any vegans or vegetarians reading this, if you’re happy with the way you feel and you’re getting good results, then by all means continue to do so.

      Different strokes for different folks.

  7. Kris,

    How long have you NOT eaten sugar and done a low carb diet?

    How many pounds, inches and all changes have you made to your health? I have not seen you post that lately..

    Thank you- Love your blog.

    • I have not eaten any sugar or gluten since September 3rd, 2012.

      I’ve lost and maintained about 25 pounds and 6 inches off my waist.

      Haven’t been too strict on my diet in the past few weeks though, been eating some peanut butter, fruits and potatoes here and there…. but I’m planning on “cutting” a bit before summer so now I’ve reduced my carb intake again below 50 grams per day.

  8. “Relative risk of drop-out: 22,3% / 11,7% = 1,9 – meaning that the Ornish dieters were 90% more likely to drop out of the study.”

    Kris! How many times do I have to tell you; we don’t use commas for decimal places!

    Plus I think your original statement of “almost twice as likely not to make it to the end of the study.” is more accurate interpretation of the data. It’s a simple 2 to 1 ratio.

    Even better would be “The Ornish diet has double the dropout rates of the Atkins diet”.

    :P

  9. I’ve been a vegetarian for a few years. I actually didn’t realize it for sometime, but I had just naturally gravitated toward eating fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and limited grains. I very rarely ate meat because it gave me extreme gas, along with most dairy products. So, of course, I avoided them.

    But when I did decide I wanted to “diet” I choked down chicken and turkey and beef and went “low-carb” in hopes of being trim and healthy. What I realized was that I hated what I ate. So I would go off of the diet and eat what I liked, feel better, but essentially gain wt because I would binge on bread, crackers, candy, ect.

    Once I graduated from college, dietetics from MSU, I realized that being happy was key. Who cares if I’m a size zero. I just ate what I liked and it was mostly beans, nuts, fruits, veggies, and non gluten grains. I didn’t even crave those sugary things because I could eat the things that satisfied me. My tummy loved me. I got rid of my chronic indigestion, constipation, irritability, and sinus issues. Weird, right?

    I’m not a vegan, but I don’t over-do dairy because it can disrupt my happy colon and if I get a craving for meat I will eat it. It has happened twice and both times I remembered why as a child I pushed pot roast around my plate until I was dismissed from the table. Oh, and I am a healthy 117 pounds. It used to be a struggle, now that is where my body naturally “hangs out”. And I am happy.

    Also, I just take a multivitamin. No iron supplements. I check my hemoglobin at work regularly and last week it was 13.1—yay!

    Eat healthy, but also eat what makes you feel good :)

    • I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you. That’s what it’s all about.

    • Indeed – diet and being happy are a very, very large correlation.

      Also, side tangent. Supposedly only approximately 5g of protein/ 2 lb. body weight is needed for a moderately healthy human being.

      Unsure if this is true – was something about too many proteins being potentially harmful to longevity or healthy years (much more useful barometer than longevity potentially – healthy and lively at 50 or aging rapidly? Even if with both options one lives to be 90-ish.). But, that might be based on Calorie Restriction, which is not necessarily terribly effective for human beings.

      However, if true, very much smaller amounts of meat are necessary to maintain adequate nutrition on a Paleo-like or low-carb-like diet. Many Paleo diets actually revolve around a large amount of good fats (non-rancid, good omega 3:omega 6 ratios, ~1:1 or >1:1 in total, favoring omega 3′s, good-quality saturated fats, and care taken towards heat- and light- rancidity of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, both unstable.)

      So, smaller portions of meat/protein in general, and perhaps foods in general, so long as they are high-quality, are most likely satiating. :-).

      Eating large quantities of protein or any quantity of poor-quality protein (non-pastured, or grain-fed ruminants) can be quite uncomfortable.

      Also, other side-tangent: Fish and sea-foods could be a very good protein source if one is wanting proteins from animals and finds other meats objectionable.

      Interestingly, the mercury content in fish is actually not necessarily a problem in the large sense in which it’s been portrayed.

      Supposedly, healthy gut flora (rampantly an important problem throughout westernized diet countries) and an adequate intake of selenium (which is an important mineral for overall health and fertility [motile sperm, etc.], and also very commonly deficient in Western diets), which many fish –e.g. tunas– contain large amounts of, protects one from and even scavenges extra mercury.

      Selenium : mercury scavenging & healthy gut flora seems potentially really important.

      Seafood also seems like a very interesting, potentially important source of nourishment for brain, and overall health.

      Will post link for beginning research on mercury in seafood not necessarily being a problem.

      • @Sarah, reading your reaction to the ‘vegan’ diet prompts me to reply. I second that based on what I have learned from my university nutrition classes. I particularly remember ‘phylate” and ‘oxalic acid’ when I did my assignment on designing a meal plan for patients with kidney disease.

        Do you have a scientific citation that I can refer to for ‘phylate’? I am already convinced about oxalic acid & its effects on patients with kidney disease. (I am also prepared to get comments that I am brainwashed by textbook nutrition, and that’s fine). Thanks.

    • Here is the link regarding fish being nourishing, and scavenging mercury:

      “Should We Avoid Fish Because of Mercury Part 1 by Green Pasture”

      http://www.greenpasture.org/fermented-cod-liver-oil-butter-oil-vitamin-d-vitamin-a/should-we-avoid-fish-because-of-mercury-part-1/?ndrx=99

  10. Hi Kris,

    Just wanted to thank you for the great info yet again. I don’t know why people feel the need to send nasty-ish and very over defensive responses each time you post a new topic.

    If you don’t agree- stop reading the blog. Or better yet- start your own informative, researched base website that supports your chosen eating style.

    I know we are all entitled to our own opinions, but seriously, it’s the same thing over and over. I envy your determination to spread the word and patience with dealing with the negativity it brings. I hope you do take particular note of the positive comments, as those of us who beleive the same things (based on evidence and how we feel individually) know that you are helping people, and giving us the motivation and support to keep living life LCHF.

    Have a great day.

    • Thank you, Sam.

      Nutrition is always a touchy subject, right up there with religion and politics. I think that’s why discussions about diet can get so heated… but I’m used to it.

      • I think the issue is actually your hyper-defensive use of the word propaganda all over the article. Your article is informative but hardly neutral.

  11. For people who are interested in reading a different perspective of studies addressing vegetarian diets and a critique of Denise Minger’s China Study posts, please access my posts from the links below.

    http://healthylongevity.blogspot.com/2012/08/forks-over-knives-and-healthy-longevity.html

    http://healthylongevity.blogspot.com/2013/02/diet-heart-vegetarian-diets.html

    • Well, at the end of the day the China Study IS an observational study, as are most of the studies I’ve seen supporting vegetarian/vegan diets. Observational studies generally don’t hold much value if we already have randomized controlled trials showing the opposite result.

      I’m sure vegetarian and vegan diets can be healthy for some people, primarily because they remove toxic foods like added sugars, refined grains, trans fats, etc. but I also believe that they would be even healthier including at least a little bit of meat, fish and eggs.

      I’ll check out your links in greater detail some time today.

      • Well there are not exactly many RCTs measuring hard end points in people following LCHF diets. Furthermore, you seem to claim that raising HDL is beneficial even though RCTs cast doubt on the proposed benefits of simply raising HDL. For example, a meta-analysis of 108 RCTs found that HDL had little appreciable effect on the risk of heart disease or all-cause mortality after controlling for LDL. Similar results were found in a recent meta-analysis of mendelian randomization studies. (References provided in my posts)

        This post has little to do with effect of a vegetarian or an Ornish diet because the participants in the study you have selected never adhered to these diets. One only needs to as much as look at the dietary composition and changes to LDL cholesterol in this study to know as much. Here is another RCT that compared Atkins and Ornish during weight maintenance. The 16.6% reduction in LDL cholesterol in the absence of weight loss among participants following the Ornish diet suggests at least adherence was a bit better in this study.
        http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002822308023365

        I’m not sure if that was the study that John Staunton was referring to regarding reduced blood flow on an Atkins diet that you simply passed off as “vegan propaganda”. If it is not then they may have been referring to the following paper.
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11108325

        • The study I cited is representative of real world results, like I stated in the article. In real life, people aren’t housed and fed, they buy a diet book and make a commitment to stick to a diet. In this case, they even got some counseling to advise them on how to follow each diet.

          The study shows results typical for a person who decides to go either on the Atkins or the Ornish diet, and the results are very clearly in favor of Atkins.

          The first study you reference is very tiny. Only 18 people made it to the end of the study and only 4 weeks on each diet. It’s impossible to make any inferences from such a small study. Plus the Atkins diet is not practiced ad libidum, like it is supposed to, they are being deliberately overfed to prevent weight loss.

          The study I mentioned in the article is much, much larger and went on for a year.

          The second study… a quick glance seems to reveal a diet with 15% protein, 70% carbohydrate? How is that relevant to Atkins?

          The studies used to support veganism and refute low-carb diets are usually observational studies, animal studies (on animals that have vastly different diets from humans) or cherry picked controlled trials that are often tampered with (such as overfeeding on Atkins, or a 70% carb diet used as if it has any relevance to Atkins).

          It’s pseudoscience. Then when you get a high quality large RCT study in humans with *very clear results that prove you are wrong* then you try to make excuses why the study is wrong.

          Take a look at this page:
          http://authoritynutrition.com/randomized-controlled-trials-in-nutrition/

          There is a plethora of randomized controlled trials in humans showing immense benefits and an outstanding safety profile for low-carbohydrate diets. In almost every case, they come out ahead of low-fat diets. That is a scientific fact, period.

          Even the Woman’s Health Initiative, the largest RCT ever on nutrition in humans, shows that fat reduction and greater emphasis on plants (grains, fruits, vegetables… a low-fat diet) leads to zero benefits, both for weight loss and cardiovascular disease risk.

          • “animal studies (on animals that have vastly different diets from humans)”. Which animal models are you suggesting that vegetarians refer to and which animal models do you believe are the most appropriate for studying human disease? I am very interested in your opinion on this.

            Like Ornish pointed out in his reply to this study, many people require more support in order to adhere to a diet of foods that they are unfamiliar with. To suggest that this study shows that an animal-based low-carb diet is superior in terms of health to a higher-carbohydrate plant based diet as some of the headings in the article suggested is misleading. Such diets were never adhered to.

            The RCTs that you cite do not measure hard end points (ie. CVD and cancer) and therefore cannot be used to claim the long term safety of such diets nor used to refute all other lines of evidence. From what I can tell the RCTs that you cite do not compare low-carb diets with very high fiber diets such as that advocated by Ornish. This is not simply an excuse as there is a plethora of evidence demonstrating that refined sugar has very different effects on health than for example compared to berries.

            Even a panel of leading diet-heart experts that was heavily funded by the meat and dairy industries stated:
            “In fact, it is not very meaningful to discuss high-fat compared with low-fat or carbohydrate diets if one does not concomitantly consider the carbohydrate quality used or consumed in the population under study.”
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3138219/

            The adherence to the diet prescribed in the Womens Health Initiative was poor, and as Walter Willett pointed out, even then the participant’s were likely over-reporting compliance. The risk of CHD among participants without baseline CVD in the intervention group was 0.94 (0.86-1.02) despite consuming significantly more sugar. As the researchers reported:
            “Trends toward greater reductions in CHD risk were observed in those with lower intakes of saturated fat or trans fat or higher intakes of vegetables/fruits”

      • Jenna O says:

        The China Study is a epidemiological study and covers a vast amount or variables. The conclusions are also supported by 27 years of laboratory research. There are many methodologies used to research the role nutrition plays in disease and I would argue that the randomized control study you sited if quite flawed. Controlling people’s dietary behaviors in trials proves very difficult rather than observing in detail the habits already practiced and comparing that with disease rates.

  12. I’m an ovo-lacto-vegetarian that eats low-carb. I don’t think low-carb is related to the fact that I don’t eat meat. I love fat cheese and greasy salads. :))

  13. I stumbled across this site and enjoyed it until I got to the comments section. I am quite disgusted at how aggressive the comments are against people who make different choices with their lives and bodies. I’m genuinely baffled at how certain people seem to almost take it as a personal insult that someone else does not eat meat. Is it because it makes them feel defensive?

    Sarah, your shouty capitals and naked contempt can’t have won many people over to your way of thinking in the past. So you’ve found a lifestyle that works for you – congrats and well done! Perhaps now it’s time to work on practicing respect for other human beings.

  14. Lol. It’s unsurprising that my comment didn’t survive the moderation, but you’re happy to publish those that are in line with your own beliefs – even those that are vicious and self-satisfied. The fact that you cry propaganda so freely is an example of pure, perfect irony. Enjoy your hypocrisy!

    • Uhh… you left the comment at 5:20 am while I was asleep, then you comment again at 7:29 am, claiming that your comment didn’t make it through moderation?

      I don’t allow rude or aggressive comments here, I decided to let Sarah’s comments through because it added to the conversation about nutrient deficiencies and whatnot.

  15. Oops! Wrongly guessed you were on GMT. Apologies.

  16. Kris, this crap is not going to fly with me. I like this article you wrote to defend your way of eating. I’m really surprised you bet your life on this one study. Plus, who knows how much vegan junk foods and nuts those people were eating.

    Weight loss reduces obesity and can improve other aspects of the body at the same time. (Almost all weight loss from any diet will show improved scores). Especially if the test subjects were eating so pathetically bad BEFORE going on a low-carb meat diet, well of course there will be an improvement.

    But try switching a person living on a Organic whole foods plant-based diet to a Atkins diet eating Sausage, cheese, eggs and bacon. You will have an entirely different result.

    Sorry man, I know you like the meat but in the long term animal products will hurt you bad.

    • Minor but important point re: whole foods.

      Three of the foods mentioned are often highly processed: sausage (very, very often full of many additives, even when higher-quality meats, or poorer-quality meats with even more additives – possible to find high-quality at cost and with effort), cheese (non-raw, pasteurized, additives), and bacon (very very often cured with salts with caking agents, sugars, and nitrites/nitrates – also possible to find pure, but difficult, and potentially at cost).

      Processed fats and proteins are often very harmful, and perhaps even a large contributor to this idea of “greasy, unpalatable, bad animal-foods…”?

      Even lards or butters are often not pure, pastured/wild or grass-fed, and contain additives or are pasteurized.

      Fresh, pure, pastured, grass-fed, or wild whole-food proteins living in sunlight are very, very different from non-grass-fed, unhealthy proteins, or even those processed with additives.

      Just some grass to chew on… :-)

    • Dan Egan says:

      Mark,

      Great that this crap of citing actual scientific research will not fly with you. Could you show us the studies of people on an organic plant diet switching to a more paleo-esque diet?

      And I don’t think Kris is suggesting sausage as a primary meat. In fact, he suggests all throughout this site clean and renewable grass-fed meat, which is entirely different in its makeup to processed corn-fed meat.

      Disagree all you want, but please let’s talk science here. Not just a “Nanaboo-I don’t believe you!”

  17. Kris,
    If we are going to say “X” diet is BAD (i.e. doesn’t work, shouldn’t be considered) because lots of people fail to stay on it… is missing the point. The first step is define your goal.

    If the goal is to live a long time, disease free- then eating the standard American diet whose foundation is factory produced meat, highly refined carbohydrates and sparse in fruits and vegetables – then prepare to fail. No matter how much you exercise and supplement.

    If a short term reduction of bodyfat is your goal, there are several options to choose from- all equally effective.

    However, for the growing number of Americans whose family history and current symptoms of illness are consistent with heart disease, Dr. Ornish and Dr. Esselstyn have clinical evidence of the benefits of a strict vegan diet–it reverses even severe coronary disease. Esselstyn describes eating animal products for those folks- like “pouring gasoline on a fire; simply pouring on less gas (eating meats less often) won’t put out the fire.”

    So for highly motivated people (those who wish to avoid sudden death from heart attack or those who already heard the MD say: “sorry, you are going to die from this”) an entirely vegan diet, with no added fats/oils is a reasonable choice. An Atkins approach is NOT. I don’t want readers of your post, to misundertand your conclusion.

    By the way, Randomized Clinical Trials have limitations too; the lack of long term follow-up for the health status in all the dieters is the main weakness in your referenced study. In studies that rely on self reported dietary compliance- both poor memory and the tendency to under-report their bad food choices, while overestimating good food selections are potentially biasing.

    My advice is to choose lifestyle modifications on results of longer term studies- since your betting your life on it.
    To your health!

    • These vegan docs that you speak of have no such proof. But one thing they are good at is brainwashing people.

      Low-carb diets come out ahead of the diets they are compared to, every time. This includes vegan diets. That’s what counts, period.

      If you claim otherwise, then please show me the evidence. Randomized controlled trials ARE evidence, animal studies or observational studies are not.

      Btw, the plural of anecdote is not evidence, no matter how many docs say that it is true. Remember that there are also plenty of docs who practice low-carb diets and also claim that these diets can reverse many chronic diseases.

      I’m not totally against vegan diets, but some of the claims made by the vegan docs (and their followers) just aren’t at all proven and in some cases, proven to be false (such as their claims that low-carb diets cause harm).

      But I don’t expect to change your mind. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

      • Oh they have proof, you just choose to ignore it.

        • I choose to ignore it? No, actually I have looked behind the wild claims to see if they actually have evidence to back them up, so far I have found next to nothing. I suggest you do the same.

          As far as I know, this is Esselstyn’s only “scientific proof”:

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7500065

          Only 22 participants, no control group and they used large doses of statins? How is this study supposed to conclude anything about diet?

          I don’t know how much you know about science, but this is far from being proof. A study without a control group proves nothing. Low-carb diets, which the vegan docs hate and claim are unhealthy, have a lot more evidence behind them. See here: http://authoritynutrition.com/23-studies-on-low-carb-and-low-fat-diets/

          You can argue the ethical perspective about eating animals (which I personally disagree with), but saying that vegan diets are proven to be healthy, or that low-carb diets are unhealthy, is complete nonsense.

  18. Carol Stimmel says:

    Interesting discussion. I was a vegetarian for many years, beginning in college. It was an ethical decision, but I didn’t take care to eat a balanced diet and went back to eating meat until very recently. Without going into the gory details, I was just not feeling well. I now eat as many raw vegetables and low-glycemic fruits as I want, avoid gluten as much as possible, and stick with whole, living and organic foods (also, no caffeine, alcohol or tobacco products). I don’t eat flesh anymore, but will eat eggs or dairy on that rare occasion, usually when I’m out with friends.

    I’ve lost 25 pounds, have wonderful energy, and enjoy high mental clarity. And yes, I take vitamins and herbal supplements, though less and less often as my body is restored and healed from years of nutritional abuse. This is all a long way of saying, that I have learned that eating consciously is really the key. I now eat to live, rather than living to eat. Whatever diet you choose, I hope it is a sustainable one.

  19. I’d like to share that as late as 2010 (?), the American Dietetic Association approves of vegetarian diets as being suitable for all (with proper meal planning). [I respect the opinions of others who don't need to adhere to any association positions for academic or professional accreditation requirements].

  20. To “debunk” something, you would need facts… Otherwise it’s just your opinion.

    [the China Study] “was an observational study conducted by a biased scientist who was madly in love with his theories. […] The data from the china study has been analyzed by objective scientists and they discovered that the data in it did NOT support the author’s conclusions.”

    Should I just take your word for it? Since you have no evidence whatsoever to back that up… Did you even read that book? Because if you did, you should know that although the actual China study is the center piece of the book, there are many controlled laboratory experiments also detailed in the book which, by the way, was written by an actual scientist, with a resume to back it up. What’s your credential?

    If you can’t give up bacon, that’s one thing, and I feel for you… But don’t try to justify your addiction by spreading lies.

    • Not spreading lies, just pointing out facts.

      The study I referred to in the article is real science… the stuff that the china study was made of isn’t the type of science that can prove cause and effect in humans.

    • Dan Egan says:

      Are you familiar with the French paradox? The French eat much higher amounts of saturated animal fat in their diets and yet have much lower rates of heart disease and obesity than we do.

  21. Jeannie says:

    Kris, thanks for such an interesting discussion. I like your style. Here’s my story to add to the mix. I have been a vegetarian since I was 13 (I’m now 41) purely for ethical reasons. Never cared about my health; I just hate the way we treat factory farmed animals. Went vegan for a couple of years, but could not sustain.

    Felt fine physically – it was just so damned hard to follow. Now have moved in the other direction – eat fish and back to dairy, and following low carb. I love it, cuz it has allowed me to lose those extra ten pounds that I could never seem to part with throughout my 20′s and 30′s.

    Also, reducing sugar consumption has nearly eliminated hunger cravings. I do have a lot of guilt still about no longer being vegan/vegetarian. At least there are so many organic and kinder-to-animal options out there now!

  22. It’s an interesting blog and discussion, thanks.

    I’m a vegetarian, mostly for ethical reasons, although I’ve never particularly enjoyed meat. I do like organic/welfare eggs though. I see less of an ethical problem with the Paleo style, grass fed meat consumption as the welfare standards tend to be much better. It would seem difficult to feed billions on this kind of diet though, it seems pretty unsustainable to me.

    I’m sure Ornish would respond to your evidence by saying, he doesn’t dispute low carb can lead to weight loss but believes it will harm your health, as a result. I’m sure he’d also mention that his work is supported by studies from the highest quality peer-reviewed journals?

    The study you reference may be one that was discussed in a round table with Ornish, Taubes and another doctor, a while back, I think.

    Not that I’m an Ornish follower really, his diet is too restrictive to be realistic for most people. Many people find low carb, too restrictive also.

    I think, that most people who successfully lead a healthier lifestyle and lose weight, do so in a holistic fashion. Where diet is one component, but motivated by something larger. Finding enthusiasm for sport is a typical example. Often they don’t follow some strict formalised diet anyway.

    As for why we’re fat. I think Ornish, Taubes and the lot of them are barking up the wrong tree. Food reward theory is much closer, and part of the truth. Higher incomes, cheaper food and very effective, systematic marketing by the food industry; selling higher volumes through larger packaging and deals, is the main reason. Brian Wansink can tell us more about why we’re fat than any of the diet gurus.

    • “I’m sure Ornish would respond to your evidence by saying, he doesn’t dispute low carb can lead to weight loss but believes it will harm your health, as a result. I’m sure he’d also mention that his work is supported by studies from the highest quality peer-reviewed journals?”

      The low-carb dieters in the study also had drastic improvements in most health markers, overall Ornish did the worst in this regard.

      Low-carb diets are also supported by studies published in respected peer-reviewed medical journal. Overall, there is MUCH more evidence for low-carb compared to vegan diets.

      • Hi Kris

        Thanks again for the site, and your reply. I like that you provide interesting evidence.

        I had a look at the video where they discussed the results, though I have not read the study. I light of the discussion of the study I think It’s a little unfair to suggest that the Ornish diet fared poorly. As really the Ornish diet was never studied here. The researcher explained that participants couldn’t keep to Ornishs’ recommendations and they actually followed was closer to standard dietary advice.

        That in itself I see as criticism of Ornish, that his diet is unrealistic, but a different one.

        Ornish has shown that his program (not just the diet ofc) can reverse heart disease, which is not something to be sniffed at. I’m not aware of any such evidence supporting low carb in these cases, though I’d be happy to see some?

        I think it’s interesting that low carb diets fare so well in the health markers, as is supported by other evidence on your site. It challenges much of the conventional orthodoxy on diet and health. This would seem to bode well for the long term effects of LC. Yet as a meta-analysis you reference elsewhere states, this at present, remains unknown.

        It concerns me that many diet promoters, LC, vegan or whatever, seem to be selling a lifestyle and associated products; although I see you aren’t. Evidence and common sense can be easily ignored when this happens. It also seems that the psychological and sociological influences on weight and health are often sidelined.

  23. Emily Webb says:

    This is really interesting stuff, I guess one diet doesn’t suit all and we have to enjoy what we eat too!! I’m only 16 but I have such a food/diet obsession, I went through a stage in my life where I ate a large quantity of dairy, cheese, full fat yogurt etc for about a month, a load of carbs and barely any fruit or veg.

    It was a very bad idea and after that I was so worried about heart attacks and all that stuff the media talk about that I avoided fat (saturated fat was the enemy) and became a near vegan, not touching meat (only fish) and only eating 0% fat yogurt and egg white omeletes which never left me feeling full and satisfied.

    Of course, I was eating loads of pulses and was always into the latest health fads, there I was drinking coconut water at school and bringing in bulgur wheat lunch pots whilst everyone else ate their pot noodles.

    But I just didn’t understand it because there I was eating, what I thought was the healthiest diet ever, kidney bean mash, raw food bars and tofu and orange spinach salad were regulars, yet I felt awful and didn’t feel or look healthy. It’s all so confusing! I just want to eat the healthiest diet possible so I can prevent all those degenerative diseases!

    Things went bad. I developed IBS (which I’ve been told is because of a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and I’m getting tested for), which stopped me going in to school sometimes, felt tired all the time, had menstrual irregularities and on top of that a big outbreak of acne.

    So I am currently on the FODMAPS diet which is going fairly well and I’ve incorporated more fish into my diet and eggs! For the first time in months I’ve eaten a whole egg and for once I felt satisfied and full after the meal, and nourished. However, I am a firm believer that your body is a voice and if it needs something, then it should be given it.

    I am on a diet right now that is dealing with my IBS but it’s hard sometimes not to eat eggs and stuff and not be worried about heart attacks and cholesterol. But I still can’t stop going on the computer researching diets and what is the best diet for me and I’ll be spinning around in a world of paleo diets, raw vegan, vegan, macrobiotic… I’m still really confused about what is the best for my body!

  24. Very interesting discussion. Kris, I respect the fact that while you have your preference of eating styles, you accept that different things work for different people.

    One thing that seems to be missing is that whether you eat low carb or vegan or whatever in between, the focus should be on whole foods free from processing, additives, pesticides, hormones, etc for optimal health. Do what makes you feel good. Personally, I am very successful on low carb diets but they are hard for me to sustain. Vegan diets are hard too. So, for me it’s about moderation.

  25. Just found this blog tonight and must contribute. I’m 48 years old and a 5’10 female. While I have been heavy most of my adult life, I recently lost 161 pounds, 91 of which have been lost since September, 1st, 2012. About 28 years ago I adopted a vegan lifestyle which I maintained for 4 years. I was all about Dean Ornish ;)

    I never felt worse. I was completely lethargic, had terrible looking skin and developed digestive issues. I finally stopped and for many years ate whatever I wanted and gained up to 376 pounds…and no….that is not a typo! The more I read about the science behind low carb the more I felt that this was something I could do long term.

    Eating a low carb, moderate protein, high fat diet is how I have effortlessly lost 161 (as of this morning) pounds. Effortlessly you ask? Yes. I have no cravings, eat until I’m satisfied and have never been happier in my adult life. When I went in for my physical my physician walked eight past me in the lobby and didn’t even recognize me..that was awesome!

    She asked how I lost so much weight and I told her and she told me how unhealthy “low carb” was. When my lipid panel came back, I Thought she was going to die right there on the spot as my numbers have never looked better. She was truly in shock.

    I don’t follow any specific plan, but I do incorporate healthy fats, quality (but fatty) proteins and lots of veggies. LOTS of veggies, oh, and dairy. I don’t eat sugar, flour, grains of any kind, starchy veggies or artificial sweeteners and I do eat nuts. I don’t track my food but eyeball around 20 to 30 carbs per day.

    Personally, I find there is such a disconnect between what people THINK is low car and what low carb really is. Someone in a post above said something about being on Atkins and eating nothing but bacon, eggs and cheese. Really? Such a very old stereotype. My menu today was cottage cheese and sliced tomato, chicken ceasar salad for lunch and grilled halibut with grilled veggies for dinner….don’t I sound deprived?

  26. A recent article in the AARP magazine discusses Bill Clinton’s “life saving” vegan diet. Does this article do a disservice to the many seniors reading it?

    The diet detailed in the article in very high in vegetables with only a moderate amount of fruit. It also appears he avoids processed foods. Although he calls himself a vegan, buried in the article is a sentence that he eats salmon and an omelet once a week to maintain muscle mass, iron, etc.

    A discerning reader (which many seniors are not) will note that his diet is low carb, absent of processed food and includes some animal protein. It is clear that going vegan was only one of many changes made to his diet after the heart issues. Yet, the mainstream media only focuses on the change to veganism.

  27. This is not a fair comparison. Vegan or vegetarian is not a carb vs. fat battle. I would like to see a comparison where the vegan eats a lot a healthful fats- NOT A LOW-FAT DIET. I bet the results would be a lot more similar to the Atkins results than the Ornish results, plus you wouldn’t increasing your chance of cancer and heart disease down the road.

  28. I’ve tried being a vegetarian, I’ve done Paleo, Weight Watchers, and Atkins. I gained weight as a vegetarian because I kept craving carbs and eating way too many grains. I lost some weight on WW but I was always hungry and couldn’t stay with it. For my body, I’ve learned I have to cut the carbs to lose weight.

    My husband and I started Atkins in Jan 2011. Within six months he had lost 60 pounds and has maintained it since then, and recently chose to drop another 5 pounds which he did quickly. I lost 60 pounds and then hit a plateau, and I haven’t lost appreciably since then, only very slow losses, but I haven’t gained weight back.

    I have multiple medical issues which make weight loss difficult for me. However, after two weeks of Atkins I was able to go off my Metformin and my sugar was completely normal, my triglycerides are now normal, and my HDL is in the high normal range. LDL was still high but I started eating coconut oil and coconut milk a few months ago and cutting out all dairy, and the LDL is now coming down.

    I eat lots of veggies every day, and a few fruits occasionally. I limit my protein, as Atkins advises, to no more than 4-6 oz. per meal, and I consume at least 12-15 g of net carbs of foundation veggies daily. (That’s an average of two large salads and two cups of cooked veggies.) Those include everything from salads to pumpkin to eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, greens, broccoli, cabbage… the list is huge. I just can’t eat starchy or root veggies at this time until I near my goal weight, and legumes do not agree with me so I never eat them.

    My husband is already at goal and can eat small quantities of anything but he still eats mainly what I eat with more varieties of fruits and veggies added to his plate. I eat small quantities of berries, melon, and cherries, and a handful of nuts daily or nut butter. I eat one or two eggs each morning with a slice of bacon, half a cup of sauteed mushrooms, and half a fresh tomato.

    I make flaxmeal bread or almond meal bread instead of wheat or corn bread. In the autumn I switch to paleo eating so I can enjoy more seasonal foods such as apples and butternut squash even though my weight loss completely stops during that time. After the holidays I go back to Atkins which is more restricted but I manage my weight better and see small losses.

    I don’t care what type of eating someone else does. If something’s not working for you, try something else and keep trying until you find what works best for you. If you’re vegan for ethical reasons, I applaud your willingness to show the courage of your convictions. I don’t like killing animals, but it’s a choice I’ve made in my life in order to eat meat.

    There’s no need to bash anyone else for their choices, but I’ll sing the praises of what works for me in hopes it might help someone else who struggles with the same things I did. Vegans do the same because it works for them. I have no problem with that as long as they don’t bash me for doing what’s best for me.

    I live on a farm and we raise our own beef, pork, and lamb humanely on pasture, and we raise a large garden and have a small orchard so it’s easy for me to follow Atkins as it should be followed. My cousin is vegan and she eats mostly potato chips and veggie burgers. I don’t think that’s healthy. But she could do it the healthy way if she was willing to cook for herself. My daughter’s friend is vegan and she cooks wonderful meals for herself and her children, and she allows them to choose to eat meat with their father if they wish.

    Some people try to do Atkins by eating only fast food burgers minus the bun and Atkins bars. I think that’s the problem with many of the diets when people say they don’t work or aren’t healthy – everyone wants quick, easy, fast food. If we are to eat healthy, we need to eat real food, cooked a healthy way. Whether it’s vegan, low-carb, or low-fat there’s no shortcut to good nutrition.

    It doesn’t take long to throw a pork chop, beef patty, or chicken breast in the skillet to brown and finish cooking it in the oven, put together a salad, and heat some broccoli or green beans. Whip a little coconut milk, add a few raspberries, and dessert is done, too. It’s the same for my vegan friends, – one serves a variety of fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains versus the other who eats whatever she can grab and heat in the microwave or open from a bag.

    Personally I think it’s all the processed food that got many of us into trouble in the first place. None of our diets are going to be healthy until we get back to the basics and eat some real food.

    My husband and I have found that the longer we stay low-carb, the less food we seem to need to feel full. I’m glad we found what works for us, which in our case happens to be Atkins. Our doctor is ecstatic at our lab numbers which we get checked twice a year, so we have decided this is our permanent way of eating.

  29. Low carb and high protein ruins your kidneys in the long run. Plus, you age much faster, all the long term Atkins diet followers that I know look horribly old. No thank you, mostly raw vegan diet for me. Youthfulness, vibrancy and amazing health, that is the reward of a mostly raw vegan diet.

  30. Yeah, I’m going to have to agree with Mike S (couple posts above me) on this one. Your article seems to equate having a vegan diet to having a low-fat, high-carb diet:

    “This is scientific evidence, as good as it gets, that low-carb diets (that include meat) are superior to vegan diets…”

    Which is not necessarily true. To be scientifically correct the above excerpt should have said “to a low-fat, high-carb vegan diet.”

  31. You can still eat a low-carb diet as a Vegan and Vegetarian…

  32. Vegevoracious says:

    A real life study of one:

    Super high carb (vegetables, funghi and salads, no starchy root veg);
    Super high fat (seeds such as nuts or pulses or grasses, all unprocessed ie soaked and boiled whole).
    Super high protein (seaweeds and one egg every day plus the carb and fat combos which deliver proteins, no other animal products).

    Fruit fills in the gaps, but to up the protein and fat ante during heavier exercise periods without compromising the restricted calories, it’s the first to be reduced.

    No processed oils, no supplements, no processed anything unless being lazy and reaching for the tofu instead of the whole soybeans. Everything organic. Around 1300 cals per day. Some days higher some days lower. Caffeine is just a fact of life, but alcohol doesn’t figure too often. Cacao nibs are one of life’s pleasures!

    I’m fifty, 18% body fat, train endurance an hour an a half five days a week, and weigh 51kg at 165cm. Vital stats (blood values etc) having been measured in both Asian and European countries and been considered optimal.

    Hardly statistically significant, but the point is that being vegetarian or vegan isn’t about being high carb and not high anything else. High fat and high protein from organic unprocessed plant sources are equally possible. The issue is the type of carb (starchy, refined etc) combined with a change in ratio of fats, increased trans-fats, increased calories overall, increased sedentary lifestyle etc. That is what causes the problems.

    If the rule of thumb was walk twenty minutes a day and eat twenty different unprocessed foods (with different colours as well), everybody would probably be a lot healthier. Although I doubt there have been any RCTs on that :D

  33. Thanks to Kris for posting this article and for opening things up for a “healthy” discussion. There are some reasonable ideas presented by both sides and some very helpful “factual” information, backed up by research.

    I in particular can relate to the posting by Anders and have had a number of health issues, including struggling with weight loss as well. Knowledge and persistence is key to healing your body and becoming the healthy as you can be. It is always a work in progress, but the positive results are worth the effort.

    Regardless of the direction your choices take you, and as Anders said above: “There’s no need to bash anyone else for their choices, but I’ll sing the praises of what works for me in hopes it might help someone else who struggles with the same things I did. Vegans do the same because it works for them. I have no problem with that as long as they don’t bash me for doing what’s best for me.”

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  34. Karl Wheatley says:

    Interestingly, you are right and Caldwell Esselstyn and Dean Ornish are also right.

    You are right that diets have been called “low-fat” (but that have lots of processed food and have around 20-37% calories from fat) have not yielded great results in research studies. These disappointing results include RCT studies and high-profile studies such as Women’s Health Initiative and the 2013 Spanish study which had two variations of the Mediterranean diet against a 37% calories from fat diet that was essentially the SAD diet but was oddly labeled “low-fat.”

    Esselstyn and Ornish are right that truly low-fat (7-12% calories from fat) whole-food, plant-based diets have yielded excellent (even life-changing) results in multiple research studies, including RCTs, and including dramatic results for weight loss, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more.

    It’s worth noting that the “low-fat” diets that didn’t do so well have double to quadruple times the amount of fat that people eat on the truly low-fat diets that have done so well in many research studies.

    Amusingly, given the lack of a clear definition of “low-fat,” we are now in the position where low-fat diets have proven that (faux) “low-fat” diets don’t work very well. For example, a truly low-fat plant-based diet has outperformed the AHA and ADA diets dramatically, for example, yielding heart and diabetes outcomes 50-300% better than the ADA diet.

    Other studies show that low-carb and truly low-fat diets (if actually followed) work equally well for weight loss in the short run, but the low-carb diet worked significantly less well for arterial stiffness. This fits with other research findings the best outcomes for arteries have been found on truly low-fat, whole food, plant-based diets. Another research review found the lowest BMI coming from the lowest fat diets, and still other research raises profound questions about the long-term effects of Atkins for weight loss (or other health outcomes). Indeed, even though the Stanford study was very weak, and basically shows the effects of sorta’ maybe following the two diets, the trend line at the end for Atkins shows significant weight gain–a trajectory that would soon wash out any initial advantages for weight loss from sorta doing Atkins.

    The China Study itself is old news now, but there were many other studies embedded in that book (observational and experimental), and that have been done in recent years, that support the proposition that truly low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diets yield not just great health outcomes, but better health outcomes than found with much higher levels of fat or protein or animal products. We also now have experimental studies on the immediate effects of eating fatty meals on arterial functioning and inflammation.

    So, if “low-fat” diets refers to diets with 25-35% calories from fat and ample processed foods, nope, those don’t work very well (although there are some trends towards benefits at the low-fat end of that spectrum, as revealed in the Women’s Health Initiative Study).

    However, if by “low-fat” you mean truly low-fat (7-12% calories from fat) whole-food, plant-based diets, the research evidence supporting those diets is remarkable, and growing, and includes benefits I have not seen with any other diets (including quite reliable reversal of arterial blockage). And yes, these folks eat a LOT of carbs, but more on the whole-food starchy end of the spectrum.

    • Hey Karl, thanks for the comment.

      “Esselstyn and Ornish are right that truly low-fat (7-12% calories from fat) whole-food, plant-based diets have yielded excellent (even life-changing) results in multiple research studies, including RCTs, and including dramatic results for weight loss, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more.”

      I’ve had many, many, many discussions (and arguments) with vegans but no one has ever been able to actually show me these studies.

      There is one RCT by Dr. Barnard in diabetic patients, that lead to better results than the ADA diet but still fairly mediocre. Less than 100 people, only 22 weeks: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/29/8/1777.abstract

      Then there is Ornish’s trial, which was small and used smoking cessation, exercise, meditation and a ton of other non-diet related factors. Nothing can be concluded about diet from this trial due to all the confounders.

      Esselstyn’s study used statins and NO control group. That kind of study proves nothing either.

      Is that it? So what we’re left with is Barnard’s ONE randomized controlled trial? Btw… the ADA diet is horrible, I am not surprised that a vegan diet did better. I’ve seen a low-carb study in diabetics that lead to MUCH better results: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2633336/

      Please show me the rest of the “multiple research studies, including RCTs” so that I can make up my own mind about the merits of the ultra low-fat vegan diet, instead of having to rely on anecdote. Tired of hearing vegans rambling about all these “studies” that don’t even seem to exist.

      So please, give me links to these multiple RCTs that lead to dramatic results. I am truly interested in seeing them.

      • Kris,

        The low carb diet study dealt with diabetes, not heart disease and certainly not reversal of CHD. How about a low carb study that shows reversal of heart disease? The fact of the matter is, only VLF vegan and vegetarian diets have reversed heart disease. I’m sure the patients that were treated by this type of intervention could care less about a lack of control studies.

        Oh and if the statins were responsible for the reversal of heart disease in Esselstyn’s patients then that’s all people would need to do to reverse their CHD. Of course, we all know that statins don’t actually prevent further cardiac events so there must be some other reason for the reversal effect. Esselstyn’s intervention was purely dietary.

        Still waiting for those LC studies showing reversal (not just cessation) of heart disease.

        • I am not aware of any low-carb studies showing reversal of heart disease. We don’t know if it is happening or not, because it hasn’t been tested, as far as I am aware.

          This whole “vegan diets reverse heart disease” stuff is based on ONE small study with NO control group. It is very weak evidence, at best. The rest is just anecdotal evidence.

          I’m not saying that vegan diets can’t reverse heart disease. Everything is possible. But it is NOT proven, no matter how convincing the vegan docs, their books and documentaries seem. For it to be proven, you need STUDIES.

          No matter what you believe, the FACT is that low-carb diets have a LOT more evidence behind them than vegan diets, and in the only instance a low-carb diet has been compared against a low-fat vegetarian diet in a proper STUDY, the low-carb diet came out ahead. That is what counts, period.

          Please find me the other controlled trials where a vegan diet reverses heart disease, or leads to any beneficial effects for that matter. Only studies with a control group that isolate diet as the sole variable. I know of plenty of those for low-carb diets, but only one for the vegan diet (Barnard’s study).

          I am truly interested in seeing the rest of the studies, if they exist. Please find them for me.

          • Karl Wheatley says:

            Hi Kris

            Thanks for responding.

            I’m an educational researcher who studies how people get fooled by research, so the area of nutrition is an interesting area to examine.

            You would like the Stanford study to be clear evidence that low-carb works better than low-fat diets, but the participants simply weren’t following the Ornish diet, so it doesn’t really test anything. At 12 months, the allegedly “Ornish” diet group was consuming 30% calories from fat, which is 2.5 times as much as Ornish recommends, 3x as much as Esselstyn recommends, and 4x as much as McDougall recommends. Saying a group consuming 30% calories from fat is following Ornish is like saying a group consuming 85% calories from carbs is following Atkins! Furthermore, the ending trend lines for the Atkins/quasi-Atkins group were very bad, and were what the low-fat folks would predict, so even if I wanted to pretend this was a real test of those two diets, I would be suspicious that the long-term trend (which is what ultimately matters) actually favors the quasi-Ornish group.

            Perhaps for you, anything under 30% seems like really low-fat, but given that truly low-fat diets have outperformed 20-30% calories from fat diets, this is a difference that makes a difference. When people who a whole food, plant based diet around 10% calories from fat, they burn the food they eat more efficiently, and below around 15% calories from fat, people lose their craving for fat, so these thresholds really matter.

            I’m not aware of any long-term evidence suggesting that low-carb high fat/protein diets are the best route for overall health, so I’ll be interested if you have such studies. What I see in the pattern of data is that population studies, animal studies, clinical studies, meta-analyses and RCTs all converge on low-fat, lower protein, higher plant food whole food diets being healthiest overall in the long run. I don’t see any evidence of large healthy long-lived populations subsisting on lots of fat and animal foods, but I do see lots of evidence of such populations who eat high-carb plant-based diets.

            It’s late, and I’ve been grading papers for days, but I’ll post a few studies in the next couple of days, and we can ping-pong the discussion from there.

          • I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m not interested in ping-ponging any discussion with you. I’m tired of having the same arguments with vegan proponents every week. They always end the same way.

            But I’ll be posting an article debunking all these vegan nonsense claims sometime in January or February. I’m tired of having to repeat myself.

            “I’m an educational researcher who studies how people get fooled by research, so the area of nutrition is an interesting area to examine.”

            Is this serious? If you think McDougall, Ornish and those guys are honest and respectable researchers, then you should probably find yourself some other line of work.

            Maybe you should look for some actual studies (randomized controlled trials) that isolate diet as the sole variable that demonstrate how a low-fat, plant-based diet is best. Only one I’m aware of is the Barnard study (impressive results in diabetics, but I’ve seen a low-carb diet do much better) and no vegan I’ve spoken to has been able to find me another study like that.

            “I don’t see any evidence of large healthy long-lived populations subsisting on lots of fat and animal foods.”

            Not surprising if you’re getting your info from biased pseudoscientists like most of the vegan docs are. Maybe you should look at different sources, you might learn something about getting “fooled by research.”

  35. Karl,

    Good point about the so-called “low-fat” diets that truly weren’t low fat at all, i.e. The Nurses Study where they actually consumed 29% calories from fat. Bad research to be sure when they can’t even nail down a proper definition of “low-fat”. Regarding low-carb studies, they are short-term and all come with that caveat – that longer-term research is required. Until there are actual credible, long-term low-carb studies, I’ll stake my health on LF, or should I say VLF diets.

    I look forward to Kris’s upcoming argument to end all arguments on this subject. Oh, and maybe he’ll even toss in a few healthy, long-lived, low-carb populations as a bonus!

  36. Hi Kris,

    I do not like that you disregarded a very important point – probably the most important point I have come across. I am a new visitor, and was going to spend a lot of time on this site and tell others about this.

    However, if there are NO LONG-TERM RCT STUDIES ON THE EFFECTIVENESS ON A LONG-TERM DIET, LONG-TERM EFFECTS ON CVD AND DIABETIC ***OUTCOMES***, then how can you stake your whole life on this?

  37. I know you think you’re being objective, but you are the one spouting anti-vegetarian propaganda with misleading statements and conclusions based on questionable science. If you are not seeing evidence to the contrary, it’s because you are selectively ignoring and/or discounting the wealth of research and science that exists to contradict your claims. Very dangerous to play with people’s health like this.

    • It’s funny that you just described exactly what most of the vegan docs are doing, except that they use low-quality evidence to support their stance, while ignoring high-quality evidence that contradicts it.

    • Rick Fictus says:

      I think it’s harsh to call it “propaganda”, but both sides are equally guilty. For example, in the A-Z study, the participants were told what to TRY doing. The Ornish group started out eating 20% fat, and wound up at about 30% fat. That is NOT an Ornish diet! It’s basically a normal diet at that point.

      The Ornish diet is insanely difficult, and staying under 10% is not for everyone. But you can’t report the results of people who didn’t follow it as the expected outcome.

      As far as low-carb, the biggest problem is colorectal cancers and other diseases found in meat eaters. “Low carb” is very misleading, it should be “low sugar” or “low starch”. Sweet potatoes have tons of carbs in them.

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