Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Oz versus Taubes

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Recently, Dr. Oz of TV and radio fame interviewed Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories and a more recent user- friendly version, Why We Get Fat. Basically, Gary Taubes, a prolific science writer, thinks that we get fat by eating carbohydrates and promotes a low carbohdyrate diet, high in protein and fat with little exercise necessary.  Dr. Oz, on the other hand, believes that eating complex carbohydrates, limited healthy fats, moderate protein and exercise is the way to go for weight loss.  The interview in three parts can be found on Dr. Oz’s Web Site by searching Videos.

The most widely publicized low carbohydrate diet is of Dr. Robert Atkins who sold millions of both his diet books, Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution (1972) and Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution (1992).  The late Dr. Atkins debated Dr. Dean Ornish, a proponent of a very low fat diet, as to the benefits of each diet approach.

Weight Loss with a Low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean Diet or a Low-Fat Diet was published in the July, 2008 New England Journal of Medicine.  The study with 272 participants compared a low-carbohydrate diet (40% fat), a low-fat diet recommended by the American Medical Association (30% fat), and the Mediterranean Diet (35% fat) for weight loss success and their influences on  selected risk factors for heart disease.  The fat content of the Mediterranean diet was in the form of olive oil and nuts.

The average weight loss was:

  • 6.3 pounds for the low-fat diet
  • 9.7 pounds for the Mediterranean diet
  • 10.3  for the low-carbohydrate diet

As far as the effects on heart disease risks, the low fat diet showed less improvement than the other two diets.  Specifically, triglycerides were lower and HDL (good-cholesterol) higher in the low carbohydrate plan.  Glucose control in a small subset of people with diabetes was best in those on the Mediterranean Diet.

Bottom Line:

Diets should not be evaluated for weight loss only but also on our risk  factors for heart disease.  It is apparent that all the diets  in this study promoted weight loss but it is important to know your health risks by assessing different diets on total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high density lipoprotein (HDL), triglycerides, and blood glucose control – then you and your doctor can discuss the best diet for you not only for weight loss if necessary, but also for heart health.


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