There are as many opinions about diet as there are books, articles and websites on the subject. Not only are there thousands of recommendations, they are all contradictory and mutually exclusive. Every so-called diet expert would have you believe that theirs is the only approach that works and that every other approach or philosophy is downright dangerous. Advocates for a low-fat diet insist that high protein diets don’t work, cause cancer and are responsible for everything from heart disease to the national debt. The equally credentialed authors of high protein, low-carb diets blame low-fat diets for the exact same list. These authors take the same essentialist position as most major religions. They control the keys to heaven. Anyone else is deliberately trying to lead you astray.
In his book, New Diet Revolution Dr. Atkins places the blame for American obesity squarely on the shoulders of advocates for low-fat diets. “The influential but, alas, ineffective school of low-fat/low-calorie dieting . . . has been the dominant trend in dieting for the past decade, but its dominance hasn’t, by and large, done a thing to take the pounds off . . . [L]ow-fat dieting—like the low calorie dieting that preceded it—is a major national embarrassment.”
Proponents of a low-fat diet are equally adamant that theirs is the only valid approach. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Dr. Dean Ornish, who is arguably the reigning king of the low-fat approach, slammed Atkins. “Diets that are high in animal protein . . . promote both heart disease and cancer.”
Dr. Joel Furman, in his book Eat to Live, which recommends a mostly raw, vegan diet, similarly warns readers to steer clear of low-carb diets. “Once you stop the diet, you’ll gain all the weight back and more; if you stay on the diet you risk a premature death.”
In his Pritikin Permanent Weight-Loss Manual, Nathan Pritikin, makes no effort to hide his disgust. “High protein diets are bad for you.” He goes on to warn of hideous, long-term health consequences and, although he dances around the actual word, calls Dr. Atkins an asshole.
Dr. Arthur Agatston, in his low-carb South Beach Diet, notes that early in his career he enthusiastically championed “Pritikin and the [other] heart-healthy low-fat regimens, including the Ornish plan and several American Heart Association diets.” Dr. Agatston abandoned the low-fat approach after, “[e]ach of them, for different reasons, failed miserably. Either the diets were too difficult to stick with, or the promise of improved blood chemistry and cardiac heath remained just that—a promise.”
It is no wonder that dieters have trouble sorting through the data.