Dr. Ornish: Get with the program!

In the era up until the 1980s, most Americans indulged in excessive quantities of saturated fats: fried chickem, spare ribs, French fries, gravy, bacon, Crisco, butter, etc.

Along came people like Nathan Pritikin and Dr. Dean Ornish, both of whom were vocal advocates of a low-fat nutritional approach. In their programs, fat composed no more than 10% of calories. This represented a dramatic improvement--at the time.

In 2006, a low-fat diet is a perversion of health. It means over-reliance on breads, breakfast cereals, pasta, crackers, cookies, pretzels, etc., the foods that pack supermarket shelves and that now constitute 70-80% of most Americans' diet.

Dr. Ornish still carries great name recognition. As a result, his outdated concepts still gain media attention. The June, 2006 issue of Reader's Digest, in their RDHealth column, carried an interview with Dr. Ornish in which he reiterates his fat-phobia.

However, on this occasion he takes a different tack. This time he rails against the "dangers" of fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids. "I've recently learned that omega-3s are a double-edged sword...In some cases, omega-3s could be fatal."

He goes on to say that, while he believes that fish oil may prevent heart attacks, it has fatal effect if you already have heart disease.

Does this make sense to you?

He's basing his views on a single, obscure study published in 2003 conducted in rural England that showed an increase in death and heart attack on fish oil. Most authorities have not taken these findings seriously, since they are wildly contrary to all other observations and because the study had some design flaws.

Despite the fact that this isolated study runs counter to all other, better-conducted studies seems not to matter to Dr. Ornish.

Clinging to the low-fat concept is like hoping 8-track tapes will make a comeback. It's not going to happen. We enjoyed the benefits while they lasted, appropriate for the era. But now, they're woefully outdated.

The overwhelming evidence is that fish oil provides tremendous benefits with little or no downside. In the Track Your Plaque program, fish oil remains a crucial supplement to gain control over your coronary plaque and stop or reduce your heart scan score. Ignore the doomsday preachings of Dr. Ornish.

(Watch for an article I wrote updating the benefits of fish oil for Life Extension magazine.)

Comments (2) -

  • Anonymous

    1/15/2008 9:49:00 PM |

    Fish oil is the snake oil of the 21st century.  Dr. Ornish has it right on that score, and adding the empty calories of any "fat," including fish oil is counterproductive.  There is nothing to be gained health wise from excess fat, which is the primary source of most chronic diseases.  Try your 30% fat calorie diet on a professional athlete and watch his endurance decline.  The nutritional recomendations of the Olympic committee is MAX 10% calories from fat.  Get OFF the program!

  • Dr. Davis

    1/15/2008 10:39:00 PM |

    I strongly disagree. We use fish oil to correct triglycerides, among other patterns. Triglycerides are raised substantially by an Ornish-like program. In other words, they exert opposite effects.