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What's up with the Ornish diet?

by (25)
Updated November 12, 2011 at 6:38 PM
Created November 11, 2011 at 3:57 PM

Anyone heard of the Ornish diet? It's a diet a doctor created for heart disease and to prevent blockage. My clients mom who is 65 and has high colesterol said that she had been trying it for 7 months and still isn't sure if it's helping but she believes in that doctor because she says he has plenty of research to back it up. She told me she can't have any meat. She has yo eat a really low protein diet she said under 25 grams a day!! Became 100 percent vegan for it cause she's not allowed any saturated fat. She can't have avocados or nuts and seeds due to their fatcontent? Seemed really odd to me because it is the opposite of Paleo and I'm a big believer in the Paleo diet. Can anyone help sigh some info. I wanna try to get her to consider changing it but not sure f that's the right thing to do? Is that diet legit?

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4
0 · November 13, 2011 at 3:44 PM

The study was 2 years. The initial water loss is adjusted back to normal as glcogen stabilizes - so I doubt that water loss had much of an effect. Water loss could explain better blood pressure, but not all of the other lipid markers. And of course, while Atkins minimizes 2 NADS (wheat & fructose) - it does nothing for n3/n6 balance or minimizing PUFAs. Or avoiding soy or other problematic foods that would make it even better (ie paleo - low carb not required). In theory, Ornish should work better than Atkins, but it doesn't. Meat for the win!

Cf32992bfa1907147c7cdc451bba9c63
0 · November 13, 2011 at 12:50 AM

In my opinion the scientists completely missed the proper conclusion for that study. Here's a good review on the subject: http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/research-review/comparison-of-the-atkins-zone-ornish-and-learn-diets.html It pretty much say that the Atkins diet may have outperformed, but not by much, and in any case all the diets worked and sucked. I might add that you could ascribe the performance of atkins to the increased water loss expected from low carb diets.

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a
0 · November 12, 2011 at 6:28 PM

Dean Ornish sucks

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52
0 · November 11, 2011 at 6:14 PM

hey, cool links.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37
0 · November 11, 2011 at 5:19 PM

I don't think it's bullshit. I think the reason it works is the same that most diets do: if you follow it, you remove all the industrial foods that are the source of diet-related disease. That said, while all these plant-based folks are well meaning (even if they have to go thru hoops to explain how you can get critical nutrients that are typical in a paleo diet), a vegan or nearly vegan diet is hard for most to sustain over the long-term unless they are really, really invested in the concept.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4
0 · November 11, 2011 at 4:52 PM

And the only study that supports the Ornish diet is the study he did himself. But it's not controlled. It includes a lifestyle regimen featuring Yoga, meditation, a low-fat vegan diet, smoking cessation, and regular exercise. Too many confounders to chalk it up to the diet alone. And a lowfat vegan diet probably is better than fast food and donuts - but I doubt it beats paleo, especially long term (when you start really losing lean body mass from little to no protein).

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f
0 · November 11, 2011 at 4:00 PM

It's definitely bullshit. I hope your mother is prepared to change her habits.

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5 Answers

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4
13
20411 · November 11, 2011 at 4:46 PM

This is one of the best studies of diet comparisons:

http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/297/9/969.abstract

It's Ornish/Zone/Atkins/Learn (Learn is kinda standard USDA/AHA advice). Atkins outperformed them all, especially on improving risk factors for heart disease. The study was run by a 20-year vegetarian, who was surprised at the results, but owned up to them.

In fact, he did a great talk about the study, which is on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eREuZEdMAVo

And also, this question was asked here and answered rather well:

http://paleohacks.com/questions/42402/whats-wrong-with-the-ornish-diet#axzz1dPHDfndu

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4
0 · November 13, 2011 at 3:44 PM

The study was 2 years. The initial water loss is adjusted back to normal as glcogen stabilizes - so I doubt that water loss had much of an effect. Water loss could explain better blood pressure, but not all of the other lipid markers. And of course, while Atkins minimizes 2 NADS (wheat & fructose) - it does nothing for n3/n6 balance or minimizing PUFAs. Or avoiding soy or other problematic foods that would make it even better (ie paleo - low carb not required). In theory, Ornish should work better than Atkins, but it doesn't. Meat for the win!

Cf32992bfa1907147c7cdc451bba9c63
0 · November 13, 2011 at 12:50 AM

In my opinion the scientists completely missed the proper conclusion for that study. Here's a good review on the subject: http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/research-review/comparison-of-the-atkins-zone-ornish-and-learn-diets.html It pretty much say that the Atkins diet may have outperformed, but not by much, and in any case all the diets worked and sucked. I might add that you could ascribe the performance of atkins to the increased water loss expected from low carb diets.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52
0 · November 11, 2011 at 6:14 PM

hey, cool links.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4
0 · November 11, 2011 at 4:52 PM

And the only study that supports the Ornish diet is the study he did himself. But it's not controlled. It includes a lifestyle regimen featuring Yoga, meditation, a low-fat vegan diet, smoking cessation, and regular exercise. Too many confounders to chalk it up to the diet alone. And a lowfat vegan diet probably is better than fast food and donuts - but I doubt it beats paleo, especially long term (when you start really losing lean body mass from little to no protein).

Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493
5
11099 · November 11, 2011 at 6:12 PM

I really messed myself up following gurus like Ornish's advice. It's all about being low fat and high carb, animal foods are the root of all evil...Lierre Kieth's The Vegetarian Myth would be a good book, imo, to start someone on who subscribes to that philosophy.

Ca1150430b1904659742ce2cad621c7d
5
12540 · November 11, 2011 at 4:49 PM

Dr. Dean Ornish. This program has been around FOREVER, and actually has some good success when patients are being followed closely in the clinic. HOWEVER, it is not sustainable, and it does nothing to address the core problems.

Our family's experience with it comes out of the Northeast, where it was very popular with internists some 15 years ago. My mom's and dad's internist put my mom on it because of hypertension. She was in the middle of the healthy range for weight, but her doctor told her it would prevent heart disease and lower her blood pressure. Her blood pressure didn't decrease and they put her on blood pressure medication, though her doctor kept her on the diet. She was 62. However, 2 years later, she had a major stroke that left her completely incapacitated and unable to communicate, and she continued to have strokes throughout the next 5 years until she finally succumbed.

My dad refused to go on it with her (he's Sicilian, what can I say? shrugs). He is 86 years old and still gets up on the roof of his house in upstate NY to shovel off the excessive snow.

I won't blame the diet, but I will tell you that the last year that she was up and around, my mom looked shriveled and she was losing bone mass at a horrific rate -- skin dry and sagging, significant loss of musculature... shrugs It's really unbalanced, and doesn't provide any of the necessary materials for healthy body restoration, so I wouldn't use it myself, and I'm glad my dad decided to do his own thing.

7e935ed81bd2203bcbf8560db2ac0030
1
128 · November 12, 2011 at 5:47 PM

I'm not a fan of the Ornish diet, which is a wildly low-fat diet, but if rigorously followed it has been shown to reverse some markers of heart disease.

But so has a low-carb approach. And in the real world, most people find it easier to comply with a low-carb diet. Head-to-head, over the long haul, people lost more weight and also improved their markers of heart disease better on Atkins than on Ornish:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eREuZEdMAVo

Neither Atkins nor Ornish are exactly "Paleo," of course (though one can follow Atkins in a Paleo fashion quite easily). I think Ornish is a peculiar and unnatural way of eating, but it has been shown to have benefits. What hasn't been shown is that it has more benefits than more natural diets.

Incidentally, here's a link to a guy who has collected a list of all the head-to-head low-carb vs low-fat diet trials, 14 in all:

http://www.dietdoctor.com/weight-loss-time-to-stop-denying-the-science

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
0
56596 · November 12, 2011 at 6:38 PM

Relevant questions:

Also if you search for Ornish here, there are a bunch of other questions.

Denise Minger's presentation is great and covers Ornish.

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