Dr. Dean Ornish developed a program that goes even further than Dr. Pritkin's program. He advocates that only 5-10% of calories should be derived from fat and 10% from protein.
In his book, Eat More, Weigh Less Dr. Ornish offers, according to him, a spiritual and authoritarian approach to achieving a healthy heart. Dieters on his plan increase their carbohydrate intake as a consequence of reducing fat intake, not of willfully increasing complex carbohydrate consumption.
Ornish’s Spartan theory removes all oils from the diet. Ornish rejects olives and its oil. He rejects all fatty acids. Ornish refuses to appreciate the importance of gustatory pleasures nor the usefulness of foods that contain fat.
Ornish’s followers have developed a cult-like devotion to ant-fat principals and believe that along with meditation and moderate exercise they can reverse coronary heart disease.
This diet, according to its adherents, is useful for adults who smoke, have high cholesterol levels or suffer from diabetes. On the other hand, it offers no benefit to already healthy individuals and its restrictive obsession with fat, removes many of the pleasures of eating.
The Fat Reduction Rationale
The American Heart Association recommends limiting fat intake to no more than twenty percent of total calories and reducing saturated fat intake to ten percent or less.
Along with the reduction in saturated fat, the association suggests the elimination of trans-fatty acids, a process that has become much easier due to the cooperation of the major food manufacturers who have removed these harmful fats from many of their products.
Trans-fat contains structurally unnatural fatty acids that do not bind properly with fat receptors and the fat carriers they interact with. As a result, they tend to clump and clog arteries.
Trans-fatty acids result from a process that solidifies vegetable oils. Partially hydrogenated oils contain more trans-fatty acids than natural oils, which have none.
The goal of reduced fat intake is to prevent heart disease. It is based on lipid metabolism. Dietary saturated fat is a major regulator of blood cholesterol levels. And so by restricting the intake of dietary fat, a decrease in circulating free fatty acids occurs.
Without the excess of fatty acids in the blood, fatty acids will not be available to the adipocytes and therefore not converted into adipose tissue.
The decrease in circulating fatty acids furthermore inhibits the formation of atherosclerotic plaques within blood vessels.
Fat buildup is the manifestation of the body’s efficient energy conservation system and the consequence of excess caloric intake. The inadequate energy expenditure that occurs in sedentary life guarantees that any increase in energy intake will be deposited as fat.
Overview of the Extremes
High protein diets limit and severely restrict the amount of carbohydrates in meals. High carbohydrate diets severely limit or eliminate the amount of fat in meals.
If there is a pattern to these diets it is this. Both low carbohydrate diets and low fat diets are extreme restriction diets. They work best in dieters who are afflicted with a disorder in metabolism. Those that fail to metabolize sugar properly develop diabetes while those that fail to metabolize fats properly develop atherosclerosis.
These two extremes in diets both attempt to reverse a chronic disorder. They either reverse the metabolic stress caused by sugar or they reverse the stress caused by fat.
Cardiac patients respond well to low fat diets because these diets best oppose the stress involved with the improper formation, transportation and removal of lipoproteins. These are disorders in lipid metabolism, which has a profound effect on cholesterol levels, the leading cause of atherosclerosis.
Obese patients respond well to high protein diets because these diets best reverse the stress associated with improper insulin binding and glucose regulation known as diabetes.
All diets are not alike. One diet can never fit all. The best diet is the one that best meets the needs of the individual. An individual who exercise is best served by a diet that meets those needs. And that diet is outlined in The Athlete’s Solution, a diet built on colorful, complex carbohydrates.
Calorie Restriction Diets
Calorie restriction diets have been around for over many years. There are many proponents of this type of diet and it is easy to understand why, its result is a healthier individual.
The most recent contribution to its cause is the Longevity Diet by Brian M. Delaney and Lisa Walford. Their concept is quite simple, the less stress placed on the body to metabolize food, the less harmful by-products that are produced.
It is an accepted medical fact that malformed compounds and free radicals attack vital structures and cause them to dysfunction. This initiates disease.
The various authors of calorie restriction diets include Roy Walford (Beyond the 120 Year Diet), Artemis Simopoulos (Omega Diet), Dr. Alan Howard (The Cambridge Diet) and Craig and Bradley Wilcox (Okinowan Diet Plan) as well as the aforementioned authors.
They all point to longevity as the factor that determine a diet’s success. They all considered the molecular aspects of aging and concluded that the less food that is digested and assimilated, the longer a person will remain healthy.
These diets are often combined with antioxidant supplements as a strategy to counter the stress of aging. These anti-aging plans promote the idea of not only eating less, but eating better as well.
These are good diets to follow if exercise is not part of one’s daily life. It is a poor diet for athletes. Despite its anti-aging claim, athletes who follow the calorie restriction guidelines will fail to provide adequate nutrients to recover from exercise and will more likely injure themselves and lead to premature aging. This is the precise opposite of the diet’s intended effect.
Calorie restriction diets are not recommended for athletes.
Very Low-Calorie Diets
Very low-calorie diets are a particularly aggressive approach to weight loss. These diets require a form of fasting that is supplemented with lean red meat or concentrated protein powders. These diets are reserved for individuals that are 40% over their ideal weight. Rapid weight loss (three or more pounds per week) occurs due to the draconian choices available to the dieter. Unfortunately, a high percentage of dieters regain the weight.
This type of diet is intended for obese people who need to lose weight fast. Up to 5 pounds per week can be lost under these programs, which typically provide only 500-800 calories per day and requires medical supervision due to the variety and severity of medical complications including heart, liver and kidney disorders. These modified fasts involve enrollment in a medically supervised program and costs thousands of dollars, some of which may be reimbursable under medical insurance. According to the manufacturers themselves, these diets are generally safe when used under medical supervision in moderately and severely obese people.
Oprah Winfrey popularized these diets when she promoted the very low calorie Optifast diet, a liquid diet manufactured by Sandoz. Optifast helped her lose 67 pounds in four months. Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef monitored her allocation of 20 grams of fat per day. However, it is her drive and will power that made her run eight miles and perform three hundred sit-ups per day.
This once again demonstrates that more than any diet or type of nutrient, it is intense exercise that remains the best method to achieve and maintain weight loss.
Penn State nutrition and obesity researcher Barbara Rolls, Ph.D. sums up her methodology for losing weight in one word,
volume. Volumetric is based on the energy density of foods.
Dr. Rolls’ stresses portion size and foods with high water content. Together with fiber, water lowers the energy density of meals as measured by its calories per gram.
Volumetric is another form of a calorie restricted diet, albeit a well thought out one, and as such is of little benefit to athletes.
The Volumetric system is based on high-fiber foods that provide bulk to meals without adding calories. By strategically increasing the water and fiber content of meals, she claims her followers are able to go longer periods of time without eating allowing them to lose significant amounts of weight.
Fiber it should be pointed out, is only found in plant based foods (vegetables, fruits and especially whole grains). Water and fiber act as a digestive tract stimulant while their absence causes constipation.Her meals incorporate, more water, fiber, vegetables and fruit. She recommends low density meals with foods that contain less fat and sugar. Good or low density foods include green tea, asparagus, red snapper and brown rice. She also recommends avoiding high density foods, such as chocolate, butter, crackers, nuts, seeds, whole milk, cheese and mayonnaise.
According to Rolls’, many dieters who reduce their fat intake will still gain weight. She argues that it is the high caloric density of the food they eat, and not the nutrient class the food belongs to, that causes the weight gain.
Her diet nevertheless recommends eliminating fat and eating water-rich, moist foods and soups, since water provides bulk to food without adding calories. Water also promotes a feeling of fullness and represses the satiety center in the hypothalamus.
According to Rolls’ the energy density of foods is based on its water content. Energy-dilute foods are heavily hydrated. Energy-dense foods are dry. Energy-dense foods are high in fat and sugar and include potato chips, chocolate, and doughnut.
High-Density meals include fast-foods, snacks, and desserts. These comfort foods provide a huge amount of calories with a disproportionate amount derived from fat.
Energy-dense foods provide more sensory pleasure than foods that are energy-dilute. Dairy products vary in energy density, from dry cheeses that are high to yogurt and low-fat milk which are low. Because of their high water content, raw vegetables and fruit have a miniscule energy density. Low density diets favor fruit and vegetables.
Also according to Rolls’ sweets and energy-dense foods are the food preferences of children. They are taught to crave energy-dense foods like pizza, cookies, and sweetened breakfast cereals. They learn to avoid the energy-dilute tomatoes, cucumbers, and cabbage that would make them healthy. Their diets derive a large percentage of its calories from sugars through soft drinks that use energy-dense corn syrup to sweeten its taste.
She views alcohol and its metabolism as a chief cause for fat deposition. Since alcohol also blunts the feeling of satiety, this will also cause drinkers to overeat.
The calorie content of alcohol is 7 calories per gram, making it the second most calorie dense food after fat. A one ounce drink has over two hundred empty calories.
When the body metabolizes alcohol, all excess calories are turned into fat. Alcohol combined with high-fat, calorie rich food promotes weight gain. Alcohol is a harmful toxin that can’t be stored. Alcohol must be metabolized and broken down in the liver ASAP.
The resulting two carbon compounds (acetyl CoA) immediately enter the Krebs cycle and create biological energy for the drinker, which is converted to fat due to inactivity.
Not to be left out of the diet wars is Andrew Weil M.D., one of the true pioneers and proponent of integrative medicine or combination of mainstream and alternative medicine.
Dr Weil is a Harvard educated physician and one of the most influential people in the world. Weil believes that modern medicine is better at intervention while other methods are better suited at prevention.
He rightly points to the body's self-healing ability and power of mind, body and spirit to overcome illness and disease.
Weil authored a series of book on health including From Chocolate to Morphine, in which he decried the U.S.’s useless war on drugs and argued how natural plant products were less problematic that synthetic drugs. Two points this author wholeheartedly agrees with.
In terms of diet, Weil recommends that 50 percent of calories should be derived from carbohydrates. Furthermore, Weil recommends 30 percent of calories should come from fat and 20 percent from protein, much of which should be derived from vegetable sources, mostly in the form of legumes (beans).
Weil claims his diet is an anti-inflammatory because it is based on increasing the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and cutting out processed and fast food.
While he does take a step forward from other high protein diets, his acceptance of high fat in the diet probably reflects more on his own dietary pattern than on good science. Weil is known to love cheese.
Weil also does not emphasize exercise enough, perhaps another reflection on his own behavior.
Portion Control Prepackaged Diet Plans
The 1200 Calorie Diet allows the dieter to eat only1200 calories a day. With this limited caloric intake the body will be forced to burn its stored calories in the form of fast for energy with the end result of losing weight.
There are numerous variations of this diet but none of them are suitable for athletes who exercise.
Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Cambridge and NutrISystem are the most popular diet plans in the world. They are all expensive methods to lose weight.
Their advantage in helping dieters lose weight, is based on portion control, which they are able to enforce through pre-packaged meals.
All of these plans provide meals that are equally unpalatable and all provide around 1500 calories per day. This alone should guarantee weight loss. However, should exercise become a part of their program, this amount of energy becomes insufficient and will lead to fatigue, lethargy and dizziness.