Atkins Diet Shortens Life Span

A major study of the eating habits of 130,000 people over 26 years has shown you’ll die younger from a high protein low-carb diet (like the Atkins Diet) than if you eat a plant-based diet low in animal protein and refined carbohydrates.

Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine from Harvard, the study followed approximately 85,000 women for 26 years and 45,000 men for 20 years, and found that all-cause mortality rates were increased in both men and women who were eating a low-carbohydrate Atkins diet based on animal protein.

Reporting the study in his column published in the Huffington Post, integrative medicine pioneer Dr Dean Ornish says it’s important to look at actual measures of disease, including mortality, not just risk factors such as HDL cholesterol.

Too Many ‘Bad’ Carbs

“Dr. Atkins and I agreed that the American diet is too high in refined carbohydrates such as sugar, white flour and concentrated sweeteners) which promote a variety of chronic diseases,” says Dr Ornish.

However, the answer is not to replace refined carbohydrates with animal protein such as beef, pork rinds, bacon and sausage, which Dr. Atkins claimed were good for your heart.

“It’s much more healthful to replace refined carbohydrates (“bad carbs”) with healthy carbs instead.”

What’s Best For You

An optimal diet is high in healthy carbs such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains (including whole wheat, brown rice), legumes, soy products, nonfat dairy and egg whites in their natural forms and some good fats such as the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil and salmon.

It’s low in unhealthy carbs such as sugar, white flour, white rice, white flour pasta and low in saturated fats and animal protein.

The message that many studies — including one in the Annals last month — have been giving the public and health professionals is that the Atkins diet is no worse for your heart than a plant-based diet, but all these studies examined only risk factors such as HDL, not measures of disease or mortality.

Threat To Heart Health

That’s why this new study is so important. A recent study reviewed in The New England Journal of Medicine found that an Atkins-type diet “promotes atherosclerosis (heart disease) through mechanisms that do not modify the classic cardiovascular risk factors” such as HDL.” Other studies also showed this.

Your body makes HDL to remove excessive cholesterol from your body. Eating a stick of butter will raise HDL, but butter is not good for your heart. Pfizer discontinued a study of its drug, torcetrapib, which raised HDL but actually increased risk of heart attacks.

Conversely, a whole foods plant-based diet that’s also low in refined carbohydrates may reverse coronary heart disease and beneficially affect the progression of prostate cancer and even improve gene expression despite reductions in HDL.

Move Towards More Plants

It’s not all or nothing. You have a spectrum of choices. What matters most is your overall way of eating and living. If you indulge yourself one day, eat healthier the next. To the degree that you move in a whole foods, plant-based direction, the better you’re likely to feel and the healthier you’re likely to become.

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