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Remembering Kevin Moore

20-Year Low-Carb Dieter Finds Zero Plaque Buildup In Her Arteries

The low-carb blogosphere has been ablaze this week after Gary Taubes appeared on The Dr. Oz Show in what many thought was an ambush against healthy low-carb living. In fact, there was one segment where Dr. Oz went on a low-carb diet for 24 hours (we won’t even talk about how idiotic that is right now, but I’ll be doing a response video to that entire boondoggle soon) and he made an illustration with the food he was eating for a snack. Using pepperoni slices and string cheese, he said “Here’s how I see it, that’s my artery” referring to the curled slice of pepperoni followed by him referring to the string cheese going through the hole in the pepperoni stating “and this is the plaque.” After a smug smacking of the side of his cheek, he concludes, “That’s how I envision it” which is met with raucous laughter from The Dr. Oz Show audience. Really? Is this same old tired, worn out argument against livin’ la vida low-carb still being used by seemingly intelligent medical professionals like Dr. Mehmet Oz? Unfortunately so. But is it true? Do low-carb diets simply cause more harm than good by consuming foods that are higher in fat and lower in carbohydrates? Let’s look at the story of one of my readers who has been eating low-carb for the past 20 years and recently had a sophisticated test conducted to see what kind of damage her high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb way of eating has had on her body.

She e-mailed me that she recently had a wellness exam after recommitting herself to a “clean” low-carb lifestyle again starting in May 2010 and she discovered that her cholesterol was slightly higher (36 points up) than normal. However, instead of medication, she was put on a high-quality, pharmaceutical-grade fish oil supplement. Now that’s pretty amazing in this day and age of handing out statin drugs like they’re candy, but the “best news” is what happened next. At the same time they checked her cholesterol, she had an arterial ultrasound test called Carotid Intima-Media Thickness (CIMT) done as well. It’s a sophisticated test where they use a doppler to capture images of the carotid, femoral, and abdominal arteries to see if there is any plaque buildup to be concerned with. Plaque that penetrates the arterial wall can lead to a condition known as atheroschlerosis where the arteries harden and become blocked which can eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke. Dr. Oz was certainly insinuating on his show that eating a diet that consists of fat and very few carbohydrates would lead to this, but check out what happened next when my reader got her results.

The nurse practitioner called me and told me that my results were some of the best she had ever seen! My actual age is 43, but my arteries measured that of a 25 year old!

WOW! When she received these astonishing results from the nurse, my reader revealed to her what she had been doing–the healthy low-carb lifestyle! The nurse then “acted a little surprised” and was “offended” that my reader didn’t tell her about what she was doing sooner. When asked whether she lost any weight eating this way, my reader said she had shed over 30 pounds since May 2010 and that low-carb living makes her “feel better, look better, and act better” than anything else she’s ever tried.

It is just the way I have to eat for the rest of my life.

Obviously, she is super-stoked about the results of her CIMT test and now has a newfound confidence that livin’ la vida low-carb is “not harming my body at all.”

My liver and kidney functions were fine, as well as all of the rest of the blood work.

And although her cholesterol is slightly elevated, we know that most of those tests tend to focus on LDL and total cholesterol rather than the triglyceride/HDL ratio which is a much better indicator of heart health risk than what is typically measured. I have long challenged anyone to prove to me that “high” cholesterol is unhealthy. There’s just no solid evidence that exists substantiating this oft-repeated but never proven claim. Even worse, most doctors seem to be so clueless about cholesterol except to pull out their prescription pad to write down Lipitor or Crestor for their none-the-wiser patients. Why does a non-medically trained layperson like myself seem to know more about lipid health than a cardiologist like Dr. Oz? Maybe he likes the money he makes cutting into people’s chests (as he bragged so much about in the Taubes interview) while simultaneously taking sponsorship from advertisers who create products that are the real culprit in cardiovascular disease, namely high-carb, grain-based cereals.

This is one reason why Gary Taubes refused to have his cholesterol numbers run on his appearance on The Dr. Oz Show on Monday because the numbers are meaningless without the proper context. It was a setup that he refused to participate in knowing he wouldn’t have an opportunity to properly explain the importance of measuring LDL particle size with an NMR LipoProfile test, for example. In fact, Taubes told me that he was able to share about this distinction with LDL cholesterol but the producers cut it out of the final version of the segment. Gee, what a surprise! Look for a blog post about this from Gary at his blog coming soon.

As for the fabulous results my reader experienced after being on a low-carb diet for the past 20 years, all I can say is WAY TO GO! While people like Dr. Oz may not think someone can live long-term on a diet consisting of meats, eggs, cheese, green vegetables, butter, and the rest of the incredible foods we enjoy eating on this healthy lifestyle change, you’re proving that’s just not the case. Not only are you doing it, but your health is better than it ever would have been eating any other way. Congratulations to you for choosing low-carb as your preferred nutritional plan and for inspiring us all in our own low-carb journey to be confident and proud of the way livin’ la vida low-carb is improving our health on a daily basis!

  • Jimmy,
    You say, “Why does a non-medically trained layperson like myself seem to know more about lipid health than a cardiologist like Dr. Oz?”

    This is such a good point! I’m amazed when I hear that patients are giving books like Why We Get Fat to their doctors to educate them. There is such a huge divide between individuals who are discovering the value of low-carb diets and their doctors who won’t listen.

    The results should speak for themselves, shouldn’t they?

    Keep up the good work!
    Jenna

    • THANKS Jenna! I often ask my podcast guests what it’s gonna take to change the hearts and minds of medical professionals about low-carb diets and the answer almost always seems to fall back on the grassroots efforts of patients whose lives have been changed by it for the better.

  • Lauren Grosz

    I loved reading this post! Gary should challenge Dr. Oz to a CIMT. I really believe that grassroots work is what will repeal the dogma of the diet dictocrats. Dr. Oz will not come around. He’ll just become obsolete and fade from the scene. Hopefully, sooner rather than later.

    • I hear ya Lauren! I think people will read through the lies of Oz at some point. Wouldn’t it be great to have a “Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show” on TV? Okay, I know I’m dreaming, but I bet it would make a real difference in the lives of real people much more so than The Dr. Oz Show.

  • Paul Stevens

    Hi Jimmy, I have found your blog / show recently (via Dr Davis’ HeartScan blog) and have enjoyed many hours listening to your top-quality podcast guests. Big big thank you.

    I think Gary Taubes did really OK. However, the food shown to be low-carb looked so plain / so Atkins. I eat low carb and it looks and tastes great – and I am slowly losing weight.

    Regards
    Paul

    • THANKS Paul! I agree Gary did well considering the circumstances, but I would have thought Oz wouldn’t have been so over-the-top as a medical doctor in his hyperbole of what low-carb is. That salmon and spinach meal that he “loves” so much could have easily been low-carb without the brown rice.

  • I can’t wait to get to my 10th anniversary of low carbing (got about a year and half to go). I plan to get another CT Angiogram done, and I’m pretty sure I’ll get the same results I got a few years ago, ZERO plaque.

    • Same here buddy! My heart scan score was ZERO when I had it checked in 2009. Gotta love all that FAT clogging up your arteries, right? LOL!

  • So what was she doing for 20 years that required re-committing to a “clean” LC diet to shed 30 lbs?

    Oz’s pepperoni & cheese stunt was stupid. But Taubes’ refusal of ANY cholesterol test (of his choosing!) was not a shining moment.

    • Most of us low-carbers find we need to do some tweak now and again to make it better for us. I’ve done that myself quite a bit over the years. But the basic low-carb principle applies.

      As for Taubes refusing the cholesterol test, it was a brilliant move. Why subject yourself to a faulty interpretation of the numbers just for the sake of being ridiculed? Oz tried to create a “gotcha” moment that Taubes wasn’t gonna fall for.

  • Davina

    The thought that keeps coming to my mind is that one only has to look at Dr. Oz’s number one “dieter” and sponsor of his career, Oprah Winfrey, to see how successful his own plan is as a “diet for life.” I’m not usually one to comment, but this show really disturbed me because Dr. Oz has such a vast and popular forum to spread misinformation. I eat low carb and that includes salmon and other seafood and a variety of veggies as well as red meat. The show was appalling, disrespectful, and a HUGE disservice to Dr. Oz viewers. Sean Croxton said it best when he said if you believe in God or Mother Nature or in an intelligent universe then why would you think that man-made, human-processed, non-foods would be better for you than foods in their purest, natural form: organic eggs, grassfed beef, wild caught fish and organic veggies. When Dr. Oz asked Gary Taub if he was a doctor, Gary Taub should have answered “No, but I am a critical thinker and a person who seeks to continually educate myself through science and facts.”

    • Davina, most people look the other way at Oprah because they think she just isn’t meant to be lean and healthy. They don’t blame Oz for preventing her from being the size she is with whatever associated health problems. And yet those of us doing low-carb are put under a microscope for eating the way we do. It’s two-faced at best. I’m not doctor either, but I know a whole $#&*(#$ a lot more about nutrition than most physicians do!

  • Lawrence Louis

    I think Dr. Oz is ultimately a lost cause. Like you wrote, he has too much at stake, both financially and from a standpoint of reputation, to concede to the low carb dietary truth, even if it smacked him in the face. Your friend is a testament to the efficacy of low carb in producing long term health benefits. But even if Dr. Oz could dismiss this as anecdotal, we have so many cultures that, as a practice, eat that way, or at least ate that way at some time and also produce large scale results that are positive in terms of cardiac health. It’s so sad that a man who took the Hippocratic Oath, which mandates that first, “I will do no harm”, is doing harm by dispensing the wrong advice by going against emerging scientific truths, all for the benefit of his pocket book, or because he doesn’t want to admit that he has been wrong all these years.

    • I agree Oz is a lost cause. But his audience of diehard believers aren’t. They’re the ones who will end up finding my blog or podcast someday and wonder why they’ve been lied to for all these years by someone they thought they could trust.

  • Jill

    Enjoy your spring. I am looking forward to cooler, less humid, garden friendly weather. When we feed our chooks (Australian for chickens) grain, they look disappointed. When we feed them chopped meat they behave like piranah. It is interesting that the only obese animals are those fed by humans.
    Dr Oz looked anxious. He lost credibility when he pulled a face. Gary’s book is the number one best seller in the nutrition category at Amazon.
    Australia has been referred to colloquially as Oz since the early 20th century. Aussies don’t have an accent. LOL
    Be safe
    Jill

  • Lynn

    I am confused Jimmy. If she ate LC for 20 years, why did she “recommitt herself to a “clean” low-carb lifestyle again starting in May 2010”. Did she mean she was off and on LC for 20 years?

    I’d be interested to know.

    Thanks!

    • Fair question. I can’t speak for her, but I understand the point. Sometimes we allow things that are technically low-carb but maybe not the most ideal for our low-carb lifestyle to creep into our diet. Despite this, she still reaped the benefits of carbohydrate-restriction that kept her arteries clean. Amazing isn’t it?

  • Gail

    I think Gary Taubes missed an education opportunity on the show: a couple of times, Dr. Oz referred to his job of opening patient’s chests, and finding them full of clogged arteries due to eating high fat diets….Mr. Taubes should have emphasized that those patients were most likely eating high fat with high carb..and that’s what leads to problems with high fat.

    • He did Gail…the producers edited that answer out.

  • Fantastic! Nice article, I love it!! I loved Taubes on the show but I do wish he’d educate himself on pastured grass-fed meat vs feed lot grain-fed meat and the difference there- especially the omega3:omega6 ratio. I believe that is the kind of fat that causes “clogged arteries with high fat diets” because it contains too much omega 6. Eating lots of pastured meat fat is never bad for you, it is the way we are supposed to eat! Plenty of Omega 3 and CLA for everyone! I’m so glad that low carb is getting better press these days, mainly thanks to Gary Taubes and Michael Pollan! yay!

  • Any doctor who goes on tv with their own show, has essentially sold out.
    What they don’t realize is that the truth can only be buried for so long, and people want results. When the low fat meme dries up, there will be many professional societies eating crow, which is ok as crows are low carb.

  • Suzy

    I thought Gary did a GREAT job staying on message. Any any exposure Gary gets is great because listeners out there who say, “hey, this low-fat thing hasn’t worked. maybe Gary’s onto something.” What I would have liked to see is Gary challenge Dr. Oz to have Dr. Oz’s cholesterol numbers tested now, and then 2 months after following a strict paleo/low-carb/no-sugar diet according to the tests that Gary recommend. Along with c-reactive protein and other markers of inflammation. (But let’s try for all “real” food). He’d have to eat his own words.

  • Lissa in AL

    I’m reading Gary’s book “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and he mentions in his book that women who have elevated cholesterol tend to live longer than women with low cholesterol. She probably doesn’t need the fish oil. Although, it probably doesn’t hurt. Her LDLs are probably nice and fluffy.

    • Taking fish oil is never a bad thing in my eyes. :)

  • Peter Silverman

    It’s wonderful to know your arteries are clean. It’s a little harder to know why.

    The thousands of vegetarians with clean arteries think it’s because they don’t eat animals, the low carbers (and there are thousands of them with clean arteries) are sure it’s because they do. Go figure.

    Jimmy Moore and Dean Ornish both have zero plaque. I have to think it might be because of what they agree on, not what they don’t agree on, which is the proportions of saturated fat and carbohydrates. It’s curious to me that in the face of that knowledge, people are looking for areas of disagreement, not areas of agreement between people who are lucky to have clean arteries.
    I suspect that if Ornish and Jimmy have perfectly clean arteries, it might be because of the various things they agree on, like eat unprocessed foods, avoid sugar and flour.

    • It goes back to the individuality of the diet, Peter. For someone like me who does better eating a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet, that’s what I need to do for good heart health. Maybe someone like Dean Ornish needs to eat a plant-based, low-fat diet to accomplish that in him. That’s why it’s about finding the diet that’s right for you and doing it. There’s no doubt refined and processed foods play a big role in this regardless of the diet you choose.

  • This is awesome! I’m reaching my 10th year myself and while I’ve not done things perfectly, ya know, because I’m human and crap happens, I’ve sticked to my guns for the most part. I’ll be getting a full blood work up next month and I expect to wow my Dr. with the results. I don’t think I can get the same scan your reader did Jimmy, due to lack of insurance, etc., but if I could I’d sure get it done without any fear of bad results. :)

  • Nina

    Gary did a great job (judging by the clips on Oz’s site http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/man-who-thinks-everything-dr-oz-says-wrong-pt-2). He stated his case simply and briefly and repeating the key points. Oz did say he appreciated Gary’s work and the benefit to the community.

    Gary challenged him on the research and Oz side stepped this at every turn. His response was to talk about cutting into people’s chests and seeing diseased hearts. He did not provide clinical data to refute the idea that carbs contribute to heart disease.

    So…are American tv viewers stupid or are they able to think for themselves? That seems to be the key question here.

    Nina

    • I wouldn’t call the viewers “stupid,” but they are certainly ignorant of the facts because people in authority regarding health refuse to provide the truth to them.

  • Nina

    Then trust them to use their brains, like you did at the start of your journey. Gary provided enough information to get them going. Of course the Oz groupies in the studio aren’t going to be convinced, but they’ll follow his line whatever he says.

    We’ve had disinformation from our leaders since the beginning of time. You and I wouldn’t have the vote if our ancestors hadn’t deviated from the party line.

    Gary got national media exposure and he used it well. Trust your countrymen to do their bit. It’ll take time, but we’ll get there.

    Nina