The science supporting a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carbohydrate nutritional approach is sound and has been for many years now. And the more we learn about the detrimental impact that carbs are having on our health, the closer we’re inching to a day and age when we will be able to love and enjoy this fabulous way of eating as a universally accepted dietary option for people dealing with obesity, diabetes, and many of the chronic diseases so many people are currently suffering from. You might be thinking to yourself that this seems like a wild dream to even fathom low-carb acceptance as a plausible outcome with the current negative atmosphere about dietary fat (that it is “clogging your arteries” and going to give you a heart attack) and almost universal embracement of carbohydrates (that they are “essential” to the human diet) that livin’ la vida low-carb could ever be taken seriously as the natural therapeutic treatment option for healing many of life’s health woes. But there’s good news on that front–we’re getting closer now than we’ve ever been before thanks to the newfound embracement of high-fat, low-carb living by one of the world’s most recognized names in health, Dr. Andrew Weil.
As the father of the “integrative medicine” approach used by so many naturopaths and leaders in healthy living today, Dr. Weil has written several bestselling books over the past few decades on a variety of subjects related to anti-aging, alternative medicine, and using food as medicine. His prominence as a top voice in the healthy industry was affirmed when he appeared on the front cover of Time magazine twice after being named one of the 25 most influential Americans in 1997 and then again as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2005. Heck, he’s even had a mushroom named after him! Dr. Weil runs the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine where he has started a nationwide trend towards teaching integrative medicine to eager medical school students looking to help patients more holistically than pharmaceutically. In other words, this guy is the real deal when it comes to being a highly influential member of the health establishment. But despite his many years as a high-profile teacher and leader in the health industry, Dr. Weil once again returned to being a student of nutrition and the powerful effect certain kinds of food can have on metabolic health after reading a book in 2007 by a science journalist named Gary Taubes called Good Calories Bad Calories.
A transformation of sorts began happening within the mind of Dr. Weil after he carefully examined the quality science that Taubes offered up in his bestselling book detailing the indelible connection between carbohydrates and obesity/disease due to the rise in insulin levels. His change in thinking culminated right before our eyes on national television when Dr. Weil appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live” on October 19, 2007 to share what he thought about the concepts he had read in Good Calories Bad Calories with Taubes, special guest host Joy Behar and Dr. Mehmet Oz.
After his appearance on “Larry King Live” aired, the buzz almost immediately began within the low-carb community about how Dr. Andrew Weil might be emerging as the next great champion for this cause we all believe so strongly in for helping a large segment of the population effectively get a handle on their obesity and disease. It certainly seemed that way when he admitted in an interview published on his web site that “cutting carbs” helped him lose weight while simultaneously promoting the importance of consuming saturated fat in your diet. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if some doctor nobody had ever heard of was espousing this–but Dr. Weil is well-respected and almost universally lauded as a living legend in the world of health. This shift in beliefs is also especially surprising given his association as a member of the Board of Directors for the pro-vegan lifestyle group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) alongside the likes of people like T. Colin Campbell, John MacDougall and PCRM President Neal Barnard (who just happened to be seated right next to me at the recent public testimony meeting regarding the USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines).
Given PCRM’s stated problems with a high-fat, low-carb diet and even dedicating an entire web site to discrediting the Atkins diet, it was intriguing to read Dr. Weil’s column on The Huffington Post earlier this month entitled “Fat Or Carbs: Which Is Worse? This brilliant column which should be recommended reading for anyone who cares about the nutritional relationship to health highlights all of the lessons Dr. Weil has accumulated over the past three years since reading Good Calories Bad Calories including key points like the fact that saturated fat in meat isn’t harmful (he describes it as “the safest element” in a burger meal) as evidenced by this January 2010 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the infamous “Seven Countries” study conducted by Ancel Keys forty years ago was severely flawed from the start, the parallel rise in dyslipidemia associated with the astronomical increased consumption of sugar, and the nutritional superiority of choosing grass-fed forms of beef and butter to consume over grain-fed. While he’s still hung up somewhat on the idea that meat consumption is inherently a bad thing (citing “humanitarian and ecological reasons to avoid a meat-centric diet”), Dr. Weil notes that “we would be much healthier as a nation if we stopped worrying so much about fats, and instead made a concerted effort to avoid processed, quick-digesting carbohydrates — especially added sugars.” I wonder what his colleagues at PCRM have to say about this.
This certainly begs the question: Is Dr. Andrew Weil breaking ranks from the vegetarian/vegan movement to actively promote the healthy high-fat, low-carb lifestyle? Only time will tell, but with his noted appearance several years ago on “Larry King Live,” his personal weight loss success eating low-carb, and now this 2010 column praising saturated fat and reduced carbohydrate consumption, it certainly seems that way. And before you ask it, yes, I’m trying to get Dr. Weil on my podcast show to talk about this change in his thinking regarding diet. The last time contact was made with his assistant in February this year I was told his schedule would be very busy for most of the rest of the year and to try again in September. It took me a long time to finally land my recent interview with Dr. Robert Lustig, so you know I won’t be giving up anytime soon to get Dr. Weil.
What do you think about somebody like Dr. Andrew Weil espousing the concepts of livin’ la vida low-carb as boldly in the mainstream press as he has done since 2007? Do you think he has the kind of influence that could convince an entirely new segment of the population to give low-carb living a closer look or will he be characterized by his vegetarian/vegan friends as being out of touch with sound dietary principles? Share your thoughts about this developing story that is sure to be ruffling the feathers of those who promote a low-fat, high-carb, plant-based diet.