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Is Dr. Andrew Weil Now Championing The Cause Of High-Fat, Low-Carb Living?

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.


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

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).

Check out Dr. Weil’s name listed at the very bottom of PCRM’s Board of Directors:

CLICK on the image to enlarge

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.

  • http://thepaleogarden.com Zach

    Dr. Weil as far as I’m concerned with this article is already on board. How he will choose to characterize incorporating a “normal carb” diet into his protocols and “rhetoric” will be interesting (I use the word rhetoric with respect, I’m not implying that he speaks with empty words here). He needs to do it in such a way that allows his colleagues still sharing his previous lowfat beliefs to not feel too uncomfortable about his new conclusions. If it takes awhile for Weil to articulate that to them and publicly, I think that may be needed in order to properly get others on board. If he does this right, his legacy will grow indeed. Good for Weil.

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      I agree with your assessment that Weil do this incrementally. Then when the time comes, he can be more explicit.

  • Scottie D

    “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.”

    HIS PERSONAL WEIGHT LOSS SUCCESS???

    Has anyone seen Santa Weil these days? Why do some people mistake a partial weight loss, which never seems to continue until a healthy weight is achieved, as some kind of amazing success, worth of a pronouncement such as this blog post. Jimmy Moore’s weight loss is the same – he was able to restrict calories enough to lose only some of his weight, after starting at 400+ lbs.

    The low fat, whole foods, AMPLE calories diets such as those promoted Dr. McDougall, Dr. Esselstyn, and Dr. Doug Graham DO work (low fat does not mean junk food refined products!). You Jimmy Moore followers are deluded… yeah, by eating less calories than it took to originally reach 300 or 400 lbs, you will lose weight. But is weighing 200 or 300 lbs still really a success? Especially Jimmy Moore after so many years?

    Please… comical! Try a real diet which leaves you feeling satisified and doesn’t leave you making momentous blog posts like waking up one morning saying, “I realized I *need* to go on an EGG FEST in order to lose more weight!”

    Comical. Please open your minds – you fellows could live much happier.

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      And your point is?

  • http://www.beefandwhiskey.com mrfreddy (www.beefandwhisky.com)

    To my mind, this guy has always been a crackpot, now he’s just a crackpot who’s accepted some of the lessons from GCBC and the current science that supports low carb.

    I’m not so sure that it’s good news to have support from a kook like him!

    Seriously tho, it probably is a good thing, even tho he IS a kook, he does have a lot of influence, so… there you go.

    Now, if he could just convince a few other crackpots, you know, like Dr. Oz…. Dean Ornish… T. Colin Cambell… Joel Fuhrman, not to mention every doctor I’ve ever been to…

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      I get what you’re saying, Freddy, but this is bigger than I think you even realize. Dr. Weil, warts and all, is widely recognized as a true leader in the field of health, so anything GOOD he can say about saturated fat and the detrimental impact carbohydrates have on the body is a step in the right direction. Kooky or otherwise.

  • http://LowStressWeightLoss.com Sarah@LowStressWeightLoss

    I saw his article on Huff Post a few days back and thought that it was about as strong a statement to change tactics as a public health figure is ever likely to make. As much as I believe the “alternative hypothesis” there is no where near enough evidence to make a crazy public statement if you’re a high-profile doc, so I think this is as close to public declaration as we’re ever likely to see (except perhaps on the back of new studies, but there won’t be huge numbers of really important studies).

    The truth is that if a few high-profile docs can educate themselves on the value of carb restriction (especially in living it themselves) and the “anti-sugar” talk of the cardiologists can continue, you could end up with a groundswell that could gain momentum…

    The statement he made about saturated fat is huge – a big blow to the establishment & a good notch forward.

    Will definitely be interesting to watch him over the next few years

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      Sarah, I agree this is a HUGE step forward for the low-carb, high-fat movement and it makes me wonder how many other lesser-known medical people have been as profoundly impacted by the message that Gary Taubes shared in his book. It certainly doesn’t hurt having a prominent name like Weil leading the way.

  • http://thebunnellfarm.com/ Tom Bunnell

    I’ll never understand why it is so hard for everyone to grasp the simple fact that eating as nature intended, like all of the other creatures do, is optimal and perfect for our health. We look at an eagle or a fish or a deer or a rabbit or bear or fox and we know for sure that what nature intended them to eat and drink makes them vibrant and healthy on into longevity. So why is it so hard to look at our earths indigenous foods for humans in the same manor. Man has always been omnivore. Is a robin bad because he feeds his babies worms? We have been farming and raising our food for so long that we have taken farm foods as to be natural. Is the bear and the wolf and deer and fish better off eating farm foods or natures food. — It’s a simple truth and as simple as that! A pristine, perfect, earth. Man included!

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      Well stated Tom!

  • http://betterhabitsbulletin.com Jeff Stevenson

    Dr. Weil has painted himself into a “plant based diet” corner that won’t be easy for him to get out of.

    If he ever does fully disentangle himself from his pseudo vegetarian propaganda, it will almost definitely have to be done very gradually, in order for him to save face. Hard for a public persona to do a sudden “about-face” and admit they’ve been wrong all these years.

    Nonetheless, let’s give the cherubic, soy-swilling Doc some credit for at least being somewhat open-minded to carbohydrate restricted diets.

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      Jeff, you are right on about Weil needing to walk a fine line here in light of all the misinformation he has shared previously regarding diet. But the ripple effect of his change in heart could be felt across the medical establishment as they finally begin realizing the harmful impact carbohydrates have had on the collective health of our population. We can only hope.

  • http://www.lowcarbage.com/ Frank Hagan

    I think Dr. Weil has what can euphemistically be called “evolving dietary standards“.

    He’s been welcomed in the low carb community, but he’s not there yet. Even with his recent articles (I link one he did on the high fat “Heart Attack Grill” in my blog), he still advocates a “low inflammation diet pyramid” on his website that features whole grains, pasta and legumes just above fruits and veggies, with “lean meats” to be served only once or twice a week.

    He still buys into the “complex carbs” and vegetarian myths.

    Dr. Weil is recommending a diet slightly better than the SAD, but not the optimum for most people. He realizes that reducing carbs was the best solution for him. And he realizes that saturated fat isn’t the bogeyman that he always thought it was. But he keeps the high carb recommendations on his site. How does he unravel the years of bad advice he has given? Right now, he looks like the dietary equivalent of Sybill or Three Faces of Eve.

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      I understand your cautious skepticism, Frank, about whether this change in Dr. Weil is genuine or just trying to be all things to all people. But I remain hopeful that he’s on his way there thanks to the efforts of Gary Taubes. It’ll certainly be fun to watch over the next few years to see if he becomes even more bold in his positions.

  • Jennifer

    Dr. Weil is being smart. He can see what’s coming down the pike (acceptance and understanding of low carb) and he’s positioning himself to be on the right side when that happens. He does that, writes a few new books and he’s still the guru he is now, probably to the very same people! And I’m not being snide saying that. In fact, I think the fact that he can change his mind on something like this, unlike Certain Other People, shows a personality that’s more interested in helping people than childishly clinging to older ideas that have been set aside by research. So I say good for him. Better late to the party than not at all.

  • Eva

    I’ll give Weil credit where credit is due for looking at the science and being willing to rethink his position instead of dogmatically refusing to change like so many others. And to be honest, I do agree that animals are cute and I’m sorry for them when they have to be killed. If it wasn’t healthy for me to eat them, then I wouldn’t. So I totally agree that there is a humanitarian reason to not eat animals, especially considering the poor conditions in which most are raised. I think we could all benefit by taking a more reasoned approach to this by both looking at ways to raise animals so they live healthier and are also healthier to eat and so we can live and eat healthier while also keeping our environment healthier. Someone like Weil who is able to look at the science and at both sides with understanding and an open mind is exactly what this world needs more of and exactly what will bring better acceptance of healthier eating styles to the general public.

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      THANKS for your comments, Eva! A great resource on the argument that we shouldn’t kill animals for food is Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth and I highly recommend it for people to read. But you’re right about Dr. Weil. He’s showing himself to be a scientist in the truest sense of the word by letting the research guide his thinking. This will never happen with zealots like Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, or Dr. Mehmet Oz.

  • Karen

    Great item, Jimmy! In your upcoming interview with Barnard, it would be interesting to hear his reaction to one of his PCRM board members changing teams.

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      You KNOW I’ll be asking him about it. :D

  • Nancy

    I’ve always thought of Dr. Weil as a bit of a crackpot. I read a couple of his book and couldn’t get past the fact that he had too many unverified beliefs and the fact that he was so FAT! A friend of mine just loves him and she’s a bit of a crackpot too. A sweet crackpot with a big heart and no common sense. It’s just one of those situations where people turn a blind-eye because he is kindly respected due to his guru status.

    It’s good to see that he has seen the light…the low carb light. It means a total about face in his beliefs. Will he be accepted by the low carb community? Will he completely change to a low carb lifestyle? Only time will tell. For me, there are much better advocates of the low carb lifestyle than Dr. Weil.

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      Nancy, I agree there are better advocates for livin’ la vida low-carb, but none with the name recognition that Dr. Weil has. I’m still skeptical about his change in thinking, but Gary Taubes seems to think it’s genuine. Let’s give him a few years to continue to become an activist for the cause and we’ll see how serious he really is.

  • Steve

    I would hope he’s accepted by the low carb community. Let’s be honest, most of us at one time or another probably thought the low carb way was dead wrong. I wouldn’t blame him for his past views considering how mainstream they were and still are.

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      But you can’t help but be skeptical until his change in thinking has taken firm hold using his prestige to further the message.

  • http://leanmeanvirilemachine.com Darrin

    Dr. Weil has built his career promoting plant-based diets. For him to start acknowledging that fat is not the enemy must have taken an enormous amount of audacity on his part. (I’m sure he’s not surprised at how the PCRM is reacting.) There are very few people in this world who are able to both have strongly-held beliefs and yet still be open to the fact that they might be wrong. Like his advice or hate it, I always hold people who can do act this way in the highest regard.

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      Darrin, that’s an outstanding point. It’s the zealots who refused to budge no matter what when evidence is staring them in the face that make change more difficult to happen. Dr. Weil is leading the way on this and only time will tell if he makes any impact at all.

  • Peter Silverman

    I don’t think the question is: “is Andrew Weil on our team (low carb) or their team (plant eaters).
    A lot of your guests don’t fit into the good guys against the bad guys model, for instance William Davis who describes himself as a near vegetarian who sees lots of problems with both carbs and meat. There’s a rainbow of views about nutrition nowadays and lots of people don’t fit neatly under a label or belong to a team.

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      I hear ya Peter. But the difference is people like Davis aren’t so monolithic in their thinking that they exclude low-carb as a viable option. Zealots like Ornish, Campbell, and other vegans give no credence to the value of low-carb diets. I openly say there are many ways for people to choose from.

  • Gloria

    I know that many of us would like to see someone storm the bastion of conventional nutrtion and start the revolution.(And I heartily endorse taking the reins in your own life and waging your own personal revolution) However, in the long run, a more measured, more thoughtful, more gradual change in attitudes and views is likely to yield the most lasting and effective change? Somewhere, public figures, doctors, scientists and regular people will meet in the future and it will be a low glycemic, whole food world. It does not do low carb consiousness any favor for it’s growing body of supporters and friends to be discredited? If society follows Dr Weil on his journey and he is the scientist and ethical person that we hope he is, it could potentialy be huge. Lets face it we’re looking at not only a shift in personal eating, but economics, politics, corporate farming and culture.

    I wish him well and I’m frankly encouraged.

    Jimmy, once again- really important work that you’re doing here!

  • Steve Brecher

    Please write shorter sentences.

    “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.”

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      Nah, I like agitating people like you! LOL! :P

  • Eva

    Besides, I will be grateful for any progress. It just kills me to see people I care about eating crap food and then wondering why they are unhealthy even though they think they are eating healthy. Since I have no medical background, most people will not listen to me when I say ‘crazy’ stuff like eating saturated fat is good for you, etc. And that is because all the so called experts are saying just the opposite. Most of them are not the types that can read GCBC type books either. They feel the obvious answer is to do what the experts say! Sigh..

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      I run into this all the time, Eva! But you just keep sharing the truth and eventually you hope it will sink in.

  • Olivia Fischer

    I think there’s hope. This is hopeful…
    Vegetarians can easily eat low carb if they eat fish, eggs/dairy. Now can a vegan do it without eating soy? I’m racking my brain, and thinking not. However, if someone is a vegan for “humanitarian & ecological purposes” then eating soy could be worth the risks associated…besides they think it’s healthy and safe anyway.
    I enjoyed Rose Eliot’s low carb for vegetarians book, which also has mods in her recipes for vegan use (not that I care, personally I think Veganism is a self-loathing way of existence, right up there with self-flagellation). While I’m not a vegetarian by any stretch, I hoped my mother would get inspiration from it.

    Living low carb is simply about getting the ratios right — lots of rich fat sources like coconut fat, olive oil and nut oils that could be a base for a vegetarian or vegan diet.

  • Val

    Olivia, thanks for the reference for the low-carb vegetarian book: that’s the direction I’m heading.
    (I can no longer support our abominable treatment of factory-farmed animals, or the fossil fuel consumption required to seek out the “humane” alternatives… So that leaves me w/fish, eggs, & dairy!)

  • JadaM

    Why all this passivity about factory farming? In Lierre Keith’s book, she points out that this practice is only about fifty years old, and it can be changed-by us. Get as much meat as possible from local farmers, cowpool — with other families to buy a half side of beef. Become a locavore and then become vocal on your local city websites about what you’re doing and why.

    Tweet your friends, state and fed reps, the corporations themselves, anybody you can think of.

    To avoid eating meat and feeding meet to your children because of factory farming is just wrong.

    I’m lucky to live in a state with so much variety that none of the above is hard. Please, just try to do some of it.

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      I already do man! :)

  • NitaC

    Just a comment to Scottie D…

    It’s the “The low fat, whole foods, AMPLE calories diets” you mentioned that kept my blood glucose up for so long. I listened to experts such as yourself for so many years that I now have LOTS of autoimmune issues to keep me busy.