Dr Joel Fuhrman M.D.
The Dr Atkins Diet
Dr. Fuhrman responds to comments made
on his blog by Barry Groves a board member
of the Weston Price Foundation, an
organization that promotes a high fat diet, as
recommended by the late Dr. Atkins.
Dr. Fuhrman: Barry Groves is correct. One
negative story regarding Atkins followers does not a conclusive study make;
it only makes one important point.
That is--because of the immense popularity of the Atkins’ Diet "lots of meat-is-
not heart-disease-or-cancer-promoting" message, thousands of individuals
have been supported to adopt a diet that all health authorities have declared
Even more importantly, many people have suffered and died needlessly
because of this.
Some people will enthusiastically jump on a bandwagon of pseudo-scientific
claims that makes statements supporting the continuation of their preferred
food habits and addictions.
There are other important issues here, too. Watching people die needlessly
from dangerous nutritional advice is just one of them. Atkins made many
fraudulent claims over the years and he got away with it.
He stated, "Reverse heart disease with filet mignon!" and "Prevent Breast
Cancer with Cheese" in his newsletters.
While at the same time thousands of studies in the scientific literature showed
increased heart attack risk and higher cancer risks associated with diets rich
in meat and cheese.
Consider the position of the nutrition committee of the American Heart
Association posted on (AtkinsExposed.org).
The May 2004 Annals of Internal Medicine study showed that a third of Atkins
dieters suffered a significant increase in LDL cholesterol.
In the study, one person's LDL shot from an unhealthy 184 to a positively
frightening 283 (which means their total cholesterol was probably somewhere
With so many people on these diets, that could mean Atkins is endangering
the health of millions of Americans.
LDL cholesterol is, after all, the single most important diet related risk factor
for heart disease, the number one killer in the United States for both men and
In another clinical trial, despite statistically significant weight loss reported in
the Atkins group, every single cardiac risk factor measured had worsened
after a year on the Atkins Diet.
The investigator concludes:
"Those following high fat Atkins diets may have lost weight, but at the price of
increased cardiovascular risk factors, including increased LDL cholesterol,
increased triglycerides, increased total cholesterol, decreased HDL cholesterol,
increased total/HDL cholesterol ratios, and increased homocysteine, Lp, and
These increased risk factors not only increase the risk of heart disease, but
also the risk of strokes, peripheral vascular disease, and blood clots.
If this was not enough, a landmark study published in 2000, actually measured
what was happening to peoples' arteries on this kind of diet.
Utilizing SPECT scans to actually directly measure the blood flow within the
coronary arteries the development of heart disease was directly measured for
16 people on a vegetarian diet that was high in fruits and vegetables and 10
people following a low carb, high protein diet and the results were shocking.
Those sticking to the whole-foods vegetarian diet showed a reversal of their
heart disease as expected.
Their partially clogged arteries literally got cleaned out, and blood flow to their
hearts through their coronary arteries increased 40%.
Those on the Atkins Diet had rapid advancement of their heart disease with a
decrease in blood flow in the heart's blood vessels of 40%.
Thus, the only study on the Atkins Diet to actually measure arterial blood flow
showed this style of eating is exceedingly dangerous.
Fortunately more and more doctors are informing their patients regarding the
real dangers here and the Atkins Diet has lost its luster as a result of these
Emerging evidence also suggests that ketogenic diets may "create metabolic
derangement conducive to cardiac conduction abnormalities and/or myocardial
dysfunction"--in other words cause other potentially life-threatening heart
problems as well.
Ketogenic diets have also been shown in the medical literature to cause a
pathological enlargement of the heart called cardiomyopathy, which is
reversible, but only if the diet is stopped in time.
The Atkins Corporation denies that Dr. Atkins' own cardiomyopathy-induced
heart attack, hypertension, and blocked arteries had anything to do with his
But it is important to counter these ridiculous claims with reality. Atkins had
not only cardiomyopathy but high blood pressure and aththerosclerosis
according to his medical record.
These diseases are not caused by viruses. In fact, even viral-induced
cardiomyopathy is thought to be caused by low levels of fruit and vegetables
in the diet.
You can't escape from biological laws of cause and effect; all people
eventually pay a price if you eat dangerously.
We already know the low amount of fruits vegetables and beans in the
American diet and the high consumption of animal products is dangerous.
But the comments by Atkins' devotees like Barry Groves are worse than
misleading; Atkins promoters encourage a dietary pattern that puts
themselves and their followers at serious, life-threatening risk.
That is where the death of people following the Atkins Diet (including Atkins)
is relevant news. This is no light matter, because lives can potentially be
saved by addressing the false assumptions, claims and denial of the known
Take the repeated assertion by the Atkins camp that a high protein diet does
not damage the kidney. If increasing ones risk of heart attack and cancer
wasn't enough of an argument.
Groves is right; the Harvard data shows that a high protein diet causes kidney
damage unless a person has a perfectly normally functioning kidney to start
But almost 25 percent of people over 45, especially those with diabetes or
high blood pressure, have a degree of kidney impairment, and the Atkins'
people never warned these people to avoid the diet.
The study also did not conclude the high protein diet was safe for those with a
normal kidney; it just said that the long-term impact in these people would
take longer to detect and was unknown at present time.
The short-term studies Barry Groves reports offer no reassurance the high
intake of animal products will not induce kidney damage or kidney stones.
In fact Dr. Knight, the lead researcher in this study concluded:
"The potential impact of protein consumption on renal function has important
public health implications given the prevalence of high protein diets and use of
protein supplements. It is also well established that lots of meat equals lots of
gout and kidney stones."
In a press release entitled American Kidney Fund Warns About Impact of
High-Protein Diets on Kidney Health, Chair of Medical Affairs,
Paul W. Crawford, M.D., wrote:
"We have long suspected that high-protein weight loss diets could have a
negative impact on the kidneys, and now we have research to support our
Dr. Crawford is worried that the strain put on the kidneys could result in
irreversible "scarring in the kidneys."
Dr. Crawford also discussed the risk that bodybuilders take in eating high-
protein diets while building muscle. He noted:
"Bodybuilders could be predisposing themselves to chronic kidney disease
because hyperfilteration (the strain on the kidneys) can produce scarring in the
kidneys, reducing kidney function.
Chronic kidney disease is not to be taken lightly, and there is no cure for
kidney failure. The only treatments are kidney dialysis and kidney
This research shows that even in healthy athletes, kidney function was
impacted and that ought to send a message to anyone who is on a high-protein
weight loss diet." concluded Dr. Crawford.
The American Kidney Fund is the leading national voluntary health
organization providing direct financial assistance for the benefit of kidney
patients supported by comprehensive educational programs, clinical research
and community service projects.
Dr. Grove's reasoning is also illogical and pointing to very short-lived tribes
eating lots of meat as offering some value.
Yes, the American diet is already too rich in animal products (and refined carbs
too) even without the help of Atkins, and this already does lead to many
sensitive individuals to develop kidney disease.
Taking it a step further up the ladder from 40 percent of animal products in the
typical American diet, (which is too high for disease prevention) to 80 percent,
encouraged on the Atkins diet, is much more dangerous and foolish.
The science supporting what constitutes excellent nutrition is vast. In Eat To
Live, I reference about 1500 studies, but that is only the tip of the iceberg.
I have reviewed over 60,000 studies that indicate that what we put in our
mouth does matter and that we can prevent disease with a high nutrient diet.
You have to bury your head in the sand, to deny not just the danger to one's
kidneys, from a diet-style rich in meat, but many other dangers as well.
My initial discussion of Atkins' death, here on my blog, was brought up in
response to Dr. Mercola's incorrect comments about this issue on his
The facts are that we do not know for sure if Atkins had a heart attack and then
fell and hit his head or just happened to take a really unusual bad fall that
We do know for a fact that he was overweight and weighed about 200 pounds
before this incident (he ballooned further up in the hospital), but I never
commented on that.
Furthermore we know that his heart problems were not limited to
cardiomyopathy, his medical record showed he had other heart problems that
he covered up for years.
Earlier I discussed a patient of mine, who had an insider's account of Dr.
Atkins death from their mutual cardiologist.
My patient is in the public eye, and does not want the hassle of being
demonized for telling this story. He asks that we refer to him simply as
This is his tale:
“I have been a patient of Joel Fuhrman, M.D. since September of 2005. I am 67
years of age and I am being treated for severe coronary artery disease. My
goal is to melt away the calcification in my arteries by using a plant based diet
prescribed by Dr. Fuhrman.
From April 2001 to July 2004, I had five non-invasive C T Angiograms; my
coronary artery calcification scores varied between 2900 to 3100, normal is
about 100 or less.
In November 2001, I was referred to Patrick Fratellone, M.D. who was the
cardiologist at The Atkins Center. He was also Dr. Atkin's cardiologist; I would
occasionally see Dr. Atkins in passing while I had appointments at the Center.
At that time, I was accepted by Dr. Fratellone as a candidate for a test trial to
treat the calcification as an bacterial infection (Nanobacterium Sanguinen).
The therapy was not successful.
Early May 2002, I elect to have an invasive coronary artery angiogram to see
how much blockage I have in my coronary arteries. It was bad, another time I
will tell you how bad. On May 29, 2002, I had double by-pass heart surgery.
In July, Dr. Fratellone leaves The Atkins Center to set up his own office, since
Atkins wanted to downsize his practice.
He remained as Dr. Atkins' cardiologist. I continued to use Dr Fratellone for
several other alternative therapies, which were also unsuccessful. In October
of 2002, while under his care as well as several other well-known cardiologists,
I recall seeing Dr. Atkins on the NBC Today Show.
He and Katie Couric were in a heated discussion. She was saying that he had
a heart attack and Atkins replied, "I didn't have a heart attack, I had a incident.
What I have is an infection."
With that it struck me that he must have a condition similar to my case, he
must be loaded with the calcification in his arteries. I have to assume that he
was using the same therapy, since we both had the same cardiologist, Dr.
Fast-forward to April 2003 and Dr. Atkins dies, slips on ice? I see Dr.
Fratellone about a month later and during the visit, I express my sorrow for the
death of Dr. Atkins. I said that was some accident, slipping on the ice and
hitting his head and dying. He looked at me with a questionable stare and
pointed to his heart. I said, "He had a heart attack?" He said no more after
Since I continued treatment with Dr. Fratellone over the next few months with
IV therapy, I would get feed back from some of the staff. It appears that upon
Atkins death, his wife had him admitted to a hospital where his cardiologist,
Dr. Fratellone, did not have attending physician's privileges. Therefore, he
was not able to care for Dr. Atkins as his cardiologist. Hearsay has it that Dr.
Fratellone would have been able to save him.”
His story of developing heart disease on the Atkins diet, as a friend of Dr.
Atkins, and his insider view of Atkins health and death are relevant too.
The claim by the Atkins devotees that I have fabricated this story does not
merely insult me, but speaks to the futility of their argument.
As I post many more cases of my patients who developed heart problems on
the Atkins diet I guess their only response will be that I am lying.
I am hoping that instead, a few of them will re-think their long-held views and
maybe reduce the amount of animal products in their diets and start eating
more vegetables, beans and fruit.
And yes, humans are primates and all primates eat a diet of predominantly
natural vegetation. If they eat animal products, it is a very small percentage of
their total caloric intake.
Luckily we have modern science that shows that most common ailments in
today's world are the result of nutritional ignorance and that we can eat a diet-
style rich in phytochemicals from a variety of natural plant foods that can
afford us the ability to live a long healthy life, not easily obtained by our
With the many millions of Atkins followers around the world grasping at
straws to justify eating a diet rich in animal products, I hope my blog serves to
counter health claims by these people and in doing so maybe save a few lives
or reduce someone's suffering.
But the main point here that I always want to emphasize is to describe the
benefits of nutritional excellence.
In describing the bad science utilized to promote dangerous diets like Atkins,
let's always frame it with what a healthy diet should look like.
When one eats a truly health supporting diet, you can not only expect a
predicted drop in blood pressure, drop in cholesterol and reversal of heart
disease, but your headaches, constipation, indigestion and bad breath should
Eating for nutritional excellence should enable people to reverse diabetes and
to gradually lose dependence on drugs. You should not only achieve a
normal weight without counting calories and dieting, but to achieve robust
health and live a long life free of the fear of heart attacks and strokes.
Nutritional excellence, which involves the eating of lots of vegetables, fruits
and beans (forbidden on the Atkins Diet) does not have to exclude all animal
products, but it has to be very rich in high nutrient plant foods which should
comprise well over eighty percent of caloric intake.
Enough is enough, I think the dangers of the Atkins approach have already
been well publicized and addressed by every major nutritional organization
and medical group in the country. Let's let it die an uneventful death with as
little people suffering from such bad advice as possible.
If an individual well-versed in the body of scientific literature wants to discuss
the nutritional merits of a diet with a higher amount or a lower amount of
animal products in the range of 0-20 percent, that might be educational and
productive, but to pursue this discussion with individuals protecting their
desire to eat a diet with 75-85 percent of calories from animal products (like in
Atkins menus) is really a waste of time.
This debate could never occur in a true scientific venue; Groves’s opinions
are like arguing the earth is flat. My Eat To Live dietary approach has already
been tested and been shown to be the most effective diet-style at lowering
cholesterol as reported in the medical journal metabolism.
A recent study awaiting publication also showed that participants followed for
two years lost more weight and kept it off better than any other diet study on
In my practice, I have hundreds of patients who had reversed their heart
disease that they developed while on the American diet or on the Atkins diet,
dropped their cholesterol over a hundred points, without drugs, and are living
proof that nutritional excellence, not drugs is the therapy of choice.
My book, Eat To Live has enabled thousands of overweight individuals to lose
dramatic amount of weight and recover their health without incurring the risks
of an unbalanced nutrition.
Longevity and disease protection are the ultimate goals of dietary advice; you
can lose weight snorting cocaine and smoking cigarettes.
But, when you settle for second-class nutritional advice you doom yourself
not only to a shorter life, but to a poor quality life in your later years, and suffer
with medical problems that could have been avoided.
I am glad Barry Groves (an electronic engineer, and honorary board member
of the Weston Price Foundation) returned and chimed in again.
Now that his name has been mentioned many times here at DiseaseProof.com
when people search for it on the web, hopefully they will be able to read his
comments and my responses and see that his nutritional viewpoints are
illogical and dangerous.
Hopefully this will have some effect from anyone dying needlessly from his
writings elsewhere and some book publisher will have second thoughts about
publishing anything he puts together.
Barry Groves doesn't get the idea that I am not defending the American diet or
the almost worthless recommendations of the American Heart Association.
However, I am claiming that my dietary and nutritional recommendations are
dramatically protective and can enable people to heart-attack-proof their
Barry Groves obviously did not read Disease-Proof Your Child or Eat To Live,
but maybe others too, are not clear that I clearly explain that processed foods,
sugar, white flour, and other low-fat, low-nutrient foods promote heart
disease. Saturated fat is only one causative factor; but one I do not ignore.
I realize the web allows a forum for people with potentially dangerous advice,
but I think most intelligent people can see through his straw arguments, so I
welcome the opportunity to comment again to his skewed nutritional
viewpoints and unsubstantiated claims.
Each time Barry Groves reports on a medical study he gave a different
conclusion to the data than the researchers do, and the studies are usually
some poorly done old study.
It is typical stuff for the Atkins crowd and the Weston Price Foundation to find
one research paper they can claim makes their argument legitimate, but even
when they hand pick one study, they typically don't report the research
Fortunately we have a comprehensive body of knowledge today with over
15,000 articles written since the 1950's documenting the link between a diet
high in saturated fat and low in fresh fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetable and beans
and the increase risk of cancer and heart disease.
Thousands of research scientists don't agree with Barry Groves' meat-
centered diet recommendations and the platform of the Weston Price
Respected Research Agrees
Let's look at what the most respected modern researchers say after a lifetime
of collecting data from all over the world.
Profits vs. Sense
I realize that quoting one study after another or using clear science and logic
will not change the mind of those selling and profiting from the appeal of the
meat-based diet like Barry Groves and the Weston Price Foundation
It is still important to address them so that an uninformed individual is not
taken in by their dangerous form of quackery, like so many did with Atkins.
Poor Health of Indigenous Meat-Eaters
The dangerous habits of Americans or Europeans who eat only about 5
percent of their caloric intake from fresh produce and the majority of calories
from processed foods, does not in anyway make a diet centered on meat
The whole purpose of this website is to offer information that can offer people
control over their health destiny, without dependency on medications and
without a premature death due to nutritional ignorance.
With the knowledge we have available today and the access to high quality
foods all year round we have a unique opportunity to live well and longer than
ever before in human history.
When Barry Groves and the Weston Price Foundation people listed above rest
their laurels on the health of high meat eating tribes, we have to counter that
with real research, not phony claims.
The research on the life expectancy of these people is clear. The Inuit
Greenlanders have the worst longevity statistics in North America.
A careful literature search reveals multiple studies documenting an earlier
death in these people as a result of their low consumption of fresh produce
and their high consumption of meat.
Legitimate research on the health of these people at present and in the past,
show that they die on the average about 10 years younger and have a higher
rate of cancer than the general population of Canada.
Choosing Between Two Bad Diets vs. Choosing an Optimal One
Weston Price and the Weston Price Foundation's claims about achieving
good health on a diet rich in saturated fat are entirely without substance or
Weston Price himself did not painstakingly document the lifespan of these
people; he was a dentist who just made a quick visit and jumped to simplistic
conclusions claiming people were healthy by looking at their teeth.
He ignored life expectancy, infant mortality, high rate of infection and many
other confounding variables. Weston Price did not grasp the complexity of
multi-factorial causation and this tradition is continued by his followers today.
This in no way dismisses or makes less of the importance of Price's criticism
of the dangers of sugar and other processed foods modern societies eat.
And maybe eating lots of wild meats and natural vegetation, without exposure
to modern processed foods may offer a better health outcome than a modern
American eating even less produce, and more processed foods, (which may
be even worse) but we don't purchase a car by comparing it to a junkyard
wreck, we want to know what is best.
Fortunately, we actually know that eating a higher percentage of vegetables,
legumes, fruit, and raw nuts and seeds in a diet (and much less animal
products) can offer a profound longevity advantage due to a broad symphony
of life-extending phytochemical nutrients.
We have a unique opportunity in human history, we can devise a lifestyle and
diet-style to dramatically increase our productive years and live well into the
nineties or later without dementia or medical tragedies.
We must offer recommendations based on a broad overview of all the
The evidence here is overwhelming; and for those who want maximum control
of their health destiny one's dietary choices should not be based on politics,
ego, or a belief system.
By: Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D. www.drfuhrman.com
Article: Dr. Joel Fuhrman M.D. vs The Dr Atkins Diet