Diet Review: The Ornish Program
© Joan Price. May not be reprinted without permission.
"Being overweight is primarily due to how much fat you eat," writes Dean Ornish, M.D. He recommends that you eat your fill of fat-free, healthy foods. Without feeling hungry, you lose weight and prevent (or reverse) heart disease.
The Ornish program is very low fat and mostly vegetarian. It emphasizes whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans, with limited non-fat dairy (yogurt, cottage cheese) and egg whites. The Ornish plan is low in protein, especially animal protein, and fat. It is the only diet that has been shown to reverse heart disease by unclogging arteries.
You can eat your fill of beans, legumes, fruits, grains, and vegetables. You can eat nonfat dairy products and nonfat or very low-fat commercial products (such as Egg Beaters, frozen yogurt, cereals, and various other prepared foods) in moderation. You should avoid meats (including chicken and fish), oils, sugar, alcohol, and high-fat foods such as avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds.
Nutrition Action Healthletter (May 2000) analyzed the Ornish plan as 80% carbohydrate, 6% fat, 1% saturated fat, 15% protein.
The Ornish program for reversing heart disease includes more than dietary changes. It also incorporates aerobic exercise (at least 30 minutes a day of brisk walking), stress management (at least an hour a day of stretching, meditation, relaxation, etc.), psychological support (from friends, family, religious activities, support groups), and smoking cessation. (Ornish calls his weight-loss plan the Life Choice diet and his heart-disease program Opening Your Heart, but most people just call both "Ornish.")
Science behind it: Many diet books are based on wishful thinking, with an absence of (or total disregard for) scientific proof. In contrast, this plan has proven that heart disease can be halted, or even reversed, through making changes in eating, exercise, and stress management. Ornish's ongoing scientific study of heart-disease patients has shown startling results: Participants reduced or discontinued medications; chest pain decreased or disappeared completely; coronary artery blockages were reduced, and participants had more energy and less stress. In addition, participants lost weight even though they ate more. These results were published in 1998 in two of the most reputable medical journals: the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the American Journal of Cardiology.
Dean Ornish, M.D., is a research scientist and a specialist in internal medicine. He directs the non?profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California. He is also Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and a founder of its Center for Integrative Medicine.
- Improves heart health
- Lets you lose weight without hunger
- No restriction on quantity
- Science-supported results
- Low in fat, especially saturated fat
- High in fiber and natural antioxidants
- If you're used to eating a lot of meat, fat, and dairy, you may find Ornish's recommendations restrictive and unsatisfying.
- Some people find it difficult to stick to this plan.
Recommended if you want to lose weight and improve your health, especially if you have heart disease or risk of heart disease, and are willing to make some drastic changes to live longer and better.
Overall evalation: The health benefits far outweigh the challenges.