Defiance and Dietary Know-How: The Keys to Holding Back Aging
The first words I wrote for this book were its title. The subject was a foregone conclusion; now that I'm approaching seventy, it's difficult to focus on any subject other than making sure that I stay eternally young. That focus has led to enough productive experience that I'm sure I can pass on some pretty exciting information to you.
Whenever I reflect on what I must teach you to age-proof yourself, as much as can be, the word "defiance" always jumps into my consciousness. This relates less to defying the aging process, as the title of this book would lead you to believe, than to defying the prevailing beliefs. The more I learn about how to live more and more years without feeling their effects, the more I realize that most of the information we are fed by the powers that be in the medical establishment is horribly misleading. I believe it is so misleading as to be responsible for most of the avoidable physical and mental decline that we interpret as aging.
So lesson number one will be: To defy aging, you must first learn to defy what the authorities are trying to teach you. Don't think I won't elaborate on this point; I absolutely must do so. Too many of you are diligently following rules of good healththat seem so well accepted that you assume they are established facts, such as eating a low-fat diet and eating lots of grains and fruits. Unfortunately, the dishonest side of the dogma presented to you may be the very obstacle that is holding you back from achieving your goal of a long and healthy life.
The title's fourth word, "diet," is a bit of poetic license. I've developed a reputation for providing rather effective diets, and this may cause some people to lose sight of the value of all of the nutritional approaches we use. This book will not focus on showing you how to lose weight the luxurious Atkins way, although it will certainly help you do so if you need to. So, hereinafter, let's understand that "Age-Defying Diet" refers to an overall age-defying nutritional plan.
The title's fifth word, "revolution," is one I'm sure you'll recognize and associate with my approach to nutrition and health. It defines what I've been trying to accomplish with my life's work--to make the populace so aware of the economic self-interest behind the medical establishment, and its efforts to get us to succumb to its profit-based dogma, that we silently revolt against it.
The twentieth century's impact on health can be defined as the conflict between scientists who make discoveries and scientists who make policy. The result is that much more of what you need to defy aging is known than you are being told. The current of scientific discovery provides the information we need to achieve our goals, but the current of economic self-interest preserves the status quo and prevents those breakthroughs from getting the widespread use and acceptance they deserve.
All of us will be better served if this new millennium begins with the rejection of those whose interests are not consonant with those of the general public and the acceptance of those who are determined to lead us out of the morass the medical mainstream has created.
The many favorable experiences achieved by Atkins Center patients have helped me determine how to present you with the best techniques for reversing the aging process. I will teach you all the basic programs we have developed to get our patients healthier.
You'll learn why we age and how we can slow the process. You'll learn specific ways to optimize your nutrition, idealize your hormone levels, rejuvenate aging organs, remove accumulations of toxins, restore healthy bacteria to your digestive tract, avoid adverse environmental elements, optimize your brain nutrition, and much more.
Throughout, I'll emphasize that most of what we call aging is simply the presence of disease--chronic, seemingly ubiquitous disease that makes us age with such apparent time-dependent consistency that we accept it universally as "simply getting older." Nothing could be farther from the truth. Many of the common ailments of aging can be prevented or reduced through proper diet and supplemental vitanutrients--my overall term for vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other supplements.
No one yet seems to have noticed that getting old today is quite different from a hundred years ago. The irony is that coronary heart disease, the major illness associated with age, was virtually unheard of a century ago. If we could eradicate atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, the major disease of the twentieth--and now the twenty-first--century, we would extend our life span by easily four to six years or even a dozen years. They would be healthy years, unmarred by chronic illness and disability. Heart disease can be eradicated, and therefore, that's where I'd like to begin defying aging.
Learn to Separate Fact from Fiction
It should take very little convincing for you to accept the idea that eliminating cardiovascular disease would be a very effectivefirst step in extending our collective life spans. You know full well that heart disease kills more of us than any other condition, and that narrowed, poorly functioning blood vessels cause even more of us to show signs of aging and limit our ability to enjoy our lives. Every organ, every part of your body, from your brain to the bottoms of your feet, ages when it no longer gets a good supply of blood.
But I'll wager it will take some major convincing to bring you to the same conclusion reached decades ago, which has allowed me to reverse the time clock on thousands of my patients. That simple conclusion is that people have been lied to about heart disease with such an intense barrage of misinformation for so long that even honest scholarly researchers are repeating these whoppers without a smidgen of suspicion that they could be untrue.
It is clear, then, that even before we learn how heart disease can be slowed down and actually reversed, we must learn the truth about what seems to be the conventional wisdom.
I'm sure we're all familiar with "the Gospel According to the American Heart Association." It's the same advice adopted by the American Medical Association, American Dietetic Association, the U.S. government, and the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP). All of them seem to agree unquestioningly that:
• All dietary fats must be restricted, especially saturated ones.
• Dietary cholesterol must be nearly eliminated.
• Margarine and other polyunsaturated fats are more healthful than butter and other saturated fats.
• Carbohydrates made with white flour should be the basis of a healthful diet.
• Eating ten teaspoons of sugar a day is perfectly good for you.
New scientific information from even the most prestigious journals that points clearly to the deleterious effects of trans fats (dangerous fats found in processed fats such as margarine) and refined junk carbohydrates made with sugar and white flour is clearly not heeded by the medical establishment. The economic interests of the medical profession and the food-processing industry are nowhere so well illustrated as in the American Heart Association's "Heart-Check" seal of approval on high-sugar, empty-calorie foods. You can see the Heart-Check symbol on all sorts of worthless foods, including breakfast cereals such as Count Chocula and Froot Loops and on low-fat Pop-Tarts. These foods are often nothing but refined carbohydrates and may be as much as 50 percent sugar--but they have less than 3 grams of fat per serving. The AHA's unmistakable message: "Avoid fats, and nothing else matters." In my opinion, the other message is: "Support us enough and we'll endorse your low-fat food, no matter how fundamentally unhealthful it is."
Despite the obvious errors of judgment displayed by the spokespeople for the medical establishment, the overwhelming majority of nutritionally concerned citizens stand by the low-fat guidelines, secure in the knowledge that forty years of scientific studies have proved this point beyond any doubt.
But have they? Here's a major take-home message from this book: Nothing could be farther from the truth. The billions of research dollars (much of it from your taxes in the form of government-sponsored work) spent to support the hypothesis that dietary fat leads to heart disease have, with remarkable consistency, proved the strategy to be a failure.
Let's look at the facts and you'll see for yourself. Of the dozens of proven items that call the imaginary diet-heart hypothesis into question, none is more straightforward than the well-documented truth that heart attacks (myocardial infarction)were so rare at the start of the twentieth century that the first case was not described until 1912. In 1930, heart attacks caused no more than three thousand deaths in the United States.1
Based on this figure, it behooves us to ask what Americans were consuming in the early part of the century. The amount of fat in the average daily diet then was somewhat greater than it is today, when we are in the midst of an epidemic of heart attacks. The fat we ate in 1900 was mainly butter, lard, and tallow (beef fat). Don't these facts demand an explanation? You'll never get it from the AHA, so I guess it's up to me to explain why today's official dietary recommendations are dangerous to your health. Let's start with a closer look at the history of the diet-heart hypothesis.
Diet and Your Heart: A Brief History
Ancel Keys was the famed nutritional researcher selected to determine the nutritional needs of GIs and design portable meals to meet those needs. He's the "K" in K rations. (Whether he was also responsible for the decision to include a cigarette with every K ration pack, I couldn't say.)
With World War II over, however, Keys turned his attention to a review of diet and health around the world. The results of his Seven Countries study, revealed in the early 1950s, supposedly showed that people in countries where the typical diet was high in saturated fat had higher rates of heart disease. Unfortunately, Keys's reputation and standing were so great that the medical establishment immediately embraced his conclusions.
Based on the Keys Seven Countries study and others, equally flawed, the AHA undertook a campaign to replace butter, lard, eggs, and beef with corn oil, margarine, and cereal. By 1956, the campaign was in full swing. "Beware saturated fats" was the party line, and the medical establishment fell into place reciting it--with one notable exception. Dr. Paul DudleyWhite, Harvard's leading cardiologist (and President Dwight Eisenhower's physician), pointed out that he hadn't seen a single coronary at Harvard between 1921 and 1928. On a televised panel discussion with other leading physicians he said, "Back in the myocardial-infarction-free days before 1920, the fats were butter and lard and I think we would all benefit from that kind of diet." His sensible advice, based on years of clinical experience and not epidemiological studies, was ignored.
A decade later, there was still no real proof of the diet-heart hypothesis. That didn't stop the manufacturers of Mazola corn oil and margarine from distributing a book in which Dr. Jeremiah Stamler, one of the AHA's ringleaders, affirmed that the theory was "enough to call for altering some habits even before the final proof is nailed down." In an effort to find that proof, Dr. Norman Jolliffe developed what he called the Prudent Diet, recruiting a bunch of middle-aged businessmen to try it. The diet emphasized corn oil, margarine, and cereal. The control group stuck to eggs, butter, and meat. The results? There were eight deaths from heart disease in the Prudent group versus none in the meat-and-potatoes group.
Even so, the diet-heart hypothesis was already so firmly entrenched that it couldn't be uprooted. Agribusiness had far too much invested in vegetable oils, corn, wheat, and highly profitable processed foods to allow any opposition--and it had the money and government clout to bulldoze its opponents. The food industry combined with the medical establishment in strenuous efforts to suppress dissenting opinions from such eminent scientists as Dr. Fred Kummerow of the University of Illinois, nutritional scientist Dr. Mary Enig, and Dr. George V. Mann of Vanderbilt University. Insiders have told me that the unscientific and totally unwarranted attack on my low-carbohydrate diet by the American Medical Association in 1973 was engineered by the selfsame corn, vegetable oil, and cereal interests.
Since the Prudent Diet had not proved so prudent, the powers that be called upon the ongoing Framingham Heart Study to do so. According to the early results of the study, those with higher total cholesterol levels had slightly more "heart events." As I'll explain later, the connection between saturated fat in the diet and high total cholesterol was never really made. In fact, in 1992 the study's original director, Dr. William Castelli, revealed the inside story on Framingham, pointing out that the people with lowest serum cholesterol were the ones who ate the most saturated fat and cholesterol and took in the most calories.2
With billions of dollars being invested to prove that cereal, corn oil, and margarine were heart-healthy and that most of us were candidates for cholesterol-lowering drugs, dozens of major international studies were conducted and published, all designed to ensure that the diet-heart hypothesis gained acceptance.
And gain acceptance it did--so well that it is still widely accepted today. The drop in death rates from cardiovascular disease between 1950 and 2000 is often cited in support of limiting fat in the diet. The overall decrease in the number of coronary episodes3 over the past fifty years is wonderful news, but there is just one glaring shortcoming from the diet-heart point of view: Almost all of the decrease can be attributed to the significant decline in cigarette smoking (42 percent of all adults smoked in 1970, compared to less that 30 percent in 1996), better control of blood pressure, and improved treatments for heart attack. Putting the nation on a low-fat diet--an effort that has been notably unsuccessful--has had very little to do with our declining death rate from heart attacks. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the U.S.--it killed some 727,000 people in 1997. Today you're more likely to survive a heart attack, but your chances of still being alive five years laterhave hardly budged over the past twenty years. Some 24 percent of men and 42 percent of women will die within one year of having a myocardial infarction; within six years of a first heart attack, 21 percent of men and 33 percent of women will have another, 7 percent of men and women will experience sudden death, and 21 percent of the men and 30 percent of the women will be disabled with heart failure.4 And even with the declining death rate from heart attacks, your lifetime risk of developing heart disease is still one in two for men and one in three for women.5
Now that the death rate from heart attacks is coming down, we're experiencing an epidemic of heart failure instead, because a myocardial infarction damages and weakens your heart, causing it gradually to stop working efficiently. The number of heart failure patients nearly doubled in the ten years from 1989 to 1999.6 In many cases, heart failure is simply the delayed result of having a heart attack and being treated by conventional doctors with cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. These drugs block your ability to produce coenzyme Q10, which is essential for producing energy in your cells, especially your heart cells. A shortage of CoQ10 is almost certain to make a weakened heart get weaker and fail, as I'll discuss in great detail in Chapter 9.
I've spent a good deal of time and effort to instill in you a critical attitude to the dishonesty behind the prevailing teachings about heart disease, because I soon will be telling you how the doctors and patients at the Atkins Center reverse this most important age-inducing disorder. But before I leave this subject, I feel I must show you how profoundly the prevailing teachings can adversely affect every aspect of your health.
The number-one unifier in the unholy alliance among the American Heart Association, American Medical Association, American Diabetes Association, and U.S. government in itsmany manifestations (FDA, Department of Agriculture, NIH, et al.) is clear: All these organizations have gotten squarely behind the belief that "one diet fits all."
Now, I appreciate that you are not an academic in health science, but I am confident you are a person of extreme common sense. So let me direct this question to you for your commonsense answer. Do you believe that each and every one of us should be following the selfsame diet? Do you believe that fat people and thin ones, young and old, diabetics and heart patients, Jack Sprat and his wife, should all be eating exactly the same foods? Well, if it's as hard for you to accept as it is for me, then perhaps you are ready to see that the one-diet-fits-all belief is another fallacy to be rejected.
The second half of that fallacy is a direct cause of more premature aging than the first: " ... and that one-fits-all diet contains all the nutrients anyone needs." Vitanutrients are part of the first line of defense against aging and age-mimicking illness. Suppressing them borders on criminal behavior. Throughout this book, I will discuss the exciting, well-documented, and easy-to-do aspects of defying aging through nutritional measures. In Chapter 22, I will present you with a summary of the Atkins Center protocols, with dosage ranges and more. Whether or not specifically mentioned in connection with each recommendation, please remember that everyone is a little--or maybe a lot--different and that you must take into account your full medical profile, with the assistance of your physician, before embarking on your age-defying regime.
I'm here to reawaken the seeds of doubt in your collective consciousness. Maybe now you will see why I say that defying aging begins with defying the conventional misteachings. To understand how you too can learn to defy aging, you'll first need to understand why we age at all. That's what I'll explain in Part II.
DR. ATKINS' AGE-DEFYING DIET REVOLUTION. Copyright © 2000 by Robert C. Atkins. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.