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Dr. Atkins' Age-Defying Diet
By Robert C. Atkins, Sheila Buff
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2001 Robert C. Atkins, M.D.
All rights reserved.
A Program for Defying Aging
What if you could grow old without feeling the effects of age, without succumbing to the physical and mental decline assumed to be the inevitable companion to aging?
You can. The decline is not inevitable. On the contrary. It is possible to look and feel good, both physically and mentally, throughout a very long life.
How do I know? I've been a full-time medical practitioner for more than forty years, and in that time, the Atkins Center in New York City has treated more than 65,000 patients. A great many of these have been elderly patients suffering from all those degenerative ailments we associate with being old: osteoporosis, failing eyesight, senility, heart disease, diabetes. By defying the conventional wisdom, and by applying many of the medical innovations that conventional wisdom disdains, the Atkins Center has brought new life to the vast majority of these elderly patients. They have become younger — not chronologically, since no one can literally turn back time — but by all the usual medical measures. This means that their laboratory results and all the measures of their physical and mental capacities are better than they were when the patients first came to the Center. It also means that the rate at which these patients encounter the problems attributed to aging have slowed, often to a remarkable degree.
Right now, at the start of the twenty-first century, the know-how for defying the effects of aging is in our hands. The scientific breakthroughs come at us with startling rapidity. The evidence is there — even if the medical mainstream stubbornly dismisses the evidence, or ignores it, or insists that more study is needed to make absolutely sure.
Most of what we call aging is simply the presence of disease — chronic, ubiquitous disease that undermines our body so consistently that we universally accept the deterioration as the consequence of "getting older." Nothing could be farther from the truth. Many of these common ailments can be prevented or reduced.
What causes these ailments? What sets in motion the processes of aging? We'll look closely at the characteristics and underlying causes of the so-called diseases of aging in the chapters that follow. We'll see that there are very specific reasons why certain aging diseases — cardiovascular ailments and diabetes in particular — became so common in the latter part of the twentieth century, and why they were not common before. We'll see just how the aging factors of these diseases work.
Once we know why we suffer these ailments and what the underlying causes are, it's possible to create a strategy to fight back, a program to defy the effects of aging, no matter how old we become.
First, Defy Prevailing Beliefs
There's a lot more you could know about defying aging than you're being told.
Evidence about ways to live healthier and longer lives is too often caught in the crosscurrents of modern science. While the currents of scientific discovery provide the breakthrough information we need to defy the effects of aging, the crosscurrents of economic self-interest preserve the status quo and prevents those breakthroughs from getting the widespread use and acceptance they deserve.
In the area of nutrition, for example, the potential of vitamins and minerals to fight disease and defy age is a case in point. It wasn't until 1920 that vitamins were identified; over the next eighty years, more and more nutritional substances were discovered, as were their roles and functions in preserving and restoring health. By now, thousands of scientific studies have been performed showing that such substances are often better and safer than drugs in overcoming and preventing illness. But the medical community, which by the early 1900s was already single-mindedly devoted to a pharmaceuticals-only treatment system, found no place for these substances in its consensus protocols. Vitamins and minerals were banished from the disease-fighting curriculum at medical schools, and remain so, with rare exceptions, to this day.
Nature's herbs offer another example. Their medicinal use dates back many centuries, but the scientific analysis of why and how they accomplished their healing was done only in recent years. And the analysis offers compelling evidence for the power of many herbs to slow or reverse the effects of aging. But again, no place was found for their benefits in the medical mainstream.
Caught in the same crosscurrent are such discoveries as hormonal balancing, probiotic bacterial balancing, chelation therapy, detoxification, and more age-defying techniques presented later in this book. All have achieved support in various scientific studies but none are in common usage.
That leaves us today with a unique opportunity for major health progress. As the nutritional breakthroughs continue to pour forth from the laboratories, all you need is an awareness of when going along with the system will help you defy age, and when defying the system helps get you to your goal — as you take advantage of the knowledge that courageous, innovative scientists have already provided us.
The age-defying program in this book provides that awareness. It embraces what works — a range of techniques and practices and nutritional advice to defy the effects of aging, whether the knowledge comes from those who cling to prevailing beliefs or from defying prevailing beliefs. For those of us who don't have much time to waste, the program in this book frees scientific discovery from the eddy of scientific policy-making and puts the evidence where it belongs — right in our hands.
A Two-Pronged Attack
There are basically two ways to defy age. One is by using techniques so health-promoting they seem to turn back the clock. When you are healthier overall, you are better equipped to defy the disease processes associated with aging, to stop them before they have a chance to begin. The other way to defy age is by reversing the disease processes that may be present, especially cardiovascular disease, the scourge of our era.
The program I present in this book does both.
The key to both is diet. Whether reversing a disease process that has already taken hold or equipping yourself to fight off incipient ailments, diet can be a formidable weapon. I use the word "diet" loosely. After all, I have something of a reputation as the author of an effective weight-loss diet. But this book is not aimed at showing you how to lose weight the luxurious Atkins way, although it will certainly help you do so if you need to. Rather, the Age-Defying Diet is an overall nutritional plan aimed at eliminating the aging factors from your life now while optimizing your body's ability to fight them off in the future.
But diet isn't enough. In recent years, there have been many discoveries about the important role of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, herbs, hormones, and other forms of natural nourishment. I call these substances vitanutrients — vita is the Latin word for "life," of course, and vitanutrients truly nourish and sustain life. Where pharmaceutical drugs actually inhibit normal body processes, vitanutrients are enablers that facilitate the body's natural physiology. They are also generally safe, effective, and typically inexpensive remedies that can replace the drugs and invasive procedures that enrich the mainstream medical establishment, which could be why the mainstream medical establishment tends to dismiss vitanutrients as unimportant. The evidence, however, as I'll discuss later in the book, demonstrates that supplementing your diet with vitanutrients can be tremendously important in eliminating many of the ailments of aging.
So can exercise, of course. You've heard that before, but the program in this book will show you specifically how and why exercise defeats aging.
My Age-Defying Diet combines all three of these age-opposing weapons — diet, supplemental nutrition, and exercise. I'll teach you what specific combinations to use to clean out the toxins from your body, rejuvenate aging organs, counteract adverse environmental impacts, restore healthy bacteria to your digestive tract, optimize your brain power, and much more. The tools for doing the job are all right here, easily available and demonstrably effective. The "authorities" may not tell you so, but authority should always be questioned.
Are you getting older? Then you know it's time for a revolution. It starts now.CHAPTER 2
The Aging Diseases of Our Time and Place
We're not dying the way we used to. A century ago, older people — and often the very young — were routinely swept to premature deaths by an array of infectious disease.
But those diseases are a thing of the past. Influenza epidemics, smallpox, tuberculosis, and polio have all been virtually wiped off the face of the earth (despite some recent recurrences) by the scientific discoveries of the twentieth century. In my view, these discoveries represent the greatest compilation of life-extending breakthroughs ever achieved. No other century — no other five centuries, I would wager — could equal the impact on life span of the twentieth century, in which science gained control over infectious disease and eliminated the major causes of premature death that had plagued mankind for millennia.
There's plenty of credit to go around for this achievement — to scientists in the lab, to public health officials who worked to control disease transmission, to surgeons who developed hundreds of procedures that successfully converted life-threatening illnesses into momentary nuisances.
The magnitude of the achievement is easily defined: We started the twentieth century with a collective life expectancy of 45 years; at last count, life expectancy had expanded to 76.5 years on average. Before 1900, 75 percent of all Americans died before age 65; today, more than 70 percent of us will live to be over 70. Improving human life expectancy so profoundly in a single century is surely a singular achievement.
But the twentieth century has a lot to answer for as well. Even as the previous century's life-shortening illnesses were conquered, new illnesses came along to keep us from achieving the goal of truly extending healthy life. Heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and other maladies to all intents and purposes originated, or at least achieved epidemic proportions, in the twentieth century — and they're becoming even more widespread in the twenty-first. Objective observers rightly note that while we have made progress in overcoming infectious diseases and other conditions that strike us down before our time, older people still reach senility at approximately the same age.
What happened? What are we doing now that our great-grandparents did not do a century ago? Or what are we not doing that they did? What is the significant characteristic of our highly industrialized, technologically advanced Western culture that's resulting in these particular ailments? Ironically, the twentieth century produced not just the ailments but also the clue to what causes them and the scientific discoveries that can lead the way to their eradication.
The "Westernization" of Disease
The big clue to the nature of our current diseases has been known since at least 1974. That's when a brilliant physician named T. L. Cleave, a surgeon-captain in Britain's Royal Navy and a former director of medical research at the Institute of Naval Medicine, published an epidemiological study called The Saccharine Disease. This work, now unfortunately out of print, has long had my vote for the number-one health book of the twentieth century.
Cleave made a careful study of hospital records of Third World nations, mainly in Africa, and observed that virtually no single native ever suffered obesity, diabetes, colon cancer, gallstones, diverticulitis, or heart disease. These diseases, the common illnesses of advanced Western cultures, were not simply less frequent in the places Cleave studied; they were nonexistent.
Clearly, as Cleave saw, the overriding point of differentiation between the cultures he was studying and the Western culture from which he came was diet. Cleave concluded, therefore, that the "Western" twentieth-century diseases were diet-related disorders. But that was only part of his conclusion.
Unlike his colleague Dr. Dennis Burkitt, who looked at the same type of data and concluded that the high dietary fiber these people ate was what protected them, Cleave was convinced that it was the other side of the coin that did the trick. In his view — and in mine — the absence of refined carbohydrates in the diets protected the Third World peoples from the array of twentieth-century illnesses so prevalent on our side of the cultural divide.
The Rule of Twenty Years
Cleave went further. He suggested that within twenty years of refined-carbohydrate foods being introduced into the native diet and replacing the indigenous foods, diabetes and heart disease would begin to appear in the population. Within forty years, he said, these diseases would be widespread. Cleave dubbed this his Rule of Twenty Years, and I've seen it proven time and again.
Item: Both diabetes and coronary heart attack deaths began to appear in Iceland twenty years after sugar was made a major dietary component.
Item: Among Yemenite Jews living a traditional life in Yemen, diabetes had been virtually unknown. In 1977, about twenty-five years after these nomadic Jews moved to Israel and gave up their traditional unrefined carbohydrate diet in favor of a more Westernized diet that was high in sugar, Israeli studies showed that their rate of diabetes and glucose intolerance reached 11.8 percent. And coronary heart disease began to appear among them!
Item: In Saudi Arabia, diabetes and associated heart disease have emerged almost exactly twenty years after refined carbohydrates and a more Westernized diet became the norm. Today in Saudi Arabia, diabetes afflicts 12 percent of the men who live in urban areas and 14 percent of the women. Among urban women age fifty-one to sixty, the prevalence of diabetes is an astonishing 49 percent. In the rural populations, where people still retain remnants of their traditional diet, the rates are lower but still high: 7 percent for men and 7.7 percent for women. Saudi Arabia has gone from being a country that had virtually no diabetes before 1970 to having one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world.
Cleave was right on target, and his Rule of Twenty Years is also proving true in Japan, India, Mexico, and many other countries. Its greatest value, in my opinion, lies in its prophetic power: It can predict when epidemic increases in diabetes, diabetes-induced heart disease, and a range of related conditions will take place.
The Diet Distinction
But the rule also helps us answer a lot of nagging questions: Why was cardiology a minor specialty in Japan in the 1950s but a major necessity now? Why is Asia the new hotbed of a diabetes epidemic exceeding 100 million cases? Why does the World Health Organization project a 170 percent growth in the number of people with diabetes in developing countries by 2025, from 84 million people to 228 million people? Why is the worldwide rise in diabetes projected to be 122 percent, from 135 million people to 300 million? Why will diabetes nearly double in India between 1995 and 2025?
The answer to all these questions is the same: The rise in these particular diseases is the consequence of the Westernization of these cultures, which in biologic terms means the dietary acceptance of refined carbohydrates. Cleave's discoveries thus constitute a large part of the basis for understanding the incidence of modern illness in all parts of the world.
The discoveries may also have been before their time. That is, the phenomenon was observed before the scientific explanation was worked out. But all that is water under the bridge. So much evidence has since been amassed linking refined carbohydrates to sugar and insulin disorders, and these disorders to heart disease, hypertension, and stroke, that any medical advisory board member entrusted with making public health policy who remains silent on this matter must, in my view, be deemed guilty of malfeasance. In plainer language, this means that members of the medical establishment who continue to recommend sugar-laden cereals as heart-healthy should perhaps be consulting with their defense attorneys.
Heart disease, as is well known, is the number-one cause of death and of shortened life span in Western culture. Heart disease achieved that dubious distinction, in large part, because of errors of judgment on the part of the health powers-that-be and because of their stubborn refusal to correct those errors. In my opinion, those errors of judgment in essence created and perpetuated the majority of life-threatening and life-shortening diseases that today provide the greatest deterrent to our reaching our full life spans.
Excerpted from Dr. Atkins' Age-Defying Diet by Robert C. Atkins, Sheila Buff. Copyright © 2001 Robert C. Atkins, M.D.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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