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The South Beach Diet Controversy

we have been talking about the South Beach diet a bit recently, and Dr. Joel Fuhrman has written us to strenuously object to our highlighting this diet. Here is a new blog post about his concerns and it has a link to a new article we published.


Tue. Jan 27, 11:39am

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First off, I have to say that I might be a little biased having lost more than 50 pounds healthfully on the South Beach Diet. Dr. Furhman has obviously not read Dr. Agatston's book because there are several erroneous claims in the article. For example, Dr. Furhman said that the typical SB breakfast includes two eggs and "lean bacon." Well, pork, although allowed in moderation, is not part of our daily breakfast, it is turkey bacon - and we're only allowed two slices a day. Plus there is no "typical" SB breakfast. Dr. Agatston provides many alternatives to bacon. You can even make up your own using SB principles.

Another false claim is that the diet recommends "yo-yo" dieting. In phase one, people could lose up to 10 pounds, not 13, and the average person loses about 5-8, Dr. A even says so in the book. We never gain back weight on the other phases, we plateau at the beginning of phase II but eventually we start losing again. My weight has not gone up but ONCE (one pound) the whole five months I have been on the diet.

Also, with the South Beach Diet, I cleansed my body of the desire to eat crappy food. I don't get violent cravings for junk food that lead me to Red Robin at night, and this is thanks to the South Beach Diet.

Everyone has a right to pick and choose their own diet. Some may choose the South Beach Diet and we don't need "scare tactics" and doctors telling us false things and making us believe that if we do a highly effective diet, we might die.

Dr. Furhman should promote his own diet, not portray others to be "deadly" as he did in this article.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 12:26 PM

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Hear hear to 12:26 who sums up both my experience with SB and opinions about the criticism (or sensationalism).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 12:29 PM

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There has not been one reported death among South Beach Diet followers.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 12:38 PM

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Wow to think what one doc will say to get more followers on a plan of his..SB has been very good to me, I am eating many veggies and lean meats as well as healthy amounts of dairy etc..and have never been more healthy ..this is via my physical I just had a week ago. all my blood levels are the best they have been and my weight is great so I think I will just take the que's from my own personal doctor. She was so pleased with my overall health!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 12:50 PM

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everyone is probably a little right- does the diet work for a lot of people? Of course. is there something to what he is saying- probably. And he is not the only one. I read the article and there are a bunch of notes at the end of it. This is one:


Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 1:32 PM

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Sudden Cardiac Death on low carb or low fat diets....

This is a link to an abstract of a study done by albert einstein collge in nyc:

Objective: To evaluate the change in potassium after initiating a low-carbohydrate or low-fat weight loss diet.

Methods: Participants randomized to a low-carbohydrate (low-CHO) or a low-fat diet had serum potassium measured at baseline, 3 days, 1 week, 2 weeks, and 1 month after dietary initiation. Paired t tests and repeated measure analysis of variance (ANOVA) compared changes within each subject and between groups.

Results: Mean potassium (4.29 mmol/L + 0.41) was similar in both groups at baseline. The low-CHO arm (n = 48) had a mean decrease of 0.16 mmol/L ± 0.49 (P = 0.03) over one month, and the low-fat arm (n = 47) had a reduction of 0.19 ± 0.45 (P = 0.006). Serum potassium decreased within 3 days of diet initiation in the low-CHO arm, and at one week in the low-fat arm. Five participants (3 in low-CHO arm) required potassium supplementation for serum potassium <3.5 mmol/L.

Conclusions: Minor decreases in potassium occurred after initiating both diets, and was more rapid after the low-CHO diet. These decreases may be clinically meaningful in some patients.

Key Points

* Minor decreases in serum potassium can occur when starting either a low-carbohydrate or low-fat diet.

* Decreases in serum potassium after initiating low-carbohydrate or low-fat diet are greater in patients on non-potassium sparing diuretics.

* Serum potassium should be monitored closely in patients initiating low-carbohydrate or low-fat diets.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 1:36 PM

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I acknowledge that there could be a possibility of death when following this type of diet, but at the same time isn't the same true for a lot of diets out there? Why are we just picking on the one? What about Slim Fast? That seems abnormal and healthy. At least south beach advocates for the consumption of whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean meats, good fats (MUFAS) and no processed foods and not two sugary, "diet shakes" a day. Let's examine other diets as well.

I also have to question Dr. Fuhrman's motivation. Why is he just picking on South Beach? Why not pick on slim fast, a far inferior and less healthy diet? I don't know.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 2:24 PM

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I am pretty sure we could get him to start talking about a lot of diets. This promises to be an interesting conversation.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 2:39 PM

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I have to credit SBD for getting me to eat healthy. I was on WW first, but I was eating a lot of junk food that were just low in points. When I went on SBD, I started eating a lot of vegetables, whole grain, and lean meat. My experience has been about the same as 12:26 poster. I lost 8 pounds during phase 1. I stopped losing for a while when I went on phase 2, but I didn't gain the weight back. I started losing again after that.

People tend to group SBD with Atkins diet, but they are not the same. SBD does not advocate eating bacon and fatty meat. And cutting out carbs is only for the 2-week phase 1 to get ourselves weaned off of carb addiction. SBD also says that if you really want carbs, you can have it in phase 1 as long as you stick to the healthy kind.

So my diet of choice, or rather my eating lifestyle of choice is SBD combined with WW. Recently, I've started doing "carb cycling", i.e. alternating no carb, low carb, and high carb days because I have a tendency to increase my carb intake if I'm not careful, and this allows me to have my carbs on certain days, but the no carb days keeps my carb intake in check.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 5:45 PM

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This is PP.
Since Dr. Fuhrman is mentioned here, I'll share my experience with his book. Although his book makes a lot of sense theoretically, it was not very practical for me. I totally went off track after trying to go on his diet for a couple of weeks. It might have been a little too restrictive for me. I guess it works for some people, but it just wasn't for me. I do follow his general concept of eat more vegetables, but SBD works a lot better for me.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 5:54 PM

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Thanks for shedding some light on this.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 8:36 PM

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I wonder what doctors recommend to help mitigate the risk of electrolyte imbalance? I am sure they are aware of these risks. It sounds like elements of this diet are great and work- as seen by the previous comments. But clearly there are risks, and risks can be mitigated?


Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 7:48 AM

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My diabetic mother was instructed to go on a low-no carb diet to get her diabetes in check- by her endocrinologist (best one in the city) and her nutritionist/dietician. It's working well for her. Dr. Fuhrman's diet would have quickened her death.

Personally, I think the one size fits all approach of Dr., Fuhrman is archaic, and amazed it's gained in popularity. It may work exceptionally well for some, but to put it forward as "The best diet" and the only way to health (as this site and many others here seem to imply) nauseates me. Is Dr. Fuhrman paying for PT to promote his wares, or is he just lucky to get so much free advertising?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 10:13 AM

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Dr. Fuhrman was introduced to us by a group of doctors in New York City. We simply found him to be a very interesting voice and he has increasingly been willing to participate in the discussion and content generation on the PEERtrainer site. He does not pay us, and we make a tiny amount of money selling his books.

What is especially interesting is that his voice has been unique and we see that it works for many. We write about what we observe. Fat Smash and Weight Watchers have been talked about very positively here in the community over the years, and we have written about them. One observation is that there is a vibrant Eat to Live/Eat For Health team here on PT.

Our overall philosophy is simply to point out what works for some people and encourage discussion and debate about it. I am personally very happy to see this debate about South Beach get out there. All this stuff needs full vetting and back and forth. People are smart enough to make up their own minds.

And any other diet writer out there who wishes to have their say- we will publish it, blog about it, put it in the community. Dr. Fuhrman is just the first one to take advantage of the PEERtrainer audience which is now over 1 million unique people each month.

-Habib Wicks

Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 11:18 AM

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take advantage of indeed!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 12:29 PM

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I follow Fuhrman's advice and works great for me. My bodyfat has dropped, and I felt much better during my runs. People need to read both books before judging too much. I personally dont see that south beach is healthy. Loosing weight and health are not mutally exclusive.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 4:09 PM

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not to mention your body is going into KETOSIS which makes your body think it's STARVING. it makes your breath smell bad, too, in case you didn't know.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 5:47 PM

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The SBD doesn't even come close to ketosis.

I don't follow SBD anymore (I use the Abs Diet now), but I do credit it for getting me started on path to weight loss. I'd defend it and recommend it to anyone.

Although, I do have to say that it's interesting that Dr. Fuhrman would object so much. If he weren't a published author himself, I'd take him more seriously.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 6:10 PM

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His point about the dangers of yo yo dieting is very interesting. Forget SB for a sec, most of us have experienced yo yo dieting, and I was simply not aware of the plaque accumulation process that kicks off every time we fall off the diet and have more steak and meat. Unless we are vegetarians I am sure we all do this. So being aware that this is a danger is helpful and new information for me personally. I knew that Atkins was bad- effective in the short term no question, but bad for the health.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 9:39 PM

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Whats the rate of cancer in America now? People just defend SB because they can still eat unhealthy food and SB tells them its healthy.
Maybe if people could put down the steak once in awhile and eat a salad.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 11:27 PM

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SB offers principles, and we don't eat steak. I don't eat unhealthy food everyday and I eat 5-9 pieces of fruit and veggies every day. I'm the healthiest I've ever been, thanks to South Beach.

Thursday, January 29, 2009, 11:56 AM

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There are many people who don't have the long term success you have had, and who do yo yo. I personally know someone who lost and then gained after South Beach, and whose doctor then put them on Atkins after getting seeing the bad numbers go up. This person is a near 50 year old man and his quote to me was that "South Beach works if you follow it perfectly"-- when you stop the troubles begin. I appreciate the risks of that common occurence from being pointed out. We all yo yo. I can't imagine anyone seriously objecting to someone advocating a diet high in fruits and vegetables. However you get there, that is the ideal diet, Whether you follow Dr. Fuhrman or whoever. Lots of people are saying the same thing he is.

Thursday, January 29, 2009, 12:21 PM

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I never said anything bad about Dr. Fuhrman's diet. I don't know anything about it. Of course eating more fruits and veggies is healthy, but I don't understand why people want to attack the South Beach Diet? Do your diet, focus on your own health and don't knock the way other people choose to lose the weight. I've said before, it's not for everybody, but we don't have to judge it just because Dr. Fuhrman said to. It's ridiculous.

Thursday, January 29, 2009, 4:05 PM

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Since when is steak unhealthy? I know vegetarians who get cancer. The idea that ominvorism causes disease is absurd. Eating poor quality food- vegan, vegetarian or omnivore will cause disease. People don't choose SBD because they want to justify eating protein. Seems however, that veg will chose Fuhrman to try and justify making everyone else follow their way of eating.

Thursday, January 29, 2009, 6:26 PM

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Interesting that South Beachers are sensative.
There's more information out there that South Beach isn't healthy not just Furhman. So 4:05 I'm fine with my diet, but since this is a thread I thought it my right to comment. You want someone to tell you how great it is.

Sorry can't do that for you.

Thursday, January 29, 2009, 9:18 PM

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I am not going to get in a debate about which diet is best for you.. I will tell you.. I belong to fat smashers unite, the eat to live team, and a atkins group.. do I follow any of these diets to the letter? no I do not.. I do things my way.. I always have.. I do what Jackie calls diet fusion.. I just call it Lynns plan. lol. I pull bits and pieces from all sorts of plans and develop my own way..

what works for one doesnt work for another.. Im not going to judge you if you eat meat, drink dairy or what you do.. . I for one center my diet around fruits, veggies, .. almond milk is my drink for milk now or soy. cows milk doesnt like my stomach much. I have UC.. lean meats .. but in smaller portions and healthy grains

but the fact is.. noone can force you to follow a certain plan.. you have to find what works for you.. Me.. I pull from alot of sources.. alot of plans.. I watch peoples logs for ideas.. and draw inspiration to try new things..

I am not one to stick to one way of doing something.. I have to tweak things , but I dont think you can go wrong by eating more plant based foods.. I know I have more energy when I do.. I find if I eat alot of carbs, or meats I feel sluggish..

I joined my atkins group to help me cut down on carbs.. do I go no carbbs. hell no I would die if you took my brown rice, my sweet potatoes, and so forth from me.. but I have cut down on my bread consumption..

do I still eat meat.. yes I do, but not as often and in smaller portions.. with a huge salad or a huge side of grilled veggies.. I have to keep tweaking and mixing things up to my liking

I still eat some processed crap.. liek today was NOT my best day of eating , but thats ok.. Im human.. the key is not to let tomorrow be the same.. tomorrow my logs will be healthy.. its all about getting back on track..

being consistnat.. its not the diet you chose that works.. its the effort you put into being healthy is what works

so wether its the SBD.. which I know nothing about so no judgement here the fat smash( which is a great plan) eat to live.. love the concept of eating healthy foods in bigger portions and still releasing weight.. but no matter what your plan is be consisntant.. exercise, drink your water and make healthy choices..

this is your journey. noone can make it for you.. so tweak your plan and make it fit to what works for you.. just be healthy doing it.. no quick fixes..

this is a lifestyle change.. no excuses just do it.. thats what I tell myself anyway.

ok jumping off my soap box


Friday, January 30, 2009, 12:00 AM

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Interesting quote

"Although, I do have to say that it's interesting that Dr. Fuhrman would object so much. If he weren't a published author himself, I'd take him more seriously."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 6:10 PM

So if he didn't try to state his case in a book full of numerous scientific citations and sources, including an endorsement by Dr. Mehmet Oz himself, you would take him more seriously?

I'm having a hard time understanding that logic.

Fuhrman might be a bit too adamant for many people's taste, but I cannot put him in the category of "diet doctors out to make a buck." I'm not sure I'd put Agatston in that category either, but he's more out to make money than Fuhrman is.

Fuhrman strikes me as a serious and sincere educator, whose diet I am too wimpy to follow, unfortunately!

Friday, January 30, 2009, 4:27 AM

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Steak is unhealthy.

Friday, January 30, 2009, 9:42 PM

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steak is healthy. And delicious.

Friday, January 30, 2009, 10:27 PM

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If by healthy you mean you don't mind ending up with heart disease or cancer later in life as is typical with eating the standard American diet which includes steak, then go for it. I have better hopes for my future.


Friday, January 30, 2009, 10:57 PM

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Actually, with my family history I'm much more likely to develop diabetes than cancer. That being said, low carb, wheat free diets are an excellent way to cut diabetes risk. I have perfectly healthy glucose levels, though at this point in my mom's life, she was diabetic.

Moreover, pointing me to a link that's a veg site is useless- I've done my research, I'm convinced there are some who do well on veg, some who don't, and I know I'm on who's health suffers without meat. (Besides that I'm allergic to wheat, corn, and legumes, which are staples in most veg diets).

You can't point to the SAD and blame all the problems on meat. An overconsumption of poor quality meat COMBINED with overprocessed food, and a lack of fresh whole foods (and as far as I'm concerned, an over reliance on corn (HFCS) and wheat) are what causes the multitude of problems with the SAD. My bp is perfect, my cholesterol is low, I don't require any meds of any kind, my sugars are fine- I'm perfectly healthy. And I eat steak. Regularly.

Saturday, January 31, 2009, 9:48 AM

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How does your health suffer without meat? Do even know what goes into the meat sources now? Clearly you haven't done your research. Just because steak has protein doesn't make it healthy. Really if you like it eat it, but don't justify it as healthy to make yourself feel better.

Saturday, January 31, 2009, 11:26 AM

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Hi there 9:48
10:57 here - I wasn't pointing the blame on meat, I noted it as PART of the SAD that is failing us; albeit a major part, I still I agree with you that many other facets of the SAD are horrendous. I eat plants and stay away from corn and wheat because I don't want to overload on omegas 6 & 9 - once those are clogging up our receptors there's no room for the 3's. I hope when you say low carb you mean refined carbs - there are so many micro nutrients and fiber in fruits and starches that we need for optimal health. IMHO of course ;) I too have spent years researching, and I know how great I feel now that I am eating for nutrition. My road to losing the refined carbs was through atkins - another scary place - and if someone else passes through South Beach to lose their penchant for refined carbs on their path to finding a healthier way to eat - kudos to them. I just hope they don't settle down to live there for the sake of their long term health.

The reason Dr. Fuhrman wrote the Eat for Health set of books was to ease people into a healthier diet - it's psychologically hard to transition away from the pack. When you were 'not eating meat' what was the nutritional composition of your diet? How long did you eat that way? There are many unhealthy vegans and vegetarians out there. It's all about the nutrition :)


Saturday, January 31, 2009, 7:17 PM

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Dr Fuhrman wrote this for us on meat consumption. He does not advocate no meat, just less of it and high amounts of nutrient dense foods:


Monday, February 02, 2009, 10:12 AM

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Well I've done a lot of reading on the different opinions and scientific studies going around. I think adamancy on the subject is pointless, since the scientists doing the research we base everything on are divided, so they obviously haven't got a clue of a definite answer. Scientists who advocate diets find results that support that diet because they were looking for just that.

Sure, high animal protein consumption is unhealthy. So is overly high consumption of anything else. But what has america been flooded with in the past decades? Highly processed carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. Historically we have always eaten things like butter, animal meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables. Yes the standard american diet includes steak. The standard american diet SHOULD include steak. Hell, the standard human diet should. Go for organic meats to avoid chemicals, don't eat it too much, and balance everything. Personally I advocate a low starch diet. I've never felt better than when I stick to this type of diet. Only my own experiences will dictate how I treat my body.

All I know is the diet I am on is backed by extensive scientific research, as are diets that contradict the diet I am on, and even criticize my diet. It just goes to show you that if you do enough studies, you're bound to find results that suit whatever purpose you had in mind.

Saturday, October 17, 2009, 6:18 PM

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what diet are you on?

Sunday, October 18, 2009, 8:36 AM

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You really can't compare what people ate decades ago vs. today. Everything has changed in that time. Our meat sources have changed, we have genetically modified foods, we have corn and soy added to virtually's an entirely different ballgame.

Sunday, October 18, 2009, 8:55 AM

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I have lost and maintained that loss for over 5 years on South Beach. I live on the maintenance plan, eating complex carbs several times a week, not including fruit which I eat daily. In addition to the weight loss, my blood sugar and lipid panel also decreased. I am in better health than I;ve been since my 20's II'm almost 52). My healthcare provider has told me that the reason I am not having a problem with middle age spread is due in large part to my eating habits (It sure ain't due to my genes!!)

Monday, October 19, 2009, 9:09 PM

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I think the south beach diet can be great for that initial weight loss for the first couple years. However, I have found that eating foods in moderation along with choosing low fat and high fiber foods is healthier, more satisfying, and keeps the weight off. Eating small meals/snacks throughout the day also keeps your metabolism high. I have inherited high cholesterol, digestive problems, and several other conditions from my family so it is crucial that I eat healthy - south beach diet didn't quite help me significantly improve my health. I found that finding healthy alternatives to my favorite foods (healthy breads and desserts) has helped me lose/keep off weight for years and my health has improved significantly. I've been able to eat delicious food, lose weight, and get healthy.

Foods/strategies I eat/use:


Tuesday, October 20, 2009, 7:26 AM

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