Monthly Letters to Pulmonary Patients by Thomas L. Petty

Thomas L. Petty, M.D.

Professor of Medicine, 
University of Colorado

Chairman, National Lung Health Education Program (NLHEP)


National Lung Health Education Program
A collaborative project with



HealthOne Center
1850 High Street
Denver, CO 80218
Phone: 303 839 6755
Fax: 303 832 8137


March 2005

Second Wind
Lomita, California

Dear Friends;

More and more diets are being proposed for those who are overweight. The ATkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone diets are popular, yet they are quite different in composition. For example, the ATkins diet is known as low carb and the Ornish diet restricts fat. Other diets use different strategies. But they all are intended to reduce calories and thus promote weight loss. So far only the Weight Watchers program has been proven to be associated with significant weight loss and also a greater reduction in heart attack risk factors compared with the other diets. Unfortunately, adherence to all diets is poor, which is the story that is well known to most people who try to lose weight. The yo-yo effect is considered bad in any case.

The so-called Mediterranean diet, which is high in unsaturated fats (e.g., olive oil, fish, poultry and nuts) seems to protect the heart in the Mediterranean regions. It also encourages the liberal use of red wine which, itself, is known to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke due to various mechanisms that reduce oxidant damage to the lining of vessels known as the endothelium in both the heart and brain.

And now the vitamins. In 2003 $18.8 billion were spent on vitamin supplements alone. Also in the year 2003, approximately 22% of the adults over the age of 55 took vitamin E (usually 400 units). Vitamin E is also known as an antioxidant. In a review of all of the outcomes of Vitamin E supplementation, the bottom line is either no benefit or even, perhaps, an increase in overall death rates from a variety of causes. I think we can rely on our food supply to give us plenty of Vitamin E. Save your money! The multiple vitamins that contain the B complex probably reduce one of the risk factors in heart attack known as homocystine in people who have elevated values. Thus I continue to think that a multiple vitamin B complex containing some minerals makes sense. Certainly at least a gram and one-half of calcium is important to prevent osteoporosis and if you can't get this in dairy products, calcium supplements with Vitamin D are recommended. Calcium and Vitamin D are proven to reduce fractures.

So what is the message? We should apply common sense and prudence in diet without any expectation that there will be a magic diet or vitamin supplement that will lead to the fountain of youth.

I'll be in touch next month!

Your friend,

  Thomas Petty, MD

Last update:
01 May 2005