Dr. Andrew Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Dr. Andrew Weil is a Harvard-trained MD and a recognized pioneer in the field of integrative medicine. Dr. Weil markets his anti-inflammatory diet through his website, DrWeil.com. Subscribers pay $2.99 per week for diet tips, recipes, advice, and other content prepared by Dr. Weil or one of 30 contributors. Dr. Weil first introduced his anti-inflammatory diet in his 2007 book, Healthy Aging, which also addresses other components of well-being, such as attitude and physical activity.
Critics note that many of Dr. Weil’s recommendations are unsupported by scientific evidence and used to market products, such as dietary supplements, food products, books, DVDs, and more. Dr. Weil is a licensed physician; however, he did not complete residency training in any field.
What conditions is this diet best for?
The anti-inflammatory diet is intended to help all individuals combat the adverse effects of inflammation. For people with autoimmune disease, Weil recommends a reduced-protein version of the anti-inflammatory diet which eliminates milk products and milk proteins. Cow’s milk, according to Weil, is a specific culprit in autoimmune-related inflammation.
What are the main tenets of the diet?
Weil advocates his own version of the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid. For reference, the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid is a graphical version of the Institute of Medicine’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a compilation of evidence-based dietary recommendations developed by a panel of researchers and health professionals.
Similar to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Weil recommends that individuals focus on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, reducing and limiting intake of sweets. There are also several key differences between guidelines and Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet. These include:
- Higher calorie consumption: 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day
- Low protein diets for individuals with liver or kidney problems and allergies or autoimmune disease; high protein diets for all others
- Choose tea instead of coffee, especially good quality white, green or oolong tea
- Consume plain dark chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa in moderation
- Take dietary supplements every day, specifically including a specific antioxidant formula, ginger, turmeric, and co-enzyme Q10.
- Weill additionally recommends fish oil supplements for those who eat less than two servings of fish per week and alpha-lipoic acid for those who are predisposed to metabolic syndrome.
Will this diet require shopping at a specialty or organic grocery store, or buying the diet’s pre-packaged food (aka, is this diet going to be very expensive to sustain)?
Weil suggests choosing organic foods “where possible”. He also urges consumers to follow reports on which conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables contain the highest levels of pesticide, so they can avoid them. Weil does not say that say that consumers should specifically purchase his supplement formulas or Weil-endorsed food products. However, his website does market them prominently and it would be difficult to find a product that conforms to his recommendations without buying his formula.
What other autoimmune or popular diets is this diet similar to?
Most of the tenets of Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet are exactly in line with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, although they are presented in new ways that may appeal to patients.
How is this diet different from the dietary guidelines for Americans?
- Protein: As of May 2012, the National Library of Medicine lists no studies that support the idea that protein exacerbates autoimmune diseases. Similarly, there is no evidence that cow’s milk protein exacerbates allergies or autoimmune diseases in individuals who are not specifically allergic to cow’s milk. As a doctor and a registered dietitian, I recommend that all patients consume sufficient dietary protein to meet their needs. It’s difficult to tell exactly what this is, but for most individuals 10 to 20% of calories as protein will suffice.
- Calories: The National Library of Medicine lists many studies that support the idea that mild caloric restriction slows the course of autoimmune disease and aging in general. This is at odds with Dr. Weil’s recommendations for calorie consumption, which are higher than many people need.
- Supplements: Dr. Weil specifically recommends consuming dietary supplements. The Dietary Guidelines for American recommend meeting nutrient needs through food. Most studies involving dietary supplements fail to support the hoped-for benefits, while others have found unexpected adverse effects, such as increased cancer rates. Dr. Weil does not recommend the types of supplements that have been linked to adverse effects, however you should discuss this decision with your physician before taking any supplement and you should disclose all supplements that you take along with your medications.
Questions for your doctor:
- How long should I do this diet before I know whether it is helping my symptoms?
- Will the amount of exercise I do affect the number of calories I should consume on this diet, since the range is fairly high?
- How should I alter the diet if I become pregnant or am breastfeeding?
About the Author
Heather Breen is a physician and registered dietitian living in Charlotte, North Carolina.
This blog post was originally published by AutoimmuneMom.com, written by Heather Breen, and first published on May 15, 2012.
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