The Chicago Tribune
By Bob Condor, Tribune Staff Writer
Copyright © The Chicago Tribune
When Peter J. D'Adamo discusses blood types, his point is transformation and not transfusion. He is the creator of the Blood Type Diet, which he introduced in the 1996 best-selling "Eat Right 4 Your Type" (Putnam). The book has sold 2 million copies in 50 languages.
"This diet shines more in people who are sick," said D'Adamo, a Stamford, Conn.-based naturopathic physician. "The most common feedback I hear is that the Blood Type Diet has helped resolve a chronic problem that hasn't been alleviated by other medical or dietary interventions. People are getting positive results that are changing their lives."
Although fad diets or claims are nothing new, there is something different about D'Adamo's stance and, in particular, his book jackets. There is no mention of weight loss, only a reference to "achieving your ideal weight."
"I fought against any reference to losing weight or dropping pounds," D'Adamo said. "I know that is the typical formula to sell diet books. I didn't want to be lumped into that group. I wanted to reach people who are more focused on their overall state of health."
D'Adamo's basic premise is that we all have inherited blood types that eventually trace back to ancestors who either hunted and ate meat (Type O), harvested grains and legumes (Type A), traveled across landscapes surviving on the meat and dairy of cattle, goats, and sheep (Type B). Type AB, the most recent blood type that "only" reaches back 1,000 to 1,500 years, combines the strengths and weaknesses of A and B.
Consequently, D'Adamo said, people can feel more energetic if they eat the foods for which their bodies—especially blood antibodies—are best adapted. He also makes a case for foods and beverages that you should avoid according to blood type (see char). Some examples: Dairy is healthful for Type B's but not Type A or o. Red meat is ideal for Type O's but off-limits on Type A menu. Coffee is beneficial for Types A and AB, neutral for Type B but should be avoided by Type O individuals.
D'Adamo says the protests about his diet plan are typically loudest from Type O individuals who don't see themselves as meat eaters. There also is considerable angst about giving up wheat products (all Type O's and any Type A person who has sinus troubles) or corn (he says it causes Type B's to gain weight).
"Vegetarian Type O's approach me regularly," D'Adamo said with a chuckle. "They almost glower at me and say, ‘I have been a healthy vegetarian for 15 years.' I say, ‘Great, you don't need this diet."
"My response is, take a simple approach. Rather than look at what foods you should avoid, figure out what foods you should add. A Midwestern guy who is Type A might decide to add soy, or a Type O person might give herself the green light to have more red meat and other animal protein [which can certainly be lean]. Then these people give it a couple of months to experience the changes. They might feel they get through the day stronger or sleep better. Their blood tests for cholesterol can improve."
D'Adamo just returned from a promotional trip in Europe for his newest book, "Live Right 4 Your Type" (Putnam, $24.95). The new book makes recommendations for physical activity along with dietary choices (Type A's should seek yoga-like workouts, while Type O's are better suited to aerobic exercise). He said questions from the audiences at lectures and book signings abroad were different from what he experiences in this country.
"Americans look at diets as a way to lose weight," he said. "The crowds in Europe were more accepting that diets can transform your way of life and not just your body."
As it turns out, D'Adamo said, his theory about ideal foods for each blood type actually can explain why some people have succeeded on high-protein fad diets while others have failed (Type O individuals need more meat), or why the extremely low-fat vegetarian diet championed by Dr. Dean Ornish can be a good fit for one but not all four modern blood types (Type A's are the perfect candidates to eat a vegetarian diet). He has closely observed the "food fights" between, say, Ornish and Dr. Robert Atkins, who endorses protein as the main nutrient for health and weight loss.
"You might say they are both right depending on the blood type," D'Adamo said.
Not surprisingly, the Blood Type Diet has its own sizable share of detractors. The most common criticism is the lack of scientific evidence that blood type plays any direct role in diet or disease.
"There's no denying we all can have a genetic propensity to cancer or heart disease," said Ellen Coleman, a Riverside, Calif.-based nutritionist who has authored several articles for professional journals about best-selling diets. "But it has nothing to do with blood type."
For his par, D'Adamo pointed out that his newest book provides more details and has 21 pages of footnotes. His Internet site (www.dadamo.com ) offers 1,500 references for blood-type research. He has developed a Blood Type Outcome Registry with more than 4,000 people who have benefited from the diet plan.
"In medical school, blood type is only covered as it relates to transfusions," D'Adamo said. "It's a shame we have made such limited use of this fantastic genetic tool."
Even Coleman admitted that the diet can help someone feel healthier, especially by reducing weight, whether it is D'Adamo's main goal or not.
"Any time you eliminate entire food groups such as dairy or severely cut back a category like meat or grains, people will consume fewer calories," she said.
Other nutritionists have opened up more to the D'Adamo approach.
"I don't use the Blood Type Diet strictly by itself," said Susan Allen, a nutritionist at Northwestern University's Center for Integrative Medicine. "I would never recommend people follow it 100 percent. But what I am finding is people are reporting improved energy. The highest correlation is among the people who were eating too many carbohydrates from dairy and wheat products and have cut back."
Allen does caution clients not to overemphasize the forbidden foods.
"I suggest people keep in mind what they should be staying away from," she said. "I don't recommend anybody obsess about not eating tomatoes. It's more like a set of guidelines rather than strict rules."