"My dad followed it to the letter and his cholesterol went from 200 to 300 in one month. ....and his doctor told him that his case was far from unusual."
I guess I can only take your word for it that he followed it "to the letter."
According to clinical studies that have been done, though, his case was very unusual. http://atkins.com/Archive/2001/12/18-292461.html
Of the many misconceptions that surround the Atkins Nutritional ApproachTM, perhaps the most widespread is the assumption that eating foods high in fat is a health risk. Not soin the absence of refined carbohydrates.
Fallacy: A nutritional approach that promotes a liberal intake of high-fat meats and dairy products will raise cholesterol levels, ultimately leading to heart disease.
Fact: It is true that every major health organization, as well as the U.S. government, endorses a low-fat diet in the unquestioned belief that fat causes heart disease. But are they right? A good deal of compelling evidence points in the opposite direction.
A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that a controlled carbohydrate eating plan, if followed correctly, promotes heart health and improves clinical health markers. One study, conducted by Jeff S. Volek, M.S., R.D., Ph.D., while at Ball State University, showed the positive effects of a controlled carbohydrate nutritional approach on triglyceride levels. The study consisted of 12 healthy men, ages 20 to 55, who followed a controlled carbohydrate program adhering to the Atkins protocols for eight weeks. Upon completion of the study, each participant lowered his triglyceride levels by an average of 55 percent1.
Furthermore, this study showed that a higher-carbohydrate diet results in increased levels of triglycerides and decreased levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. These factors have been associated with higher risks of myocardial infarction, ischemic heart disease and coronary heart-disease events2. In addition, various researchers have demonstrated that high triglycerides and low HDL aloneas opposed to the total cholesterol number most of us focus onmay be the most important factors in heart disease and stroke3-7.
We also can look at the research that's come out of Framingham, Mass. (the community studied for 50 years by Harvard researchers), to glean meaningful information about the cause of heart disease. This research showed that the risk of heart disease increased both with high cholesterol levels and obesity, but their data showed that weight gain and cholesterol levels were inversely correlated with dietary fat and cholesterol intake. In other words, consuming less fat and cholesterol resulted in more weight gain and higher blood cholesterol.
More recently, the Framingham researchers reported on a study in which the young, healthy, male population of the community was followed for several decades to see which dietary patterns might lead to having a stroke. To their amazement, they found that those with the highest intake of saturated fats had the fewest ischemic strokes (the most common kinds), a whopping 76 percent less than those with the lowest intake of saturated fat8 .
Fallacy: Atkins is high in fat, and we all know that fats cause gallbladder disease.
Fact: There is now overwhelming scientific evidence that gallstones (responsible for more than 90 percent of gallbladder disease are formed when fat intake is low. In a study that examined the effects of a diet that provided 27 grams of fat per day, gallstones developed in 13 percent of the participants9. The reason is that the gallbladder will not contract unless fat is taken in, and if it doesn't contract, a condition called biliary stasis develops and the bile salts crystallize into stones. Our gallbladders need to be kept active to prevent stone formation.
It is not uncommon to find gallstones in people who are obese, although the gallstones may not be causing discomfort. People with existing stones may, however, have trouble with high-fat meals. If you are one of these people you may have to slowly increase the level of fat you eat according to your own tolerancemeaning, how you feel. Remember, gallstones are not formed overnight. So anyone who tells you they started doing Atkins and two weeks later developed gallstones doesn't fully understand the medical situation.
1 Sharman, M.J., Volek, J.S., Gómez, A.L., et al., "Fasting and Postprandial Lipoprotein Responses to a Ketogenic Diet," May 31-June 2, 2001, Abstract of the 48th Annual American College of Sports Medicine Conference, Abstract #3295, Baltimore, MD.
2 Gillman, M.W., Cupples, L.A., Millen, B.E., et al., "Inverse Association of Dietary Fat With Development of Ischemic Stroke in Men," Journal of the American Medical Association, 278(24), 1997, pages 2145-2150.
3 Gaziano, J.M., Hennekens, C.H., O'Donnell, C.J., et al., "Fasting Triglycerides, High-Density Lipoprotein, and Risk of Myocardial Infarction," Circulation, 96(8), 1997, pages 2520-2525.
4 Austin, M.A., Hokanson, J.E., Edwards, K.L., "Hypertriglyceridemia as a Cardiovascular Risk Factor," The American Journal of Cardiology, 81(4A), 1998, pages 7B-12B.
5 Pieke, B., von Eckardstein, A., Gülbahce, E., et al., "Treatment of Hypertriglyceridemia by Two Diets Rich Either in Unsaturated Fatty Acids or in Carbohydrates: Effects on Lipoprotein Subclasses, Lipolytic Enzymes, Lipid Transfer Proteins, Insulin and Leptin," International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 24(10), 2000, pages 1286-1296.
6 Abbasi, F., McLaughlin, T., Lamendola, C., et al., "High Carbohydrate Diets, Triglyceride-Rich Lipoproteins, and Coronary Heart Disease Risk," The American Journal of Cardiology, 85, 2000, pages 45-48.
7 Stavenow, L., Kjellström, T., "Influence of Serum Triglyceride Levels on the Risk for Myocardial Infarction in 12,510 Middle Aged Males: Interaction With Serum Cholesterol ," Atherosclerosis, 147, 1999, pages 243-247.
8 Heaney, R.P., "Excess Dietary Protein May not Adversely Affect Bone," Journal of Nutrition, 128(6), 1998, pages 1054-1057.
9 Spirt, B.A., Graves, L.W., Weinstock, R., et al., "Gallstone Formation in Obese Women Treated by a Low-Calorie Diet," International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 19(8), 1995, pages 593-595.
One of the problems with staying on Atkins has always been so hard to keep to if don't eat a lot of meals at home. One good effect of the current "fad" is that it will be a lot easier to stay on with so many new alternatives.