Skip to comments.Is Atkins the Healthiest Choice for Weight Loss?
Posted on 04/17/2007 2:03:10 PM PDT by freedomdefender
The beleaguered Atkins diet may get a breath of life from a new study that suggests the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet regime leads to more effective weight loss with fewer negative health effects than three other weight loss strategies.
The study, which pits the Atkins diet against the Zone, Ornish and LEARN diets, appears in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
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But the findings could be too little too late for the popular diet, which at one time changed the way Americans ate.
Proponents of Atkins say the study is only the latest piece of evidence testifying to the effectiveness of a diet that cuts carbs to a minimum.
"Clearly, this study shows that controlling carbohydrates is as or more effective than the low-fat, low-calorie approaches we've seen in the past," says Dr. Stuart Trager, author of "The All-New Atkins Advantage: 12 Weeks to a New Body, a New You, a New Life."
"The proof is now in the pudding," says Dr. Fred Pescatore, former medical director of the Atkins Center and best-selling author of "The Hamptons Diet," a guide on another low-carb regime.
"These findings are consistent with over a dozen papers in the past five years demonstrating the beneficial effects of carbohydrate restriction," says Dr. Eric Westman, associate professor of medicine and director of the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at Duke University Medical Center. "I think low-carbohydrate diets should be first-line therapy for weight loss."
But will the new research be enough to save Atkins or even restore it to its former lead position in the pack of new diet regimes? Many diet experts say no.
"Health is not measured as the combination of several cardiac risk markers and weight over the course of a year," says Dr. David Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine. "If it were, every patient getting chemotherapy would be 'healthy.'"
"Some heart indicators were better, but what about the mountains of evidence about high consumption of fruits and vegetables to promote overall health?" says Keith-Thomas Ayoob, associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's department of pediatrics in Bronx, N.Y.
The JAMA study suggests that women on the Atkins diet not only lose more weight than those on the other diets studied, but that these women also maintain better cholesterol profiles and blood pressure levels.
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But Dr. Dean Ornish, creator of the Ornish diet and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in San Francisco, says the conclusions from these findings are misguided.
"This is simply not true," he says. "If you read the study carefully, you will find that the authors reported that there was no significant difference in weight loss between the Atkins and Ornish or LEARN diets after one year.
"This directly contradicts their primary conclusion."
Other experts say the fact that the study only features results for up to one year makes such conclusions premature at best.
"The weight loss with Atkins maxed out after six months and really started regaining then, and somewhat faster than with the other diets," Ayoob says. "It would be interesting to see if, by 18 months or so, everything evened out."
"The public may not realize that keeping weight off for one year is no indication of permanence," says Carla Wolper of the Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's Hospital in New York City.
"It may be that more than two years of weight stability are required before one can feel safe with weight loss achieved."
And some say the shortcomings of the research reach beyond simple weight loss. In particular, there's a belief that the study downplays the wide spectrum of factors that contribute to heart health.
"Numbers don't lie, but they don't tell the whole story by a mile," says Jackie Newgent, instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. "There are more than just a couple numbers that determine your overall health. And as cholesterol numbers and blood pressure levels improve, it doesn't mean other heart-health indicators improve."
Since heart concerns have remained at the center of the debate over low-carb diets since their inception, the study may do little to silence critics with these concerns.
In recent years, the Atkins diet has also found itself surrounded by a lean, mean pack of other diet regimens, most with their own best-selling books.
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Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz's "You: On a Diet," one of the more recent wunderkinds of the growing diet genre, is now enjoying its 17th week on The New York Times best-seller list.
Other diets, low-carb and otherwise, likewise flood bookstore shelves a phenomenon that threatens to lead to diet-reader fatigue as the choices become ever more diverse and, in many cases, complex.
So, what's a dieter to do?
In short, losing weight and keeping it off may be more a function of adopting an overall healthier lifestyle and less about cutting whole classes of foods out of your diet.
"This is the message of this article focus on lifestyle and environmental factors and don't worry about the macronutrient composition of the diet, particularly if you can achieve the NHLBI guidelines of a 5 to 10 percent weight loss," says Dr. George Blackburn, chair in nutrition medicine at Harvard Medical School. "I think that was my message for the past 20 years."
"A healthy diet is the same as it ever was," Katz says. "Focus on health, and the long term, and your weight will take care of itself."
"It's not about demonizing whole food groups," Ayoob says. "It's about how much and how often, and learning to strike a balance between what we know we need, and what we don't want to live without."
And for diet book authors on both sides of the debate, an armistice in the "diet wars" would be a positive outcome by any measure.
"I'm tired of these diet wars," Ornish says. "It's not low-fat versus low-carb. It's both. An optimal diet is low in total fat and low in refined carbohydrates, emphasizing whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains."
"The future needs to be about getting away from this 'beauty pageant' mentality of what diet is best," Trager says. "It needs to be about incorporating the best practices of each approach to make lifestyle changes more achievable and improve adherence."
Eat less, excise more. Best diet plan there is.
It really bugs me when people criticize the Atkins diet but have never read through the whole thing. They stop at “butter, whole cream, and steaks” and have a figurative heart attack. If you follow the plan, you end up eating about a pound of vegetables a day, healthy fats, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of protein. Because of the way it preserves muscle by burning off fat, you look leaner and lose inches. However, it is NOT a “diet” that you go on for a while and then go off. It is truly a way of eating that, once you reach your goal weight, should continue for the rest of your life.
Ornish is simply wrong about grains. Humans are not meant to eat a lot of grains. They are meant to eat vegetables, fruits (especially low sugar fruits like berries) and meat. Not juices, not grains, and not refined sugar at all. The present USDA food pyramid (a product of ag interests)is based on grains and is a recipe for diabetes. Atkins is the only diet I have ever used that is effective and I’ve been able to stick to.
Sit on my butt, eat nachos and watch TV is far easier even if it is less effective.
There’s GOT to be a better way!! ;o)
If it’s not too much trouble, could you give me an example of a day’s menu on the Atkins’ plan. I did not know that vegetables were a big part of the plan, for example. I thought it was just a meat-eating thing.
It’s less effective because that’s unbalanced.
You need to add ice cream or chocolate to hit all four ares.
Worked out pretty healthy for me.
(How many posts before a clueless “Just don’t eat so much” post?)
Not long. See post 2.
I agree...the problem for me is getting back on it, once I’ve fallen off the wagon. :(
In Stage 1, you’re to eat 20 carbs per day with at least half of them from vegetables. That’s 10+ carbs. However, when you deduct the fiber you get from the veggies, you need to actually eat way more than the 10 carbs. That might be a spinach/cheese omelet in the morning, a large salad with a variety of veggies plus protein for lunch, and maybe a steak or other protein with a couple of side cooked veggies for dinner. Believe me, you’re never hungry!
The meat, eggs, salad is only for two weeks. That’s where everyone stops. They think that is the diet. Next phase is to add vegs. You can buy a carb counter. Men are allowed more carbs than women. After the two weeks you add carbs slowly but not going over the suggested carb count.
It works very well.
Thread over. You win.
2 egg omelet with ham and cheese
1/2 c. strawberries
1c. low carb milk
2c. mixed greens
1/2 sliced med. cucumber
1/2 sliced med. bell pepper
4 oz. grilled chicken breast
1 Wasa bread cracker
Ranch Salad dressing
2c. mixed greens w/vinaigrette
(vinaigrette made with olive oil and your choice of vinegar)
6 spears steamed asparagus
6 oz. pan grilled sirloin
1/2 c. cubed cantaloupe
1/2 c. smoked almonds
1/2 c. plain yogurt sweetened w/Splenda and vanilla extract
I like salads, so I eat at least one everyday. I usually have salads with both meals, and if I do brunch on a weekend I have a salad then.
“Sit on my butt, eat nachos and watch TV is far easier even if it is less effective.” KarlInOhio
At least KarlInOhio won’t be accused of having the latest “eating disorder” (overexercising).
After my cardiologist demanded that I lose a ton and a dietitian's telling me that carbs were my problem,I started Atkins...the "strict" form (as described by the Atkins website).
Basically I ate beef,chicken,chicken salad,eggs and a few other things,and basically nothing else.I gave up many,many things that I was addicted to.Quickly,I discovered two things,1)the pounds were just falling off of me (I was "power-walking" religiously at the same time) and,2)how easy,*EASY* it was to stick to it...in spite of the fact that it was very restrictive and *very* boring.
My primary care doctor,who was trained at Harvard and whose practice was at one of the major Harvard hospitals,explained my success like this:
"Protein (in which Atkins is very rich) is more effective than any other kind of food in turning off the little switch in our brain that tells us we're hungry so those who follow it faithfully take in fewer calories and,thus,tend to lose weight and often find it easy to stick to the diet." (Of course,this isn't an exact quote)
“Eat less, exercise more.”
Yes, but you can make a lot of money leading people to believe that there’s another, “easier” way.
That's the problem with Atkins in a nutshell. I've never tried that diet because I prefer to use commonsense eating habits along with exercise to stay in shape. However, I have known too many people who have tried it and lost weight, but because it it is an unnatural way of eating they weren't able to continue it "for the rest of their life". Those that I know who used the Atkins diet plan ended up not only gaining their weight back, but ended up weighing more than they did when they started the diet.
Certainly it may not be the healthiest.
There are other reasons why the Atkins diet can be harmful and downright dangerous. I would suggest that people research the dangers of this sort of diet before trying it and consult with their doctor.
Thank you both. You exploded some myths/ignorance that I was holding about Atkins.
That’s a lot of help. You went to quite a bit of trouble. Thank you.
interesting. thanks. congrats on your success.
Drives me nuts too.
I have been following the Fat Fallacy plan by Will Cower which, if you don’t mind the Donald Rumsfeld jabs, has some decent principles. It is based on the French way of eating.
It’s pretty much Atkins with beans and baguettes. A lot of all natural, nonprocessed food, avoiding High Fructose Corn Syrup, etc.
My mom asked my how I “lost the weight.” I started with the 5 servings of fruit and vegetables, moved to the 1 or 2 grains, mentioned the full fat dairy.....
She perked up. “Full fat dairy?!?” Of course that is only one piece that fits in a larger picture. Without the veggies and the behavior modification, I would have lost the weight.
Keeping the carbs low works for me.
Ever notice how they never give citations for these, erm, “dozens of scientific papers?” LOL
Beleaguered by the disease industry perhaps.
It's the only weight loss diet that doesn't destroy your body.
Eat less. That will cause you to lose weight.
You have to recognize that the disease industry makes billions off of diabetes.
Low carb milk?
Is that intended to be funny? Milk is a huge, high glycemic carb load.
The thing about *diets* is everyone pretty much has an agenda. I like the way I feel on Atkins, altho I admit it’s sometimes difficult to stick to when everyone else is eating tastey things I grew up eating that are full of white flour and sugar.
I am most concerned about corn sweeteners in everything, in addition to all of the other refined carbs. The Neanderthin diet is probably the best one, but it’s just too darned difficult.
Your nickname is VERY high in carbs..... ;)
Actually the bigger the weight loss target the better off you are going for eat less excercise more. Large quantities of weight lost quickly tends to not allow the skin to reshrink, which causes wierd baginess that usually needs plastic surgery to correct, eating less and excercising more is a slow steady weight loss regimen that lets your skin shrink. Also because of the long haul nature of that kind of weight loss you’re more likely to have the real behavioral change you need to not yo-yo. I dropped 65 pounds eating less and excercising more, took two years (well OK I too most of fall and all of winter off in between waves) and have kept it off, it was a total rewrite of my life style so even when I’m not trying to lose weight I just don’t eat all that extra food. The other nice part about going straight for your calorie balance is you don’t have to stop eating anything, you just eat less, I had lasagna and cheesecake at one early point in my new regimen, the real stuff too not low anything, lost 3 pounds that week. Show me another diet where you can have Carnegie Deli cheesecake for desert with no guilt and keep your positive results.
Learn to eat healthy smaller portions no processed foods no refined sugar no simple carbs...with smart eating habits over a couple of yrs you can obtain your ideal weight....now that's healthy...
Atkins works and we carnivores love it ping!
Have you tried the Crispy Cream diet?
Actually, it is the very most natural, healthy way of eating. It's just not compatible with restaurant junk.
actually, there is only one danger: - You're going to be beset with inane comments like this one, which was invented by the disease industry.
“Actually, it is the very most natural, healthy way of eating. It’s just not compatible with restaurant junk.”
IMO, the best way to lose weight is to limit restaurant eating (way too many carbs and fats). This from someone who was once in the business.
Only problem with Atkins is that you have to severely restrict your booze intake (carbs). Instead, I stopped eating desserts. A man has got to know his limitations (and his priorities).
Don’t you love those geniuses?
“I’m so depressed, I could just die.”
“Well, just cheer up!”
“I think my marriage is collapsing.”
“You two need to get along with each other!”
“My family’s near bankruptcy.”
“Dude, you need more money!”
Lost 18 pounds by not eating white sugar or white flour products and started movin’.
You stole the words straight from my mouth! A billion dollar industry is wrapped around the simple fact of EAT LESS!
It' amazing that intelligent people cannot figure that OBVIOUS fact out for themselves.
“Low carb milk?”
You can actually buy such a thing. Only it costs twice as much as regular milk. Plain, unsweetened, soy milk is low carb also.
Yes, but soy milk is probably the biggest threat to health that money can buy. Soy products (not sauce, which is fermented) contain phytoestrogen, which is our #1 carcinogen at this time. It causes breast cancer, and prostate cancer, and evidence is pouring in that it is also the culpret in Pancreatic cancer.
“soy milk is probably the biggest threat”
Moderation in all things. (except maybe pizza!) :)