Skip to comments.Beef Vs. Bagels: Food Companies Take on Dr. Atkins
Posted on 03/16/2003 1:57:19 PM PST by Pharmboy
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (Reuters) - It has been months since Tina Moore last bit into a bagel or a slice of toast.
"Protein is good. Carbs are bad," says 41-year-old Moore, who altered her diet five years ago in a bid to lose weight.
Moore, the owner of a hair salon, is one of the estimated 15 million-plus Americans seen as devoted followers of dieting guru, Dr. Robert Atkins, who recommends eating protein for those who want to rid themselves of unwanted weight and keep the pounds off.
"Carbs and sugar ... they give you a quick high, then you get really low. You get tired and hungry," said Moore, who sees herself as a reformed "carbohydrate addict."
The hamburger patty is good, the hamburger bun bad, according to the teachings of Atkins, who has turned his philosophies into a dieting revolution, starting with his first book, "Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution," in 1972.
Atkins books -- his latest, "Atkins for Life," was published this year -- routinely top best-seller lists. Atkins companies have racked up millions of dollars in sales of specialty low-carb food products and carb-counting scales.
But the popularity of Atkins' eating advice, now appealing to another generation, is fraying the nerves of some food companies who rely on the consumer appetite for carbohydrate-laden foods such as pastas and pizzas, cakes, cookies and cereals, to add heft to their own bottom lines.
They claim Atkins is falsely disparaging food groups that serve as a foundation for American eating. And that by teaching people to severely limit the use of flour-based products, Atkins is eating into sales of some bread and cereal products in the United States.
"Our industry has to do something, and soon. It is starting to become a mainstream belief that carbohydrates are bad," said Judi Adams, director of the Wheat Foods Council, a consortium of industry players that includes ConAgra, General Mills and Kellogg Co.
"This Atkins diet -- or, I call it Fatkins diet -- is going out unchallenged. People are starting to believe it," Adams said.
Part of the consortium's push will be in Washington, where federal health officials are starting talks on revisions to the nation's 11-year-old Food Guide Pyramid.
Wheat Foods will be actively involved in defending the grains, Adams said.
Currently, the pyramid puts bread, cereals, rice and pasta as the foundation for healthy eating, recommending six to 11 servings a day. But some are pushing for changes that would move grains off the foundation, and cut back servings.
There is limited funding for the anti-Atkins campaign, as most food companies spend their advertising dollars on product specific programs to tout such things as new Berry-Burst Cheerios, recently released by General Mills.
So, with only a slender budget to try to counter the Atkins phenomenon, the Wheat Foods Council is aiming its "educational" campaign" at nutritionists and the medical community.
The strategy is a direct attack on Atkins: Americans who follow the Atkins diet increase their risk of health problems that include cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, kidney damage and some cancers, the Wheat Foods Council says.
Adding insult to injury, it claims that Atkins followers can also suffer headaches, constipation and bad breath.
The council says obesity is not specifically tied to carbohydrates but is the simple result of lazy overeaters.
"Healthful grain-based foods have become the scapegoat for weight gain, when overeating and underexercising are at issue," said Carol Pratt, a Kellogg nutrition and regulatory affairs expert, and incoming chairwoman for Wheat Foods.
FEWER COOKIES AND CAKES
Consumer eating habits are hard to track, but the latest Consumer Expenditure Survey of the U.S. Department of Labor does indicate a possible shift away from grain-based foods.
According to the government survey, consumer spending in 2001 for ready-to-eat and cooked cereals, pasta, flour, flour mixes and bakery products dropped from the previous year even as consumer spending for meat, poultry, fish and eggs and other similar products increased for the third year in a row.
Moreover, the 0.2 percent decrease in spending came as the consumer price index (news - web sites) for those foods grew 2.9 percent. As well, wheat consumption in the United States dropped 4 percent from 1997 to 2001, according to industry research.
"I'm very much concerned," said Mark Dirkes, spokesman for Interstate Bakeries, the nation's largest wholesale baker and the maker of Wonder Bread. "He (Atkins) has run a very effective campaign. That just can't be good for our industry."
CLEANING OUT THE CABINETS
Among Atkins preachings: the elimination of "white flour-laden junk food" from kitchen cabinets, and research that Atkins says shows carbohydrates work to slow the body's burning of fat and make people feel hungrier faster.
And after decades of rejecting Atkins' theories, some new scientific research studies, including work by Harvard University, have started lending credence to Atkins' ideas.
Colette Heimowitz, director of research at the Atkins Health and Medical Information Services says over-consumption of bread, cereal and baked products is partly to blame for overweight Americans. Products made with white flour, sugars and hydrogenated oils are the worst.
Still, she says, Atkins is not looking to go to war with the food companies, and that even Atkins die-hards allow for an occasional doughnut or cookie.
"We teach people how to respect it and, on rare occasions, have it in moderation," she said. "We know people can't stay away from it forever."
And thanks for the cookbook tip. I'm about to embark on another Atkins diet (after St. Pat's naturally.)
I dropped 15lbs last time, and have largely kept it off though I cheat constantly.
Time to knock some more off.
Try http://www.bodyforlife.com for the whole package. Proper food and exercise. A guy I work with went on this and lost 32 pounds in 3 months! He now looks like he is in shape.
As the Japanese eat more Western food, they are getting fatter. Asia Times (don't have a link, sorry) just had an article on obesity among children in Asia. You're right - they're not getting obese on rice, seaweed, fish, and pickles.
Agreed as well that the Middle Easterners, with their beans / pita bread / chickpeas / olive oil diets aren't terribly fat either. There are some things to consider:
First, it's not just "carbohydrates bad, meat good." Carbohydrates have widely varying glycemic indexes (i.e. how fast your body produces insulin in response.) The more refined a food, generally the higher the GI. Beans (like chickpeas, red beans, white beans) are generally way lower GI than a Ding Dong.
Also, a lot of people in the Middle East work far harder physically than people here. It's a combination of factors; a lot of sweet, starchy, fatty junk food combined with sedentary lifestyles. Someone earlier made the comment that one of the major reasons Atkins may work is because people ideally aren't eating junk food on it.
Personally, I haven't done Atkins because I need the daily carbohydrates. I'm just very careful to eat lower-glycemic carbs at one meal only, and really avoid the sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
And you responded, Not to be mean, but this statement is utter nonsense.
And then you agreed with me by saying, "You can consume many more calories than the body utilizes as your body can only absorb so many calories at one time.
I had not explained all aspects of the fact that consuming more calories than burned results in weight gain. The key word there for you to consider is the word burned, expended, spent, or exhausted. The burning of the calories is used to create energy. The calories that a person consumes that the body does not need for energy the body converts to fat.
Are not a steak and a salad a low carb/low sugar diet?
And you're a guy, yes?
Untrue. Different foods have different effects on hormone levels, which strongly affect metabolic rates, fat deposition, etc. For a carbohydrate-senstive person, 1000 calories of carbs is a LOT more fat-promoting than 1000 calories of protein or even fat.
I realize this sounds totally counterintuitive -- it just SEEMS like eating fat should make you fat, and eating more calories should make you fat -- but when you dig into the science (or, learn the hard way as I did) you'll discover that it just isn't true.
Since a vegan or even just a vegetarian-emphasis diet is necessarily high in carbs, carb sensitive people have little choice but to live on a heavily animal diet - as many of their ancestors did for countless centuries.
Actually, muscles can also burn fat directly. It takes a few weeks of consistent low carb/hi fat before the metabolic switch fully takes place, but when the fat burning enzymes do switch on, it feels great. Much less post workout soreness.
No, actually, I'm FROM Alaska. We live in Minnesota now, for the last 11 years. I left Alaska for the last time in 1988. Lived there for 30 years, all together.
Price made it to Valdez, but I don't know if he studied any of the people there. The Native populations around there are mostly Aleut. ("Alley-oot.") I discovered Price about 2 years ago. For what it might be worth, in 1995, I was killing myself with a sugar/starch-heavy diet that had been my norm for all my life. Since that time, I have literally reversed every single symptom and problem by doing NOTHING but changing my diet. Changing back to a natural, nutrient-dense diet and removing sugars, starches, and refined foods from my diet saved my life.
As a kid, studying human origins -- not just for school but as a hobby -- I was perplexed that ~90% of my peers wouldn't have made it a few centuries ago, and couldn't find an evolutionary explanation. Why did I and a few others have straight teeth, 20/20 vision, etc, and the rest mostly didn't? How could the gene pool deteriorate that quickly after the relaxation of selection? It didn't make sense. THEN... at age 12.. I stumbled upon Nutrition & Physical Degeneration in a healthfood store. I never forgot what I saw (1 picture is worth 1000 words). There was the answer to the mystery: our modern physicial degeneration was nutritional, and reversible.
Of course, nobody else wanted to hear it. Dentists, in particular, are taught in dental school that malocclusion is 'genetic', and the idea of preventing that (or any other structural defect) by "primitive" prenatal nutrition was alien to them. In fact, people in general just gave me a blank look if I tried to talk about it, so I mostly stopped, and for many years I carried this knowledge around with me, alone -- through school, college, gradschool (Ph.D. in chemistry), and out into the working world. But at least I ate well, even if nobody else around me did.
Then one fine day, at age 37, I idly threw the name "Weston Price" into a search engine and found the Weston A Price foundation, which happened to have a local chapter. After my first meeting, I told them all, "I waited 25 years to have these conversations!"
A raw-milk toast to both of you!