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."
Since I went on Atkins, I've lost 350 lbs., my salary has tripled, my daughter became a physicist, my son a major league shortstop, and my wife turned into Sarah Michelle Gellar.
I can't sing Atkins praises enough, with my new world-class, operatic, tenor voice.
Do you take any insulin sensitizers (Glucophage, Avandia, Actos) with your insulin (I assume you are a type 2)?
I've tried a few- prepared and mixes. They all tend to be heavy on the soy flour and gluten giving them an unusual flavor and a rubbery consistency. We gave up and will simply wait until we are well established in maintainence to occassionally splurge on real whole-grain stuff.
Not to be mean, but this statement is utter nonsense. You can consume many more calories than the body utilizes as your body can only absorb so many calories at one time.
Also, different types of foods are more or less easily converted into fat. Refined sugars and carbs are very easily converted into fat. Proteins and even bacon grease have a "longer way to go" for lack of a better term, before being converted to fat.
Try a low carb/low sugar diet and you'll see the light REAL quick. You body fat will reduce and your energy will go throught the roof.