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Atkins' Worst Week

As if it wasn't bad enough for Dr. Robert Atkins that he died this past week, by coincidence, an article published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association claimed, in examining 107 previous studies, to find no consistent correlation between low carbohydrate intake diets (as he so famously espoused) and weight loss:

There is insufficient evidence to make recommendations for or against the use of low-carbohydrate diets, particularly among participants older than age 50 years, for use longer than 90 days, or for diets of 20 g/d or less of carbohydrates. Among the published studies, participant weight loss while using low-carbohydrate diets was principally associated with decreased caloric intake and increased diet duration but not with reduced carbohydrate content.
Found on Slashdot here (press release here).


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I can reconcile these reports. Atkins diets work for (some) people not because of the magic chemical reasons stated but because they provide a manageable way for (some) people to reduce calories and stick to it. Cutting out the pasta and bread is just easier than cutting out bacon and steak (for some people).

Well, I guess it goes to show you that there is no "quick fix" for weight loss. The few times that I have lost a significant amount of weight it was through counting calories and exercise.Most of the people that I know have been most successful that way, too.
I will say that when I was on the Atkins Diet that I did feel "better"...as far as energy levels go though my digestive system wasn't very happy with all that protein. I guess it's back to the iron supplements for me and daily walks for me!

My hunch is that Atkins' lasting legacy won't be a Sleeper-esque world in which everyone eats steaks to lose weight. To this amateur, it seems that Atkins' primary contribution to nutrition will be to help people see that dietary fat and body fat, which unfortunately share the same name, aren't the same thing. There seems to be a growing body of evidence from Mediterranean-style diets that dietary fat in and of itself isn't a bad thing -- that the wrong type of fat, or fat consumed in large (i.e., American) quantities, is what is bad for us.

Karin, I agree with you about the energy issue. When I tried the Atkins diet last year, I definitely experienced an improvement in my energy levels, especially in the hours following lunch. I keep this in mind and sometimes try to eat low-carbohydrate lunches, but it's hard when you're also trying to eat vegetarian, which I do about one-third to one-half the time.

Whilst for some people it may be easier to essentially, "give up" carbs for others, including myself, who happen to love bread and pasta its rather difficult. Having tried my own (Dr Atkins)style of diet for overa month, I didnt really felt all that different (except the loss of after meal bloatedness and tiredness)

Lets put this into context, I am a vegetarian ex-athlete now specialising in weight lifting (yes, the two can go together) who wants to loose some excess weight. The diet looked appealing at first as it seemed to me a way of combining the weight loss effect with an increase in protein levels. I aimed to do this by "upping" my low fat milk intake and eating soya and wheat protein mince for most meals. I couldn't tell (by sight) if I have actually lost any 'excess' weight (that which is non-muscle as I have probably put on more muscle, pre-diet BMI is therfore of no relevance). Therefore I belive as mentioned by Frank, that Atkins plan is a virtual cheat to make people eat less by taking out the foods with high glycemic indices, and not to mention fat storing potential. The diet seems to 'hope' some people will not reach recommended caloric intake levels, via the removal of carbs and some fat. A healthy diet, including sensible amount of every nutrient and regular exercise is the real way to go. Yes we have been told this thousands of times, however what is a sensible amount of C6 H12 O6 (Carb) or protein.
Well I have pondered this, and my research tells me that between 1g (for women) and 1.5g (for men) protein per Kg of weight per day, are required for a person who eats 2500 calories a day (3000 for men) and performes exercise (out of breath sweaty stuff) 3 times a week to maintain a lean fit body, i.e. correct to height/weight ratio. However carbohydrate intake levels seem to be so extreme , from the "cut it out" dr Atkins trend to the eat as much as you like crowd. Im not surprised that many folk are confussed about this essential dietary requirement. Luckily I have found that a healthy portions of each carb/protein/fat with more emphasis on small regular portions/meals combined with anerobic and aerobic exercise, really do the trick. I have done this for the last two and a half weeks and lost what i can only estimate at between a quarter and half a stone in visable (unrequired) fat including some surface (sub cutaneous) water.

Holy mother of God folks, learn to spell and use marginally intelligible grammar.

I guess I'm going to totally disagree with people here. I lost a ton of weight (70 pounds, from 215 to 145 in 18 months) by cutting out carbs. I eat more calories than I used to. No one is commenting on the glycemic response, insulin, or anything else that's relevant to low-carb diet theory. Insulin blocks the body from buring fat for hours, so you're not going to lose any fat when you're huffing down a plate of rice. You'll also feel **tired** afterwards! That's the insulin... This 80's high carb bagels and pasta diet is exactly why obesity and type-2 diabetes are now epidemic in the United States. That, and good old sloth...

Yes... It is true that a *single* piece of bread has more calories than 4 ounces of Filet Mignon. What would you rather have? That single piece of bread isn't filling at all!

I do also run about 10 miles a week and lift weights, however I didn't get results from these workouts until I cut the carbs (except for the 1 hour after exercise, when glycogen is stored effectively).

Dr. Nicholas Perricone is another physician promoting a low-glycemic, high protein diet, but he doesn't advocate eating bacon or red meat at all (but I still do). So why are physicians promoting a low carb diet, when mostly lay people say to eat a "balanced" amount of carbs? No offense, but I'll take the advice of someone who understands how hormones (like insulin and cortisol) work.

Another myth is that coffee (caffeine) burns fat. It may do that in the short term, but since it increases the amount of cortisol released in the body, it causes the body to store abdominal fat... it basically causes a minor case of Cushing's syndrome (which is the result of high cortisol levels).

OK... back to carbs...

You really only want carbs right after a work out... Maybe some with the next meal (like if you ran 5 miles on very hilly terrain). But you don't want to have carbs with dinner or after that...

All I know is what works for me. And what works for me was the advice I received from people who are extremely fit... They ALL say to cut the carbs. Weight-lifters have done this for a long time to get "cut" (more definition, less fat).

Also... as far as the JAMA article that debunked the Atkins diet, I was watching the CBS evening news about a month ago, and they did a story about a 2 year study on the Atkins diet (in JAMA) and they found the diet to be highly effective, much more effective than the traditional low fat diet. In fact, the Atkins group had lower cholesterol and a much better lipid profile than the non-Atkins group... This more recent study RECOMMENDS the Atkins diet for overweight patients. These people were eating bacon and eggs, and had a better lipid profile than people who ate their cereal with skim milk. HA HA! Again, what would you rather have? Some tasteless flakes in white-water, or some delicious smokey bacon with eggs?

After all, how will the body burn fat when you're stuffing yourself with high-caloric carbs? It will always burn the carbs instead, and convert the carbs it doesn't burn into fat. It may seem counter intuitive to some, but if you eat fat (preferrably the unsaturated kind, but I enjoy animal fat and butter) your body will burn fat. If you eat carbs, your body will burn some carbs, and store the rest as fat. In addition, eating carbs causes an insulin response that will: make you feel tired; cause your body to store fat; and prevent your body from burning fat.

So enough Atkins bashing, OK? It really does work, and people like Dr. N.V. Perricone also have similar low-carb diets that work. They've worked for me, and many other people. 70 pounds in 18 months is quite dramatic, and people don't even recognize me anymore. I tell people how I did it, and most people still don't beleive that cutting carbs and eating more meat will do this. It's been drilled into us for a decade with this "food pyramid" that was probably constructed by some digruntled FDA employee... If you turn the food pyramid upside-down, then it's pretty accurate (although one should eat a lot of vegetables, legumes and low-glycemic fruits)

There's quite a bit of legitimate medical research behind this, and a current 2 year study in JAMA that shows results. If you want to stick with your 80's pasta diet, go ahead... Just make sure to let out your Jordache jeans, and buy a bigger pair of leg warmers...

The fact is, grains and agriculture are a recent development (in an evolutionary time-scale). Before that, humans didn't eat pasta, bread and other things like that. We haven't evolved to eat these foods. Humans are hunter-gatherers, and we haven't evolved past that. People ate fruit, wild vegetables, and meat (not as much as they do now). So eating all this bread and pasta is counter to what our bodies have evolved to eat. That's why there's so much type-2 diabetes... That, and the fact that people drive to work, sit at a desk, and are completely sedentary.

Living in the SF bay area, I always have a good laugh at vegetarians that say we're not meant to eat meat, and then I see them eating some sugary cereal, chips, or some packaged cookies that have more chemicals than most pharmeceuticals. Yep, chubby hippy vegetarians that won't shut up about how wrong they are... So is "hippy" short for hippocrite? Ah, you know... They're just trying to fit in... and if they keep eating like they do, they won't be able to fit into a frieken VW bus! HA HA!

I, for one, am not bashing Atkins. As noted above, I believe he did a great service by pointing out that dietary fat and body fat are not one and the same, that dietary fat isn't always necessarily bad for you, and that carbohydrates aren't necessarily always good for you.

On the other hand, though Atkins never actually said these things, people read his books and take away things like, "Carbohydrates are evil," or, "I can eat all the bacon and eggs I want and still lose weight as long as I don't eat any carbs," which are unsupported by the facts and which, honestly, are rather ridiculous. I think Atkins would have done well to do more to debunk these sorts of beliefs while he was alive.

Again, the best available medical evidence suggests that Atkins does work for some people, by assisting them in reducing their caloric intake. Whether that's because protein-rich foods tend to make one fuller faster, because it's harder in today's society to snack on low-carbohydrate foods, or because of other, unknown reasons, is still an open question. Admittedly, much research remains to be done.

Aktins doesn't work by restricting caloric intake. It works by reducing the glycemic response, which causes the body to use fat as an energy source. Go to the Atkins site... The information is there. I think that's what this "debate" is about, and the information is there. I would also recommend "The Perricone Prescription" (he's also on PBS on occasion). He goes into detail about how high-glycemic carbohydrates actually cause cellular damage and aging. You're killing yourself when you eat pasta, rice, bread, grains, or sugary "treats". This isn't about calorie restriction. It's about changing a chemical reaction in the body that causes the body to store fat and destroy cells. It also causes problems with serotonin and other neuro chemicals. There's more to it than calorie restriction... And this low-glycemic carbohydrate diet is one you keep for life. A lot of people think these diets can only be for the short term, because the meat is so bad for you. This is vegetarian T.S. (that's tofu sh#t). Eating the meat and the high-glycemic carbs is very bad. Eating just high-glycemic carbs is bad. But eating meat, fish, and low glycemic carbs is the healthiest diet one can adhere to.

Speaking of tofu and soy, they're very bad for you too:


I won't even go into that. Sorry to burst your hippy vegan bubbles, but man... There's just no science to any of that crap. I live in the epicenter of this madness, and I can tell you, none of these vegans or vegetarians have a shred of scientific evidence as to why they do this. And a lot of these people take drugs like extacy and stuff like that. Obviously, this is much more about fitting into a counter culture than being fit and healthy.

On another note, one thing that Atkins and Perricone don't bring up (to my knowledge) is how humans haven't evolved to eat high-glycemic carbohydrates. Agriculture, grain production, and flour production are relatively modern concepts (on an evolutionary time scale). Humans have evolved to eat a hunter-gatherer diet: meat, fish, leaves (salad), wild fruits, berries and vegetables. They didn't eat big plates of rice or sammiches back in those days... No couscous or noodles either... we still haven't evolved to eat these foods. Even potatoes were introduced as a food source relatively late (1500's or so).

Yes, if you eat "meat and potatoes" you will not live that long. That's because the glycemic response will release insulin, which will cause your body to store the fat in the meat, and also convert the unused carbo calories to fat. When the glucose peaks in your bloodstream, it causes an oxidative reaction that damages the cells. When your insulin peaks, it releases cortisol, which damages your cells.


As noted in the original story, the best available peer-reviewed studies seem to indicate that Atkins works -- when it does -- by reducing caloric intake. Atkins made far more reaching claims for his diet, and they may be true, but the preponderance of scientific evidence today doesn't support those claims. Of course, this could change -- such is the nature of the scientific process. But that's what we know today.

There was just a new study published that demonstrated that Atkins works. This was also proven in a 2 year study published in JAMA as shown on CBS news.


They mentioned this study on the local evening news as well.

This study shows that even with 300 extra calories in the high-carb, low fat group, the Atkins group lost just as much weight.

It's biochemisty. When you eat high glycemic carbs it releases insulin, which stores fat. Glucose causes an oxidative reaction which creates free radicals and damages cells. If you don't eat high glycemic carbs, you body fuels cells through ketosis, which doesn't damage cells.

The Atkins diet (and the Perricone Prescription for that matter) will keep you trim and young looking, and free of degenerative diseases related to aging.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) The dietary establishment has long argued it's impossible, but a new study offers intriguing evidence for the idea that people on low-carbohydrate diets can actually eat more than folks on standard low-fat plans and still lose weight.
Perhaps no idea is more contentious in the diet world than the claim long espoused by the late Robert Atkins that people on low-carbohydrate diets can consume more calories without paying a price on the scales.
Over the past year, several small studies have shown, to many experts' surprise, that the Atkins approach actually does work better, at least in the short run. Dieters lose more than those on a standard American Heart Association plan without driving up their cholesterol levels, as many feared would happen.
Skeptics have contended, however, that these dieters must simply be eating less. Maybe the low-carb diets are more satisfying, so they do not get so hungry. Or perhaps the food choices are just so limited that low-carb dieters are too bored to eat a lot.
Now, a small but carefully controlled study offers a strong hint that maybe Dr. Atkins was right: People on low-carb, high-fat diets actually can eat more.
The study, directed by Penelope Greene of the Harvard School of Public Health and presented at a meeting here this week of the American Association for the Study of Obesity, found that people eating an extra 300 calories a day on a very low-carb regimen lost just as much during a 12-week study as those on a standard low-fat diet.
Over the course of the study, they consumed an extra 25,000 calories. That should have added up to about 7 pounds. But for some reason, it did not.
"There does indeed seem to be something about a low-carb diet that says you can eat more calories and lose a similar amount of weight," Miss Greene said.
That strikes at one of the most revered beliefs in nutrition: A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. It does not matter whether they come from bacon or mashed potatoes; they all go on the waistline in just the same way.
Not even Miss Greene says this settles the case, but some at the meeting found her report fascinating.
"A lot of our assumptions about a calorie is a calorie are being challenged," said Marlene Schwartz of Yale. "As scientists, we need to be open-minded."
In the study, 21 overweight volunteers were divided into three categories: Two groups were randomly assigned to either low-fat or low-carb diets with 1,500 calories for women and 1,800 for men; a third group was also low-carb but got an extra 300 calories a day.
The study was unique because all the food was prepared at an upscale Italian restaurant in Cambridge, Mass., so researchers knew exactly what they ate.
Each afternoon, the volunteers picked up that evening's dinner, a bedtime snack and the next day's breakfast and lunch. Instead of lots of red meat and saturated fat, which many find disturbing about low-carb diets, these people ate mostly fish, chicken, salads, vegetables and unsaturated oils.
Everyone's food looked similar but was cooked to different recipes. The low-carb meals were 5 percent carbohydrate, 15 percent protein and 65 percent fat. The rest got 55 percent carbohydrate, 15 percent protein and 30 percent fat.
In the end, everyone lost weight. Those on the lower-cal, low-carb regimen took off 23 pounds, while people who got the same calories on the low-fat approach lost 17 pounds. The big surprise, though, was that volunteers getting the extra 300 calories a day of low-carb food lost 20 pounds.

Don't have much to add to this discussion except my own experience with Atkins. I'm 46 yo fem who has been lifting (light) weights for 18 years to stay in fairly good shape. I had 10 extra pounds that wouldn't go away, despite cutting out as much fat from my diet as was reasonable, and eating what were held out as "low-fat,healthy" snacks like pretzels, and cookies etc that made up for the lack of fat with added sugar.

Started Atkins early September, spent 3 weeks in induction, and noticed some interesting changes. I slept better than I had in 10 years, didn't get PMS, didn't have "brain fog" during the day, and was able to stay awake later in the evening, as opposed to being completely fatigued by 9 pm every night.
The one detrimental effect I've noticed is that I'm losing more hair recently, despite taking additional vitamins.
I wonder if this has anything to do with the estrogen levels in my body changing, as fat cells are involved with the production of estrogen. Women lose more of their hair at the onset of menopause, during which time estrogen becomes depleted.
My metabolism seems to have become a furnace, and uses the carbs that I eat occasionally in a more efficient manner. I've lost the 10 pounds, and wonder if I need to lose anymore, with winter coming on.


I am a 26 year old, 174 pound female. This time last year I was told by a doctor that I was insulin resistant and I would need to use the FDA food pyramid to lower my insulin level. Needless to say that did not work.

I started reading up on my condition and I read an article that mentioned low carb high protein dieting, so at the beginning of this year I decided to give it a try. I have been on this diet for one whole month and I have lost 10 pounds, I am not at all tired like I used to be, I sleep better and I have completely stop the medication (Metformin) that was prescribed to me for insulin resistance. This medication was the worse thing I could have done to myself. It turns out that the Metformin and a low carb high protein diet work about the same except I am not as gassy, I sleep better, in the past two months I have had two periods (opposed to one every year) I am not too happy about that one, and I do not wake up feeling as if though I was kick boxing the day before. I spoke to my doctor to let her know what I was doing and she okayed it. I told her I would see her in April for my annual and we could do all the applicable tests to see how much of a difference this lifestyle change has made.

So far am concerned I am a living witness that low carb high protein diet works.

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