May I Have Extra Lard with that Hate?
I first realized there was something strange about Atkins dieters when I was approached by two different ones, both of whom swore by the diet and the man. Both were fat. Now, you could argue that perhaps for Atkins they might have been fatter still. I had no way of verifying that. But I will say that a diet that leaves you in a permanent state of obesity is lacking when there are ways (the fibs of "fat acceptance" advocates notwithstanding) to become healthily slim and stay that way. That is, Atkins shouldn't be looked at in a vacuum but rather compared to the alternatives. But I had no idea how strong these people's feelings were until I wrote a piece on an abstract of a study allegedly showing scientific backing for Atkins. It's not that the hate mail spigot opened; rather the damn broke. Masses of it pour in, virtually all of it clearly from Atkins acolytes. So did viruses. I received 23 on a single day. If it be true that "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," that goes double for Atkins disciples." All the information they felt they needed to counter anything I said was wrapped between the pages of Atkins' own book, a rather circular argument 'twould seem. Then I took the liberty of going to a pro-Atkins website (presumably a front for the Atkins Center) and confirmed my earlier belief when I saw 350 pound-plus people displaying their current photographs and declaring Atkins their savior. (The expression "What's wrong with this picture?" definitely comes to mind.) Part of the explanation is that these people claimed they were still losing weight. But this was their last posting and many of the notices were one or two years old. Why didn't these people post again when they reached their goal? Because they didn't reach their goal. They couldn't stick with it and they quit the diet. A few of the posters did claim to have reached their goal, but we have no way of knowing if they maintained it. Losing weight is far easier than keeping it off. The other part of the explanation is that Atkins is a cult. I don't mean all of the millions of readers who bought his book, found it worthless, and trashed it. I mean there's a hardcore set of Atkins groupies out there who clearly judge both him and his diet by something other than how well it works for weight loss and maintenance. It would be like reading "Get Rich Quickly," then losing all your money and being convinced the author is a god. Behold the letters and photos of those who have claim Atkins as their savior.
Subject: Tuff guy
You sounded like a complete moron on the Laura Ingraham show! Your e-mails to your critics are big and tuff but your voice sounds like a little whiny girl with your own agenda.
Ben [omitted] Rose
Youíre a fat slob on the Atkins diet who hasnít lost an ounce but likes
having free rein to pig out on hamhocks and fatback. Sounds a bit like
an agenda to me. Also, your typing looks like that of a girlie-man. No
wonder youíre named after a flower.
Subject: Atkins dietI read your article about the Atkins diet. I have never tried the Atkins diet and have no intention of doing so, but I think that there are aspects of the diet that are better than the AHA diet and which explain why the results of the Atkins diet were better than the AHA diet.
First, the fact that Atkins includes fish oil supplements is most important, as deficiency in omega-3 acids greatly increases risk of heart attack and stroke. The EPA in fish oil decreases triglycerides significantly, which explains why the Atkins diet did better than the AHA diet in decreasing triglycerides.
Second, the Atkins diet recommends butter rather than margarine and avoids all bread, cookies, cakes, etc with the result that ALL trans-fatty acids are avoided, while the AHA diet would unavoidably include a lot of trans-fats. Trans fats of course are unique among fats in that they raise LDL and lower HDL (good cholesterol), which perhaps explains why the AHA had no improvement in TC/ HDL ratio while Atkins dieters improved in this regard. (Incidently, the data I saw indicated that total cholesterol decreased 6% on Atkins and 4 % on AHA diet, not no change as you indicated.) Trans fatty acids are the second most important risk factor for coronary heart disease, behind omega-3 deficiency.
Third, the elimination of refined carbs in the Atkins diet greatly reduces glycemic load, which would reduce the risk chd and help reduce cholesterol. Elimination of refined carbs would result in a greater weight loss on the Atkins diet, which would contribute to the greater drop in triglycerides.
The benefits of fish oil and the dangers of trans-fats and refined carbohydrates are well established, and it baffles me that these factors are largely ignored in Federal dietary guidelines and by the American heart association. It appears to me that these three factors, which I believe are the "top three" when it comes to health risk reduction, would result in better performance of the Atkins diet relative to the AHA diet in spite of the deficencies of the Atkins diet.
I am not an advocate of the Atkins diet and I am aware of the problems associated with the diet, but I am also fully aware of the deficencies of the AHA diet and Federal dietary guidelines. I am 68 years old in excellent health with "ideal' lipid profile, blood pressure and weight, due in part I believe to following a common sense diet which includes fish oil supplements and multi-vitamins, and avoids refined carbs and trans-fats. (When I say my diet, I mean what I eat, for I have no weight problem and do not have to "diet") My diet is based on information from Pubmed, not from some guru or bureaucrat.
I am open to correction, so if you find I am in error in any of the above analysis I would appreciate your letting me know.
Okay, I'm letting you know.
I put the question about Atkins' oil supplements is point directly to two different researchers who have done studies comparing the Atkins diet to a high-carb diet. Both said the amount of omega-3 and flaxseed oil that Atkins isn't enough to cause any noticeable decrease in triglycerides. None. It's simply a sop to those who accused Atkins of acting as if various types of fat were irrelevant. I explained why the triglycerides went down among the Atkins dieters who managed to stick with the diet long enough to lose weight; it was the weight loss itself. Certainly if you consumed enough "heart-healthy" oils it will lower your blood-lipids, in which case I urge you to avoid Atkins and simply eat more of those oils. Incidentally, the official AHA position on this is that "Healthy people should eat omega-3 fatty acids from fish and plant sources to protect their hearts . . ."
Regarding cholesterol, what I wrote was: "Atkins dieters consuming heavy amounts of fat saw their HDL ('good cholesterol') levels increase by 11 percent while harmful triglycerides fell 49 percent? (LDL or 'bad cholesterol' levels remained the same.) Atkins dieters consuming heavy amounts of fat saw their HDL ('good cholesterol') levels increase by 11 percent while harmful triglycerides fell 49 percent? (LDL or 'bad cholesterol' levels remained the same.)" It makes no sense to lump all cholesterol together and I did not; you simply made that up.
The AHA has been warning of the possible dangers of trans-fats since 1997. The question of trans-fats is very much in flux now but nobody, including the person most responsible for bringing them to our attention, Harvard's Walter Willett, says it's fine and dandy to substitute saturated fats, or therefore butter for margarine. The data on the harmfulness of saturated fats is quite solid. The Atkins diet, by encouraging high fat consumption in general, ultimately encourages high consumption of all fats. People who are already for the most part denying themselves carbohydrates aren't going to also cross trans-fats off the list.
Other than the small percentage of the population with something called "Syndrome X," your claim about glycemia is untrue, as I demonstrated in my expose of the Taubes informercial in the New York Times Magazine. You're right about eliminating (or more realistically, reducing) refined carbs, but nobody out there who doesn't make a living off selling the stuff disagrees with you. The question concerns high-fat versus non-refined carbs. Non-refined carbs win. Atkins dieters lose. Dr. Atkins wins big time.
Hmmm. Must have been a quick article because you did not say much. The point of Atkins' diet is not that it works or does not work, but actually that we do not know if it works. Or, why it works when it does.
I hope you get back to a bit harder journalism where you actually try to investigate rather than pontificate because you're good when you do investigate.
Let's make a slight change but use your same proposition. "The point of the new type of automobile is not that it works or does not work, but actually that we do not know if it works. Or, why it works when it does."
So I should do a 900-page tome on that which isn't? If you think I'm a good investigator, then you should not want me spending my time counting angels on the heads of pins.
I recently read your latest article on the Atkins diet and feel that this is not your best work. I have enjoyed your articles over the years but found this one lacking. I have read Dr. Atkins book and, although caloric restriction may be responsible for some percentage of weight loss, feel that you either forgot to mention or ignored the effects of a reduced insulin level due to lowered carb intake. This could indeed account for additional weight loss.
Also, are you aware of any studies that compare Atkins diet to a high
carb diet and control for caloric intake? I think that would partially
answer the question.
Dear Mr. [omitted]:
I didn't ignore the effects of a reduced insulin level; rather A) my sources who conducted studies similar to Westman's found no such effect, and B) I have a forthcoming article that discusses this in great detail. And yes, my book The Fat of the Land cites and discusses many studies that vary carbohydrate and fat intake and control for caloric intake. You should try reading it, instead of books that are 50 percent recipes and 50 percent pseudo-science.
I just read "Hold the Lard" and found it quite interesting.
My perspective is shaped by the experience of beginning the Atkins diet in November of 1997, 5 years and 50 pounds ago. I haven't been to the doctor with any kind of illness since then.
I noticed a media spin against the diet. CNN ran stories with two of their MD "experts" who both slammed the diet and skeptical comments from the American Heart Association officials were also widely reported.
When you consider that beef and pork consumption per capita went down every year for more than 20 years after the pro-carb movement began in the early 1980's, while diabetes, obesity and cardiac illness has grown to near-epidemic levels, don't you think there is a significant chance that the conventional wisdom on diet and nutrition is wrong?
Thanks in part to Atkins, I won't be needing lipitor [sic], blood pressure medication, or bypass surgery. I hate having to pay for all that for such a huge fraction of our elderly via Medicare, when it looks to like a $7.95 book has the answer for a lot of those people.
I deal with post hocs like yours all the time. Usually they go, "I was fine went I went to the Gulf, but later got sick therefore I have Gulf War Illness" or "I was in excellent health until they sprayed my area for mosquitoes and now I feel lousy every morning therefore it's caused by the spraying. True, like the quacks of yore Dr. Atkins does claim his diet cures or prevents a huge array of illnesses including "fatigue, irritability, depression, trouble concentrating, headaches, insomnia, dizziness, joint and muscle aches, heartburn, colitis, premenstrual syndrome, and water retention and bloating." Everything but unclogging the kitchen sink. And like the quacks of yore, he provides no scientific evidence. I'm in terrific shape in my early 40s, an age at which many men are on cholesterol-lowering drugs like Lipitor, and on blood pressure medicine, and are even candidates for bypass surgery. Yet my diet couldn't be more different than what Atkins recommends. You Atkins cultists throw all the praise for anything good in your life at him, while anything bad that happens to you was somehow despite his efforts. David Koresh's followers must have felt the same way.
You use beef and pork sales as a surrogate for fat consumption; why not use fat consumption itself? It's gone up during the last 20 years. That doesn't help your argument much. In fact, you're even wrong about CNN's coverage. In a November 19 report on the very study I wrote about, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta declared: "There are a Lot of people smiling about this right now. There a lot of people who said, 'See, I told you Atkins wasn't going to be that bad for you.' And at least with this small [study], as you point out, partially funded study by this Atkins Foundation, they appear to be right." If you call that "slamming," you certainly have a high threshold for praise.
Dear Mr. Fumento:
I read your analysis of the Atkins diet and the media attention it has received lately.
Unfortunately, your article overlooks endocrinology as was pointed out in Gary Taubes piece in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. I note with great interest that you did not include it in the media stories at the top of your essay.
The Atkins diet is not a low calorie diet in and of itself. It uses the principles of endocrinology to rebalance carbohydrate load on the body so that our basic energy needs are met with our own fat, not carbs. People with similar caloric intakes will lose more weight with Atkins due to this. The diet is not easy at first. It requires a basic change in eating habits and a complete refutation of the conventional food pyramid and all the low fat is better messages we constantly hear. The steak and bacon routine is only for two weeks, by the way.
To knock a study by associating the funding with the Atkins foundation ignores whether the study was conducted using basic scientific principles, and smacks of prejudice on your part, despite quoting from the NEJM as you do. The studies that support Atkins are numerous and documented. I do agree, however, that the media tend to pick up on each others [sic] stories without doing basic analysis on their own. Gary Taubes being one of the few exceptions.
I boil it down to one question: What do farmers fatten up pigs and cows with? Steak and eggs? Nope, it's carbohydrates. Corn, oats, and wheat. Humans until 10,000 years ago ate what they could catch or grab off a tree or bush. We haven't evolved enough since then to handle the feast of easily grown carbohydrate sources we are bombarded with today.
Somehow you missed noticing that the stories singing the praises of Atkins that I listed at the top of my article were all directly related to and written immediately after the Westman study came out. The Taubes piece appeared six months earlier. Do you think just maybe that might have had something more to do with why the Taubes piece wasn't listed than my wishing to avoid its conclusions? As it happens, I do have a forthcoming piece entirely about Taubes's New York Times homage to Atkins and it does address the endocrinology issue. I told you why people lose weight on Atkins. It's boring. With almost half the calorie sources they would normally consume severely restricted, they get bored with their diet and eat less, just as those eating nothing but jelly beans or popcorn would. Then they quit. No magical explanations needed.
Studies supporting Atkins are "numerous and documented" eh? Try naming a few, within the constraints that they are A) published in a medical or science journal, and B) not funded by Atkins.
I didn't "knock" the Westman study by associating it with its funder; rather, I noted that Westman's study had similar results to those of other studies yet somehow Westman came up with a totally different interpretation. I offered a possible explanation for this, that only Westman's study was funded by Atkins and that it's widely accepted that funding sources can affect both outcomes and interpretations. I'm sorry you were unable to comprehend that.
As to your "boiled" question, obviously you don't know much about raising livestock. First, the animals we raise in America are neither carnivores nor omnivores. They will eat offal, but they have to be "tricked" by having it mixed in with grain. The preferred feed for meat animals in this country is corn and soybeans. Why? Both are extremely high in fat and protein. That's why you're wrong about wheat. You can go to the store and buy corn oil or soybean oil but trying buying wheat oil. You can't, because there's too little fat in wheat germ to make extracting it profitable. Thus, you've just skewered your own argument. With livestock, as with humans, if you want to fatten them up you give them fat. Every livestock farmer in America knows more about why the Atkins diet doesn't work than you or any Atkins fanatic.
Once again, you assume funding a study biases either the results or the "spin." And, again, again you assume eating whole grain food violates Atkins' principles. Nowhere does whole grain bread with high fiber content rank along jellybeans in any of Atkins pronouncements. If you knew anything about the glycemic index at http://www.mendosa.com, you might realize that the impact of carbohydrates on blood sugar is dependent on quality and quantity of the food and the quantity of fiber.
I'm sorry if your anti-Atkins perceptions are based on an article showing obese folks who supposedly "swear by Atkins." Hardly a scientific sample, and hardly enough to base even a biased opinion on.
P.S. Type II diabetes is my blessing, not a curse.
What I noted is that you can't find a researcher to say something pro-Atkins who isn't on the Atkins nipple. That would seem to be of some importance to most people, though obviously not to you. You're right in that I could have chosen a better example than whole grain bread. Forget about your Mendosa buddy; go to Atkins' own summary of the index and you'll find that jelly beans at 80 rank below corn flakes at 84. So your guru is saying in no uncertain terms that you're better off eating the jelly beans than dried, pressed corn. Doesn't that seem counterintuitive?
Your statement about type II diabetes shows just how perverse your cult is. It's not a blessing; it's a disease that cripples and kills. It's closely related to poor diet and obesity; hence,it goes hand in hand with the Atkins diet.
Dear Mr. Fumento:
Your arguments against Atkins are just silly. A high fat, low calorie diet is an oxy-moron (4 oz fat = 1000 cal). You also state that people don't stay with this diet - well of course not! Like most people, I stopped dieting when I lost the weight I wanted (approx. 20 pounds in a couple of months), and I never went hungry. Maybe you should try the diet before pass judgment.
You're right; it is hard to keep calories controlled with a high-fat diet which is one reason high fat diets only work in the short term. You simply assume the dropouts quit their diets because they lost all the weight they needed to. You assume incorrectly. All the dieters in both groups had starting BMIs that the average weight loss achieved wouldn't be nearly enough to put them at a healthy weight. Finally, Atkins himself says you should never quit his diet and that there's no reason to. That's what his "maintenance" stage is all about. Finally, I can't try the diet before "pass judgment" because I have no excess fat to lose, unlike the typical Atkins devote who is quite fat and yet swears by the diet. I'm sorry, but I'm far too thin to join the cult.
Your view that Atkins dieters are quite fat and brain washed cultist is rather telling. So much for objectivity.
P.S. I am over 6 feet tall and weigh 165 lbs.
P.P.S. I'll bet you voted for Gore, too.
No, A) I did not vote for Gore; B) What the heck does that have to do with the Atkins diet?
Dear Mr. Fumento:
Once again this diet is misrepresented. The Atkins diet is not 'high-fat" [sic] it is more high-protien [sic] medium-fat low-carbohydrate [sic].
The ONLY way, as any first year biology student can tell you, to make your body burn fat is to suppress your insulin level. The ONLY way to do that is to restrict carbohydrate intake.
Once you determine the amount of carbs you can ingest daily (everyone is different) the rest of your calories are made up of protiens [sic] and fats. Simple.
Simple-minded, I should say. According to an analysis in the journal Circulation of three days of Atkins recipes, only 27 percent of calories come from protein while 68 percent come from fats. Atkins isn't high-protein, merely high-fat.
Any first year biology student who said something like that should be flunked. All nutrients will make you fat when caloric intake exceeds caloric output. As Rudolph Leibel et al. reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, "Even with extreme changes in the fat-carbohydrate ratio (fat energy varied from 0% to 70% of total intake), there was no detectable evidence of significant variation in energy need as a function of percentage fat intake." Try getting your science information out scientific materials, not those on the New York Times bestseller list for "how to" and "self help" books.
I got my science information out of a college textbook. Maybe you should try it sometime. If you don't know that insulin is antagonistic to FMH (fat mobilizing horomone) [sic], which causes the body to use stored fat for energy, and must be suppressed to lose weight, then you know nothing and shouldn't be writing articles in Reason.
That's a fabrication. You didn't get that from a college textbook; you got it from Atkins' book. He's the one who coined the term "fat mobilizing hormone," to which a 1973 AMA report responded: "No such hormone has been unequivocally identified in man." Three decades later, it remains unidentified, though Atkins continues to use it to rake in his millions. You're not misguided, Jon; you're downright dishonest.
When years went by without an Atkins-funded study, Dean Ornish and others blasted him for not doing studies. Now that he has funded one, he's blasted for doing it. Do you get the feeling he can't win? It's the establishment that's suspect here, and I'm surprised you don't see it.
Besides, what about the U of Cincinnati study, funded by the AHA, and the U Conn. study, which has similar results as the Atkins study for weight loss and lipids?
Explaining the lipid "improvement" (I ignore here the severe problems with the cholesterol-heart-disease hypothesis, see the separate work by Uffe Ravnskov and Malcolm Kendrick) can't be explained away by weight loss. If the Atkins folks are eating bacon, steaks, eggs, and cheese in abundance, one should not expect weight loss to cancel out the allegedly bad effects of all that fat and cholesterol. There is more going on.
Time is showing that it's the low-fat crowd who's engaged in junk science. Some people have known at least as early as 1863 (through William Banting) that low-carb is the way to health and weight loss. Stefansson's year-long meat-only diet in 1928 under medical supervision at Bellevue Hospital in New York showed the same thing.
Fat doesn't make you fat. Carbs-sugar-and-insulin do.
I didn't say that the study was wrong because Atkins funded it. After indicating why it was wrongly interpreted, I offered as a possible explanation as to why that might be.I quoted the co-author of that Cincinnati study, Randy Seeley, giving the explanation that it was the weight-loss that lowered lipid levels. I quoted Gary Foster, the author of another study with the same results, as saying the same. Why do you take the time to criticize articles you haven't bothered to carefully read?
"If the Atkins folks are eating bacon, steaks, eggs, and cheese in abundance, one should not expect weight loss to cancel out the allegedly bad effects of all that fat and cholesterol."
Logically, that is incorrect. Whatever blood marker increases from these saturated fats could be more than canceled out by the weight loss. Factually, it is also incorrect. We have no idea of what fats those people ate. You assume it was entirely saturated. Yet we know for a fact they were given flaxseed and fish oil supplements, which lowers blood marker levels. While it's hardly likely, for all you know every one of those Atkins dieters ate nothing but fish and heart-healthy canola oil as the fat portion of their diet.
Banting, whose expertise was in building coffins and embalming bodies, obviously had nothing more to go by than his own alleged weight loss. Do you consider a single century-old self-testimony as scientific evidence? Your Stefansson story comes from one of many "low-carb" websites that are probably supported by Atkins. It's the exact story on each site. Try getting it from the medical literature. On the other hand, there is a mass (over 200 studies) of studies printed in peer-reviewed medical journals indicating that high-carb, high-fiber diets tend to bring about more weight loss. Obviously that's not a ticket to drinking gallons of soda and eating candy all day long.
Your final statement is completely wrong, even by Atkins's account. He says fat can make you fat, but only in the presence of a high amount of carbs. Work by Jean-Pierre Flatt has shown that dietary fat is converted slightly more efficiently into body fat than carbohydrates, though the difference is so small as to be negligible. And finally, insulin is absolutely necessary to sustain life. Ask any diabetic. But go ahead and have your pancreas removed and you will lose weight – as you decay in the grave.
Can you name me one low-carb advocate who disagrees with this? Cheap debating tactic, Michael.
Hardly. You said insulin makes you fat. I said that the lack of insulin makes you dead. That's a scientific fact, not a debating tactic cheap or otherwise.
In your article you criticize the Atkins diet due to a high drop out rate, and want to use that fact to invalidate the diet and studies supporting the diet. I find this reasoning flawed. A solid exercise routine would probably have an even higher drop out rate, and yet few would dispute the value of exercise.
Just because something is hard to do, it doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile!
No, if over half the people on an exercise routine drop out during only the first six months it means it was a failure and that while everybody agrees that exercise is good, that particular regimen is wrong. Further, what you say doesn't address the fact that such a high dropout rate invalidates a study that the media took as practically the equivalent of the world of God. The only evidence that anybody has ever proffered to support Atkins is what you just offered – anecdotal. It seems that with over 11 million books sold and waistlines exploding we can offer people something better than that.
Subject: Atkins in a Nutshell
"High carb super foods" are a component of our everyday life as a cheap means of feeding a growing world population.
"Economics" is given priority rather than evolution even when it comes to the education of our medical leaders.
"Scientia Est Potentia" Use it!
Atkins from a nut, I'd say.
The mighty oak was once just a nut that stood its ground.
Another fine example of science lost in pursuit of capital gain. If you find the time during your busy book signing, money counting, patting yourself on the back because the mortgage is six payments ahead days [sic], then please consider the following:
[I considered it and then omitted 308 words.]
One more thing....Your use of the pictures on your website of the two obese women was appalling to me, and I'm sure demeaning to them. Demonstrating a need to push your agenda at any cost.
In closing I would like to suggest that tonight as you sit down to dinner, take a good look at what you are eating, think about your income status, think about your ethnicity. I would be willing to bet that your [sic] not staring at macaroni and cheese.
"Scientia Est Potentia"
That you have expertise in nuts, I have no doubt. I wrote a short article, not a book. The article that led to the $700,000 book deal was Gary Taubes's pro-Atkins article in the New York Times Magazine. I don't eat mac and cheese because it's exactly what Atkins recommends, lots of gooey fat. You don't get rich by telling people there's no such thing as magic. Most of the rest of your letter is mere babble. As to the two grossly obese women, they nicely made the point that people who insist that they themselves represent that the Atkins diet works have a bizarre definition of what the purpose of a diet is. If it was demeaning to them, they never should have put up their pictures in the first place. If it was truly appalling to you, I'll be sure to add a couple of more.
To the editor:
In response to Michael Fumento's article "Hold the Lard! The Atkins Diet still doesn't work." I submit that Fumento misses the point in trying to observe too many different things.
The question below [Below what?] seems to be, is the Atkins diet a better weight loss diet than a calorie-controlled diet? And the answer seems to be coming through that it is no better.
However, the key question is: who wants to be on a calorie-controlled diet? The thing about Atkins is that you can eat as much protein and fat as you like.... so it doesn't feel like you are on a diet, and you don't feel hungry. I know this from personal experience; I have been on a modified Atkins since July.
Biochemically, The [sic] Atkins diet adds up – maintains low insulin levels (so avoids problems with adult Type 2 diabetes), and alters the make up of lipids in the blood in a beneficial way.
On top of that, the 'semi-fasting' state that comes from low-end glucose levels in the blood promotes alertness.
What's the downside? Carbs are nice :)
Interestingly, as far as I am aware, Atkins has been the only proper biochemist ever to look at nutrition, and his work was done in the '50s and '60s.
Dr. Stuart Harbron
Dear Dr. Harbron,
You seem to be confusing definitions. "Calorie-controlled" doesn't necessarily mean "counting calories." In its broadest sense, it simply means that most people simply can't stuff their faces to the extent they want to unless they do a heck of a lot of exercising. On the other hand, they certainly can eat far more calories than are required for sustaining life without being fat. It means that some sort of restraint is usually called for, such as asking yourself: "Do I really need a 64-ounce soda?" Yet the same is true of the Atkins diet. Instead of restricting calories generally, you restrict those from a certain food group – carbohydrates. But in either case, denial is involved. I have heard Atkins dieters say they eventually lose their cravings for carbohydrates, but likewise those who restrict on the basis of calories often lose their cravings for super-sized portions and junk food. In any case, with over 11 million people having bought Atkins' book and perhaps twice that number having read it – ten percent of the American adult population – it seems clear that not many people are capable of losing their natural desire for carbohydrates. Indeed, such an outcome is physiologically unlikely. Our bodies were built to eat fat, protein, and carbohydrates – not to deny any of these groups.
As I will be demonstrating in a forthcoming article, in endocrinology terms Atkins "doesn't add up." There's no evidence that carbohydrates cause glucose spikes in healthy people that lead to over-consumption. And there's lots of evidence that saturated fats are terrible in terms of blood lipids and cholesterol, though ostensibly an Atkins dieter could eat nothing but fatty fish and flaxseed oil.
Finally, words like "proper" demonstrate mere opinion. But in any case, it might be nice if Atkins would look at work done in the '70s, '80s, '90s, and the present decade because it overwhelmingly contradicts him. Not that he's about to abandon a scheme that has fattened his wallet so nicely for 30 years.
Please read all of this) [sic]
Michael, I'd say that I agree with your position on most things that you've written about in the Washington Times. As regards the Atkins Diet, I believe you allowed yourself to get a snow job from the Heart Association. And it may be that there is more to this issue than whether or not a particular diet works. I would think with how much press Atkins has received over the years that there would have been signifcant [sic] scholarly studies done to prove or disprove his theories.
My wife is on the Atkins Diet – well a modified version of it – but more on that later, so I have some familiarity with it. What Foster and Seeley say about there being a simple weight loss because of eating fewer calories is bullshit. I would have to question their research and expertise. Pound for pound or gram for gram there are more calories in fat than carbohydrates...almost twice as many. My wife loads up on an ungodly amount of fat every day. Sitting at the table with 16 ounces of prime rib is akin to a snack for her. She weighs about 102 pounds. People on the Atkins Diet are most likely eating more calories than those people on the higher carb diets.
Perhaps Westman's study should have been longer and done in greater depth. And yes, whomever [sic] funded it could have a vested interest in the results. Don't dismiss the conclusions because of it. Actually, you might want to contact the Atkins people and find some doctors locally that are proponents of the diet and see what they have to say. And it's very possible that the three decades of studies (whatever they might be) that have been done carry more weight than they should. Those studies have spawned new industries; provided the Heart Association with it's [sic] long enduring position on what kind of food we should eat; and they form the entire basis of our government's entire position on healthy eating. Read some of Atkins' material. He says carbohydrates are doing us in.
The response you got from Bonow didn't address a key issue. He said losing weight is what caused the improvement in cholesterol and triglycerides. If that is the case, then why is the Heart Association so against the Atkins Diet and so strongly in support of not eating fat? He is in effect admitting that eating fat can be good for you. You lose weight and your blood chemistry improves. From things that I have read and heard talked about, I get the idea that there are some people who have even had improvement in their vascular problems by going on the Atkins Diet. Is that the case with the Heart Association diet or does that diet merely prevent further damage?
When you lose weight on the Atkins Diet you lose fat. On other diets you lose muscle mass as well. There's more of a body chemistry issue involved with the Atkins Diet than just shedding pounds.
[Letter put on a diet, causing it to magically lose 570 words.]
A snow job, eh? Every bit of information you cite comes from a single book written by a man who has made literally dozens of millions of dollars off people like you, but I'm the one who's been snowed? As for your wife's "modified" Atkins Diet, I'm on a modified Atkins Diet, too. I just changed the "high fat" to "low fat," threw in a lot of fiber, and added both aerobic and resistance exercise. Other than that, it's the Atkins Diet.
There have been many scholarly studies comparing high-fat versus low-fat intake and I mentioned many in my piece. Much greater detail on them is available in my book, The Fat of the Land. They go back for decades and show that if there's any advantage on a macro-nutrient basis it's probably a high-carbohydrate diet but that advantage is slight. The real axiom is what people desperately don't want to hear: "a calorie is a calorie is a calorie."
You're not only attacking the credentials of Foster and Seeley but also all their co-authors. You're saying all of them are wrong while Westman happens to be right. I don't buy it. And here we go again with a single anecdote allegedly outweighing decades of published scientific studies. I don't buy that either. Finally, none of the researchers found that Atkins dieters were eating more calories. Indeed, Atkins' own claim is that you may well find yourself eating fewer calories because of the nature of the diet. As the AMA pointed out 30 years ago, Atkins promotes eating less because it greatly restricts eating carbohydrates and carbohydrates make up 45 percent of our diet. If Atkins said you couldn't eat any foods beginning with the letters "A through K" he would be accomplishing the same thing.
No, Bonow didn't say that eating fat is good for you. The AHA position has not changed. Some fats such as Omega-3 from fish and flaxseed oil are considered heart-healthy. Others such as saturated fats are really bad actors. But as you point out, in terms of obesity all fat has nine calories per gram compared to four for carbohydrates and protein. That puts fat at an inherent disadvantage. Your statement comparing the Atkins Diet versus others is simple false. Westman measured fat loss as well as weight loss, as did Foster, Seeley, and the others. They found that relative to the amount of weight lost, with neither group was it more or less likely to come from muscle or fat.
I obviously didn't miss the conclusion of the Westman's study if I discussed them, and discussed them in much greater detail than the rest of the media because I actually interviewed him rather than a representative of the Atkins Institute. Almost no doctors support the Atkins diet, though I'm sure the Atkins Center has a list of each and every one who does. And I read Atkins' entire book, save for all the recipes at the back. As somebody who has studied obesity since 1995, I know all about Atkins and his magical diet. Like so many who came before and so many who came after – such as Susan Powter, Suzanne Sommers, and all those people who promise weight-loss through eating chocolate, having sex, "outsmarting the female fat cell" (there's no such thing), or eating no fat but almost entirely carbohydrates, he's just another quack. He's more successful than most, to be sure, but he quacks just the same.
I have no gripe with your skepticism over the funding of Atkins' study. It's par for the course these days. The American Heart Association routinely does the same thing – funds its own study and reports the findings to the media. Only in their case, since they allegedly have the "public interest" in mind, there is no perceived conflict of interest, as if the AHA could never have its own agenda, as if their findings are magically devoid of bias. (That is somehow not mentioned in your article).
I know that anecdotal evidence does not count as data, but let me quickly give you my case. [And let me quickly omit it; there's been enough of this blabbering about lost blubber.]
How is this possible, Mr. Fumento?
The fact is the Atkins diet works, period. I have seen it many, many times from people whose weight reduction was nothing short of astonishing. And – surprise! – they didn't starve themselves, never went hungry.
Your argument that nearly half of the test group didn't stay on the diet is puzzling. I mean, SO WHAT? It says nothing of the diet's effectiveness for those who do stay on. And what about those who dropped out, anyway? What happened to their weight? THAT would be fun to know.
Yes, somebody has been fed a lie, Mr. Fumento, and that's a population that believes eating tons of low-fat, sugary, starchy foods will make them thin. After all, as Dr. Atkins points out, you don't get a pig fat by feeding it fat.
Over 200 studies done over the last three decades have shown that high-fat diets tend to lead to high-fat people. Only a scant few were funded by the AHA. That's why it's not mentioned in my article. No, anecdotal evidence does not count as data – especially since I have nothing to go by but your words. What if I gave you anecdotal evidence that, à la Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a witch turned me into a newt? Would you simply accept that in light of what we know about human and newt physiology? Then why should I accept your anecdotal evidence concerning your alleged weight loss, especially when I have visited Atkins sites where people provide pictures of their wonderful weight loss and I've seen that A) most remain obese, and B) virtually nobody reaches their target weight. This is evidence against their own interest, making it believable.
Actually, 43% of one fat group and 60% of another dropped out and in only six months. Considering all were obese when they began, that means the diet did not allow them to reach their goal. A proper regimen of diet and exercise might have helped them do so. Moreover, as has been pointed out to me by one doctor and nutritionist after another, the more diets people try and fail at, the less likely they are to keep trying to lose weight. They simply give up. That's the downside you people ignore. What happened to the weight of those who dropped out? We don't know, because despite everybody treating the work as a full-length published study it was a mere 300-word abstract. That was one of my main criticisms, if you don't recall.
Finally, how bizarre for you to think there are but two possible weight-loss regimens in the world. With one, you gorge yourself on fat, with the other you gorge yourself on "low-fat, sugary, starchy foods." Have you never heard of any type of food that was neither? Did you know that there were more than two types of drink in the world besides egg nog and 64-ounce corn-sweetened sodas? And both you and Dr. Atkins have no idea how pigs are fattened. Although they are grain-fed because they're not too hot on eating pork chops and ham, that grain is among that with the highest amount of fat. Apparently your guru knows as little about farms as he does about physiology. And I'm sure he's darned proud of it.
Subject: Hold the Lard!
I read your above mentioned article, and must confess to not getting your point. Suppose you are correct that Atkins works because of fewer calories consumed on a low carb diet (and how else could one lose weight than by consuming fewer calories than one burns?), and that the HDL and triglyceride improvements are because of the weight loss: Isn't this a good thing?
It completely undermines the claims of Atkins, of Westman, and of the reporters who interpreted Westman's study as supporting Atkins. All it means is that if you put somebody on a diet with which they eventually become bored then they eat less; because they eat less they lose weight; because they lose weight their blood lipids drop. Exactly the same could be said of the popcorn diet, the watermelon diet, the peanut butter diet, and so on. The problem is that because of the boredom factor, virtually everybody falls off the wagon. Thus for purposes of long-term weight control Atkins is useless for all but a few carbo-haters, even though making Atkins rich it's quite useful. To the extent the diet makes people say weight control doesn't work because "I tried Atkins and all the others" then it's downright harmful.
I am confused, your article states that the people on the low carb diet lost more weight and thier [sic] good cholesterol went up while the bad cholesterol went down and yet you subtitle your hit piece "The Atkins Diet still doesn't work"?
Now I am not defending the atkins [sic] diet against whatever violence [!] you wish it, but your animosity seems misplaced. If I can lose weight by pulling the buns my cheeseburger faster and just as healthy as by pulling the beef and cheese out of the buns, that is a significant fact, and one that most dieticians and diet book authors would not lead you to expect. [That was painful, wasn't it?]
It is only too bad that your writings are not held to the same standard as you would hold others.
You start out "confused" but you end up downright sure of yourself, don't you? You didn't even notice that I wrote: "LDL or 'bad cholesterol' levels remained the same," not that they went down. Let me try to keep it just as simple as possible for you, because I doubt even that will be enough. People eat less on the Atkins diet because it restricts their choices and they become bored with the choices left. Because they lose weight, they experience some improvement in the blood lipids. But because the diet is boring, they quit. They regain the weight, their blood lipids return to their earlier level, and they're just out the price of an Atkins book. Meanwhile, a dishonest man is rewarded for misleading the public. I'm sorry I couldn't keep all the words monosyllabic, but I'll try harder next time.
utterly amazing, how is the man dishonest if the diet he recommends causes people to lose weight? feel free to use any words you wish to clear up this contradiction in your argument.
The. Weight. Loss. Is. Only. Very. Temporary. Then. It's. Gained. Back. Atkins. Insists. The. Loss. Can. Readily. Be. Permanent. He. Is. Lying. Simple. Enough. For. You?
Best, Michael Fumento
From John [omitted]
"The Atkins Diet still doesn't work" says your sub-title, then your article quotes three studies showing it does. Huh?
Or, "the dropout rate was 43 percent" doesn't square with the study's announcement which quotes a NON-dropout of 80%: at least until we wonder about your qualifier "analyzed for blood lipids": cherry-picking, are we? And in any case, those dropouts are for the whole group, care to distinguish between Atkins vs non-Atkins?
Atkins is not a panacea, and is not universally applicable. But then, this is stated by Dr. Atkins himself!
The drop-out data I used was from the actual abstract as presented at the conference, a copy of which was faxed to me by the AHA. It applied only to the Atkins dieters group being evaluated for lipids. The group being evaluated for weight loss had a 60 PERCENT drop-out rate. That information I got in a telephone interview with Westman himself. Specifically, 36 out of 60 dropped out. So much for your "cherry-picking" accusation. I also provided a comparison to the non-Atkins cohort, so apparently I did "care to distinguish" between Atkins vs non-Atkins." You just didn't care to read it. Yes, all the studies showed greater weight-loss among the Atkins cohorts. That doesn't translate into "it works." The point of the co-authors of the other two studies, which I repeat for you here because again apparently you skipped this part of the article too, was that the same could be done with any fad restrictive diet.
And your beloved Atkins says his diet is not a panacea, you tell me? Is that why he tells readers it will relieve "fatigue, irritability, depression, trouble concentrating, headaches, insomnia, dizziness, joint and muscle aches, heartburn, colitis, premenstrual syndrome, and water retention and bloating."
Translation: "Quack, quack, quack!"
Even I, a musician and no expert in medicine, have enough common sense to see the holes in your article in Reason Online, mentioned on Virginia Postrel's blog.
"Often just losing weight alone will cause improvement in triglyceride and cholesterol levels," the president of the American Heart Association Dr. Robert Bonow told me.
And did you take even one minute to check out whether this was true?
Even I found evidence to the contrary in less time than that. These summaries
are from the Atkins center so I'm sure you will be tempted to discount
them - but they are references to refereed journals that the center has
nothing to do with. I don't read periodicals like the Journal for Endocrinology,
so I can't vouch for its quality, but hey, feel free to do some research.
Atkins writes countless times in his books on how a low-fat diet increases triglycerides, and I'm sure you can find documentation in his books as well.
As for the weight loss counterpart - does "calories in, calories out" really sound right to you? You will not have to look hard to find ample evidence to the contrary. Honestly I didn't think anyone believed THAT anymore that followed health science at all. Here, I found one for you: http://atkinscenter.com/Archive/2002/7/1-561975.html . Again, only reprinted on their site.
Not to mention that your argument that a lot of the people in the trial failed to stay on the Atkins diet proves nothing about the effectiveness about the diet. Only the people who stay on the diet are valid information on how it works. You see the logic here, right?
[Blah, blah, blah]
Dear Mr. Barnhill:
You didn't have to point out you have no expertise in medicine, as your letter drove the point home quite well. The first cite you provided from the Atkins Center has absolutely nothing to do with your argument. It concludes: "Public health recommendations to reduce dietary fat must take into account the distinct effects of different types of carbohydrate that may increase plasma triglycerides and fatty acid synthesis in a highly variable manner." The old expression about "the price of tea in China" doth come to mind.
Your second cite is to a paper written by a research team headed by Gerald Reaven of Stanford University, although Reaven isn't listed on the paper at the Atkins site. As it happens, he's quite critical of the Atkins diet. In one interview, which you could easily find on the Web if you knew how to go to any page other than www.atkinscenter.com, he says of the diet: "One can lose weight on a low-calorie diet if it is primarily composed of fat calories or carbohydrate calories or protein calories. It makes no difference!"
Your third cite comes from a 1978 paper. Why so old? Because that's how far back the cherry-pickers at the Atkins Institute had to go to find a study to support their claim. Literally countless studies since then have found that macronutrient contents of diet either don't count, as Reaven says, or that high-carbohydrate diets actually have a slight edge. But you wouldn't know a thing about that, since you're utterly content to stick with whatever da boss man tells you.
Do I see your logic? Sure. An undriveable car can still be a great car; a house that nobody can live in can still make a great home. And a diet that nobody can stick with is a great way to lose weight and keep it.
Has it ever occurred to you that by relying not only on one source but one obviously completely one-sided source, you've opened yourself up to charges of being a musical mental midget? No, I didn't think so.
Dear Mr. Funento [sic]
Your article “Despite hype, high fat Atkins diet doesn't trim weight" is a classic example of irresponsible and inaccurate journalism. Just as they do on television you use a provocative or sensational statement for a story which is not based in fact. In bold print, you write that the Atkins diet does not trim weight. Yet your story goes on to say that the Atkins group lost twice as much weight during the six month study as did the high-carb group. You go on to point out that their good cholesterol levels increased by 11 percent while harmful triglycerides fell 49 percent. (I assume that the cholesterol and triglycerides results were not as good for the high carb group since you do not mention them in your article.)
It would therefore appear to me that your bold face type title has been directly contradicted by your article's facts. The Atkins diet did indeed trim weight. In fact, twice as much weight as the high carb diet. It was also more successful in raising good cholesterol and lowering triglycerides.
There was no need for you to misrepresent you [sic] title the way you did. It was a lie to your readers. You probably meant that the Atkins diet doesn't work in the long term. But there again you have no long-term studies listed in your article to support that premise either. The fact that nine more people dropped out of the Atkins group than did in the high carb group probably will not support your article's conclusion either.
I am not a doctor or a scientist. I am just tired of irresponsible media people who have the forum to communicate to large audiences but who must distort or sensationalized the facts in order to push a view not really (or in some cases not even remotely) supported by the facts.
Shame on you!
Well Mr. Foster, we all make mistakes. After all, you couldn’t even spell my name correctly and standard letter-writing etiquette in the U.S. demands that a greeting be followed by either a colon or a comma, neither of which you included. But I made no mistakes in that piece. You needn’t be a journalist to know that reporters and op-ed writers do not choose their own titles. My self-chosen title is available on my Internet site and it reads: “Hold the Lard: Atkins Still Doesn’t Work.” By that I don’t mean that you can’t lose a few pounds on it that will probably quickly be regained; I mean that as a way of permanently lowering body fat or cholesterol and triglyceride levels it is a failure. You assume correctly that the cholesterol and triglyceride levels did improve more with the Atkins diets who managed to stick it out a whole six months than for the for the high carb group, which hardly makes you genius considering I go on to explain why there was an improvement. It’s a clear concession that the Atkins diets that stayed the course showed more improvement than the controls. But in your effort to smear me, you ignore that explanation and then you ignore the meaning of the massive drop-out rate. Since you saw the piece in the Detroit News and presumably live in the area, let me put it to you this way: Would you consider a new car to be successful if in the first six months after you bought it the engine turned over only 40 percent of the time; conversely, would you consider it a new model of car good car if in the first six months sixty percent proved to be lemons?
As for citing no long-studies to make my case, it’s interesting that you somehow missed this: “Westman's interpretation also contradicts three decades of studies published in peer-reviewed journals. A review of more than 200 of these published last year in a major medical journal concluded bluntly: ‘The BMIs [a surrogate measure of weight] were significantly lower for men and women on the high carbohydrate diet; the highest BMIs were noted for those on a low carbohydrate diet.’” Or do you simply assume that of over 200 studies, each and every one was short-term? If so, you assume incorrectly.
I am just tired of irresponsible letter writers who jump to ridiculous conclusions, who distort pieces that anyone can view in a newspaper and that paper’s website. It’s not as if we’re discussing what role Nero may or may not have played in the burning of Rome; my words are there for all to see. And the only shame I have is that we have schools that feel obligated to graduate people like you.
Hey bonehead, have you even read the Atkins book? "...the physiological law that body fat is determined by calories in and calories out." This statement is total BS. Why don't you tell this to a diabetic... Physiological body-make up is what determines body fat %, moron...
Now go away and shut your trap.
Hey aptly named Mr. Hogg, yes I have. But I have a slight advantage over you in that apparently the Atkins book is all you've ever read, aside from your subscription to "Animals in Lingerie" magazine. Hence I do not treat Atkins' assertions as the Word of God. Hundreds of studies say he is wrong, regardless of whether the subjects are diabetics or not. Obviously what you call "physiological body-make up" is what determines how fat you are; the question is what did you eat, how much of it did you eat, and how much do you exercise. It is not a question of percentages of fat, carbohydrates, or protein consumed. In your case, it's obvious that overconsumption of fatback, pork rinds, and scrapple has altered your brain.
Hey Liberal asshole, Go smoke some more weed and piss up a rope. BTW,
Dear Mr. iamtheporkfest:
Thank you for your most intelligent and thoughtful response. Tell
One of the most important skills in obtaining facts in nutritional science is the ability to zoom out and look at the big picture.
When a single study, designed to show the specific effects of this or that, is heralded to show results, it is just as easy to find studies which can show the complete opposite.
Atkins is different for the following reason: we are the net outcome of the evolutionary process that put us here. The process uses the mechanism of sustaining those creatures best equipped to function in that environment, so that they may pass their successful traits on to their offspring. You have to respect the fact that we are specifically designed to eat in a way more consistent with mans natural role in the eco system (instead of some herbivore) since we have not had enough time to adapt to the Trans Fats and Carbs present in the manufacturing (modern) world. This happens to be more in line with Atkins diet that with conventional high carb low fat diets.
It would not make sense to keep the blinkers [He means ďblinders.Ē] on and be guided by short sighted scientific practices. It would make sense to examine all the facts and present a rounded open minded argument that does not draw on any definite "no correspondence will be entered into" type conclusions. We do not even know for sure whether all people react the same way to the food we eat. There are a host of other variables, but one thing is for sure Ė the tide is turning and it is long overdue.
Youíre right about any single study. Thatís the game Taubes tried to play, though to do so he found he had to apply an interpretation to studies that contradicted the interpretations of those who did them. Thatís why I chose to look at the entire body of medical literature, comprising over 200 studies in which nutrient intake was varied to see if there was any advantage to diets high in fat, carbohydrates, or proteins. As I also noted, those studies gave two big thumbs down to the Atkins low-carbohydrate diet. You know you cannot win on the basis of these hundreds of published studies, so like Taubes you proffer theory instead. Fine. I hereby suggest that whatever scientific evidence has been amassed to the contrary, the earth is flat because otherwise everybody would fall off except those standing on the very top. Iím sorry if I donít regard basing conclusions of hundreds of published studies as a short-sighted scientific practice. Iím sorry if youíre not impressed that one by one I went down the list of theories that Taubes-Atkins give for why Atkins works and showed that each and every one was unsubstantiated. But as you suggest, itís hard to convince people wearing blinders Ė or blinkers, if you prefer. And no, the tide is not turning. Yes, the Atkins PR machine has done a brilliant job in the last half-year. But PR doesnít change human physiology. Fat is the most calorically-dense macronutrient, more than twice as dense as carbohydrate or protein. Because of that, it will always be the greatest contributor to obesity. But to be sure, Atkins and Taubes and people like you are certainly doing your share to contribute to the obesity epidemic.