The Atkins Diet Plan Didn’t Die, It Was Murdered (a follow-on to Is the Tide Turning on Low Carb?)
Posted Sep 28 2008 7:57pm
On the subject of turning tides … I saved an Associated Press article from my newspaper published March 7, 2007, revealing the results of a study led by a Stanford University researcher. The study, “one of the biggest, longest head-to-head studies of popular weight loss plans” had Atkins beating out The Zone, the Ornish diet (low fat, high carb), and even U.S. guidelines (low fat, high carb) when it came to how much weight was lost and how the participants fared in cholesterol and blood pressure checks. Atkins dieters lost an average of about 10 pounds at 12 months compared to 3.5 pounds for Zone dieters. On average, Ornish dieters lost 5 pounds and U.S. guideline dieters lost almost 6. But the study designer said that there wasn’t enough difference between the losses that couldn’t be accounted for by chance, and also noted that the losses were not significant in the big picture since many of the participants in the all-woman study, who averaged a 189 pound starting weight, remained overweight. The study suffered some credibility because, by the end, few participants were following the diet they were on very strictly. Barry Sears (creator of The Zone) said the study had “incredibly pathetic execution.” Losing the most weight early on, including an average of 13 pounds for the Atkins group at six months (nearly double the closest competitor, the U.S. guidelines), most participants began to gain weight back, a trend most noticeable in the Atkins group.This was nearly a year ago. I personally have not seen much of anything in the newspaper about low carb since, and I really don’t watch the kind of media programs or read the types of magazines that would be running such related articles, so I can’t be an objective observer on that issue.
What I WILL say I believe is that the Atkins diet plan did not so much die as it was murdered. During the beginning of the downfall of low carb dieting, I read articles written by and watched interviews featuring “health reporters” that got the facts about Atkins absolutely wrong. They’d talk about the first two weeks as if it were the whole plan and then say something on the order of, “Well, you may lose some weight on this diet, but you should be wary of any diet plan that says that you can eat pounds of bacon and fatty steaks and eggs but that fruits and vegetables are forbidden.” ?!? I can’t tell you how many people with whom I spoke while I was first doing Atkins asked me how I could manage to not eat any fruits or vegetables. So where did they collectively get this erroneous notion? “Health” reporters. I could never understand why so many of these people were allowed to comment on something about which they obviously didn’t perform due diligence. If they couldn’t be bothered to read Dr. Atkins’ book past the Induction phase, what did they think gave them the right to publicly describe and criticize it? Perhaps it boils down to their cognitive bias; they didn’t WANT to report that doing something so opposite to the status quo could not only work, but even be better for one’s health. Perhaps payola was involved; face it, bakeries and related businesses were crashing in the wake of low carb, and I wouldn’t put it past some of these entities to pay someone with “credentials” to be a nay-sayer.
I would love to see more examples of the objective reporting of the factual nutritional and health science behind low carbohydrate and controlled carbohydrate nutrition plans. Not something presented to the public as a trendy diet, but as a sound reason for changing the way many people eat. Can we do anything personally? Maybe.
Ask your local newspapers to have their “health” reporters do some OBJECTIVE research and start running regular columns on the physical effects of different nutritional plans. This isn’t something that should be an occasional news featurette; they have an obligation to serve the interest of the public. Have them describe to their readers what insulin is, how it works, what causes it to be dispensed, what their bodies do in reaction to it, what they can do to lower their production of it. Maybe it could be a daily sidebar, like the ones that tell you what to do in case of a heart attack.
Write letters challenging the manufacturers of “junk” foods to stop contributing to the obesity and diabetes epidemic of this country and start finding ways to eliminate the sugars, the high fructose corn syrups, the processed flours, the fillers they force down the throats of the nation in the name of their bottom line. Of course these are cheap ingredients; of course people are, more than ever in this depressed economy, going to opt for less expensive products no matter how bad it may be for them. Why are the poor, who should be thin by sensible reasoning, so often the fattest among the obese? Because they can only afford the items that will fill them and their children with cheap, easily processed carbohydrates.
Contact the top management of the company that operates your local food stores and tell them that they are not carrying a complement of items that fairly considers the dietary needs of their entire community. If they respond that there is not enough demand to carry such products, tell them the “demand” has been artificially reduced by the systematic reduction of the availability of this category of items and is therefore flawed. People can’t buy something that isn’t there. If they can’t buy it because it is carried in miniscule quantities or not at all, the manufacturers will have no choice but to discontinue making it; they are, after all, in business to make money. Ask why so many products they carry are “non-fat” when there are plenty of studies to show that fat is not the enemy that is has been wrongly touted as for the past half century. Ask them why, if these products are supposed to be so beneficial to helping a person lose or maintain their weight, do they have so many more carbohydrates than their regular fat versions? Ask them to treat their community fairly and carry a reasonable selection of products that will serve everyone. There is no earthly reason for a supermarket to carry 170 different milk products and not be able to have just three of these be carbohydrate and calorie reduced. There is no earthly reason that, in a dairy aisle containing 200 kinds of yogurt, a person practicing a controlled carbohydrate diet has to choose between vanilla and strawberry (or nothing).
Be an example. If you know someone who is trying to lose weight (this is a good time of year for this), ask if they’ve considered a controlled carb approach. Recommend they read the book or visit the Atkins website. Be available to answer questions, offer support, be an Atkins “buddy” if necessary. If you know more than one person in this situation and they’re open to the idea, offer to help plan meal ideas, or get a group lunch or breakfast club orgainized. When I first started on the diet in 2003, there were several people doing it where I work as well. We obviously couldn’t participate in the Friday breakfast club that brought in doughnuts, bagels, and coffee cakes, so I suggested we start our own club. Each week, one of us would prepare a complete low carb breakfast and bring it in for the club to share. How the other club would drool as the smell of bacon wafted through the air! It eventually got to be a ritual for us to try to out-do each other, and the menus became quite elaborate. As the Atkins boom went bust, these friends dropped off the plan for various reasons, mostly because they did not learn and practice the rules of the diet and therefore did not succeed in attaining their goals. They took comfort in the typical bandwagon media reports that it was not their fault, and encouraged them to blame an alleged quack doctor and his unfounded notions.
I’d said the Atkins diet had been murdered, but I misspoke. The Atkins Nutritional Approach is NOT dead. It has been stabbed, shot, burned, but it is alive and breathing. We are proof of that, every one of us that continues to believe in it and practices living our life according to its principles.