A study just released showed that participants in a 2-year weight loss study lost an average of 10.3 lbs. while following the Atkins low-carb diet. This was a eensy-weensy bit more than the participants following a Mediterranean diet (lost 10 lbs. average) and the ones on a low-fat diet (lost 6.5 lbs.).
While the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Foundation is hailing these results as vindication of the Atkins approach, it’s worth a closer look. First of all, they should be jumping for joy because they funded the study, although the study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine and is enjoying widespread acceptance in the academic medical community.
But was it truly measuring the Atkins Diet as is popularly practiced? The Associated Press reports that although the Atkins participants had limits for carbs while there were none for calories or fat, “it did urge dieters to choose vegetarian sources of fat and protein.”
Hmmmm… Those I know who have followed the Atkins diet seem to interpret the rules as carte blanche to eat meat all the time. And eat a lot of meat they do. Since even vegetables are restricted in the Atkins world, I wonder if most Atkins followers understand that to mean that they should get their protein — and the majority of their calories — from meat or other non-vegetarian products.
In my limited experience, I’ve seen Atkins followers regularly swallow down 4 or 5 hot dogs at a sitting (no buns, of course), consume meat at every meal, and eat huge amounts of eggs and cheese on a regular basis. These do not seem like “vegetarian sources of fat and protein to me.
While the researchers measured weight loss and cholesterol levels, they did not look at overall health. While the stomach can digest protein more easily when it’s not eaten with carbs, the body needs carbohydrates to provide us with energy and other life-sustaining forces.
And you know what I think about measuring health based on cholesterol levels! Don’t even get me started there.
A body flooded with protein becomes hyper-acidic (Atkins suggests testing your urine to check for ketosis, a sign that your body is out of balance) and the excess acid will start breaking down other tissues in a chemical reaction. This is a seriously unhealthy state that can lead to other problems down the road.
My uncle, who practiced Atkins in this manner for about 20 years, was recently striken with scleraderma, a severe and uncomfortable auto-immune condition whereby the skin hardens from the extremities inward. Because Atkins doesn’t focus on overall health, my uncle felt comfortable with his 6-a-day Diet Coke routine not interfering with is weight loss goals. Makes you wonder if this kind of unhealthy diet had anything to do with his affliction.
Sometimes it’s worth taking a look behind the headlines to see what they really mean. The Mediterranean diet in the study empasized poultry, fish, olive oil and nuts, and those participants were only .3 lbs away from the Atkins followers after 2 years. I’ll be they’re a lot healthier, too.