Finally! Low-Carb/Atkins gets a little respect! About damn time!

From the NY TImes:

Well, YEAH, hello, this has been the clinical result for what, 30-odd years now? About damn time, boys, pay attention!

Perhaps now all the smug “calories in, calories out is the only thing that matters” folks will shut the hell up. (Of course, the experience of thousands of people hasn’t shut them up yet, maybe it’s simply wishful thinking to hope that an actual scientific study will make any difference…)

Well, now I’m going to go write to Keith Morrison and Josh Mankiewicz on Dateline… they both wrote me when I bitched to Dateline about Morrison’s on-air smug dismissal of Mankiewicz’ success with Atkins…

(This is in GD because this topic has come up before, as a debate. )

I think (from what I hear) that the problem with the low carb diets is that they can really be unhealthy. Ive heard that you really have to watch you body for any sudden changes and what-not. Of course I could be talking out of my ass here…

There’s nothing inherently unhealthy about a low carb diet - and I’ve done a decent bit of studying on the subject. The biggest risk is:

High carb (normal) diets tend to force you to retain water in your kidneys. When you start low carbing, one of the things that happens is that excess water is dumped from the kidneys, along with some electrolytes, which will screw with the balance of electrolytes for a while, until it reaches an equilibrium. This is no big deal for most people, but it can be risky for people with electrical heart problems, who are especially sensitive to electrolytic balance.

And that’s not really a fault of a low carb diet - once you’re ‘in the groove’ of things, it balances out perfectly - the only reason it’s a danger at all is because your body is so out of whack in the first place, and the ‘corrective’ effects can affect some people.

Otherwise, it’s healthier in every way.

Yeah, and weren’t humans eating low carb diets before the advent of agriculture?

Anyway, I’m currently on a low-carb diet, and I love it. Meat, baby, and lots of it! I find that I am eating way more veggies, too, because they used to get pushed aside in favor of the potatoes, rice, etc. I do miss sweets, though…

I’m 28 lbs lighter than I was in July, thanks to an Atkins low-carb diet. I feel better all the time, and my IBS symptoms have cleared up. It’s wonderful. N.B. I’m very careful about hydration levels, as well as vitamin and fibre supplements.

BUT I do think Atkins does himself few favours with the defensive tone of his book, and the lack of corroborating data. It’s been 30 years since he started, and the “establishment” has only just started testing it. He’s not a poor man - surely he could have commissioned a few studies from independent clinical assessors to back up what he’s saying. (Also, he was interviewed on British TV the other day, and apparently he’s a bit porky.)

This is one of my bugbears actually (and I’m not picking on you, An Arky because I know what you mean, and you’re not actually saying what I hate. You just reminded me of it). Just because a certain diet was used in pre-historic times, or whatever, doesn’t mean it’s healthy now. And saying that it will actually help you LOSE weight goes against all logic. My friend was talking about this the other day and I hadn’t the wit to formulate a good argument against it at the time (and probably haven’t now, but anyway). But basically, pre-historic man would have chosen a diet that helped him put on weight, not lose it. So claiming that a diet can help you lose weight because it was used in the olden days is just silly.

Bifar, the first part of your argument doesn’t really make sense. If you accept that we as animals evolved to a certain level eating a certain diet, then surely that diet is by definition close to optimum? And given that we haven’t evolved for several hundred thousand years, wouldn’t it still be close to optimum? Of course our caveman ancestors (and therefore we) did indeed evolve to store surplus energy as fat to get them through times of famine. But they would only have got fat with a surplus of (for argument’s sake) carbs, but they didn’t often get tons of carbs. We, however, do, all the time. Furthermore, we don’t experience times of famine. So you could say physiologically we’re constantly larding up in some Fall of total excess, before the Winter of scarcity that never comes - which is why we’re so fat.

Regarding the “lose weight” part of your argument: that is simply misinformed, since the low-carb regime has several phases, the final one of which is designed for you not to lose (or gain) weight.

Hmm… I’ll have to check into that. Recommended reading with dietary guidelines, anyone?

Lib, the “Bible” in this case is Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution, in the best-seller lists and found in pretty much every bookshop in the English-speaking world. If you’re going to do it, I recommend you read the book all the way through before starting, not jumping off at the deep end as I did the first time I tried. Also, it’s good to do your own research too, as clearly he has an agenda about this subject.

Personal anecdote: it doesn’t even feel like I’m on a diet, I eat foods I love every day, and it has altered my relationship with food, in that I don’t binge and don’t crave. It took about 48 hours to adjust to it, which isn’t long, and wasn’t difficult.

Does my coffee with cream and sugar — I should say, my sugar with cream and coffee — have to go?

You can have the cream, but not the sugar. Use Sweet’n’Low or Hermesetas or whatever - or just get used to unsweetened coffee (I did many years ago and can’t stand it with sugar in now - YMMV!).

[…crying copious tears…]

There there… you don’t have to do the diet if you don’t want. I’ll let you off. :smiley:

Seriously though, as I said, your relationship with stuff changes. I don’t miss the things I’m not allowed. And of course in the later stages you reintroduce moderate carbs - in your case it could be in the form of a cup of cream and sugar that once stood next to a bag of coffee beans.

Color me annoyed and skeptical. This so-called “scientific study” was FUNDED IN PART by the folks who brought you the Atkins Diet[sup]TM[/sup]. If I invented a diet of pure sugar and lard I bet I could conjure up success stories right and left. Of course, there’d be plenty of failure too. Given enough copies of my book sold, I certainly could fund some shoddy research to back up my claims.

The best way to get on a weight-loss or diet regimen is to consult your physician or your nutritionist.

But JS Princeton, Atkins is a physician…

However, I agree with your concern about proper, independent research. Personally I think it would indeed corroborate what he’s saying, but until it’s been done, then we can’t say one way or the other. But who’s going to do the studies? Anyway, I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but the results have been amazing in my case. Three friends of mine have since gone on it having seen the change in me, and are also enjoying fantastic results.

The only time that I have ever lost a significant amount of weight in a relatively short time-span was when I was in England. And the reason was basically that I was too poor to eat much.

I would generally have a nice subsidized lunch at the Parliament cafeteria which often included a giant baked potato with all sorts of delicious stews and such poured on it. For dinner I had a plate of spaghetti (as it is extremely cheap). Not exactly low carb, but I had cut a nice chunk of calories from my normal diet. In addition, I was walking everywhere because I’ll be damned if I’m going to drive in London.

But yeah, I lost about fifteen pounds in a span of about a month and a half by simply decreasing the amount of food I ate. And I was eating relatively healthy (I would sometimes have some salad or fruit with my lunch), too. Of course, I put it all back on when I came back to the US and could afford to eat again.

IMHO, fewer calories, more exercise works just as well as Atkins. But I think Atkins might be easier for those who don’t like exercising.

Jjimm wrote:

True enough. I used to be a staunch Pepsi drinker, at least a six-pack a day. And then we hit hard times, and all I could afford was Kool-Aid. I grew to love it, and even though we can now afford it, Pepsi tastes like piss to me.

Nothing succeeds like success. I think I’ll give the diet a look. The hard part for me will be the sugar, but as a Melancholy, I can likely devise a balancing ritual that will assuage my trepidation.

I’ve lost about 55 pounds, and have been doing Atkins since May of this year.

When Mrs. Bricker suggested we go on it, I asked her, “Are you telling me I can eat a giant, cooked rare, prime rib, and lose weight?”

“Yes,” she replied, “as long as you ditch the baked potato that goes along with it.”

“I think that’s voodoo,” says I, “but I’m not going to turn down the prime rib opportunities, so let’s try it.”

And here we are. I must admit that both Mrs. Bricker and Dr. Atkins seem to know what they were talking about.

Part of it, though, I’m convinced, is the fact that it changes snacking. Whereas I might have wandered across the street mid-afternoon to the vendor cart and snagged a bag of mini-cookies or a danish, or gone down the hall for some machine cuisine, there’s very little that’s machine- or street-vendor snackable and no-carb. So I don’t snack as much as I used to, and I am sure that has something to do with the results.

  • Rick

I went on the Atkins diet once, and lost 15 lbs. real fast. I doubt I’ll do it again, though.

One problem with the low-carb diets is potassium. In a normal diet, it’s hard not to get enough potassium. But we mostly get it, IIRC, in all those starchy things the diet tells you to stay away from. On the Atkins diet, potassium intake can become a problem.

You can take potassium in pill form, but it’s large. It takes something like 30 horse-pills a day to get your RDA of the damned stuff.

No question that the Atkins diet works.

Also, no question that calories in/calories out works.

Also, no question that eating nothing but ice cream will make you lose weight.

Most diets will work if you follow them.

It also seems likely that unless you are leading a very active lifestyle, the American diet contains far too many carbohydrates.

But, like most crash diets, Atkins results tend to be temporary unless followed through with a sensible exercise and eating regime after the diet ends. And, like most crash diets their are risks and potential consequences with Atkins.