Friday, October 30, 2009

The Atkins Diet Reconsidered

Back in 2000, Prevention reported on popular high-protein diets, saying that a diet higher in fat (the healthy kind such as monounsaturated fats) and protein--if these foods replaced refined carbs such as white bread and cookies--might actually be healthier for some people. But at the time, we were not convinced of the merits of the Atkins diet in particular, because of its high level of saturated fats and severe limits on certain types of vegetables, fruit, and dairy products.

What changed our minds are the many success stories that we've heard. "I saw people like Scott Case who tried to lose weight so many times and finally succeeded on the Atkins diet," says Prevention Nutrition Editor Holly McCord. "I had to ask myself--do the drawbacks of the Atkins diet really outweigh the dangers of being obese all your life?"

The American Heart Association does not support the diet because of its high fat content. But as of now, there's no clear-cut evidence that the Atkins diet is harmful for most people. That's why the National Institutes of Health is beginning a 5-year study of this diet. In the meantime, we do know that being obese contributes to many serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and some cancers.

"We'll know more in 5 years, but my guess is we'll find that most people are healthier if they lose weight and keep it off on the Atkins diet than if they stay obese," McCord says. "What Scott Case eats now is healthier than what I see many low-fat, high-carb people eat, which is tons of refined carbs such as bagels and pretzels. He's eating far more vegetables than he was before, and he isn't struggling to maintain his weight loss."

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