He’s Baacccckkk! The Return of Atkins For a New You


Have you heard?  Atkins is back.  This time it’s supposed to be a kindler, gentler low-carb diet.  With new authors, and a (slightly) new approach, the new book promises to create a new you:  The New Atkins for a New You:  The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great.

I remember doing a ton of media interviews 10 years ago during the height of the Atkins craze — and that was when the diet was experiencing a resurgence after its initial introduction in 1972.

Now others are carrying the flag for the late Robert Atkins.  The new book is written by Eric Westman, director of the Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic in Durham, NC, along with co-authors Stephen Phinney (UC-Davis) and Jeff Volek (University of Connecticut).

The buzz is just starting to build.  Here’s what others have written about the new Atkins diet:

USA Today:  Digesting the facts on “new Atkins’ diet
Dr. Keith Ayoob’s blog on USA Today
Washington Post:  Atkins diet’s return reflects idea that saturated fat shouldn’t be demonized
Diets in Review

I particularly enjoyed Keith Ayoob’s comments in USA Today — both in the paper and on his blog.  We were both media spokespersons at the same time for The American Dietetic Association, and he could always say just the right thing in an interview!  I totally agree with his comments on the book…

Basically there are new recipes, and it’s a kindler, gentler Atkins than the original diet book, but it’s still basically the same plan — carbs are mostly considered bad, and fats, including saturated fat, are allowed.  People do lose weight on this plan, but that doesn’t make it optimal.  Some examples of same-old, same-old.  Skim milk is still bad, heavy cream is still good.  Bananas and apples are still bad.  If you want to eat whole-grain bread, can’t live without a baked potato, don’t want to limit yourself to a quarter-cup strawberries and don’t see anything wrong with eating a whole apple, this isn’t the diet for you.

Gary Foster, a well-respected obesity researcher from Temple University, is also quoted in Nanci Hellmich’s article in USA Today.  He talks about some of the research that’s been conducted on the Atkins diet.  And it’s true that some of the original concerns about the saturated fat levels in the diet haven’t panned out.  The low-carb, high-fat diet has not been linked to an increased heart disease risk.  Still, I worry about what you’re missing by following this diet — foods that have established health-promoting properties, including whole grains and fruit.

No doubt, you can lose weight on this diet.  A new study published just this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people on a low-carb diet lost weight, but over the long-term the results were no better than low-fat dieters.  It all comes down to calories.

As Gary Foster said in USA Today…

If you tell people to count carbs, they end up eating fewer or equal calories than if you tell them to count calories, but at the end of the day, it is still just a way to wrap your mind around eating less.

So if this is really about the amount of calories you consume, why don’t we help people make better choices for the calories they eat.  It’s not only about total calories, it’s important to consider the quality of those calories. Even if the “new” Atkins helps people lose weight, the food choices are limiting and the diet excludes so many valuable foods that are known to play a protective role in our health.

It’s unfortunate, but I’m expecting a third resurgence for the Atkins diet. Brace yourself.

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