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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  • Interesting. I talk about the Atkins diet in my newsletter. I’ll have to review this to update my information! Thanks for the heads-up!

    – Adam – Writer for WhipWeightLoss.com

  • In two of the articles you linked, it says that you can include grains in the diet… They want you to stay off of starchy carbs at first, but once you get into the maintenance stage you are allowed as much as you want that won’t cause you to gain weight.

    I strongly don’t believe that a calorie is a calorie either (at least when it comes to satiety). This is definitely true — 3 cans of coke vs a bratwurst on curbing hunger is a simple example…

  • Janet

    Whole grains are only allowed until Phase 3 (or “if at all”), so I think that’s restrictive. Most people are trying this diet to lose weight, they may never even get to Phase 3 to maintain their weight. Why eliminate a food that has such strong research demonstrating benefits — including weight management, as well as reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
    It’s true that a calorie is not a calorie when it comes to satiety. There ARE benefits of including a reasonable amount of protein at each meal to curb hunger, but that doesn’t have to be loads of bacon or a big slab of meat.

  • Thanks Janet for posting this. A calorie is not a calorie, so let’s take out bread and fruits! I don’t like that… I think Atkins helps people see the problem with simple sugars, but it takes it way too far when it restricts whole grains, fruits, and milk. I also doubt everyone can stay on it long enough. I even read some studies that people following the Atkins diet have worse mood and are more aggressive than people who eat higher carbohydrates. It doesn’t make this diet something I want to follow, or recommend.

  • On a side note, but related to this topic, I read a recent report of a genetic test that can help people decide between a low-carb or a low-fat diet for weight loss. Have you heard about it? I commented on it in my 5 for Fridays this week (http://bit.ly/cEUYAp), would love to hear your thoughts!

  • Many people on very low-carb diets report relief from the gnawing hunger that sabotages so may low-fat and other diets. That’s one reason low-carb diets are often more successfult than low-fat.

    Lots of claims we hear about health benefits of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and milk are over-stated. For example, the authorities have been telling us for years that fruits and vegetables prevent cancer, right? Well, here’s a study in a respected journal that says “no, they don’t.”

    George, Stephanie, et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of cancer: a prospective cohort study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89 (2009): 347-353.

    The human body is marvelously designed to survive, even thrive, despite radically different ways of eating.


  • Oh my, I thought this diet died with Atkins. Funny I was just doing a TV segment today and the producer asked what people’s misconceptions were with nutrition and I said “we’re still dealing with the vestiges of fat free and carb free thinking.” And here we go. I’d like to think with so many people watching their animal protein, experimenting with meatless mondays and the like that this wouldn’t take hold, here’s hoping. Thanks for not only your take but adding what others’ have written on the subject. I am going to eat an (organic) apple!!

  • Emma Stirling

    Oh no. We are always a little behind the latest diet trend in Australia, so it’s great to get a heads up for dietitians down under. We are still riding the tail of the wave of the latest low carb craze. And often see carb confusion and myths perpetuated like no carbs after 6pm. We didn’t get a huge consumer uptake though of low carb labeled food products and only ever had a very limited Atkins line. Are they still a big deal in grocery?

  • I totally agree, these types of diets can be terrible for you, because you avoid eating a certain food group too much (cough cough…carbs). I’ve done a lot of research on this and the results can be disastrous.

  • Alex

    Never did Atkins but I’m trying Metabolic Typing. It doesn’t sound as extreme as Atkins at all. If anyone knows about Metabolic Typing, you get tested and you fall into one of thee different groups Protein, Carb, or Mixed type. I fell into Protein and I’m suppose to keep my carb intake to under 30% per day. I’m still eating whole grain wraps and rice and a couple of fruits each day. I hope not everyone thinks that every high protein diet is cutting out complete food groups all together, that’s just not natural.

  • The new “Atkins for A New You” is a modification of Atkins diet with more eco-friendly approach. The basic of the diet remain the same but you eat more vegetables. I personally think that is better a better nutritional approach diet plan compare to old Atkins diet.

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