One cannot help but be astounded by how easily and effectively government agencies, large food corporations and the media succeeded in leading us to believe that a particular view of our nutritional needs is indeed a fact of life. This subtle “brain washing” was (and still is to a large extend) so effective that it subconsciously impacts all of our decision making regarding our family’s nutritional needs. It is, in fact, ingrained in our very fabric of being.
With many of us still finding it extremely difficult to even consider the idea that a diet high in fat can be good for you, it is interesting to remember that the idea of a low-fat diet only really took hold in the 70’s. Up until then, the generally accepted wisdom was that fat and protein were the foundations of good nutrition, and that carbohydrates were responsible for making you fat! Of course the low-fat dogma turned this age old wisdom on its head and carbohydrates suddenly became the most important source of food depicted at the base of the famous Food Guide Pyramid!
The low-fat dogma really gained massive momentum in 1977 when a US Senate Committee published a new set of dietary goals for all Americans. In it they advised us to significantly curb our fat intake in order to abate an epidemic of killer diseases supposedly sweeping the country. From there onwards, the idea of a low fat diet was so actively and efficiently promoted that it actually became the equivalent of nutritional “common sense”.
Dr Robert Atkins was a very brave man indeed to present his very controversial view of a proper nutritional plan to the world. The very principles on which the Atkins Diet rested were diametrically opposed to all established knowledge of the day! Even so, the so-called experts had to grudgingly admit that the diet actually works, but that they warned against the so-called accompanying health risks. To be fair, just like the rest of us, they were totally convinced that the low fat diet was the only sane approach and that the Atkins Diet simply had to be horribly bad for all of us.
It is therefore no wonder that the Atkins Diet was subsequently vilified to such an extent that even to this day, many uninformed people still doubt the safety of the diet based on general bits of misinformation picked up through the grapevine and general folklore. The success of the promotion of the low-fat dogma is still evident in most weight conscious people’s natural aversion to fatty foods, resulting in almost an instinctive disbelief in the principles on which the Atkins diet is based. Of course, in the mean time, the food industry has a lot riding on perpetuating the myth of low-fat-is-good-for-you. In spite all of the criticism, the Atkins diet survived and continued to deliver successful results against all odds.
Today many of the nutritional experts are recommending low-carb diets as opposed to low fat diets, and scientific studies increasingly show that a low-carb lifestyle has many benefits over following the low-fat high-carb lifestyle as proposed in the now famous Food Pyramid originally presented by the US department of Agriculture. It must be noted that even in the midst of overwhelming evidence in favor of the low-carb diet, the debate still rages on in many circles, and the food pyramid is still alive and widely used!
The sad part in all of this is that the American (and worldwide) obesity problem increased tremendously since the 70’s, most likely a direct consequence of this so-called healthy way of eating where breads, grains and other starches form the staple food while anything remotely fatty is shunned. A huge market in the industry emerged as a result of this. Just take a stroll through your local supermarket and see the number of products being marketed as low-fat. If it is low fat, it must be healthy for you and your family, right? To compensate for the lack of taste resulting from the removal of most of the fats, the manufacturers simply added more carbohydrates to make it taste better.
Two scientific studies recently compared the effectiveness of the Atkins Diet to that of other diets. Atkins won hands down in both of these studies, during which the overall health of participants were also considered in order to establish any side effects of these diets. In the first of these studies, Atkins was compared to a variety of other diets including Zone, Ornish and LEARN and in the second against the Mediterranean Diet and a Low-Fat diet.
Firstly the A TO Z (Atkins, Traditional, Ornish, Zone) Weight Loss Study that was published in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) on March 7, 2007. The diets selected were: Atkins (very low in carbohydrate), Zone (low in carbohydrate), LEARN (Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitudes, Relationships, and Nutrition; low in fat, high in carbohydrate, based on USA national guidelines), and Ornish (very high in carbohydrate). This study was aimed at pre-menopausal women and took place over a period of 12 months. Women on the Atkins Diet lost an average of 4.7kg, while the averages for the other diets were: Zone – 1.6kg, LEARN – 2.6kg, and Ornish – 2.2kg. It went on to find that after 12 months, the secondary outcomes (health factors) for the Atkins group were comparable, if not more favorable than the other diet groups.
The second study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine (17 July 2008) and compared three diets: a low-fat, restricted-calorie diet; a Mediterranean, restricted-calorie diet; and a low-carbohydrate, non–restricted calorie diet based on Atkins. It found that participants on the Atkins diet lost the most weight at 4.7kg on average sustained over a two year period. The Mediterranean diet followed close on its heels with an average weight loss of 4.4kg. Interestingly, the average weight loss of those on the low-fat diet was considerably lower at 2.9kg. The conclusion of this study was that both the Atkins and the Mediterranean diets are more effective than a low-fat diets. In addition, both of them resulted in improvements in the general health of participants, specifically with regards to the reduction of bad cholesterol levels and glycemic control.
No one can disagree that the Atkins Nutritional approach withstood the test of time. It is extremely well researched and the positive impact it can have on the lives of obese people is well-documented. In addition, it is an extremely well supported diet. Through the years many supportive clubs and forums have been formed. Atkins friendly products are normally available in your local supermarket, and Atkins friendly recipes abound on the Internet.
When you choose your next diet you may well want to consider Atkins. It certainly has a solid track record.