Diet by Dr. Atkins Wins by a Nose
A nose that weighs about 4 or 5 pounds, that is.
A recent Stanford University study compared the benefits of four different weight loss programs: Atkins, Zone, Ornish and Learn diets. What they found was that after 12 months the average weight loss with the Atkins diet in overweight and obese but otherwise healthy women was about 10 lbs. which was more than with any of the other diets. The next best diet was the Learn diet with an average weight loss of about 5.5 lbs. The Ornish and Zone diets produced about a 3 or 4 pound weight loss after one year.
Of particular interest was that the amounts of fats in the blood (triglycerides in this case) were lower in the Atkins group by the end of the study than in the other diet groups. Since the Atkins diet is a high fat diet and very low carbohydrate, while the others are low in fat and relatively higher in carbohydrate, the finding of better triglyceride levels with Atkins was unexpected.
I applaud the hard work and effort made by these researchers to uncover these findings. Unfortunately I don’t think they have provided us with enough information to make an informed decision about whether the Atkins diet is truly the best of these four dietary approaches to weight loss. It has been my experience that many who start the Atkins diet fail to adhere to it for very long. Many people tell me they find that the high fat of content of Atkins makes them want to vomit. Making matters worse the development of ketones in the body that are thought to be crucial for success of the Atkins diet also induce nausea. Perhaps it is the effect of a high fat diet to make you sick to your stomach that causes some of the weight loss. In the Stanford University experiment each participant was carefully selected and nurtured through the study. Even with this level of care, of all the subjects starting a diet about 1 in 5 couldn’t finish a year. Without the intense personal support from study coordinators that goes with this type of clinical research I predict many fewer people would last a year on the Atkins. In the real world my concern is more for those who couldn’t finish the diet than for those who did. What if a person consumes all those fat calories and can’t lose weight? What happens to their blood fat levels, blood pressure, body mass etc?
A researcher reading these comments may go “Piss-posh…who ever studies the drop-outs from a study? These people simply disappear.” I assume the drop-outs themselves and their doctors are concerned about the drop-outs. If someone is placed on a diet by their doctor and doesn’t succeed on it, the patient and the doctor still have to deal with the aftermath. It would not surprise me at all if a lot of bad things happen in the body of those non-losers on Atkins.
So I say, let’s attend to the drop-outs and non-losers as well as those who succeed with their diet. Let’s study high fat diets in a real world environment without a million dollar budget for support staff and other luxuries. I need to tell my patient what happens if they are unsuccessful on Atkins as well as if they succeed. Will their triglyceride, blood pressure, and sense of well-being deteriorate? If that is the risk they must take for losing 5 pounds more then with the Ornish, Zone, or Learn diet I would think twice about suggesting the Atkins diet. When the “non-loser study” is available I’ll feel much better informed about which diet to recommend then I do now.
Only you and your own doctor can decide what is the best treatment for you. The comments made here by the staff at metabolism.com are purely for educational purposes and are not meant to guide you in the treatment of any condition or illness.
Gary Pepper, M.D. FACP
Editor-in- Chief, Metabolism.com