Study Says Atkins Is Best Diet for Women

The carbohydrate-slashing Atkins diet gained new scientific support this week after a controlled test of four popular regimes showed Atkins followers losing nearly twice the weight of the closest competitor.

The results of the Stanford University study over one year showed the Atkins program solidly trumped other diets and produced no significant metabolic side effects among women.

The scientists behind the study themselves expressed surprise at the results.

“Many health professionals, including us, have either dismissed the value of very-low-carbohydrate diets for weight loss or been very skeptical of them,” said lead researcher Christopher Gardner at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.

“But it seems to be a viable alternative for dieters.”

“The results … aren’t surprising,” said Jacqueline Eberstein, who worked beside diet founder Dr. Robert Atkins for 30 years before his death in 2003.

“This supports what we’ve seen all along,” she said.

“It’s wonderful to get that out there to add to the other evidence that’s been accumulating about the Atkins lifestyle.”

The Stanford team studied 311 overweight, pre-menopausal women following one of four popular diets: the carbohydrates-minimizing Atkins, the low fat-high carb LEARN (Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitudes, Relationships and Nutrition), the low-carb Zone and the high-carb Ornish diet.

After one year, women on the Atkins program lost an average 4.7 kilograms, compared with 2.59 kilograms for LEARN, 1.61 kilograms in the Zone and 2.18 kilograms on the Ornish program.

The scientists also found that after 12 months, levels for lipids – fatty acids and glycerides – insulin, glucose and blood pressure were either similar or better under the Atkins than the other three.

“Concerns about adverse metabolic effects of the Atkins diet were not substantiated within the 12-month study period,” said the authors of the study, led by Stanford University Medical School’s Christopher Gardner.

“Physicians whose patients initiate a low-carbohydrate diet can be reassured that weight loss is likely to be at least as large as for any other dietary pattern and that the lipid effects are unlikely to be of immediate concern.”

The Stanford study, published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was funded by the US government’s National Institutes of Health and other independent health agencies.

The Atkins diet was developed by Dr. Robert Atkins, who popularized it in his bestselling 1972 book Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution and the hit 1992 revision Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution.

The diet focuses on consumption of refined carbohydrates while downplaying the role of fats in getting fat, a revolutionary idea in the 1960s, when carbohydrates were considered key to a good diet and fats were the official enemy.

“It’s a very simple message,” said Gardner. “Get rid of all refined carbohydrates to lose weight.”

Atkins, who died after a fall in 2003, argued that severely slashing carbohydrates and increasing protein intake actually accelerated calorie burning, so that other foods that might cause weight gain, like butter, cheese and rich meats, can be consumed normally with little risk.

“With Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, you can eat delicious meals you love – from cheeseburgers to mouth-watering gourmet entrees … and kick-start your metabolism so that you burn fat for energy,” the book’s cover says.

The book was so popular that many fast food chains and food producers felt the effect and had to change recipes and menus to meet the demands of Atkins practictioners.

The Atkins diet spawned a multimillion-dollar company, Atkins Nutritionals, marketing snack bars, drinks and courses adhering to the diet.

The company, independent of the Atkins Foundation controlled by Atkins’ widow, emerged last year from bankruptcy after restructuring.

Eberstein called the study a “vindication” of Atkins’ work, against years of resistance from the government and food industries as well as many scientists.

“We could keep going because we saw we were making a difference in peoples’ lives.”

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