New Atkins Book Is More Nonsense

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New Atkin?s Book = More Nonsense

Dr. Atkins who, according to his widow, was proud that he never published a single peer-reviewed scientific paper was never much of a proponent of science had a long history of ignoring or pooh poohing scientific evidence that conflicted with his dietary advice. With "The New Atkins for a New You" Dr. Westman demonstrates a tad more interest in scientific data than his predecessor but sadly not much more understanding of what it really shows. Dr. Westman claims that fried pork rinds are a "health food" that aid weight loss and don't promote heart disease.

Dr. Westman tries to convince readers that the scientific establishment has finally begun to validate the numerous claims of the late Dr. Atkins. In the book's introduction he states " the last few years more than fifty basic and applied studies have been published which, in addition to validating the safety and effectiveness of the Atkins Diet, also provide new insights into ways to optimize the Atkins lifestyle." All of these studies have serious flaws. For example, he cites a study done in Kuwait, which he says demonstrates the health benefits achieved with a "low carb" diet (<20 g/ day, later adjusted to 40 g/day). This study certainly showed improved blood lipids and lowered body weight (an average loss of 60 pounds). However, Dr. Westman failed to tell the readers that the diet was extremely low calories, containing only about 970 calories per day for subjects weighing initially 235lbs on average. Of course, any diet that low in calories followed for a year would dramatically reduce body weight and improve blood lipids and other CVD-risk factors, partly because of the weight loss but also because such a low calorie intake would reduce both saturated fat and salt intake. One last word about the new Atkins diet book and Dr. Westman who was quoted extensively by the misleading Washington Post article. I met Dr. Westman at a poster session years ago where he was claiming data from his research showed a high saturated fat diet did not adversely impact blood lipids. I asked him if fatty animal products did not adversely impact blood lipids then how would he explain the data from Peter Kwiterovich, MD study in kids with epilepsy. This study examined changes in blood lipids at 6 months to 2 years after the children adopted a very low carbohydrate but high-saturated fat ketogenic diet to help control their epileptic siezures. Dr. Westman was aware of the study, which showed huge increases (50% on average) in LDL cholesterol levels in these children after adopting an Atkins-like ketogenic diet. Dr. Westman replied that perhaps kids respond differently to increases in saturated fat intake than adults do. Wrong! All of the credible research shows children respond to changes in dietary saturated fat and carbohydrate intake in much the same way as adults. What Dr. Kwiterovich study proved was that adopting a ketogenic diet much higher in saturated fat dramatically raises LDL-C levels. The fact that Dr.Westman so quickly dismissed the result of a study that controlled food intake far more precisely than his own study did with no rational defense made it clear he was more of a pseudoscientist than a real scientist.

By James J. Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN.

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