Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Muscle Hack - Is The Atkins Diet Safe?

The evidence keeps piling up that the Atkins' style diet is the best way there is to lose weight safely and quickly. Even a 25-year vegetarian is now giving the diet its due respect.

From Muscle Hack:

Is The Atkins Diet Safe? Answer May Shock You!

I want to bring to your attention a study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association and presented here at Stanford University (Lecture filmed on January 17, 2008).

The lecture below is given by a 25 year vegetarian, Christopher Gardner, probably not the best candidate for telling the world about how healthy a low-carb diet is. However, he is fair and balanced in his approach and seems like his intention is to actually help people succeed rather than push his own preconceptions down people’s throats - how refreshing!

The low-carb diet of choice for this study was Atkins, so if you’re wondering ‘Is the Atkins diet safe?‘, you’ll want to watch this one with interest.

The results aren’t surprising to me in the slightest, but I hope a few of you skeptics start to reconsider what constitutes a healthy diet.

The study involved 311 women over a 1 year period. They were split into 4 groups, each group doing their own diet. At one extreme, we have a very low-fat/high-carb diet. At the other, a very low-carb/high-fat (Atkins) diet with the other 2 diets falling somewhere in between.

Well, guess what diet produced most weight loss? Atkins of course - by now that shouldn’t surprise you.

However, they were also interested in how healthy each diet was. Here’s the point (and something I’ve been stressing for a long time), Atkins beat all other diets in every single health marker - ALL OF THEM.

The Atkins diet saw most improvements in:

  1. Weight
  2. Systolic Blood Pressure
  3. Diastolic Blood Pressure
  4. Triglycerides
  5. HDL cholesterol
  6. LDL cholesterol
  7. Insulin
  8. Glucose

To quote Gardner “There was no group that did better than Atkins in anything“.

Read the whole post.

Here is the video.

Please check out other posts at Mark's Muscle Hack blog. I don't always agree with him, as in his views on saturated fats cholesterol, for example, but he does his research and knows what he is talking about. His is one of my favorite fitness blogs.


Anonymous said...

Musclehack writes: "Well, guess what diet produced most weight loss? Atkins of course - by now that shouldn’t surprise you."

This is a little bit of hyperbole. I went to look at the actual study rather than his account of it and the severely overweight women in the study lost only 10 pounds on Atkins over the course of an entire YEAR -- this is versus an average of 6 pounds lost for the other diets. None of them produced anything remotely resembling impressive weight loss and the difference between the diets when looked at over time is not very significant.

I think a lot of people get hooked on the idea that one particular diet is "the answer" when in fact, the human body can adapt fairly well to many different kind of diets (thus explaining why I met hundreds of thin, healthy people in my travels in Asia, despite the fact they eat mainly carbs and only occasional protein). It just doesn't do well with an excess of anything!

william harryman said...

Hey TY,

The weight loss in this study wasn't that good - others have shown better results. In general, studied lasting a year or more have the worst results for weight loss -- people can't stick to the diets, no matter which one it is. Compliance is poor beyond six months.

The main point Mark was making is that the low-carb diet had the best results in terms of overall health. Many people have questioned that in the past, but the evidence keeps mounting that the diet is not only safe, but healthier than more traditional higher carb approaches.

Personally, I think the South Beach diet is better with it's inclusion of vegetables, low-sugar fruits, and whole grains. But the differences really are minimal.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply, Bill! I do think the health results are very interesting but would still like to see some longer-term studies as well. Many low meat-eating cultures tend to have better cardiovascular health but I think it remains to be seen how much of that is simply genetics (or other) rather than diet.

I personally changed my diet recently to reduce carbs and increase protein -- not because I was overweight (I am definitely a teeny yogini!) but because I didn't feel like my diet was quite "doing it" for me. I admit to feeling better on the new diet, but can't say for sure what elements of it are responsible (cutting out the huge amounts of high sugar "health food" cereals I was eating probably accounts for some!)

But I still am not a fan of diet orthodoxies simply because I've seen an amazingly wide variety of diets keeping different people healthy around the world. People survive in some parts of the world on shockingly limited diets some of which are almost all fat or all carbs. They might not be the ideal diet for a sedentary office worker in a high-stress lifestyle or for an athlete seeking optimal muscularity but they might be extremely healthy for the people following them.

I think more flexibility in looking at diet's place in the bigger picture of genetics, activity and environment might provide some interesting results.

Regardless, always good to have one's thinking challenged! Thanks as always for the joy of your site.