More Fat Lies

A highly respected science writer published an article in the  New York Times Sunday Magazine that discussed whether the “low fat diet means weight loss” message that has been touted for decades is wrong. Instead, the writer argues that the very-low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet promoted by Dr. Robert Atkins is the answer to weight loss.

It is impossible to dissect all the science surrounding this issue in three paragraphs, but the biggest issue is that few of us eat at either extreme of very low carbohydrates or very low fat. Despite the scolding some readers have sent our way, energy balance is still the fundamental issue in weight control. A typical Atkins menu provides less than 1,750 Calories per day. For most people, that is a weight loss diet. But this typical menu is deficient in fiber and several vitamins and minerals. It also restricts fruits and vegetables severely, and consumption of these foods has been repeatedly associated with better health. Also, Atkins does not recommend exercise, which has many health benefits.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: There are a number of studies showing high protein diets can help with weight loss. But there is serious concern that the Atkins adaptation of unlimited fat and cholesterol is not healthy, in addition to the problems outlined above. We do not know whether being in ketosis for long periods of time is safe. For most people, the high protein, high fat diet typified by Atkins does not appear to be a healthy alternative.