Atkins "Nightmare" Diet
by Michael Greger, M.D.
When Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution was first published, the President
of the American College of Nutrition said, "Of all the bizarre
diets that have been proposed in the last 50 years, this is the
most dangerous to the public if followed for any length of time."
When the chief
health officer for the State of Maryland, was asked "What's
wrong with the Atkins Diet?" He replied "What's wrong
with... taking an overdose of sleeping pills? You are placing your
body in jeopardy." He continued "Although you can lose
weight on these nutritionally unsound diets, you do so at the risk
of your health and even your life."
The Chair of
Harvard's nutrition department went on record before a 1973 U.S.
Senate Select Committee investigating fad diets: "The Atkins
Diet is nonsense... Any book that recommends unlimited amounts of
meat, butter, and eggs, as this one does, in my opinion is dangerous.
The author who makes the suggestion is guilty of malpractice."
The Chair of
the American Medical Association's Council on Food and Nutrition
testified before the Senate Subcommittee why the AMA felt they had
to formally publish an official condemnation of the Atkins Diet:
"A careful scientific appraisal was carried out by several
council and staff members, aided by outside consultants. It became
apparent that the [Atkins] diet as recommended poses a serious threat
from medical authorities continue to this day. "People need
to wake up to the reality," former U.S. Surgeon General C.
Everett Koop writes, that the Atkins Diet is "unhealthy and
can be dangerous."
largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, calls
the Atkins Diet "a nightmare of a diet." The official
spokesperson of the American Dietetic Association elaborated: "The
Atkins Diet and its ilk -- any eating regimen that encourages gorging
on bacon, cream and butter while shunning apples, all in the name
of weight loss -- are a dietitian's nightmare." The ADA has
been warning Americans about the potential hazards of the Atkins
Diet for almost 30 years now. Atkins dismissed such criticism as
"dietician talk". "My English sheepdog," Atkins
once said, "will figure out nutrition before the dieticians
do." While there are many aspects of a healthy diet that dietitians
are not aware of, the downsides of the Atkins diet is not one of
for Atkins, though, is that the National Academy of Sciences, the
most prestigious scientific body in the United States, agrees with
the AMA and the ADA in opposing the Atkins Diet. So does the American
Cancer Society; and the American Heart Association; and the Cleveland
Clinic; and Johns Hopkins; and the American Kidney Fund; and the
American College of Sports Medicine; and the National Institutes
In fact there
does not seem to be a single major governmental or nonprofit medical,
nutrition, or science-based organization in the world that supports
the Atkins Diet. As a 2004 medical journal review concluded, the
Atkins Diet "runs counter to all the current evidence-based
A 2003 review
of Atkins "theories" in the Journal of the American College
of Nutrition concluded: "When properly evaluated, the theories
and arguments of popular low carbohydrate diet books... rely on
poorly controlled, non-peer-reviewed studies, anecdotes and non-science
rhetoric. This review illustrates the complexity of nutrition misinformation
perpetrated by some popular press diet books. A closer look at the
science behind the claims made for [these books] reveals nothing
more than a modern twist on an antique food fad."
here to read Part 2
or Fiction: "High protein diets are great for losing weight"
The Great Debate:
High vs. Low Protein Diets
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