A new study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, an American Heart Association journal, questions whether diets are actually effective in helping people lose weight, keep it off and decrease risk factors for heart disease. After analyzing clinical trials on four popular diets—Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers and Zone—the study found that these diets helped people lose a modest amount of weight over a year (they lost the most on Atkins—up to 10.3 pounds), there was no marked difference between each diet in improvement in cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar levels or other cardiovascular risk factors. And people did gain back some weight over time.
The researchers conclude that more long-term studies need to be done on diets, and that diets may not be the solution that doctors should recommend to help their patients lose weight and decrease their cardiovascular disease risk factors. What??? Before you throw Atkins to the curb, pick up the phone and order a pizza with a side of cheesy breadsticks, lets look at the facts.
I agree that more long-term, well-constructed trials need to be done on all diets; I don’t agree that “diets don’t work”, as the researchers in this study seem to conclude. This does a disservice to the millions of people struggling with overweight and obesity and the health consequences associated with obesity. Diets do work. The key is finding a diet that you can sustain for the long term while learning the skills of weight loss maintenance. And for many of you, who have lost weight (or are continuing to lose weight), and/or are maintaining your weight loss while enjoying a new and satisfying way of eating that you can live with, the Atkins Diet is the answer. You may have tried many other diets in the past, and as soon as you returned to your old way of eating, of course you gained back the weight.
The benefits of the Atkins Diet are long-standing and consistent. Atkins is backed by an extensive body of research including more than 80 peer-reviewed, clinical, independent studies—and some are long-term studies ranging from 1 year to 3 years. These show that a low-carb meal plan like Atkins can help people lose weight while improving cardiovascular and metabolic health markers.
Most recently, studies are showing that when compared with a baseline diet or other diet plan, the Atkins Diet is, in fact, shown to be associated with significant improvements in body weight, BMI, abdominal circumference; markers of cardiovascular health including: systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, plasma triglycerides, plasma CRP (an inflammation marker), and HDL-cholesterol (LDL cholesterol did not change significantly); and markers of metabolic disease: fasting plasma glucose, glycated hemoglobin, plasma insulin.
All this research aside, a controlled-carb diet like Atkins may be the key to quick, effective and satisfying weight loss. Atkins allows you progressively add carbs in small increments from all of food groups, step-wise, until you identify your own personal carbohydrate tolerance—the point at which you can maintain your weight loss.
As you add back variety in your diet, you learn to make smarter choices about carbohydrates, including high-fiber produce and whole grains, which allows you to consume more carbs without exceeding your personal carb tolerance.
Maybe I should rephrase my statement that diets do work. Diets, when used as a short-term quick fix, don’t work.
But when you change your way of eating, and your way of thinking about eating, a low-carb plan like Atkins, with its abundance of vegetables, healthy fat, lean protein and high-fiber carbs, can become a lifestyle and a sustainable way losing and maintaining your weight loss.