Just when I say I feel like progress is being made within the scientific community in terms of demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of Atkins, a Swedish study falsely blames the popularity of low-carb diets in Sweden to a surge in saturated fat intake in 2004, with a spike in cholesterol three years later. Yet, when you examine the study in more detail, it shows that this population actually consumed a high-fat, high-carb diet, which, as you know, is quite different than Atkins.
But, as is often the case, UK health writers jumped to conclusions based on assumptions, not actual scientific data, and published an article in the Daily Mail and Telegraph that falsely blames the Atkins Diet for raising the risk of heart disease. However, when you look at the data and methodology, the story is quite different.
Based on the Swedish study of food frequency questionnaires (a less than perfect form of methodology because it relies on self-reporting), during 2010 the population consumed a diet with carbohydrates making up 45.9 percent of calories and 39.9 percent of calories from fat. In contrast, with Atkins, in the early weight loss phases, only 5 to10 percent of calories come from healthy carbohydrates, and the remaining calories come from a variety of protein choices, as well as healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado. Foods associated with the high fat intake in this Swedish study were “Fats used for spreading on bread and cooking, dairy products, oil for salad dressing or cooking, various types of meats and sausages as main dish or on sandwiches, pizza, deep- fried potato chips (French fries), and non-sweet snacks (including potato and maize crisps (chips), cheese-flavored puffed products, popcorn, and peanuts) were identified to be associated with high fat intake (fatE).
A far cry from Atkins don’t you think?
The most striking time trend in intake of alcoholic beverages over the 25-year period was a continuous sharp increase in reported wine consumption (more common in women); men also increased their intake of export beer total cholesterol levels in serum decreased continuously from 1986 to 2004, remained virtually unchanged a few years and then increased after 2007. High consumption of boiled coffee, total fat (E%), saturated fat (grams/day), butter-based spread or butter on bread, margarine for cooking, salted fish, sweet buns and crisp bread rolls, and boiled potato characterized subjects with high versus low levels of cholesterol in serum in six of eight gender/age strata. Other items characterizing subjects with high versus low serum cholesterol levels in at least two gender/age strata were high consumption of total fat (grams/day), butter for cooking, 3% and 1.5% fat milk, medium fat cheese (typically 28% fat), white bread, sweet fruit soups, and alcohol intake (E%, grams/day, beer and liquor). Some of these associations were gender specific, such as alcohol for men.
This Swedish study is clearly a case study of what happens when people eat high-carb foods combined with high fat. Fat poses no risk when carbohydrate consumption is low enough to allow the body to burn fat for fuel. This has been demonstrated in clinical trials time and time again, consistently supporting the conclusion that a well-constructed Atkins Diet lowers risk factors for heart disease.
There is so much wrong with this study you have to wonder what the
Professors have their degrees in. I have not even mentioned the many other variables.
After an email exchange with Dr Phinney he pointed out that there is “Clearly a whole lot more going on in the Swedish demographic in this time period than the influence of Atkins. Note for example the much sharper increase in wine consumption that any change in fat intake.
There is also the effect of age on the population. The Swedish population is rapidly aging, and this is most notable in the northern part of the country where this study was done (due to youth migration to the more populous south). I did not see where they corrected their data on weight or cholesterol for change in mean age.
And most importantly, anyone attempting to assess health risk by change in total cholesterol does not appreciate the science of the last 30 years. Particularly notable is the lack of information on serum HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.”
The bottom line? Atkins works, and it IS safe and effective. Don’t let the flurry of negative reporting by health writers claiming “Atkins diet ‘raises risk of heart disease ‘ because of a surge in cholesterol levels” who don’t have all the facts sway you from continuing your journey with Atkins. Done the right way, Atkins can work for you!