A presentation at the recent meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Florida, comparing the maintenance stages of three diet regimens, Atkins, South Beach and Ornish, has relied on faulty research and a misunderstanding of Atkins protocols to suggest the Atkins diet may not be heart healthy.
Dr. Michael Miller, who made the presentation, apparently ignored more than 30 years of clinical experience and independent research on low carbohydrate diets, and now four years of trials looking specifically at the Atkins protocols, which have consistently demonstrated the effectiveness and safety of the Atkins diet.
Colette Heimowitz, M.Sc., Vice President of Nutrition & Education at Atkins Nutritionals, commenting on Dr. Miller’s presentation, referenced several peer reviewed studies which report opposite findings. Among the most prominent was a year-long weight loss and health study conducted by Stanford University researchers and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which showed no increased risk of cardiovascular markers in more than 300 overweight subjects.
In summarizing his study, Dr. Miller acknowledged that researchers considering the effects of low carbohydrate diets have reached very different conclusions depending on sample size, research protocol and any number of other uncontrolled variables. Unfortunately, Dr. Miller’s research cannot be fully evaluated since his study has not been peer reviewed or published. But, given the short duration of his study, the very small sample size, and the weak correlations, drawing conclusions about possible long term health risks tied to fat consumption in the maintenance phase of any weight control program is not good science.
According’to media reports, the subjects in Dr. Miller’s study were put on what’s described as the maintenance phase of Atkins with 50% of their calories coming from fat. However, this is not the Atkins maintenance phase protocol, nor is it part of the Atkins diet protocols. The lipid response Dr. Miller reported is what one might expect from a combination of rich carbohydrates and fat, but it’s not Atkins.
When it comes to nutrition and weight control, the public deserves science based conclusions. Time and again independent research has shown the benefits of a low-carbohydrate nutritional approach to safe and healthy weight loss and weight maintenance. And that’s Atkins!