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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Tuesday, January 14, 2003
12:52 PM

The Scientific Method--Fact or Fiction? Via Virginia Postrel, I read a debunking of the Atkins (low-carb) diet by Michael Fumento, normally a skilled professional debunker. Over and over, I am amazed by doctors and now Fumento telling me that the diet doesn't work, despite the fact that I've lost 12 pounds, got down to my target weight, reduced my waistline and never have to restrain myself from eating when I feel hungry. And this is without working out at all--a gap in my health plan that I'm just now starting to correct.

Fumento cites some recent work on the issue and raises valid points. For example, one should be initially skeptical of studies sponsored by companies bound to benefit from them, as Atkins has done. And a study cited in this Fumento piece says Atkins dieters dropped out at a higher rate than non-Atkins'. That's different than some other studies I've heard of, but good to know.

But the logic of this statement escapes me:

...what about the blood findings? Wasn't it a real shocker that Atkins dieters consuming heavy amounts of fat saw their HDL ("good cholesterol") levels increase by 11 percent while harmful triglycerides fell 49 percent? (LDL or "bad cholesterol" levels remained the same.)


"Often just losing weight alone will cause improvement in triglyceride and cholesterol levels," the president of the American Heart Association Dr. Robert Bonow told me. Since the Atkins dieters did lose more weight than those on the high-carb diet, it only stands to reason that by comparison their blood levels would also improve more.

Let's see. The goal of many dieters, including this one, is to lose weight and hopefully improve cholesterol levels (even though I think the significance of cholesterol is overrated but I'm concerned about my doctor's well-being--he worries about it). Result of the Atkins diet: Lower weight and improved cholesterol. Who cares if "often just losing weight alone will cause improvement in triglyceride and cholesterol levels"?

Before, worse. After, better.

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