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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Sunday, February 23, 2003
1:19 PM

Low-carb yet again... 2. My quandary: The low carb diet worked very well for me. And it still does. This is no small thing even though it is somehwat of a low sample size. I have not conducted research and I know a grand total of three other people who've tried it. It worked for all of them. That's still not enough for any kind of scientifically valid case.

So where do I get off backing Atkins and Taubes and retaining my skepticism about Fumento and the low-carb opponents?

3. There are studies that back Atkins and Taubes. Fumento acknowledges this, but he criticizes them either because they're funded by Atkins or because they've been released in "abstract" form--as summaries, rather than with all data, methodology etc. released for scrutiny by peers. And Fumento quotes even some of these new researches as contradicting or highly qualifying claims that they back the low-carb approach. Fair enough. More studies are being conducted, and more information should become available over time.

With that caveat in hand, let's restate the fact that some studies claim the low-carb diet has a valid scientific basis, and that they work in the real world. Chief among Atkins' claims is that the body processes carbs in different way than fats. In short, carbs trigger a mechanism that stores and adds weight to your body while still leaving you feel hungry. So you eat more, and the cycle continues. In contrast, a low-carb diet triggers a chain of events that burns off fat while making you feel sated, or full.

Here's a Atkins-funded study led by a Duke University researcher that found people lost weight without detrimental side effects. Long-term effects require mores study.
"Study participants were put on a very low carbohydrate diet of 25 grams per day for six months," said Eric Westman, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Duke and principal investigator of the study. "They could eat an unlimited amount of meat and eggs, as well as two cups of salad and one cup of low-carbohydrate vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower a day."

Researchers found that 80 percent of the 50 enrolled patients adhered to the diet program for the duration of the study and lost an average of 10 percent of their original body weight. The average amount of weight lost per person was approximately 20 pounds. ...The study further showed that patients' cholesterol levels improved by the end of six months -- a finding that was unexpected, according to Westman.

Here's another study with positive results.
Here's another.
Here's a practicing physician who's seen it work and recommends it, excerpted from Time:
For most of my professional career, I adhered to the generally recognized dictum of weight management. I advised my patients to count their calories and follow a low-fat diet. So when low-carbohydrate diets experienced a resurgence in the mid-'90s, I dismissed them as another fad. But a funny thing began to happen. Many of the people who went on the modern Zone or Atkins diets lost weight, didn't feel deprived, and were more successful in the long term.

Then I sat down with a cardiologist who not only espoused the Atkins diet but also had been on it himself and lost 40 lbs. over five months...I tried the low-carbohydrate diets on a few patients for whom nothing else had worked. To my surprise, they did well. I chose the more cautious Zone and Heller systems, with moderate-to-low fat intake, though I noticed that the patients who were experimenting with the Atkins system of high saturated fat and ultra-low carbohydrates seemed to lose weight even faster.

So I have become a convert

You get the point. Me too.

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