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On Boing Boing and Atkins

Cory over at Boing Boing posts something on how UK health spreads FUD on Atkins. He says “The British government is busting out FUD over the Atkins diet, telling people it will make them fat and sick and that it’s unsustainable. Of course, this is true, for people for whom it doesn’t work. For people for whom it does work, it’s a big, fat lie. And for some reason, opponents of low-carb diets can’t distinguish between those two sentences.” For “some reason” I think Cory needs to either take an elementary logic class, or look at those last two sentences again, because the semantic content of it is “Atkins either works or does not work”, which, given the hardcore nature of the diet doesn’t make sense.
Although human physiology does vary from individual to individual, it doesn’t vary enough to cut out a complete food group and not have pretty identical long-term effects. And it’s that “long-term” that’s the key. Notably, mainstream Atkins doesn’t mean the complete end of consumption of carbohydrates, because that would have ridiculously bad effects on your health. What Atkins does is simply use a fasting trick: cut out carbs, and it fools your body into burning fat faster. That doesn’t mean carbs are bad. It doesn’t mean carbs make you fat, which is the ridiculous and simplistic idea of Atkins that’s unfortunately spreading.
I believe Cory has done Atkins, and lost lots of weight, which perhaps explains the element of zealotry in what he wrote on Boing Boing. It would have been far more honest had he lead with a “I’ve done Atkins, and it worked for me”. In fact, if you read the advice from the Food Standards Agency, it basically says that carb-zero diets are unsustainable long-term, and if you carry on with them for a long time the scientific evidence suggests it’s bad for you. Period. Hardly “a big fat lie” – unless Cory has turned into a dietician with 20 years of experience all of a sudden.
What’s notable, too, about Atkins is that the company responsible is already couching its phrases carefully: in an Observer story, it claims that “consumption of large amounts of carbohydrates with a high-glycemic index, such as white bread, white rice or white potatoes, which increased the risk of coronary heart disease” (my emphasis). That’s very different from “carbs are bad” – it basically reiterates the sensible message that too much process, low-fibre carbs are bad, something that’s been a staple of nutritional advice for many years.
My take on Atkins is simple. As a short-term “lose-weight-fast” diet, it works and as long as you follow it to the letter it’s reasonable. The majority of the weight loss probably actually comes from simply watching what you eat, as you cut out all the crap snacks, high-sugar junk and pizza that’s the staple of too many people’s diets. It’s not a sustainable long-term diet, as free-reign on saturated fats is going to kill you most people in the West, thanks to the sheer amount of them that are hidden in foods.

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  • http://w8blog.free-host.com Danielle

    It is calories, and not carbohydrates and insulin, that make you fat. In other words, your weight is determined by the total amount of calories you consume, and not the type of food that the calories come from.