We were astonished to discover that the diet dictocrats have so brainwashed the American public that data has been trumped by dogma. We recently interviewed Eric Westman, MD. He is associate professor of medicine at Duke University Health System and director of the Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic. Together with Dr. Stephen Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek, he has written a book titled The New Atkins for a New You.

Now we would agree with many of our listeners that Dr. Westman takes no prisoners. He was insistent that a low-carbohydrate diet is the best solution to weight loss and his dismissal of fruit as “nature’s candy” infuriated many who were listening. As fruit lovers ourselves, we understand the outrage.

What is disturbing about the controversy that erupted among our commenters is that many people seem to have dismissed the data without even looking at it. The idea that carbs, especially sugar, could raise total cholesterol and triglycerides and lower beneficial HDL cholesterol is hard for many people to swallow. But that is what the research shows (JAMA, April 21, 2010).

People have heard about the evils of saturated fat for so long that they cannot imagine any possibility that an Atkins-like diet would not clog coronary arteries. Anyone who says it’s OK to eat a steak must be crazy. And yet the research repeatedly demonstrates that such a diet does not have a negative impact on blood lipids. One of the most rigorous studies to date was carried out in Israel. It lasted two years and compared a low-fat restricted-calorie diet, a Mediterranean-style restricted-calorie diet and a low-carb diet with no caloric restriction. The subjects lost more weight on the low-carb diet and had better blood lipids. Although this data defies conventional wisdom, it was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (July 17, 2008).

We encourage you to listen to our bonus interview with Dr. Eric Westman, check out the amazing and emotional comments that followed our radio show broadcast, look at the references and then comment yourself.

You may also want to watch Robert Lustig, MD, University of California, San Francisco, Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Endocrinology. Dr. Lustig provides the science on sugar and high fructose corn syrup. He compares high fat to high sugar intake as a cause of obesity and he is incredibly compelling.

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  1. HJL

    Dear Mrs. Antipyrene,
    You have some of it right, but some of it wrong.
    1. You can’t try Atkins for a few days. Cramping is a well known and understood potential initial side effect of Atkins. In fact it demonstrates that the diet is working. (The simple fix is to ingest a lot of extra salt, take magnesium supplement, and drink lots of water.) All of this is explained in the new Atkins book by Westman et al.
    2. Atkins and Westman never “demonized” carbohydrates. The whole principle of Atkins after desired weight loss is to determine the maximum amount of Carbohydrates one can eat w/o gaining the weight back and thereafter limiting carbs per day to no more than that amount. Some of us are “allergic to carbs” and gain weight promptly if our personal maximum amount is exceeded. On Atkins you are required from day 1 to eat specified carbs, initially mostly salads. Total carbs are initially greatly restricted and then more is permitted as you proceed through the 4 phases of Atkins.
    3. Finally, I must repeat that carbs are not essential. Simply put you can live perfectly well w/o any carbs whatsoever. That said Atkins does permit carbs as discussed above and the phytonutrients may be of some value. Chose your carbs well.

  2. Mrs Antipyrene

    You have to take in carbohydrates in moderation. To demonize them is ridiculous. I remember a time when I was physically active and thin (to the point of being very underweight) I used a high carb diet, using whole grains to preserve energy, endurance, and it also calmed me down (I suffer from Anxiety Disorder) I tried the extreme Atkins diet for a few days and suffered from horrible stomach cramps. I was doubled up in pain.
    We do need some carbs just to regulate the digestive system. We all need to cut back on carbs, I know I need to presently, but MODERATION is the key. We need some of those starches and fiber. The American diet is extremely dependent on starch carbo overload. You also have to take into consideration that in order to make most potatoes palatable, you have to put butter or other fatty things on them. And restaurants pile tons of potatoes and white rice on your plate. I have been eating more sweet potatoes as a substitute, and they hardly need any kind of topping. They are also a great substitute snack, if you bake them with very little oil.

  3. KC

    One quibble with your reply. I don’t know where you got the idea that the Atkins diet ignores Fiber, it doesn’t. Have you read the book?

  4. Rx

    A note to my previous post. I have tried eating so-called “allergen free” rotisserie chicken from my grocery – and have repeatedly had bad reactions to it. It tastes great BUT I read somewhere that meat is often injected with something to make it juicier – maybe some form of gluten? I thought I might be allergic to chicken, but I am fine if I buy organic meat and cook it myself. Just some info for people out there who need to be gluten free – and are buying “processed” meat at the grocery store! Processed anything is probably bad for you!

  5. Rx

    I became severely ill and when trying to heal myself, I went gluten free. After a couple years I was feeling better and my bloodwork was normal again. I read a book called Dangerous Grains. That sparked my interest in celiac disease which is so often a silent disease that causes serious problems in later life. Most doctors think it is a GI disease, but that’s not true and up to 97% of celiacs go undiagnosed.
    Celiac is genetic and diabetes often runs in the family too! One of the major presenting symptoms is depression. Also many other symptoms like very bad teeth and bones, and infertility. Later, serious diseases develop because your body can’t absorb the nutrients needed to function properly.
    Dr. Fasano, an expert in celiac disease published a study that states 1 in 133 people has celiac disease. But that is the far end of the continuum. Very recent studies show that possibly 1 in 7 people has some kind of gluten intolerance or allergy! You can ask for a celiac antibody test if you still eat gluten, and get checked.
    Because I am severely allergic to gluten, I know how hard it is to eliminate this poison from my diet. It’s in everything processed. It’s the filler in pills. It’s in soy sauce, root beer and sauces. It’s really cheap, that’s why. It’s even in some things that claim to be gluten free (I called a major company to complain about their “gluten free” rice cakes and I got an argument that the government has not really defined “gluten” yet.)
    I see celiac symptoms in so many people. I try to tell them about it, but they listen to their doctors, not me. I figured it out for myself, when I easily lost the 50 pounds I had gained on un-necessary antidepressants – it was gluten that was making me fat, depressed and sick. It was gluten that was giving me the high cholesterol and high glucose levels.

  6. H J Levitt

    All the doubters out there should read Gary Taubes’s new book, Why We Get Fat, And What to Do About It. It is a simplified and expanded extension of his earlier book, Good Calories, Bad Calories.
    One key fact is that we are all different in our respective ability to handle Carbs. Some can eat a relatively high amount and some cannot handle even modest amounts. The key is to read and understand the science. Too many carbs (for you) releases too much insulin in your body. This causes fatty acids to be removed from your blood and deposited in your fat cell.
    This is not dependent on total calories consumed. When the fatty acis is taken out of the bloodstream it makes you hungry and less energetic. The insulin makes you eat more and exercise less. It causes you to get fat and fatter. For 40 years the Govt. said eat carbs and cut fat. The result is obvious increases in obesity.
    Taubes backs it all with science not psycho babble about people not being strong-willed enough just to control calories.
    Try just eating meat for 4 days. Drink lots of water. You will immediately lose weight, your blood sugar will plummet and you will feel better. Then get a book Taubes, Atkins, the new guy and learn how to continue to lose weight as you add back high glycemic index carbs until you find your limit.
    Go below the limit and you lose weigh, go above it and you gain.
    Good Luck to all.

  7. jan k.

    My husband has been on the Atkins diet many times to lose weight. Blood tests show that all this levels are excellent when on it… his doctor was amazed. I am talking about a total flip in all his numbers..

  8. KR

    You may want to look into the composition of sugars. Try to minimize foods sweetened with fructose. Fructose lurks in agave syrup, honey, table sugar, hfcs. The lower the amount of fructose in a sweetener, the better (IMO!). Maple syrup and brown rice syrup have less fructose. I use table sugar in small amounts, but threw out the agave syrup.

  9. ERA

    I would like to comment on Dr. Robert Lustig’s YOUTUBEvideo; EXCELLENT, SHOULD BE a must see for everyone. The Subject is “the Obesity epidemic” and it is not from overeating!! I am alerting everyone I know to it. The information on Sucralose and Fructose as a chronic poison MAY BE DIFFICULT FOR SOME TO FOLLOW, BUT JUST HEARING SOME OF THE INFO IS AN EYE OPENER… I am very happy to have run across it. THANK YOU

  10. HJL

    Your question should be directed to your physician. I believe that you will find that high protein is harder on the kidneys, but is not a cause of kidney stones. Were your stones studied when you passed them? If so, there may be clues about what caused them and specifically what you shouldn’t eat. Generally, people on Atkins are advised to drink lots of water. This helps speed up the weight loss and is considered a good thing for people subject to stones. Keep hydrated and good luck.

  11. MKM

    I have a question about losing weight. I am interested in the Atkins diet – I am 5’00” tall, 65 years old and weigh 152 lbs. This weight came on in middle age.
    My bad cholesterol is too high (but my good cholesterol is great) and my sugars are at the high end of normal but not yet in the pre-diabetic range. I would of course like to lose weight.
    I am in physical therapy and on an exercise program for degenerative arthritis of the spine.
    My question is: are high protein diets hard on the kidneys? Does the high protein cause kidney stones? I had a bout of kidney stones many years ago and do not care to ever repeat such pain and misery!
    I really hope you will answer my question.
    Thank you!
    J Am Soc Nephrol. 2009 Oct;20(10):2253-9. Epub 2009 Aug 13.
    DASH-style diet associates with reduced risk for kidney stones.
    Taylor EN, Fung TT, Curhan GC.
    Renal Division and Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA. entaylor@partners.org
    The impact of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet on kidney stone formation is unknown. We prospectively examined the relation between a DASH-style diet and incident kidney stones in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (n = 45,821 men; 18 yr of follow-up), Nurses’ Health Study I (n = 94,108 older women; 18 yr of follow-up), and Nurses’ Health Study II (n = 101,837 younger women; 14 yr of follow-up). We constructed a DASH score based on eight components: high intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains and low intake of sodium, sweetened beverages, and red and processed meats. We used Cox hazards regression to adjust for factors that included age, BMI, and fluid intake. Over a combined 50 yr of follow-up, we documented 5645 incident kidney stones. Participants with higher DASH scores had higher intakes of calcium, potassium, magnesium, oxalate, and vitamin C and had lower intakes of sodium. For participants in the highest compared with the lowest quintile of DASH score, the multivariate relative risks for kidney stones were 0.55 (95% CI, 0.46 to 0.65) for men, 0.58 (95% CI, 0.49 to 0.68) for older women, and 0.60 (95% CI, 0.52 to 0.70) for younger women. Higher DASH scores were associated with reduced risk even in participants with lower calcium intake. Exclusion of participants with hypertension did not change the results. In conclusion, consumption of a DASH-style diet is associated with a marked decrease in kidney stone risk.

  12. TKA

    I have been on an Atkins like diet for a couple months now and have lost about 20 pounds. I take 2000 mg of salmon oil a day also. My BP has went from 130/93 to 112/76. My lipid profile has totally switched around (LDL to HDL ratio) to the better which I myself can hardly believe. I do eat fruits but limit them to types like blueberries, cantaloupe etc. (search for low glycemic fruits on the web for info).
    Things I cut are bread, pasta, rice, sugar. Things I eat a lot of steak (fatty like ribeye!), avocado, salad greens, tomatoes, and I drink a high protein (low carb like atkins or make your own) shake in between meals to fill me up.
    Not an ideal forever diet maybe but will keep me off the cholesterol drugs if my weight stays down. I am a nursing student and I have added 45 min of exercise now too. Gotta take care of yourself before your fit to take care of others is my new motto!!!

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