Go Ad-Free
logoThe People's Perspective on Medicine

Atkins Diet Data Confounds Experts

Robert Atkins may be dead, but his low-carbohydrate, high protein diet lives on. In fact, it may be picking up steam.
The low-carb craze has been blamed for losses at Krispy Kreme. In response, the company is considering a low-sugar donut.
Recent research in the Annals of Internal Medicine (May 18, 2004) has done nothing to stop the bandwagon. One six-month study reported that the Atkins diet produced more weight loss and lower triglyceride levels than the American Heart Association low-fat diet. A year-long study of obese patients found that the Atkins approach produced better blood sugar control and lipid levels than a standard low-fat diet.
This kind of data flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Doctors have been telling patients for decades to avoid red meat and saturated fat because of their potential to raise cholesterol levels. But some readers of this column have shared their enthusiasm for low-carbohydrate diets:
“Three years ago, my husband was up to 217 pounds. (He’s 48 years old and 6 feet tall.) His cholesterol levels were off the charts and his triglycerides were 942. His doctor tried him on several cholesterol-lowering medications. He could not tolerate the side effects, especially the memory loss.
“He then went on the Atkins diet and quickly dropped 20-25 pounds. To his doctor’s amazement, his triglycerides dropped to 192, and his cholesterol is almost normal–without medication.
“Please keep your readers posted on further studies. I thought he was nuts to go on that diet until I saw the results. Now I follow some of its principles as well.”
Another reader was equally pleased with her numbers:
“I have been on the Atkins diet for 4 months and have lost about 35 pounds. I want to lose more weight, and I find the diet easy to follow. I also do not have the hunger pangs and weakness I have experienced on other diets. I recently had blood tests and found that my cholesterol has gone down from 202 to 171!”
Some people don’t experience such favorable results. In fact, one man is suing the Atkins estate on the grounds that the diet raised his cholesterol so much that his arteries became clogged and he needed angioplasty.
This diet is not for everyone. We recently spoke with one of the scientists, Dr. Eric Westman, whose work was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. He told us that some dieters find their cholesterol rises on a high-protein, high-fat regimen. But others are pleased to discover, as our readers did, that triglycerides drop and good HDL cholesterol goes up.
Our hour-long conversation with Dr. Westman is available on CD. Anyone who would like a copy of this radio show with more details on the research along with the pros and cons of the diet may send $15 to: The People’s Pharmacy (CD-A-121); P. O. Box 52027; Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Many health experts suggest that which diet people select is less important than sticking to it. Low carb or low fat matters far less than finding a way to cut calories.
Losing weight can often help lower blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. Increasing exercise adds to the benefit. Monitoring blood lipids is crucial to ensure that the diet is having the desired effect.

Rate this article
1- 1 rating
About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
Tired of the ads on our website?

Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

Browse our website ad-free
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.