Diet Research Does a Fat Lot of Good; the Atkins Diet May Not Be as Dangerous as Was First Suspected, but You Still Can't Beat a Low Fat Diet for Long Term Weight Control, Reports Hilary Duncanson

Article excerpt

Byline: Hilary Duncanson

Jennifer Aniston, Geri Halliwell, Catherine Zeta Jones, Minnie Driver and Renee Zellweger have all tried it, but few eating regimes have become more controversial than the Atkins Diet.

The high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate plan, so favoured in celebville, has been largely treated with scepticism by nutritionists who fear it could be an unhealthy method of weight loss.

But now two teams of scientists in America have concluded that not only is the Atkins Diet safe, but it actually does work.

The plan is based on the notion that bread, pasta, potatoes and the like over-stimulate the body's production of insulin, leading to hunger. By cutting it out, the body is more likely to use up its own fat resources.

So with millions of women up and down the country trying to shave off a few pounds to get into that summer bikini, is it now acceptable to cut out the carbs?

Lyndel Costain, an independent dietician, says it is important to look behind the statistics.

'If you look at the research papers, the results are nowhere near as favourable as is being made out.

'After six months you see that the Atkins Diet does do slightly better compared with other diets, but after a year, that advantage is cancelled out.

'The fundamental reason people are losing weight on it in the short term is because they are eating less than they normally do.

'One reason they do quite well is that it is a very novel idea and it flies in the face of what you are normally told. Those fatty foods are also satisfying, so people do quite well.'

While she would never recommend the diet to a general member of the public, Costain believes it can have a beneficial effect for someone suffering from a severe weight problem, provided they keep in touch with their doctor.

Dieters looking for the magic route to a better figure may be heartened by such tales of quick-fix short-term weight loss and the knowledge that cholesterol levels do not appear to increase under the plan, despite the high fat intake.

But Dr Wendy Doyle, national spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, cautions that the diet is fundamentally unhealthy.

'People do lose weight, but it is not teaching them about healthy eating.

'I think it is unbalanced and therefore unhealthy because it cuts out all fruit and vegetables, which goes against all traditional health advice. …