Term Paper: Low Fat Diets Are Healthier

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[. . .] Dietetic deviations of the Atkins plan results in immediate water retention when a carbohydrate starved dieter gives into temptation (Blackburn).

The most damning criticism of Atkins is hardly unique to Atkins, in particular. Regardless of the amount of weight lost, no weight loss diet can be considered "successful" except to the extent that it allows dieters to maintain the weight loss indefinitely. As mentioned briefly before, one significant reason that Atkins subjects like the program is that it allows some of their favorite high-fat foods that are severely restricted on every traditional weight reduction regimen.

Nevertheless, before long, Atkins subjects report that the cravings for all the carbohydrates proscribed under Atkins become as irresistible as those to which they succumbed with regard to high-fat foods on every other diet prior to Atkins.

Ultimately, dieters attempting to circumvent the need for self-control and will power when attempting to reduce calories on traditional diets experience identical failures with respect to carbohydrates restricted on the Atkins plan after the initial euphoria of unrestricted access to fats wears off (Wyatt, 2000).

Medical Issues:

The initial response of the medical community was opposition to any diet that promoted increased consumption of dietary fats, because high-fat diets have traditionally been associated with significant increases in arteriosclerosis, the formation of certain cancers and increased serum cholesterol levels. Likewise, high- protein consumption has been linked to kidney damage and hypocalcaemia, in the long-term (Tavani, 2000).

In 2002, several studies seemed to contradict the established medical view on the safety of low-carb diets by demonstrating that subjects on Atkins maintained lowered triglyceride concentrations and lower levels of serum cholesterol than predicted ahead of time by the traditional medical community. Experts are still divided on the relevance and validity of the studies purporting to support the Atkins

Diet, but what is uncontroverted in the literature is the fact that high fat diets have been linked definitively to a higher incidence of many cancers, specifically, those associated with the lower digestive tract, such as colon cancers (Kuller, 1997).

Compounding this particular issue is the fact that Atkins also severely restricts fruits, vegetables and legumes that are a major source of dietary fiber, a crucial component of diets linked to lowered incidence of the same deadly cancers. The combination of dramatically increasing consumption of fats while simultaneously eliminating consumption of high-fiber foods known to reduce cancers of the digestive system is potentially devastating from an oncology perspective (Jacobs, 1995).

Conclusion:

Dieters have always flocked to fad diets, long before the Atkins Diet revolution." According to most respectable studies on the issue, upwards of 90% of all dieters eventually regain all of their weight, often very soon after losing it, regardless of the particular diet program. The Atkins program is no different in this regard, despite the fact that some subjects report more dramatic weight loss in the initial stages.

The established medical community still opposes any diet advocating abnormally high levels of fat and protein consumption out of concern for serious medical consequences, wholly apart from any issue of efficacy in the realm of weight control which research promoted by Atkins proponents utterly fails to address or contradict. Even if the Atkins program could be successfully maintained for life, which is highly doubtful), the medical consequences of doing so are likely to be more devastating than any consequences of obesity (Kuller, 1997).

There are simply no shortcuts to weight loss or to maintaining weight loss achieved through dietary restriction. A well-balanced diet incorporating complex carbohydrates and fiber while minimizing simple carbohydrates and fats is the only effective program for long-term weight control, because no matter how "successful" a weight loss diet, it is ultimately a complete failure if it can not be maintained over the course of a lifetime (Blackburn, 2002).

It has been understood for many years that cyclical dieting (sometimes referred to as "yo-yo dieting") results in increased body fat percentage in relation to lean tissue. This is a function of the fact that drastic weight loss is always composed of lean tissue as well as fat tissue. Conversely, weight that is regained in the short period typical of cyclical dieters consists almost exclusively of fat cells and virtually no lean muscle tissue. Consequently, every cycle of weight loss and regain results in an increase in body fat in relation to lean tissue (Hellmich, 2000).

Invariably, those incapable of limiting themselves to a medically appropriate diet to lose (and maintain) weight loss gradually will likely fail on any weight loss program that relies on drastic initial reductions of entire categories of healthful foods, or the artificial maintenance of anomalous biological metabolic processes to do so.

REFERENCES AND RELATED COMMENTARY

1. Atkins, RC. Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution (revised and updated). New York: Avon Books, 1999

Best-selling book promoting the Atkins Diet. Relies on dubious medical assertions based on unproven theories and anecdotal references devoid of critical review or any consideration of counterarguments.

2. Blackburn GL. Making Good Decisions About Diet: Weight Loss Is Not Weight Maintenance. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine 69:864-866, 2002.

Peer reviewed medical journal. Highlights the important distinction between short-term weight loss and long-term maintenance as the only genuine measure of efficacy in dietary changes intended to achieve weight loss.

3. Bravata, DM, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Low-Carbohydrate Diets: A Systematic Review. JAMA 289:1837-1850, 2003.

One of the most highly recognized, respected and distinguished peer reviewed medical journals. Suggests some of the experimental and statistical inadequacies of earlier research purported to support Atkins Diet theory.

4. Fleming RM, Boyd LB. The effect of high-protein diets on coronary blood flow. Angiology 2000;51:817-26.

Peer reviewed medical journal. Typical of Atkins' use of medical literature, he presents only narrowly focused research on isolated individual elements that comport with the Atkins view: In this case, intended to refute concerns as to the unknown consequences of high-fat diets on coronary blood flow.

5. Gould KL, Ornish D, Scherwitz L, et al. Changes In Myocardial Perfusion Abnormalities by Positron EmissionTomography After Long-Term, Intense Risk Factor Modification. JAMA 1995;274:894-901.

Peer reviewed medical journal. Also typical of Atkins' use of medical literature, he presents research out of context and loosely connects it to his thesis: In this case, by first asserting the Atkins Diet claims of weight loss efficacy in combination with a citation referencing the benefits of weight loss on cardiac health. The result is that many readers assume the respected journal specifically endorsed Atkins' theories.

6. Hellmich N. Success of Atkins Diet Is In The Calories. USA Today, Nov 8, 2000.

Popular magazine correctly pointing out that much of the success thought to be attributable to the Atkins system is due more to the calorie reduction inherent in high-fat diets as compared to the typical diets which Atkins replaces.

7. Jacobs DR, Slavin J, Marquart L. Whole Grain Intake and Cancer: A Review of The Literature. Nutrition and Cancer 1995;24:221-229.

Medical literature review of the beneficial effects of whole grains in cancer prevention. Directly contradicts the elimination of some foods advocated by Atkins.

8. Kuller LH. Dietary Fat and Chronic Disease: Epidemiologic Overview. J. Am Diet Assoc 1997;97(7 Suppl):S9-S15.

Respected Medical Journal in the field of nutrition. Highlights the causal relationship between saturated animal fats and disease, including colon cancer.

9. Tavani A, La Vecchia C, Gallus S, et al. Red Meat and Cancer Risk:A Study in Italy. Int J. Cancer 2000;86(3):425-428.

Respected medical journal documenting the evidence for connecting red meat consumption to colon cancer.

10. Westman EC, Volek JS. Effect of 6-Month Adherence to A Very Low Carbohydrate Diet Program. Am Journal Medicine 113:30-36, 2002.

Respected, peer reviewed medical journal. Presented out of context by Atkins to suggest the long-term safety of the Atkins Diet, notwithstanding that the study specifically concerned only short-term implications.

11. Wyatt HR and others. Long-Term Weight Loss and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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