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Cheers, Jeers for No-Carb Diet By Amy Frazier
Users Like the Fatty Menu, but Docs Cite Dangers
The Associated Press
A T L A N T A , Oct. 18 — Pork rinds, beef jerky and hot dogs sound more like the diet of a junk-food junkie than that of someone determined to lose weight.
But this latest fad diet promises you can shed the pounds fast while eating all the meat, cheese, eggs and fat you want. The trick is to lay off the carbohydrates and sugars.
Ron Glasgow, a 39-year-old computer support technician from Cumming, said he went from 425 to 330 pounds in 11 months, while continuing his lifestyle as a “big-eater.” A typical breakfast for him while on the diet consists of a three-egg omelet and a 12-ounce package of bacon or a half pound of ham.
Many dietitians and health experts — 10,000 of whom will be in Atlanta this week for the American Dietetic Association’s annual meeting — insist the diet is unhealthy and the weight loss is temporary.
Allure Wears Off Quickly
The high-protien, no-carb plan is “a nightmare of a diet,” said Kathleen Zelman, a registered dietitian and ADA spokesperson. “At first, it sounds so alluring. You get the green light to eat these foods.”
But she said the monotony soon gets old. Sure, you get the hamburger, but no bun or fries. You can eat a big steak, but forget the baked potato and tossed salad.
Plus, it’s just unhealthy, nutritionists say. Along with the risk of increasing cholesterol levels, the diet could cause kidney problems or possibly a loss of calcium in the bones, Zelman said. Limiting the intake of carbohydrates to such a dramatically low level starves the body of needed nutrients and causes an artificial metabolic state.
“Think of it on a global perspective — the world at large survives on grains,” Zelman said. “If we didn’t have carbohydrates, we would not be able to survive. Bread is the staff of life.”
But Glasgow said the diet allows him to lose weight and continue to be a “big eater.”
“I’m aware of some of the opponents, but for me right now, it seems to be working,” he said.
Glasgow said he lost 100 pounds once before on a low-fat, high exercise diet, but he couldn’t stay on it. While on that diet, he said he took a two-month leave of absence from his job and exercised between 6 and 8 hours a day. When he returned to a more reasonable exercise schedule, the weight stopped coming off and he went back to his old ways.
No Exercise, Please
With studies showing that more than half of all adults are overweight and that exercise is at an all-time low, Americans are constantly searching for a way to slim down without drastically changing their lifestyles.
The increasing number of unhealthy and overweight adults and children is one issue of particular concern for the ADA at its four-day meeting that starts today. Like other health organizations, the ADA maintains the only way to lose weight is through a healthy, well-balanced diet and exercise.
In addition to weight loss, the ADA will hold discussions this week on issues such as food safety, children’s health and reducing the risks of heart disease and colon cancer through diet.
The low-carb diet was first touted by Dr. Robert Atkins more than 20 years ago. Its popularity in the ‘90s has been attributed to his latest book, Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, currently the best-selling mass market paperback in the country.
“Part of the reason for the resurgence is that Americans are getting fatter and there’s a greater desperation than there’s ever been,” Zelman said.
Atkins has dismissed criticism of the diet as “dietitian talk” and points out that many people have maintained their weight loss for years and lowered their cholesterol by following his diet.
Loss Only Temporary
Glasgow and others who’ve lost weight following the Atkins plan will probably gain it back, Zelman says. The initial weight loss occurs because without carbohydrates, the body is forced to burn fat and protein for fuel — but that creates fatigue. Also, the monotony of the diet gets some people to eat less.
Sooner or later, the dieter will have to go back to at least moderate carbohydrate consumption. When they do, the weight will likely return.
“I certainly don’t want to bust anyone’s bubble who’s having success because it’s so hard to come by,” Zelman said.
Her advice for anyone who considers going on the diet is to consult their doctor, drink plenty of fluids and take a multivitamin, mineral supplement.
“Realize it’s a short-term fix,” she said. “Ultimately, you will have to face reality of weight management.”
Glasgow has not had his cholesterol levels checked since starting the diet, but said he isn’t too worried about it. He said the diet “seems to work best for big-eaters” and he will eventually add more carbs back into his meals.
“I don’t plan on eating just meat the rest of my life,” he said.