Heck, he's on a freakin' rotisserie! Will the slanders and misuses of my hero's name ever stop? First it was all those people claiming to be "doing Atkins" when they hadn't read word one of the book and were just making it up as they went along. At the same time we had all the "journalists" who criticized the diet without bothering to read it either. (You could tell because they'd always claim that "The Atkins diet only allows 20 grams of carbohydrate a day!" as if Induction were the whole diet. Either that, or they'd call it a "no-carb" diet, or an "all-meat" diet.)
Dr. Atkins Is Rolling In His Grave
Then came the cries of "Oh, look, Dr. Eggs-and-Bacon had a heart attack!" when Dr. A suffered cardiac arrest because of viral cardiomyopathy. (Even the American Heart Association, no fan of the Atkins Diet, made a public statement that as far as they could determine Dr. Atkins' heart trouble had nothing to do with his diet.) And I've seen many claims online that Dr. Atkins' well-documented slip-and-fall head injury was a sham. Oh, no, they claim, he really died of a heart attack.
After that, the ghouls at the PETA-run "Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine" (an organization only 5% of which is made up of physicians) got a hold of Dr. Atkins' final medical records and claimed he'd been obese when he died, even though those same records showed he'd been a normal weight when admitted to the hospital -- he blew up cruelly with water due to steroids and intravenous fluids.
It was laughable in an ugly sort of a way. Dr. Atkins had been all over television in the last year of his life; had he been obese it would have been impossible to hide it. It's none of my business, and I'm certain that she had enough to cope with just handling the grief of widowhood, but I have cherished the hope ever since that Veronica Atkins sued the ever-loving crap out of the doctor who made her husband's confidential medical records public.
Six years after his death, the indignities continue. Have you heard about "Eco-Atkins?"
It just irritates the life out of the low fat faithful, and especially the moral vegetarians that, despite dire predictions, the Atkins diet, replete with animal fat and cholesterol, not only doesn't cause sky-high blood cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure, etc, but actually improves risk factors more than a low fat diet does. Yep, Atkins consistently eats the low fat diet's lunch (after discarding the bread) in tests of cardiovascular risk factors, dramatically lowering triglycerides, raising HDL cholesterol, and improving ratios all the way around. A low fat diet -- especially one based on carby stuff like whole grains and beans -- sometimes lowers total cholesterol a bit, but results in low HDL and high triglycerides.
So Professor David Jenkins of the University of Toronto decided to pick on LDL.
It is true that LDL does not generally drop tremendously on a low carb diet, and even occasionally appears to rise a bit. It is also true that the rise in HDL and the drop in triglycerides means that the all-important ratios improve dramatically; I am completely unconvinced that LDL, in and of itself, means much of anything.
More importantly, the rise in LDL is largely illusory. How is that? I only learned recently.
It turns out that LDL is seldom measured directly, because it is difficult and expensive to do so. Instead, LDL is calcuated. The formula used to calculate it is this: Total cholesterol - (HDL + triglycerides/5) = LDL. Apparently this is fairly accurate if triglycerides are above 100 and under 250.However, low carb diets drop triglycerides to rock-bottom levels. It is not only common but usual for low carbers to have triglyceride levels well under 100. Last time I had mine tested they were at 39. Try that with a low fat, high carb diet! Our low triglycerides skew the results of this equation, leading to artificially high LDL numbers -- in those of us whose LDL goes up at all.
Indeed, on that same test where my triglycerides showed up at 39, my LDL was just a little high; my doctor expressed concern. I said, "You know and I know that that LDL is calculated by subtracting HDL and triglycerides divided by five from my total cholesterol. I could lower my LDL by raising my triglycerides..." She laughed and said, "Bad idea," and admitted I was right.
But Dr. Jenkins is fixated on LDL. His career has been built around the notion of using plant foods to lower LDL. Maybe it didn't occur to Dr. Jenkins that the LDL equation skews results for those of us with very low triglycerides. Maybe he's so invested in the idea that plant foods are the most important that he just couldn't accept the repeated clinical tests demonstrating not just the safety, but the superiority of the Atkins nutritional program. So he decided to come up with "better" version -- a version that would lower LDL. What did he devise? A "low carb" vegan diet.
I put "low carb" in quotes because this insult to Robert Atkins' memory actually includes a whopping 130 grams per day of carbohydrate. Jenkins did this because it's the minimum "recommended amount." In other words, he didn't really want to test a low carb diet, just a lower carb diet than the usual vegetarian grain-and-bean fest. And of course, it's hellishly hard to get enough food on a vegan diet without eating grains and beans. Anyway, Jenkins knows that whole grains are healthful, so he included some. Dr. Jenkins also lowered protein as compared to Dr. Atkins instructions; again, it's hard to get tons of protein on a vegan diet.
The protein in Jenkins' reduced carb vegan diet was largely derived from soy and gluten products, which were apparently used with abandon, despite being two of the foods most likely to cause sensitivities. Soy has plenty of problems, ranging from interfering with mineral absorption to messing with the thyroid gland to possibly causing cognitive decline. Gluten is implicated not only in gut disorders, but also in many autoimmune diseases. Still, apparently these were deemed safer than animal foods, because they don't have the eeeevul saturated animal fat.
This lower-carb vegan diet was tested against a standard high carb vegetarian diet, rather than against the actual Atkins diet. Unsurprisingly, the diet with fewer carbs did give better results than the diet with more carbs. LDL was lowered a bit. This says exactly nothing about the Atkins diet.
I don't grudge Dr. Jenkins his study. I think a diet based on soy and gluten is potentially dangerous, but clearly he disagrees with me, and he's got the right to explore the various permutations of that. Dr. Atkins thought, and I agree, that animal fats were healthful, and dietary cholesterol a non-issue. Again, Dr. Jenkins clearly disagrees, and he has the right to base his studies on his perceptions, although he does seem to be trying to prove what he already believes, rather than to find out anything new.
I object very much, however, to the appellation "Eco-Atkins." This sort of coat-tail riding is particularly offensive when the diet so called is antithetical to most of Bob Atkins wrote, said, and promoted.
Too, the name suggests a whole different motivation than health, doesn't it? It's not "Healthier Atkins" or "Vegan Atkins" or "LDL-Lowering Atkins." No, they're calling it "Eco-Atkins." The whole thing smacks strongly of ecological guilt-tripping.
I try to be at least moderately ecologically conscious, but I draw the line at eating a diet that makes me fat, sick and tired in the name of living green. Further, I deny that livestock agriculture has to be terribly ecologically damaging. A return to grass-fed and pasture-raised meats would do much to reduce the ecological impact of meat and egg farming, be kinder to the animals, and produce nutritionally superior food, to boot. It is factory farming and feedlot stuffing of animals that causes most of the impact, not the simple existence of livestock.
But I digress. My point is that the diet in this study, touted in the press as a "healthier form of Atkins," has not been demonstrated to be healthier than Atkins, only healthier than the supposedly wonderful, heart-healthy, grain-and-bean diet of your average vegetarian. It pirates Dr. Atkins name, while promoting something antithetical to his work. And it appears to have actually been aimed at something other than improving health in the first place.
If your diet is so great, let it find an audience on its own merits. Don't try to gain an audience by stealing the name of my hero to promote something that would have drawn only derision from the man.
One other note here- Dana Carpender is kind of a hero figure to me. I have found her research to be generally flawless, and if she does discover a small error, she corrects it immediately. So, her info can be trusted!