Question of the Week

January 20, 2003 


Lose weight. Eat right. Get healthy. But HOW? I'm sure that you don't have time to read about all of the different ideas that people have about what constitutes a healthy diet. There are not enough hours in the day. So, what do you do if you really want to improve your diet and your health? Good question.

"People on the low-carbohydrate regimen dropped pounds and improved cholesterol levels, fueling the debate over the long-term safety of this weight-loss approach....The researchers compared the low-carbohydrate diet popularized by cardiologist Robert Atkins, MD, with a low-fat diet, and found that subjects on the Atkins diet lost more weight and realized greater improvements in their cholesterol levels than did subjects on a low-fat diet. Those findings, presented at a recent meeting of the American Heart Assn., left many dieters puzzled and some physicians crying foul. Despite his findings, Dr. Westman is still counseling patients that a low-fat diet paired with a program of exercise is the best plan for sensible weight loss and heart health...."

Those findings also left the American Heart Association rushing to clarify...

"Chicago, Nov. 19 -- Media reports about a small study funded by the Robert C. Atkins Foundation may have created the erroneous impression that the American Heart Association has revised its dietary guidelines. This is not the case.  This study was released as one of over 3,600 abstracts presented at the American Heart Association‚s annual Scientific Sessions, a forum for the presentation of research pertaining to heart disease and stroke for scientists and physicians.  These scientific abstracts do not represent official positions or statements of the American Heart Association. Here are the American Heart Association‚s concerns with the study:..."

While some of the statistics below encourage Atkins' supporters, they concern doctors at the American Heart Association (for more information about problems the American Heart Association had with the study and it's
results, please see the link above).

"For his randomized, controlled study, Dr. Westman enrolled 120 people and placed half on a low-calorie, low-fat diet. The other half followed the low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet developed by Dr. Atkins decades ago. The research, which has been submitted for publication, was funded by an unrestricted grant from the Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine in New York City. Food logs kept by participants showed their fat intake on the Atkins diet was about 60% of the calories they consumed. This compares to 30% on low-fat diets. The Atkins group was also provided with several dietary supplements, including fish oil."

Think it really isn't all that confusing? Unlike many reports would have you believe, even Dr. Atkins is not telling you to eat all the fat you want...

"Manufactured hydrogenated fats, which your body cannot digest, are a serious risk to heart health. Many Americans are still unaware that the most grossly harmful heart-health trend of the last century was the gradual replacement of healthy natural fats and protein foods with foods such as margarine. They are constructed with hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, which both contain fats never found in nature.... For many people, the real shocker in this study was the statistic that women who ate the equivalent of four or more teaspoons of margarine per day had a 66 percent greater risk of heart disease than women who ate little or no margarine. But when it comes to butter, this vast study found no association between its consumption (in any amount) and the probability of contracting heart disease.... In addition to boycotting junk foods, you should avoid cooking with margarine or vegetable shortening (that white, creamy stuff that comes in a can). Butter, olive oil and lard worked very well for our heart-healthy ancestors."

Questions of the Week:
Is all the information we receive too much information? Does hearing so many different things so often make all if it less meaningful? How can we know for ourselves what we should be eating? Who should we listen to, and why should more or less weight be given to the statements of one doctor over another? Who do you believe? Are you even listening anymore? Should you be?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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