Atkins Diet, Sans Meat, Shows Promise

But despite the fact that it can be done, will Americans be willing to gravitate toward what is essentially a vegetarian diet? Gardner said this point could be a tougher sell.

"The contrived nature of the diet, and the fact that it was fed to participants, makes for good reductionist science that allows it to get published, but it is several leaps of faith or steps from practical, long-term advice for the average American," he said. "I don't believe the average person would be able to practice a daily diet that derived [about] 75 percent of its protein from gluten and soy."

Carla Wolper, a dietitian at the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's Hospital, agreed.

"Americans, particularly overweight and obese Americans, are not likely to buy into vegetarianism, even a high-fat version," she said. "So in the end, I don't think the question is, 'Does it work?' but rather 'Will large numbers of those at risk learn to live with this plan?'

"I hate to be a pessimist, as it is not my nature to think negatively, but I think not," she said.

Atkins by Any Other Name...

Other diet experts said it would be a stretch to apply the Atkins name to the refurbished version of the low-carb diet, considering the regimen's meaty past.

"To call a high-protein, plant-based diet 'Eco-Atkins' is like calling a lentil an 'Eco-Cow,'" said Dr. David Katz, director and co-founder of the Yale Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Conn. "Atkins proponents are devoted to the high-meat diet Atkins actually advocated, and if this comes over the transom as support for the Atkins diet, I am sure details are apt to get lost in translation."

"While I will concede that the so-called 'Eco-Atkins' diet appears to be more planet-pleasing and may lead to weight loss, it's still not people-pleasing," added Jackie Newgent, author of "Big Green Cookbook" and instructor at The Institute of Culinary Education in New York. "Even when wrapped up in trendy, sustainably green packaging, the Atkins diet is still the Atkins diet."

Eating Greener for a Better Tomorrow?

But while it still may be the Atkins diet to some, even Jenkins acknowledges that the diet's meat-loving adherents are unlikely to adopt the largely vegetarian regimen.

"I suspect that those who reveled in the Atkins diet will pass this up," he said. "I think we have to have a mindset in which people think about the planet's resources as finite. That's a far cry from 'Where's the beef?'"

And therein may lie the real difference, diet experts said.

"I don't really see that 'Eco-Atkins,' apart from its catchiness, is a particularly appropriate or relevant [diet]," said Dr. Stephen Richardson, associate professor of medicine at New York University. "Although if it were adapted on a global scale basis, it would result in less cattle-produced methane and help reduce global warming."

"What we want to say is that we may really have to grow up a bit," Jenkins said. "Stop navel-gazing and look outwards. We may have to start thinking about being a bit more responsible -- responsible for ourselves and for our planet."

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