Is Atkins the Healthiest Choice for Weight Loss?

Study rates Atkins best trend diet pack, but some experts beg to differ.

ByABC News
March 6, 2007, 3:25 PM

March 6, 2007 — -- The beleaguered Atkins diet may get a breath of life from a new study that suggests the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet regime leads to more effective weight loss with fewer negative health effects than three other weight loss strategies.

The study, which pits the Atkins diet against the Zone, Ornish and LEARN diets, appears in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

But the findings could be too little too late for the popular diet, which at one time changed the way Americans ate.

Proponents of Atkins say the study is only the latest piece of evidence testifying to the effectiveness of a diet that cuts carbs to a minimum.

"Clearly, this study shows that controlling carbohydrates is as or more effective than the low-fat, low-calorie approaches we've seen in the past," says Dr. Stuart Trager, author of "The All-New Atkins Advantage: 12 Weeks to a New Body, a New You, a New Life."

"The proof is now in the pudding," says Dr. Fred Pescatore, former medical director of the Atkins Center and best-selling author of "The Hamptons Diet," a guide on another low-carb regime.

"These findings are consistent with over a dozen papers in the past five years demonstrating the beneficial effects of carbohydrate restriction," says Dr. Eric Westman, associate professor of medicine and director of the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at Duke University Medical Center. "I think low-carbohydrate diets should be first-line therapy for weight loss."

But will the new research be enough to save Atkins -- or even restore it to its former lead position in the pack of new diet regimes? Many diet experts say no.

"Health is not measured as the combination of several cardiac risk markers and weight over the course of a year," says Dr. David Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine. "If it were, every patient getting chemotherapy would be 'healthy.'"

"Some heart indicators were better, but what about the mountains of evidence about high consumption of fruits and vegetables to promote overall health?" says Keith-Thomas Ayoob, associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's department of pediatrics in Bronx, N.Y.