Atkins...The Worst

Now, I know it’s a dead horse, but, I can’t resist beating it! Sorry horse lovers. We all know that The Atkins Diet and other high-protein low-carb diets are dangerous and based in nutritionally folly, but don’t take my word for it. Here’s Dr. Fuhrman:

As much as I hate to keep talking about the high-saturated-fat, low-antioxidant-nutrient Atkins diet, I am forced to because his diet continues to make front-page news and stays on the tips of everybody’s tongues…

…Any diet high in animal products and low in fiber, fruit, beans, and yellow vegetables is going to shorten life span significantly. If Robert Atkins follows his own dietary advice, he is a perfect example of what you would expect from such unhealthful dietary recommendations. He was overweight and developed heart disease. Do you think he needs to eat more cheese and pork rinds to thin up a bit, as he recommends; or do you think he just might be better off on a diet rich in raw plant foods, beans, steamed greens, carrots, and fresh fruit such as berries and peaches…

…Atkins devotees adopt a dietary pattern completely opposite of what is recommended by the leading research scientists studying the link between diet and cancer.1 Specifically, fruit exclusion alone is a significant cancer marker. Stomach and esophageal cancer are linked to populations that do not consume a sufficient amount of fruit.2 Scientific studies show a clear and strong dose-response relationship between cancers of the digestive tract, bladder, and prostate with low fruit consumption.3 To the surprise of many investigators, fruit consumption shows a powerful dose-response association with a reduction in heart disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality.4

May I interject my own theory? Again, I’m just a layman with an opinion, but, I think I’m onto something. I contend that The Atkins Diet is simply a money-making scheme that exploits people’s emotional attachments to “good ole American” food. Check this post out:

Food Face-Off
What does 200 calories of food look like? Actually, that’s kind of a trick question because it depends on the food. According to Dr. Fuhrman small amounts of some foods like meat and diary are more calorie-dense than larger amounts of fruits and vegetables. Check out the chart in Foods That Make You Thin for more.

Of course, if you prefer pictures, take a look at what’s going on over at WiseGeek. You’ll see that the portion size of 200 calories worth of celery, baby carrots, or broccoli, dwarf what you get from 200 calories of canola oil, uncooked pasta, or cheddar cheese. Gee, I wonder, which foods help you lose weight? Now that’s not a trick question!

WiseGeek: What Does 200 Calories Look Like?

Here's a comment to this post by a known low-carber and DiseaseProof blog troll:

Which of these foods leave you with a deep down to your bones satisfied feeling?

And here's my reply:

For me its the Kiwi, I eat them almost everyday.

“Deep down to your bones satisfied feeling?” What the heck does that have to do with good nutrition? Marijuana gives you that feeling—so they say—so is smoking weed healthy? Hardly! Sounds like an emotional attachment to food to me. Here’s another example:

Meat: Grill, Fry, or Broil it?
...So, will people heed these warnings and cut back on the amount of animal products they eat and be careful not to dangerously cook their food? My guess, probably not, especially with this kind of rhetoric kicking around the blogosphere. Like LivinLaVidaLowCarb’s ringing endorsement of frying meat in butter—sadly, I’m not kidding. Proceed with caution:
I agree with the advice to shun the fried foods specifically because of the breading. But if you want to fry up your meat in a pan full of butter, then knock yourself out. It’s a healthy way to enjoy that succulent protein-loaded food.

While it’s nice to bake, broil, and especially grill meats, don’t fall for the illusion that cooking these ways is any healthier than cooking meat in fat. Avoid the trans fats, of course, but you shouldn’t worry about saturated fats as long as you are livin’ la vida low-carb.
Take a moment to note that butter is also on Dr. Fuhrman’s list of the seven worst foods. Okay, it gets worse. Check out this quote from Carbohydrate Addict, apparently this Atkins dieter thinks grilled-cheese is fabulous—sigh. Here it is:
I think one of the reasons Atkins was so perfect for me was because I was on low fat/low cholesterol for sooooo many years. All of the forbidden foods suddenly became okay to eat without guilt and my cholesterol is finally FABULOUS. I'm still on a high when I eat them! Egg salad, bacon, chicken wings, mac and cheese, grilled cheese.... YUM!
Yum? For bacon and egg salad? Whoa! What a world we live in...

What a great scam/money-maker? Tell people that what they’ve been told is wrong—despite the wealth of information proving otherwise—then convince them that is okay to eat all those harmful foods they love; bacon, red meat, butter, etc. More from Dr. Fuhrman:

It is an interesting phenomenon to me low-carb dieters search to find small pearls of dissent in the scientific literature to support their views as they ignore thousands of well-performed studies, I wonder why they are so attached to their diets or views that they can’t accept the preponderance of evidence and modify their stance…

…To make matters even worse, you pay an extra penalty from a diet so high in fat and protein to generate a chronic ketosis. Besides the increased cancer risk, your kidneys are placed under greater stress and will age more rapidly. It can take many, many years for such damage to be detected by blood tests. By the time the blood reflects the abnormality, irreversible damage may have already occurred. Blood tests that monitor kidney function typically do not begin to detect problems until more than 90 percent of the kidneys have been destroyed…

...Americans already eat approximately 40 percent of their calories from animal products; we have seen a tragic skyrocketing in cancer and heart-disease rates in the past fifty years as a result of such nutritional extravagance.5 You can lose some weight on the Atkins Diet, but you run the risk of losing your health at the same time.

I guess the allure of bacon is just too much for some people—and that my friends is a serious emotional attachment to food! Honestly, is a food-crush really worth it? Especially in light of this news, Reuters reports, “High-fat Atkins diet damages blood vessels.” Here’s a bit:

The high-fat Atkins diet can cause long-term damage to blood vessels, as well as some of the inflammation linked with heart and artery disease, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

In contrast, low-fat regimens such as the South Beach and Ornish diets lowered cholesterol and appeared to benefit artery function, they said.

"It really is the Atkins diet that is the worst," Dr. Michael Miller, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, said in a telephone interview.

"The Atkins diet caused the LDL levels to go up by about 7 percent, whereas in the Ornish and South Beach diets ... they went down 7 to 10 percent."

Low density lipoprotein or LDL is the "bad" cholesterol that clogs blood vessels.

Hungry for an expert opinion on this study, I tapped Linda Popescu one of the Registered Dieticians that works in Dr. Fuhrman’s office. Linda is no fan of The Atkins Diet either, and, she makes it pretty obvious here. Take a look:

“The high fat Atkins diet is dangerous and should not be recommended.” This is news? Eat to Live, which was published 5 years ago, devoted a whole chapter to the negative consequences of following The Atkins Diet. For years, well researched studies have show that this type of meat-based, high protein, fiberless diet can lead to heart disease and cancer. Even basic common sense should tell you eating this way is not good for your health. It’s good to see that this diet has finally run its course. As the article states “Why not start out with a diet that will be healthier for you in the long run after weight loss”?

So then, what is the best diet for disease-prevention, healthy bodyweight, and longevity? This should be a no-brainer! Dr. Fuhrman’s vegetable-based nutrient-dense Eat to Live diet-style tops them all. More from Dr. Fuhrman:

Green vegetables are so incredibly low in calories and rich in nutrients and fiber that the more you eat of them, the more weight you will lose. One of my secrets of nutritional excellence and superior healing is the one pound-one pound rule. That is, try to eat at least one pound of raw green vegetables a day and one pound of cooked/steamed or frozen green vegetables a day as well. One pound raw and one pound cooked--keep this goal in mind as you design and eat every meal. This may be too ambitious a goal for some of us to reach, but by working toward it, you will ensure the dietary balance and results you want. The more greens you eat, the more weight you will lose. The high volume of greens not only will be your secret to a thin waistline but will simultaneously protect you against life threatening illnesses…

…The biggest animals--elephants, gorillas, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, and giraffes--all eat predominantly green vegetation. How did they get the protein to get so big? Obviously, greens pack a powerful protein punch, in fact, all protein on the planet was formed from the effect of sunlight on green plants. The cow didn't eat another cow to form the protein in its muscles, which we call steak. The protein wasn't formed out of thin air--the cow ate grass. Not that protein is such a big deal or some special nutrient to be held in high esteem. I am making this point because most people think animal products are necessary for a diet to include adequate protein. I am merely illustrating how easy it is to consume more than enough protein while at the same time avoiding risky, cancer-promoting substances such as saturated fat.

I don’t know about you, but, the choice is pretty clear to me. Oh! And for more information on the dangers of Atkins-type diets check out DiseaseProof’s diet myths category, or, visit our friends over at

*FOLLOW UP POST: The Worst...and That's Atkins!

1. Kuller, L.H. 1997. Dietary fat and chronic disease: epidemiological overview. J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 97 (7 supp.): s9-15; Willet, W.C. 1997. Nutrition and cancer. Salud Publica Mex. 39 (4): 298-309; La Vecchia, C. 1992. Cancer associated with high-fat diets. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. Monogr. 12: 79-85; Steinmetz, K.A., and J.D. Potter. 1996. Vegetables, fruit, and cancer prevention: a review. J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 96 (10): 1027-39.

2. Brown, L. M., C.A. Swanson, G. Gridley, et al. 1998. Dietary factors and the risk of squamous cell esophageal cancer among black and white men in the United States. Cancer Causes Control 7 (1): 33-40; Hirohata, T., and S. Kono. 1997. Diet/nutrition and stomach cancer in Japan. Int. J. Cancer supp. 10: 34-36; Kono, S., and T. Hirohata. 1996. Nutrition and stomach cancer. Cancer Causes Control 7 (1) 41-45; Terry, P., O. Nyren, and J. Yuen. 1998. Protective effect of fruits and vegetables on stomach cancer in a cohort of Swedish twins. Int. J. Caner 76 (1):35-37.

3. Willett, W.C., and D. Trichopoulos, eds. 1996. Nutrition and cancer: a summary of evidence. Cancer Causes Control 7: 178-80; La Vecchia, C., and A. Tavani. 1998. Fruit and vegetables, and human cancer. Eur. J. Cancer Prev. 7 (1): 3-8; Tavani. A., and C. La Vecchia. 1995. Fruit and vegetable consumption and cancer risk in a Mediterranean population. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 61 (6): 1374-77S.

4. Key, T.J. A., M. Thorogood, P.N. Appleby, and M.L. Burr. 1996. Dietary habits and mortality in 11,000 vegetarians and health conscious people: results of a 17-year follow up. MBJ 313: 775-79.

5. Word Health Organization. 1996. Food balance sheets, online at

1. Bunyard, LB, Dennis KE, Nicklas BJ. Dietary intake and changes in lipoprotein lipids in obese, postmenopausal women placed on an American Heart Association Step 1 diet. J Am diet Assoc 2002 Jan;102(1):52-7.

2. Sharman MJ, Kraemer WJ, Love DM, et al. A ketogenic diet favorably affects serum biomarkers for cardiovascular disease in normal-weight men. J Nutr 2002 Jul;132(7):1879-85

3. Barnard ND, Scialli AR, Bertron P, et al. Effectiveness of a low-fat vegetarian diet in altering serum lipids in healthy premenopausal women. Am J Cardiol 2000 Apr 15;85(8):969-72.

4. Bemelmans WJ, Broer J, de Vries JH, et al. Impact of Mediterranean diet education versus posted leaflet on dietary habits and serum cholesterol in a high risk population for cardiovascular disease. Public Health Nutr. 2000 Sep;3 (3):273-83.

5. Frolkis JP. Pearce GL, NambiV, et al. Statins do not meet expectations for lowering low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels when used in clinical practice. Am J Med 2002 Dec 1;113(8):625-9.

6. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Popovich DG, et al. Effect of a very-high-fiber vegetable, fruit and nut diet on serum lipids and colonic function. Metabolism 2001 Apr;50(4):494-503.

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Comments (13) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Fred Colbourne - November 7, 2007 10:42 AM

I didn't realize it, but I have been following Dr Fuhrman's diet for 3 years, as my website explains. The biggest impact came fast, within 4 months. My cardiologist said, "I know what you want: To get rid of the doctor." Well that was bang on and I succeeded. My cholesterol has stayed below what is called optimal, blood pressure is a little lower than "normal", and my weight is now what it was at age 19, 50 years ago.

Dr Furhrman's approach is to make food your medicine, and it works.

Louise - November 7, 2007 12:20 PM

Hi, You're not commenting specifically on a study involving diet and nutrition slated for presentation at this week's annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Fla., so here the link:
Atkins Diet Can Raise Heart Risks, Forbes, Nov 6th, 2007

"The high-fat, high-protein and low-carbohydrate Atkins diet may put practitioners at risk for heart disease in as little as one month, a new study suggests."

Amber - November 7, 2007 8:39 PM

You are so misguided.

Atkins had a heart problem due to a viral infection of the heart, which his doctor said had nothing to do with dietary intake.

He was not over weight.

You are not quoting actual studies that are not supported by some interest group.

I did the atkins diet with little money going on their products. You do not need to buy your meat and vegatables from the Atkins company.

Yes, you eat vegatables and fruit on the atkins diet. People aren't told to stay in the first phase of the diet (which is just 2 weeks) forever. You move into other phases which can include nearly all foods, except for maybe transfat and highly processed foods.

By the way, since you are so misinformed, I bet you didn't know that Atkins died after suffering a fall and slipping into a coma. After a couple of months, I would how you would look in a coma.

I have never felt so alive by limiting empty sugary foods like potatoes, french fries, pasta, and bread. The bread in stores is full of sugar and does not have good nutritional value because of the processing. On atkins I can have the things I listed above in the phase that I am in. I choose not to, because they make me feel tired.

Get facts before posting such dribble.

Sarah T - November 7, 2007 11:14 PM

Amber -

...And the list goes on.

These "special interest groups" are the people who funded and/or published the data that Gerry refers to above. There are, literally, THOUSANDS of scientific articles in peer-reviewed (that means NON-special interest group) journals linking fruits and veggies to reduced cancer risk, reduced incidence of diabetes and reduced risk of heart disease, while at the same time, publishing THOUSANDS more studies linking meat, dairy, animal protein and fats to increased risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, etc.

This isn't a matter of Gerry's opinion versus yours - this is a matter of scientific fact.

Atkins kills.

Ron J - November 8, 2007 9:50 AM

I'm sorry to disagree with your assumptions Mr. Pugliese, but you apparently don't have a clue what foods are not only allowed, but encouraged on Atkins or similar nutritional approaches to weight control and optimal health. We don't eat an 'all-meat' diet and we certainly don't miss out on the benefits of eating healthy nutrient dense vegetables, which we eat daily, along with fruits and some nuts.

What we do cut out are sugar and carb laden, man-made, refined foods which are essentially 'non-nutrients' and pile on the pounds. We don't eat trans-fats and your accusation about 'eating more cheese and pork rinds' is a total exaggeration and unfounded in truth.

And, I might add that the 'Atkins Diet' is not a 'dead horse' by any means. Atkins, which is now a term that is used to include other similar dietary approaches, is alive and well, growing and thriving.

May I recommend that you pick up a copy of "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes, and award winning science journalist. I believe it might help to dispel some of the myths you have about eating low-carb.

Valerie Jacobsen - November 8, 2007 10:30 AM

What if different people need different kinds of diets? What if the one-size-fits-all approach is the true nutritional folly?

What if I have more insight than anyone else when it comes to how my body feels after eating certain foods? I find that concentrated nutrition (see photos) actually does good things for me!

I feel much better after I eat a modest serving of Parmesan chicken with a side of steamed organic green beans dressed with extra virgin olive oil. (Those who know Atkins, know that this is the real Atkins!)

Packing the tummy doesn't always satisfy the cells. Quantity isn't everything.

row - November 8, 2007 11:40 AM

I agree with gerry the Atkins diet is one of the worst, period.
If you want a diet that looses weight and promotes cancer and heart disease and other numerous health problems, Amber, I say go for it.
Following the"Eat to live" high nutrition diet, which is unlike any other, has been proven to not only reduce weight, but reverse disease.

Amber and others like her, you can defend and eat "the Atkins diet" all you want, it's your health.
This subject has been beat to death,like gerry said. Go into the archives of this blog, it is all there. Atkin's death has been discussed numerous times in great detail.

Kristine - November 8, 2007 12:42 PM

*Deleted as per commenter's request.

Linda Popescu - November 8, 2007 2:25 PM


Your menu of Parmesan chicken and steamed green beans is probably better than what many people eat for dinner, but it could be much, much better. Chicken is a fairly low nutrient food, the parmesan cheese is high in saturated fat and the olive oil contains no nutrients. If you must keep the chicken, get rid of the cheese and try adding a salad with romaine, watercress or arugula and a side of cooked leafy greens like kale or spinach. Finish off with some fresh fruit for dessert.

Amber - November 9, 2007 8:43 PM

I have read transcripts from the study you reference and it seems the participants were eating over 100 grams in carbohydrates for the atkins study which isn't Atkins. The study wasn't long enough and there was no control group.

What is your response to that?

My reference? The transcripts from the actual study!

medbook - November 10, 2007 6:16 AM

Recently I've read from the Washinghton post an article where the Atkins diet is considered as a diet with heart risks.

It's due to high protein intake that cause an increasing of bad cholesterol due a bad activity of liver.

Sincerely I think it's true because I think that doesn't exist the perfect diet.

Every eccesive eating behavior is bad.

It's better:

1) Patience
2) Long terms weight goals
3) Regularity
4) Eat a variety of foods in the right qualtity
5) Exercise

Results guaranteed!

rob - November 14, 2007 12:15 PM

It perfectly simple; whatever is unpleasant is good for you. If it makes you happy and feels good, its bad for you.

That's the low-fat diet (with corresponding exercise program) in a nutshell; a re-hashing of the old Puritanism.

saab - July 21, 2011 10:13 AM

I honestly believed that Dr. Atkins heart troubles were the cause of his diet. Maybe not directly, but it maybe weakened his heart enough so that viruses could attack it.

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