Increased Risk of Cancer Associated with The Atkins Diet
This is part of a weeklong review of the popular Dr. Atkins high-protein low-carbohydrate diet-style. See Monday's post for an overview. The following is from Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live:
Robert Atkins's books, as well as other authors advocating high-protein weight-loss plans, recommend diets for health and weight loss with significantly more animal protein than is typically consumed by the average American. 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.1 You can lose some weight on the Atkins Diet, but you run the risk of losing your health at the same time.
Atkins recommends that you eat primarily high-fat, high-protein, fiberless animal foods and attempt to eliminate carbohydrates from your diet. Atkins's menus average 60-75 percent of calories from fat and contain no whole grains and nor fruit. Analyses of the proposed menus show animal products make up more than 90 percent of the calories in the diet.
Hundreds of scientific studies have documented the link between animal products and various cancers. Though it would be wrong to say that animal foods are the sole cause of cancer it is now clear that increased consumption of animal products combined with the decreased consumption of fresh produce has the most powerful effect on increasing one's risk for various kinds of cancer. Atkins convinces his followers that he knows better than leading nutritional research scientists who proclaim that "meat consumption is an important factor in the etiology of human cancer."2
Atkins devotees adopt a dietary pattern completely opposite of what is recommended by the leading research scientists studying the link between diet and cancer.3 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.4 Scientific studies show a clear and strong dose-response relationship between cancers of the digestive tract, bladder, and prostate with low fruit consumption.5 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.6 There is also a striking consistency in many scientific investigations that show a reduction in incidence of colorectal and stomach cancer with the intake of whole grains.7 Colon cancer is strongly associated with the consumption of animal products.8 And these researchers have concluded that the varying level of colon cancer in the low-incidence population compared with the high-incidence population could not be explained by "protective" factors such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals; rather, it was influenced almost totally by the consumption of animal products and fat.
More saturated fat & less fruit = Higher cancer risk
Less saturated fat & more fruit = Lower cancer risk
There are numerous ways to lose weight. However "effective" they may be, some are just not safe. We wouldn't advocate smoking cigarettes or snorting cocaine simply because doing so would be effective in promoting weight loss. Advocating a weight-loss program based on severe carbohydrate restriction is irresponsible. You may pay a substantial price--your life! As was the case with Dr. Atkins's own death, most likely a heart attack that resulted in the slip and fall.
Check back tomorrow for a review of the short and long-term dangers of high-fat diets.
1. Word Health Organization. 1996. Food balance sheets, online at http://apps.fao.org.cvs.down.
2. Tavani, A., C. La Vecchia, S. Gallus, et al. 2000. Red meat and cancer risk: a study in Italy. Int. J. Cancer 86 (3): 425-28.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Jacobs, D.R., J. Slavin, and L. Marquart. 1995. Whole grain intake and cancer: a review of the literature. Nutrition and Cancer 24: 221-29.
8. O'Keefe, S.J., M. Kidd, G. Espitalier-Noel, and P. Owira. 1999. Rarity of colon cancer in Africans is associated with low animal product consumption, not fiber. Am. J. Gastroenterol. 94 (5): 1373-80.