Make That Steak a Bit Smaller, Atkins Advises Today’s Dieters

After advising dieters for years to satisfy their hunger with liberal amounts of steak, eggs and other saturated fats, the promoters of the Atkins diet now say that people on their plan should limit the amount of red meat and saturated fat they eat.

Responding to years of criticism from scientists that the Atkins version of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat regimen might lead to heart disease and other health problems, the director of research and education for Atkins Nutritionals, Colette Heimowitz, is telling health professionals in seminars around the country that only 20 percent of a dieter’s calories should come from saturated fat. Atkins Nutritionals was set up by Dr. Robert C. Atkins to sell Atkins products and promote the diet.

An Atkins spokesman said Ms. Heimowitz has been giving these seminars for five years, but that they do not represent a departure from the original premise of the diet.

Atkins representatives say that Dr. Atkins, who died last year, always maintained that people should eat other food besides red meat, but had difficulty getting that message out. There has been a revision in expressing how the diet should be followed, not in the diet itself, they say.

But officials have not made the revision clear to consumers, and Atkins is widely known as the diet that lets you eat all the meat you want.

Dr. Atkins did more than anyone else to popularize the idea that dieters could eat fat and lose weight. As millions followed his advice, sales of red meat soared and steakhouses grew in popularity. His book “Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution” has sold 15 million copies. Atkins Nutritionals reported $100 million in revenues for 2002.

The change comes as Atkins faces competition from other popular low-carbohydrate diets that call for less saturated fat. A book on one such plan, the South Beach Diet, came out in April 2003 and has sold more than five million copies. Atkins representatives made the revision, Ms. Heimowitz said, because “we want physicians to feel comfortable with this diet, and we want people who are going to their physicians with this diet to feel comfortable.”

This makes sense and, indeed, it was pretty clear to anyone with a clue that eating copious amounts of saturated fat wasn’t the healthiest of choices.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Leo says:

    Hmm, my father’s average blood sugar, bad cholesterol, and triglycerides (though that last one might be misspelled) were vastly improved under classic Atkins.

    Of course, gorging has never been part of the diet, just eating.

  2. SwampWoman says:

    Yeah, I did the Atkins thing, too, and the LDL cholesterol went to 74. Funny, but I never read the Atkins diet book as permission to eat a half a steer per meal and included lots of things like fish, turkey and chicken in the diet.

    Unfortunately (G) I fell off around the holidays, and need to remove the evidence of the self-indulgence.

  3. James Joyner says:

    I’ve done some combo of Atkins/South Beach for nearly two years now. But I just took the broad principle–eat more protein and much less starch–and did it on my own. I eat more meat than generally recommended, but it’s either lean beef or chicken breast, mainly the latter.

  4. Paul says:

    So….. let’s review….

    If you eat less carbs and you eat less fat and less protein, you lose weight… Go figure!

  5. James Joyner says:

    Well, no. It’s mainly carbs. If you’re amazingly good at cutting down carbs, you’ll lose weight. But saturated fat has other issues longer term. So, lots of protein but derived from leaner cuts of meat, legumes, etc.