Atkins Tops Diet Study

The Atkins diet has once again come out on top.

The largest and longest-running comparison of diet plans found the low-carbohydrate Atkins regimen produced greater weight loss than three other popular programs — the Zone, the Ornish and the U.S. nutritional guidelines.

The average weight reduction was small, and participants started regaining pounds by the end of the one-year study, according to the report in today’s Journal of the American Medical Assn. Still, Atkins dieters — who consume prodigious amounts of long-demonized saturated fats but shun carbs, such as pasta and breads — experienced significant drops in blood pressure and cholesterol.

The finding showed that even a small weight reduction can improve overall health, researchers said.

Atkins dieters lost an average of 10.4 pounds after one year, according to the report, compared with 5.7 pounds for those on a traditional balanced diet based on federal nutritional guidelines, 4.8 pounds for the high-carbohydrate Ornish diet and 3.5 pounds for the Zone diet, which calls for a set ratio of carbohydrate, protein and fat.

The study’s results cast further doubt on the benefits of low-fat, high-carb diets, which have been touted for decades as the model of healthy eating. This study confirms the importance of reducing carbohydrates,” said Dr. Frank Hu, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, who was not involved in the research. “Bagels, white bread, potatoes and soft drinks are the real bad guys in our diet.”

The healthiest diet almost certainly is one high in proteins, low in fat, and that eschews processed carbohydrates almost altogether. People on Atkins would be better off eating chicken breast and legumes rather than bacon and eating large quantities of steamed vegetables and smaller amounts of red meat.

The problem, though, is that eating that way requires fighting off our body’s intense desire for fats and sweets, which is especially hard on a hectic schedule, two careers, and so forth. The advantage of Atkins over the other diets in the study is that it’s easier to sustain.

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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. vnjagvet says:

    And for some unusual people like me (with adult onset diabetes and a rare cholesterol profile), the only kind that is effective and safe.

    It only took fifty years and the Berkely Labs to figure it out.

    The key to this is that each individual is different. One size definitely does not fit all.