11/20/02 - Atkins Diet Gets Boost in Study

Millions of Americans have tried the Atkins diet, hoping the high fat, low carbohydrate plan will take off the pounds. Many medical experts find it hard to believe, but a new study gives support to the controversial diet.
In a small controlled study, researchers found the people on the Atkins diet lost weight, and their level of good cholesterol increased. But one Heartland dietician says that doesn't mean you should jump on the Atkins bandwagon just yet.
Dietician Amy Hutson says, "They always gain it back because it's not an easy way to eat."
Just ask Drew Wright. A commercial producer, he's always on the go. He hoped the Atkins diet would be the best way to drop off the pounds. "I wanted something that wouldn't take forever and showed results quickly," Wright says. And it did. The first time he was on it, Wright lost 25 pounds in two months by only eating foods high in protein. "You're eating meat, cheese, some leafy vegetables," Wright says. "If it has starch in it, it's out, no bread, no desserts."
But once Wright got off the strict regimen, he slowly gained the pounds back. Hutson says she's seen this before, because the Atkins diet is just a short term fix." In this country, in this day and age, we're not interested in short fixes, we're interested in long term fixes," Hutson says. "We're interested in healthy lifestyles."
But, a new study suggests the diet may help promote a healthy lifestyle by boosting good cholesterol levels. In a six month study, researchers found people on the Atkins plan lost an average of 31 pounds. There was also an increase in HDL or good cholesterol. Hutson says you usually see an increase in HDL anytime a person loses weight, not just on Atkins. She added that no long term studies have been done to see how the diet affects your body.
"Whenever you eat a lot of protein there's a lot of breakdown of different nutrients," Hutson says. "It's really hard on your kidneys to diffuse those nutrients out of your body." Even though he had short term success, Wright doubts he'll do the Atkins diet again. "I think there's other ways to eat things you enjoy and lose weight," he says.
A much more intensive study of the Atkins diet is underway right now. Meanwhile, there's possible evidence that the diet may be dangerous. Doctors in Columbia, Missouri are looking into whether Atkins contributed to the death of a 15 year-old girl last week.