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Chewing the fat over Atkins' 'Revolution'

Alan Herson of Darnestown, Md. - and many others - wanted to know more about Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution (Avon, $6.99) by cardiologist Robert C. Atkins. It was No. 2 last year on USA TODAY's annual Best-Selling Books list.

A quick look:

Premise: Dieters can eat unlimited amounts of fat and protein; severe restriction on carbohydrates, including bread, pasta, pretzels, fruit yogurt. The diet restricts carbohydrates "to promote the burning of stored fat," Atkins says.

Word from the author: "I wish my critics would stop focusing on the fact that I allow people to eat bacon or cheese on the Atkins diet, and instead see the diet for what it truly is: the most effective way for people to control their appetite and lose weight through a satisfying and sustainable eating philosophy.

"The real secret to the Atkins diet is it allows people to naturally overcome food obsessions, which is one of the biggest hurdles to lifetime weight loss and long-term health."

Critics' comment: Melinda Hemmelgarn, a registered dietitian and associate state nutrition specialist at the University of Missouri, Columbia, says the book is really similar to the low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet Atkins published in 1972.

The advice in the book runs contrary to that of most health organizations, including the National Cancer Institute and American Heart Association, which recommend a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

She warns that the Atkins diet is high in saturated fat, which is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. If unlimited quantities of steak, cheese, eggs and cream sound great at first, give it some time, Hemmelgarn says. After a while, you'll be craving bread, pasta, rice, mashed potatoes and corn. Those high-carbohydrate dietary staples will become forbidden fruit, and therefore the focus of your attention.

Nutritionist Chris Rosenbloom, an associate professor of nutrition at Georgia State University, says she has been seeing patients who've been on this diet and regained all the weight plus more. "It's not a realistic way to eat for a lifetime."

By Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY

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