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Weight-loss gurus debate fad diets

MSNBC Feb. 24 2000

The heavyweights of the diet industry faced off Thursday. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman called America’s most popular diet gurus to Washington for a no-holds-barred discussion of the many different and opposing diet plans. The result? A food fight, of course.

LIKE MILLIONS of Americans, Mark Gianopulos wants to lose weight and has tried many fad diets, including the grapefruit diet and the under-1,200-calories-a-day diet.
       “In general, I just never had any success at all,” he said.
       No success until lately, that is, when he went on the controversial Atkins diet, which advocates lots of eggs and meat but no carbohydrates.
       For many of the 97 million overweight adults in the United States, there’s confusion over what really works. So Thursday, the Agriculture Department brought together the nation’s most widely followed diet “gurus” for what it called the “Great Nutrition Debate.”

Among them was Dr. Robert Atkins, cardiologist and author of “The Diet Revolution” — 10 million books sold so far — the one who hates carbohydrates, but wants you to eat meat and eggs to lose weight and stop heart disease.
       “It’s easy to follow, easy to comply with. You can go to restaurants, order from the best of the main courses, you eat-in luxuriously,” he said.
       But Dr. Dean Ornish, internist and author of “Eat More, Weigh Less,” who promotes a diet based on fruits and vegetables, says the Atkins diet is nonsense. “Telling people that pork rinds and sausage is good for you is an appealing way to sell books,” Ornish said. “But I think it is irresponsible … I would love to see some data from Dr. Atkins showing that he can actually get reversal of heart disease … measuring the underlying heart disease process.”

 

       “We are working on it,” Atkins said in response.
       “Well, good, I’d love to see it,” said Ornish.
       “We aren’t as good a fundraiser as you are … we have to dig into our own pockets,” said Atkins..
       Keith-Thomas Ayoob, a nutritionist at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, said of Atkins, “He said he is working on the data, but he has been making this claim for a long time.”
       “No, I haven’t,” Atkins said.

 

“You just did,” Ayoob replied. “And you don’t have the evidence to back it up. Now this diet has been out there 30 years, or close to 30 years.”
       Atkins: “And I haven’t been able to fund this study. I’ve asked and asked.”
       Ayoob: “Excuse me, excuse me. Ten million books in print and you can’t fund a study?”
       Atkins: “Now I can.”
       Also in attendance were:
* Dr. Morrison Bethea, heart specialist and co-author of “Sugar Busters: Cut Sugar to Trim Fat,” who advises cutting out refined sugar.
       “Remember, most fat on our bodies comes from sugar, not fat,” he said.
* Barry Sears, biochemist and author of “The Zone,” who says you have to balance starches and protein to regulate body chemistry.
       “If your numbers are in the right zone, I don’t care if you are eating Pop Tarts, keep eating the Pop Tarts. They are working for you,” he said.
* Dr. John McDougall, internist and author of several diet books, who loves carbohydrates.
       “This is a no-brainer,” he said.

 

So when the dust settled, was there any consensus?
       Only that Americans should eat less, exercise more and cut down on sugar. After that, there was no agreement among the panelists.
       “We’ve looked at the scientific evidence and the research and that tells us that diets don’t work,” Ayoob said.
       That leaves dieters like Mark Gianopulos to guess. He still likes the Atkins diet.
       “It worked so well that I stayed with it,” he said.
       But for most, the experts say, it’s not easy.
       

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