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Atkins Diet Confusion

Atkins Diet confusion has increased in the past decade. And the proliferation of other low carb diets has made the confusion even worse. Are you confused? Maybe you are and you don’t even know you’re confused. So, let’s clarify.

The confusion started when Stanford University’s pioneering endocrinologist, Gerald Reaven, discovered “Syndrome X” (aka "insulin resistance" or "metabolic syndrome"). Syndrome X refers to a predisposition to diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Reaven’s recommendation for lowering risk is to reduce your intake of highly refined carbohydrates. This is not the same as “low carb.” As a matter of fact, Reaven makes it quite clear that he does not recommend the Atkins Diet.

The phrase “low carb” implies that all carbohydrates are the same and equally “bad” (including whole grains, fruits and vegetables) and should, therefore, be kept to a “low” percentage of total calories. But that’s not what Syndrome X research indicates. It shows that highly processed carbohydrates, especially refined grains and sugars (we’ll call these bad carbs) cause a high gycemic response. So it's a "good" idea to eliminate "bad" carbs from your diet.

But many other carbs don't create a strong glycemic response and help maintain good health. Since these foods are also high in essential vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber, studies show that “good” carbs promote safe, healthy, permanent weight loss and maintenance. So it’s another “good” idea to include “good” carbs in your diet.

Low carbohydrate diets have been around for over a hundred years, but in 1973, cardiologist Dr. Robert Atkins started marketing the idea. He was a master marketer. When Syndrome X and the glycemic response index appeared in the 90’s, Atkins latched onto this research for a free ride. A good percentage of the studies referenced on Atkins' website are really based on Syndrome X.

Since the term Syndrome X was coined and publicized there have been numerous hybrid diets which use the glycemic response index. But, many still lean, at least to some degree, towards the Atkins or low carb theory.

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