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The Scotsman

The Scotsman
Wed 13 Aug 2003
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Expert's new attack on Atkins diet


DISCIPLES of the Atkins diet are gambling with their future health, a leading nutrition expert has claimed.

Dr Susan Jebb, from the Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research Centre in Cambridge, said it would be "negligent" to recommend the diet to anyone who was overweight.

Dr Jebb added that the claims made for the Atkins diet were based on "pseudo-science".

She argued that, despite a number of small studies, no-one knew what the long-term effects of the diet might be. But data gained from large diet investigations involving thousands of participants had set alarm bells ringing.

The Atkins diet cuts out carbohydrates and boosts consumption of protein without having to avoid fatty foods.

It is a favourite of celebrities such as Geri Halliwell, Catherine Zeta Jones, Renee Zellweger and Minnie Driver.

Dr Robert Atkins, who developed the diet, believed that carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice and starchy vegetables over-stimulated the production of insulin, resulting in hunger and weight gain. But Dr Jebb said the diet was a leap in the dark because it meant such a dramatic change in eating habits.

For most people, protein accounts for a mere 15 per cent of the calorie intake, but much higher levels are consumed by people following the Atkins diet.

Dr Jebb said: "We simply do not know the long-term health implications, and it’s such a profound change from what we’re doing at the moment.

"I certainly think we should be adopting a precautionary principle in terms of public health."

Dr Jebb’s warning comes two months after two teams of scientists in the United States declared that the Atkins diet was effective and safe.

The two studies, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the diet resulted in more weight loss than conventional low-fat diets.

But Dr Jebb said that these studies and others focusing on the Atkins diet were too small, too short and too limited to provide any evidence that was meaningful.

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