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Choosing a Diet Plan That's Right for You

May 27, 2003

Re "Studies Shore Up Atkins' Claims of Burning Off Fat," May 22: Of course the Atkins diet "works." It's tantamount to hitting a nail with a sledgehammer. When 33% of the population is considered insulin-resistant (and many overweight people are insulin-resistant) and you cut out carbohydrates (OK, you can eat 20 grams a day), insulin levels are going to decrease. Not only will the body decrease its ability to store "excess" calories and/or carbohydrates as fat, the body will also more effectively allow stored fat to be burned.

Ketosis is just a bonus; it happens fast and you lose your appetite. Unfortunately, you lose a lot of muscle mass as well. This loss of muscle mass just adds to the big numbers of "weight loss." It also sets people up for rapid regain -- and ultimately a fattier body composition unless they are doing some significant physical activity.

As a nutrition consultant I have advocated a moderated carbohydrate diet to my insulin-resistant clients for the last 10 years. What I have learned is that it is more important to fit the food plan around the client.

When individuals learn how their body metabolizes food and how their environment affects that process, they have the tools to manage their weight and improve their health and fitness successfully. It is not helpful to continue the debate about which diet is best (more protein and fat or more carbohydrates and less fat). The real question for any one person is, "What is the best balance of carbohydrate, fat and protein for my body, my metabolism, my lifestyle?" Unfortunately, current research models miss the point entirely.

Bonnie Y. Modugno

Registered Dietitian

Santa Monica

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Even in the induction (beginning) phase of Atkins you are supposed to eat three cups of vegetables a day. That is not "few ... vegetables." That is considerably more veggies than most people get in their normal diet. Fruits are encouraged once the Atkins follower moves out of induction and into maintenance. Also, there is a tremendous amount of low-carb replacement products for breads and cereals and other grains that are very healthful, much more so than the mainstream products in grocery stores. As long as skeptics choose to not fully research the Atkins plan and low-carb eating, falsehoods will continue to be perpetuated. Low-carb eating is not for everyone but, for many of us, it is the answer to avoiding obesity and diabetes.

Anne Linehan

Sterling, Va.

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I'm having trouble getting into my wedding dress, so I've been given lots of advice to try high-protein diets, such as the Atkins and Zone diets. But the problem with these diets, according to John Robbins, author of "Diet for a New America," is that they are only helpful in the short term. In the long term the process of ketosis can cause "muscle breakdown, nausea, dehydration, headaches, light-headedness, irritability, bad breath, kidney problems and increased risk of heart disease." I'll stick to my vegetables and ask my tailor to make that stupid dress fit me.

Pam Adelman

Studio City

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