The claimed benefits of the controversial low-carbohydrate Atkins diet have been reaffirmed in two new studies, one of which is the longest study to date.
"I think it's good news for Atkins dieters," says Linda Stern, who led the first study of 132 obese patients at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Philadelphia, US.
The diet was devised by the late US doctor Robert Atkins. To lose weight, devotees avoid carbohydrates and consume more protein and fat instead.
Both new studies found that subjects on the Atkins diet shed significant amounts of weight without harmful effects on blood fats and sugars. But the studies have failed to silence critics of the diet, who want the US government to investigate alleged adverse effects, informs newscientist.com
According to mlive.com, the strength of the conclusions is limited by high dropout rates among participants, as well as a host of other factors. The studies -- one of which was funded by Atkins -- leave unanswered numerous questions about the long-term safety of low-carb diets.
Also significant, in light of the boom in low-carb processed foods like ice cream and breads: Study participants ate mostly whole foods like meats and vegetables, and almost no processed products. "It's hard to tell what the new products would do" when used in a diet, says Eric Westman, an author of one of the studies, conducted at Duke University.
The findings, which appear in the Annals of Internal Medicine, are certain to add more fuel to the already fast-growing low-carb food industry. So far this year, there have been 1,051 low-carb new-product launches, compared with just two in 1999, according to market research firm Mintel Group.
In the first study, The Atkins Foundation helped fund the research by Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., but had no involvement in the work. In it, 120 obese adults between 18 and 65 were randomly allocated to an Atkins or to a low-fat diet.
After six months, the average weight loss on Atkins was 26 pounds, and on the low-fat diet 14 pounds, the team reported in "Annals of Internal Medicine."
A second study -- not funded by Atkins -- in the same issue of the journal followed 132 obese adults, most suffering from diabetes, for 12 months. Half were assigned to an Atkins-like diet, half to a low-fat diet.
By 12 months, the low-carb dieters had lost 11-19 pounds, the low-fat dieters 7-19 pounds. But blood changes favored the Atkins dieters -- those with diabetes also controlled their blood sugar better on the Atkins diet, reports washingtontimes.com