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Dr Atkins: What He Got Right and What He Got Wrong


“All the things I really like to do are either illegal, immoral, or fattening.” – Alexander Woollcott

What did Dr. Robert Atkins say that was so different? He made two very contrarian claims:

1. Americans are fat not because they eat too much fat but because they eat too many carbohydrates.

2. The best way to lose weight is not with a low-fat diet but with a low-carb diet.

This contradicted what doctors and nutritionists had been telling their patients for decades. But not only do I agree with Dr. Atkins’ diagnosis of the cause of American obesity, the best science also agrees. Unfortunately, it has only been in the past couple of years that the low-carb theory has been vindicated. But with mounting scientific evidence, the public view of nutrition is shifting.

New research has prompted even the staunchest critics to take notice. In February of this year, even the mainstream media reported on a landmark study that compared the American Heart Association’s low-fat diet to the Atkins diet — and the Atkins diet caused greater weight loss and lowered cholesterol and triglycerides much more effectively. Other major studies continue to confirm the benefits of a low-carb diet.

Now (unfortunately after Dr. Atkins’ death) comes the strongest proof to date. In May, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published a study that found the Atkins approach beats out the American Heart Association’s low-fat approach for both weight loss and blood-lipid improvement.

Clearly, Atkins was right about the problem: Starches and sugars make Americans fat. But here’s where we part: I do not agree with his dietary solution.

I do not recommend you eat sausage, hot dogs, cheesecake, and chocolate truffles for weight loss or for any other health change. It is true that fat is relatively inert at affecting the hormonal control of your metabolism. But there are other reasons why you do not want to dine on modern Western-derived fat. Fat from the animal-husbandry industry is adulterated because of the unnatural living conditions of the animals. Additionally, all the herbicides, pesticides, toxins, and hormones that the animal has been exposed to collect in the fat. When you eat this animal fat, you are eating from the cesspool of these animal warehouses.

The vegetable fat that you get in the modern Western diet is also an abomination. It is not the same as the fat in our natural environment. Vegetable fats are highly processed to extend their shelf lives. The processing creates unhealthy hydrogenation and cancer-causing “trans” fatty acids. The No. 1 fat used in food processing is corn oil, perhaps the unhealthiest fat of all. The adulteration of our dietary fat is the main reason you should not follow the Atkins diet.

So … what should you eat?

Here are three simple, effective rules you can follow to create a stronger, leaner, more energetic, and healthier you — without eating “diet food” that tastes like cardboard:

1. Make quality protein the focus of all your meals. Eat more than you need to signal your body that “the hunting is good” and liberalize the burning of carbs and fat for energy. Fish, lean meats, eggs, dairy, beans, and nuts are all good sources of protein. Eat as much of them as you like.

2. Limit your consumption of processed carbs and anything made from grains or potatoes. Get your carbs from unprocessed vegetables that grow above the ground.

3. Eat natural, unprocessed fats like virgin olive oil and get your animal fat from free-range or grass-fed animals. These are some of the healthiest foods you can eat (not the health hazards we have been told they are).

(Ed. Note: Dr. Al Sears is the editor of Health Confidential for Men, a publication devoted to men’s health.)

Al Sears has written six books and more than 500 articles in the fields of alternative medicine, anti-aging and nutritional supplementation. He enjoys a worldwide readership of millions spread over 123 countries and has appeared on more than 50 national radio programs, ABC News, CNN and ESPN. In The Doctor’s Heart Cure, Dr. Sears exposes the real causes of the modern epidemic of heart disease with practical how-to advice for building real heart strength and resistance to disease without drugs. It is available in nine languages and remains a bestseller three years after its publication. His 12 Secrets to Virility sheds light on the huge environmental and nutritional problems with virility in our modern world and gives men a step-by step guide for maintaining health, strength and masculinity as they age. It became a bestseller during its first month of release. His latest book Your Best Health Under the Sun addresses the myths of the sun’s dangers and gives readers an action plan for restoring this important natural resource for better mood, strength, energy and nutritional health.Dr. Sears is board certified as a Clinical Nutrition Specialist and was appointed to the international panel of experts at Health Sciences Institute, (HSI) a worldwide information service for alternative nutritional therapies. A master gardener and herbalist, Dr. Sears maintains an herbal apothecary of more than 250 organic herbs used for research, education and treatments. Dr. Sears is the founder and director of The Wellness Research Foundation, conducting original research evaluating natural alternatives to pharmaceutical therapies.Dr. Sears is a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and is board certified in Anti-Aging Medicine. As a pioneer in this new field of medicine, he is an avid researcher and sought-after lecturer to thousands of doctors and health enthusiasts. He is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Youth Sports Coaches Association. As well as being a sports and fitness coach and a lifelong advocate of exercise programs, Dr. Sears is an ACE-certified fitness trainer. He maintains his integrative clinic and research center in Florida, where he has developed novel exercise and nutritional systems transforming the lives of more than 20,000 patients.