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The Physicians Committee

NEWS RELEASE July 8, 2002

Doctors Weigh in on

Nutrition Experts Warn Against

WASHINGTON—Doctors and dietitians with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine are available for interviews on two major nutrition stories—a cover article in yesterday's New York Times Magazine about the Atkins Diet and a cover story in this week's Time Magazine on vegetarian diets.

The NYT story "What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?" explores the claim that Dr. Atkins and other high-fat proponents make—that carbohydrates, not fat, have caused America's obesity epidemic.

PCRM president and nutrition researcher Neal Barnard, M.D., rebuts the Atkins claims and points to a vast body of scientific literature showing that the thinnest and healthiest people on the planet—Asians consuming rice-based diets and vegetarians eating a variety of grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits—eat plenty of carbohydrates.

"Like the fabled blind men groping to understand an elephant, the Atkins camp has turned a piece of dietary truth into a whopping misconception," says Barnard. "The ‘carbophobes' point out that diets rich in sugars (or in starches that release sugars quickly) are likely to spark the release of insulin, which, in turn, slows down fat-burning. But most foods rich in complex carbohydrates—such as beans, vegetables, most fruits, and even some grain products—cause no insulin overreaction, are extremely healthful, and boost overall metabolism. Generally speaking, the carbs that present problems for some dieters are refined grains and potatoes, which tend to release sugars more rapidly than other foods."

In fact, a recent PCRM weight-loss study on low-fat vegan diets showed that the more carbohydrates the research participants ate, the more weight they lost.

"The Atkins Diet appears to be as harmful as we've always thought it was," says Barnard. "Yes, it throws the body into a state of ketosis, a metabolic derangement that temporarily burns fat. But it misses the fiber and antioxidants that protect against cancer and other serious diseases."

Regarding this week's Time Magazine cover story, "Should We All Be Vegetarians?": PCRM applauds Time for giving vegetarian diets front-and-center attention but has a few beefs with the article.

"We're delighted that Time has recognized the many health benefits of vegetarian diets," says Barnard. "Unfortunately, the article repeats many of the myths about plant-based diets that were long ago proven false. Vegetarians actually have better overall nutrient intake than meat-eaters do, for example. Vegetarians have less heart disease, lower cancer rates, and are slimmer than meat-eaters," says Barnard.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Jeanne S. McVey

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