Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Here's the skinny on diets

Atkins cuts the fat as South Beach plan catches on

By Peggy O'Farrell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Avoiding carbs?

There's something else you should know now: You also should start limiting fat, say the folks at Atkins Nutritionals.

Atkins Nutritionals officials are telling Atkins disciples to limit their saturated fat intake to no more than 20 percent of their total calories. The new directive is a response to health concerns and compeition from other diets.

The plan, created by Dr. Robert C. Atkins in Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution (HarperCollins; $13.95), originally encouraged followers to eat all the bacon, cheese and steak they wanted as long as they avoided potatoes, bread, fruit and pasta.

Atkins' success spawned a slew of competitors. The South Beach Diet (Rodale; $24.95), The New SugarBusters (Ballantine; $24.95), Good Carbs, Bad Carbs (Marlowe and Co.; $9.95) and The Zone (Regan Books; $25) all skew toward lower-fat proteins, including fish and chicken, and allow more fruits, vegetables and greens.

Low-carb plans, especially Atkins, have sparked a fury among nutrition experts, who contend that the diets are too high in fat and too low in fiber and many key nutrients. The American Heart Association worries that the Atkins plan could contribute to heart disease and stroke. Some critics argue that avoiding fruits, vegetables and grains also could increase the risk for certain cancers.

Food makers have also responded, cranking out "low-carb" versions of everyday favorites like ice cream, cereals, cookies and bread.

Florida's Department of Citrus is battling the carb bias: The agency plans to tweak its marketing to convince consumers that orange juice can, indeed, fit into a low-carb lifestyle. The South Beach Diet puts fresh, unsweetened orange juice in the "limited" category. Reconstituted orange juice can be found in the "very limited" column.

Whole oranges, however, fall into the "good" category of fruits allowed in Dr. Arthur Agatson's best-selling diet plan and its companion book, The South Beach Diet Good Fats Good Carbs Guide.

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