Remembering Kevin Moore

T. Colin Campbell Urges Action On New Atkins Book, Says It Is 'Very Misguided' On Science

On March 2, 2010, the long-awaited release of The New Atkins For A New You book hit bookstore shelves with anxious anticipation from people looking for the latest science and information behind a healthy carbohydrate-restricted lifestyle change that was given prominent worldwide attention by the late, great Dr. Robert C. Atkins himself beginning in the early 1970s. Featuring three of the most prominent and highly-respected researchers of low-carb diets in the entire world as authors–Dr. Eric Westman from Duke University, Dr. Jeff Volek from The University of Connecticut, and Dr. Stephen Phinney from The University of California-Davis–this new book has been making shock waves in the publishing world! It debuted at #5 on the New York Times bestseller list for Paperback Advice and has remained a consistent seller ever since. When I spoke with Dr. Westman at the recent Nutrition & Metabolism Symposium in Seattle, Washington about how many copies were being sold, he said it was probably around 15,000 copies a week! This is fantastic news considering much of the media has all but written off low-carb living as a passing fad that died with Dr. Atkins seven years ago.

But not everyone is happy about the tremendous success this new Atkins book is receiving. It should not at all be surprising that the leading voices of dissent are those in the radical vegetarian/vegan community led by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. Heralded by those who eschew meat in their diet for his January 2005 bestselling book release The China Study, Campbell is a real hero to the vegans for what they think is his monumental contribution to their cause. However, the book has been shown to have some pretty serious flaws in it as exposed by Chris Masterjohn in this critical review. And low-carb antithesis Anthony Colpo also has a pretty scathing look at what he describes as “More Vegan Nonsense.” So when The New Atkins For A New You was released, Campbell was looked to by vegetarians and vegans to give them guidance about how to respond. He gladly obliged.

In a recent newsletter he sent out to his subscribers, Campbell told his supporters to go to his one-star Amazon review of The New Atkins For A New You and rate it as “helpful” to make it look like there is massive opposition to this book. I obtained the newsletter that was e-mailed to his database with the subject line “Vote on Dr. Campbell’s Review of The New Atkins for a New You on Amazon,” it states that Campbell had been asked to give his opinion on the Atkins diet “movement” and that he had written “a brief commentary as a critique” of the new Atkins book.

This is not a full review of the empirical evidence. Rather, it is addressed more to the manner in which the information on the Atkins type diet has been communicated to the public, as with this new book. Dr. Campbell considers the advocacy of this type of dietary lifestyle to be very misguided, both in its interpretation of the scientific evidence and in the manner in which it is conveyed to the public. Please read Dr. Campbell’s statement and vote on whether you find the review “helpful” or “unhelpful” by checking the box at the bottom of the Amazon page.

It seems that Campbell is concerned that the Atkins/low-carb lifestyle is “very misguided,” that the “interpretation of the scientific evidence” is sketchy, and that the marketing of the plan to the public is somehow fooling them. Hoo boy, where do you start with this? You might recall I had a brief run-in with him in November 2009 where he states many of these same points against the Atkins diet. So I’m not going to rehash every little point in Campbell’s review, but let’s take a look at just a few of his primary points of contention to see what all the bellyaching is about and why it’s much ado about nothing.

First, Campbell claims Dr. Westman, Dr. Volek, and Dr. Phinney “misuse scientific evidence” throughout the book. They cite 50 studies that have come along in the past five years that show there is a preponderance of evidence supporting this way of eating. Campbell says Dr. Atkins tried to do the same thing without having the science to back it up, but that’s not what we have with these three authors. They are the actual scientists involved in studying this nutritional approach and have put in the time and effort to let their research dictate what is factual. To question the integrity of three prominent researchers is pretty bold, Dr. Campbell! I can personally attest that each of these men are scientists in the truest sense of the word and are only pursuing what their results are showing them. And it’s clearly pointing to the destructive nature of carbohydrate as well as the health-promoting properties of dietary fat consumption, including saturated fat.

Just because you disagree doesn’t make their scientific method and results invalid. Is every study you disagree with “seriously flawed,” Dr. Campbell? Much of the first half of his review of the New Atkins For A New You book is his whining and complaining over basic study methodology and more specifically this fantastic diet comparison study by vegetarian researcher Dr. Christopher Gardner at Stanford University who found the Atkins diet outperformed all other diets examined for both weight loss and health improvements. Campbell says there was clear bias by the researchers and The Journal Of The American Medical Association in publishing that peer-reviewed data. Riiiiiiiiight!

Second, what’s up with Campbell’s lecture about using the shortened version of the word “carbohydrate?” It’s been culturally accepted by our society that when you talk about carbohydrate-restricted diets they’re referred to as “low-carb.” And that macronutrient with the really long four-syllable word is easily shortened to the catchy one-syllable “carb.” Campbell’s contention that Dr. Atkins made this a “contrived marketing word” in order to “question the recommendations being made at that time to consume more whole vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains” is just ridiculous. He says the real intent of using the term “carb” is to “stigmatize” a plant-based diet like he describes. No it’s not, Dr. Campbell.

If you had actually read The New Atkins For A New You book, then you would know that the authors include upwards of six cups of green leafy and non-starchy vegetables a day. They’re not opposed to including plants in their healthy low-carb plan, but rather they explain there are benefits to consuming fat that comes from meat and other sources. This is the real source of your bone to pick with them and that’s your problem to deal with. They clearly distinguish what the quality carbohydrates are in their book while explaining why most carbs need to be avoided. It’s not some devious manipulative plan schemed up by us low-carbers to destroy your cherished vegetarian diet. The world doesn’t all revolve around you, so don’t think so highly of yourself.

Third, Campbell contends that the new Atkins advocates “higher protein consumption” and it simply does not. A quality low-carb diet is defined in the book as high in dietary fat, adequate in protein, and low in carbohydrates. And, yes, that includes meat products which are naturally high in fat and moderate in protein when you don’t opt for the lean meats. Ideally, you’re looking at a diet with a fat/protein/carbohydrate ratio around 70/20/10. Now, I wasn’t very good at math when I was in school, but it looks to me like dietary fat consumption is THREE AND HALF TIMES HIGHER than protein. I think that easily qualifies as describing this as a HIGH-FAT diet and not a high-protein one, Dr. Campbell. Many of us who eat low-carb sometimes even push the protein a little lower to around 15 percent of calories while raising our dietary fat even more. And that’s your main problem again.

Fat with adequate amounts of protein is satiating for people who choose the healthy low-carb lifestyle. If we attempted to consume your “plant-based diet of mixed vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains and tubers” then we would be malnourished, hungry, and craving the fat essential for our health. No thank you! In fact, an argument could be made that consuming high amounts of those foods will lead to many of the exact “serious diseases” you claim are brought on by protein consumption, including cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and certain autoimmune diseases plus the addition of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and nutrient deficiency. Why don’t you ever talk about the serious health complications from eating a vegetarian diet that Lierre Keith shares in The Vegetarian Myth happened to her, Dr. Campbell? Your silence is deafening!

Finally, it seems Campbell’s biggest problem with this new Atkins book is the fact that it has “Atkins” in the title. I’m sure he was jumping for joy when Dr. Atkins slipped on the icy sidewalk in New York City in 2003 and died because he thought that meant there would be no more future books with his name on it. But he was wrong! The principles espoused by Dr. Atkins for upwards of three decades live on in 2010 and beyond and are even more relevant and scientifically-backed thanks to the efforts of true scientists like Westman, Volek, Phinney, and others. They’re the ones doing the research despite the serious lack of funding for such studies and they are putting themselves on the front lines of the preeminent health debate of our generation. For you to smear their good names simply because you hated and still loathe Dr. Atkins all these years after his death for daring to promote something that goes against everything you believe is true is utterly despicable, Dr. Campbell. You really should be ashamed of yourself for your childish response to a serious, well-researched, and incredible contribution to the nutritional conversation like The New Atkins For A New You.

You ask why people who support Atkins/low-carb don’t try your “whole foods, plant-based diet?” Why should we when we’ve found what works for us. If you want to eat all the potatoes, whole grain breads, corn, rice, and tofu lollipops you could ever want, then knock yourself out, Dr. Campbell. But the people who read my columns know they can’t have those foods or it will produce such an insulin rush that their blood sugar would be completely out of whack. I’ve recently discovered for myself that I have to be in a hyperketogenic state in order to best manage my weight and corresponding metabolic markers. This includes a very high-fat, adequate protein, and low-carbohydrate diet consisting of butter, eggs, full-fat grass-fed beef, full-fat cheese, and just a few vegetables. Otherwise, I gain weight and my health is negatively impacted. Your vegetarian diet won’t work for Jimmy Moore and the millions more who have found low-carb is their answer. I’m glad eating vegetables only works for you and the people you have convinced to eat that way who have obtained success. But it is not a way of eating that is universal for everyone. Refusing to acknowledge there is no “one-size-fits-all” diet is downright foolish on your part.

Apparently the memo has gotten out to the vegetarians and they’re voting like madmen on Campbell’s Amazon review of The New Atkins For A New You as “helpful.” So how about making your voice heard and vote on his review as well? While you’re at it, read my review of the book and check whether you think it was “helpful” or “unhelpful.” One famous person who took Campbell’s call to action to heart was radio host John Tesh who recently went on a rant on his radio show about the new Atkins book. Here’s what he said during his anti-Atkins lecture to his listeners in late March 2010 along with my response to his arguments:


It never ceases to amaze me the depths of degradation that the vegetarians and vegans will lower themselves to in order to prop themselves up. I suppose this column will raise a big ruckus with the Campbell-loving veg-heads who obey his every command and that’s fine. They need to know what a farce he is and that his personal disgust for anything that promotes meat-eating is not wise nutritional advice for everyone. Like I said in Lesson #12 of my book 21 Life Lessons From Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb, “Whatever you do, don’t rile up the vegetarians.” Oooops! Too late for that now.

  • Nice post, Jimmy! I was in a Border’s book store the other day and at the end of many of the aisles, there were vegan/vegetarian books. The veg followers are loud and very sure they are right. It will take a lot of patient explanation of the right way of eating to undo the harm that they do to everyone.

  • Greg

    Is he STILL going off on that obsession with the word “carb”? Last time I got into it with him on your Amazon thread he was making a big deal about that, when he wasn’t engaging in hearsay about Dr. Atkins and making Ad Hominem attacks on everyone else. I tried to ask him about it and explain that if “protein” and “fat” were longer than two and one syllables respectively, writers would probably shorten them too, but he wouldn’t have any of it. What a ridiculous fixation!

    • He’s got a pretty obsessive personality to say the least! I think he needs more fat in his diet.

  • Michelle from Durham

    Jimmy, I do not understand why vegetarians/vegans are so radical. I mean, if you want to eat like that, eat like that. But do not tell me what I am eating is wrong because I have kept my 60 pounds off going on three year and not gained any of my weight back. Being a vegetarian/vegan does not work for everybody. Since eating low-carb, I eat way more vegetables than I have ever eaten, way more than when I was eating low-fat. I had a huge salad with chicken breast for lunch today. Everyone should do what works for them. And by the way, I know a lot of fat vegetarians because they eat way too many carbohydrates and do get not enough protein.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Michelle! Well said!

  • Peter Silverman

    Both low carb and low fat dieters attack each other’s research, and they both point out, correctly, that the research is not convincing, since all studies have big limitations. I think Taubes is right when he says we really don’t have good studies showing which diets are healthier in the long run. In the meantime, trashing each other’s studies is a waste of time.

    • Peter, there is a difference between most low-carb advocates and these vegetarian/vegans. The low-carb community openly acknowledges that low-carb may not be for everyone and that people should choose the plan that will work for them. You NEVER EVER EVER EVER hear this from a low-fat/vegetarian supporter. That’s a HUGE philosophical difference that bears mentioning and is indicative of the vitriolic nature of those who choose to avoid eating fat in their diet.

  • Love your post, and your blog! I don’t conform to any one style of eating but I really get annoyed when people try to fit me into a box. Even though I enjoy vegetarian meals every now and again, I love meat and I make no apology for it. I don’t eat wheat products and I truly believe that low carbing is one of the healthiest ways of eating.

    Not everyone can be the same religion, not everyone agrees on politics and not everyone likes skinny jeans. lol. I mean when will small minded people realise that there is no right way of eating, only the right way of eating FOR YOU!

  • Felix Olschewski

    Don’t you think it would be better not to say “the” vegetarians and “the” vegans all the time? I mean – come on, only some of “them” are really militant/aggressive (just as a few low-carbers are quite aggressive as well). I met extremist as well as open individuals on both sides (even within my family). Lumping together anyone only widens the gap and makes it harder to enter a dialog.

    • When I say “the” I’m referring to those who engage in the behavior that Campbell and others are doing. I’ve met a few rationale vegetarian/vegans and will even be interviewing them on my podcast soon. But they are few and far between.

  • How is it that a so called scientist sees fit to promote his pet hypothesis in this manner? Do we EVER see any respected scientists acting like TCC? Most un-scientific, I say!

    Anyway it’s nice to see that in spite of TCC’s efforts the 5 star reviews way way waaaayyyy outnumber the one stars. And most of the one stars are obviously just TCC minions who haven’t and will never read the book.

    TCC’s minions are also getting a major drubbing in the review commments.


    • Exactly, Freddy. And the bestseller spot on the NYT list probably gets under their skin. You gotta LOVE it!

  • Amy

    Jimmy, I agree with you about the philosophical difference between the low-carb community and the veg community. I was part of the veg/vegan community for 14 years, and I seldom saw anyone active in the community question the merit of the veg*n diet. I attended several vegetarian conferences and was a board member of my local vegetarian society, so I was very involved. We were told by the veg nutrition “experts” to get enough calcium, iron, and vitamin B12, and to make sure we ate a balanced diet of grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Protein was considered a non-issue if our diet wasn’t filled with junk food, and fat was supposed to be minimized as much as possible. That’s about all. Granted, that was back in the 90s, several years before conventional wisdom acknowledged that people need a source of omega-3 fats. I’ve got nothing against vegetarianism for people who do well on veg diets. There just needs to be some honesty about the health problems that can (and do) occur.

    • So glad you figured it out for yourself, Amy! Lovin’ that livin’ la vida low-carb, eh? 🙂

  • @Michelle,

    Vegans are “radical” because they’re beliefs are dogmatic, supported by little or no evidence and rational thought. Like all dogmas, their principle mental support comes from other people believing the same thing. If you don’t follow their beliefs, you’re placing them in a state of cognitive dissonance. Hence the fervent proselytizing.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but the more I learn about the links between metabolism and nutrition, the easier it is for me to ignore these people. I have confidence that I’m making the best decisions I can given the available information. If others choose different paths, that’s fine with me. I’m interested in knowing what information they have that could change my decisions, but when I ask, am generally disappointed to find little or nothing of substance.

    • More importantly, why should anyone else care what I choose to eat for myself? That’s my decision in the end to do for my body what I choose.

  • @Peter,

    I agree that attacking studies is pointless. Scientific evidence is never unequivocal one way or the other. The best we can say is that a given study will change how we weight belief in the various competing hypotheses. Most of the studies that people fight over (like the China Study) bring very little evidential weight.

    Low-carb does have one major feather in its cap though, in that the approach is based on knowledge of the details of underlying metabolism. Many of these details, such has how fat enters/leaves fat cells are very well understood, and unlikely to be changed by future studies. Try asking the low-fat/vegan crowd to explain how their diets are optimal in terms of underlying metabolic processes. I suspect you’ll get a lot of blank stares.

    • That’s a good point, Dave! Most low-carbers know EXACTLY why low-carb nutrition works and can articulate it to others when asked. Low-fat/vegetarians simply cannot.

  • logar

    I tend not to take the nutritional advice of a person who has a moral or ethical stake in changing my opinion that has nothing to do with nutrition. Sorry, Dr. Campbell, but your ill-advised, misleading and biased words mean absolutely nothing to a well-informed person.

    Year after year, study after study, Dr. Campbell’s opinions are discreditied and disproved. Yet he still voices them vehemently. It makes me wonder- even if it were proven without a shadow of doubt that Atkins was right, and the scientific community finally embraces his theory as fact, would Dr. Campbell recant his opinions? Would he admit his error? The answer is no. Too much pride has been invested, to say nothing about his base motivation- radical PETAism. And that, Jimmy, is why a person just can’t trust a word this man says.

    • Excellent analysis logar and you’re exactly right. Campbell would still doubt the “science” proves it. LOL!

  • Cindy

    Speaking of starred ratings…I work at a public health agency and a recent question on the organization’s employee blog was: “How are you faring with your approach to slow food, greener food… healthier food? We recently heard from an employee who wanted to know if other people have been motivated to change the way they eat and asks for some tips on eating healthy:”

    Most people responded about ways they were incorporating more fruits, veggies, low fat, less meat, whole grains. I wrote:
    “I follow more of a low-carb, high fat, mod protein diet. No seed oils, no soy, nothing processed — and that includes anything low-fat, fat-free, or otherwise “diet”. Lots of eggs, fish, chicken, beef (grass-fed preferable), veggies, some fruit, nuts and seeds, full-fat dairy, butter from grass-fed cows, olive oil, coconut oil. Local products, when possible. Not a lot of grains in general, unless I remember to soak the flour with buttermilk before baking. I recommend “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes.”

    I was curious to see what response I would get. I was not surprised. I only got 2.4 stars out of 5! The “healthywholegrain” folks were doing MUCH better!

    • Not at all surprised, Cindy, but I bet you’ll be healthier than them ten years from now. Keep being a rebel! 🙂

  • Dan (aka Renegadediabetic)

    I cast my votes. John Tesh should stick to other topics. I loved your response video. As for Campbell, well, I hope he still agrees to be on your podcast.

    • He backed out months ago, but the invitation is still open.

  • This is my first comment on your blog Jimmy, but I will be sure to leave more comments in the future.

    That is very unethical of Campbell to e-mail his list like he did. I think he just needs to let it go. He is one close minded individual. Results do not lie and I have never seen as many success stories ever in my life as I have with Primal/Paleo/Low Carb!

    I used to listen to John Tesh A LOT. This was before I discovered Mark’s Daily Apple. I like John Tesh, but not so much anymore. He has no idea what he is talking about this time!

    • THANKS Primal Toad! I’ve marked your blog down to highlight in my next Paleo/primal/low-carb blog update next week. WOO HOO!

  • Rip

    It’s funny how people like Dr Campbell have such a problem with writers of low-carb books “misusing” scientific data. They probably had no problem with Ancel Keys doing it and possibly condemning millions of people to an unhealthy existence by doing so.

  • Greg

    I don’t think low carbers are always more open-minded than vegetarians, though…especially when you cross over to the zero carbers. They’re quite a group of militants, some of them anyway, and I was scared away from reading the zero carb forums that used to be hosted here due to the complete shutdown their leaders initiate whenever anyone even questions any aspect of it. And even some of us reg’lar low carbers can get a bit reverential about the Taubes book. Whereas, as an example, my sister is a vegetarian and has never even hinted that I should give up meat, and I know a few others like that too. Anyway, I think overall things may skew the way you’re suggesting and there are plenty of obnoxious vegans to go around, but it is by no means an absolute.

    • Greg, I agree that there are small sects of extremists who are monopolistic about their beliefs (i.e. the z-c’s). But the majority of the most outspoken in the LOW-CARB community are quite caring and understanding of people choosing what’s right for them because most of us have struggled being told we have to eat a certain way–some vegetarian/vegans like Campbell does with regularity making himself look foolish.

  • Greg

    Emailing his list and trying to drive them to fudge his Amazon comment stats is the opposite of what Campbell claims to be about. How lame.

  • pjnoir

    Nothing new- every low carb author bashes dr Atkins, why should the other side be different?

  • pjnoir

    I have yet to see any major chain book store carry “The Vegetarian Myth” either

  • Sandra

    I love the low-carb way of life. I got lazy and just ate what I want and now I am paying for it!! I did low-carb over 3 years ago and lost about 50 lbs. I gained it back AFTER having my 3rd child. Not being able to take any of it off I decided to try being vegetarian for a week. It only worked because my 13 year old was gone for that week. It was not too bad just a lot of work BUT no weight loss. It completely went away when he got back home though. It is so easy to get the whole family in the low-carb life without completely restricting the kids food choices. We’re teaching them how to make smarter healthier choices (mashed potatoes once a week instead of everyday). Recently I started the low-carb again and in the first week I lost 3 lbs.!!! and I’m pretty sure I may be the only mom on my block that can brag that her 3 year old loves to eat raw broccoli, mushrooms, and plenty of other veggies! I even got my mom and an aunt to start low-carb and they love it!!

    Do you think I should get the new book? Are there a lot of changes or new information?

    • Yes, get the new book because there’s a lot of NEW science you will be interested in learning about. 🙂