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.