Marc Bessler, obesity expert at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, talks about the Atkins diet.
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Is the Atkins diet effective? Marc Bessler: Well I mentioned it because it’s sort of an extreme diet as opposed to say the South Beach or other types of diets and I don’t like to get into the names to these things so much but the low Glycemic index, high protein diets, Atkins is initially a pure protein diet, no carbs, it’s protein and fats. It’s actually been studied and it’s not as unhealthy as you might think as it sounds like for short periods of time. It actually is counter intuitive that it can lower your cholesterol in some ways. But long term most people can’t stay on that, you can’t stay, it’s not healthy ultimately to stay on a very high protein, very high fat, no carbohydrate diet, which is what Atkins is. I mentioned it as a prototypical high protein diet, but ultimately you have to transition off most of these diets that are radical to something else. You can lose weight on the cabbage soup diet, but you can’t stay on that for life and the problem is you’ve gotta live it, not just diet it and you have to have that transition plan and the problem with Atkins is when you put carbs back in, that same problem exists. But if you do it carefully, low Glycemic carbs, balance it in with the fats and the proteins, you end up on something that’s similar to some of these other middle of the road diets, low Glycemic index, relatively high protein, careful fat intake and that’s really- you really oughta be. Question: What is the difference between “good carbs” and “bad carbs”? Marc Bessler: Well that’s what we’re talking about a bit is low carbohydrate-- low Glycemic index carbohydrates and those are the healthier ones, they’re the ones that get digested more slowly, they tend to be less processed, so pastas, white breads, things like that are the bad carbs if you will as opposed to whole grains, you know, interestingly processed oats get digested very rapidly and are a high Glycemic index but steel cut oats, which are whole oats that have to be cooked, those get digested much more slowly and are a low Glycemic food. So it really is sometimes how the food’s even prepared, wild rice instead of white rice. I mentioned whole grains, sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, those types of things, it’s hard to go into it completely. Also some research has shown that high volumes of food tend to make people fill up more quickly even though there’s less calories. Now it may not work ultimately if you don’t get in the proper amount of calories or intake to make you comfortable but, you know, you can fill up a plate with lettuce and, you know, sort of very large volume, low calorie foods and eat that and feel full versus a very small amount of a high calorie dense food, where you might eat it and not feel as full. So managing your fullness and your hunger is an important part of dieting.
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