Should you try the "Eco-Atkins" diet?

What would the Atkins diet be like without the meat? Well, a new study just compared people on such a plan - a vegetarian low-carb diet, in which the protein comes from gluten, soy, nuts, etc., instead of meat - to people on a high carbohydrate, low-fat vegetarian diet. The gist: Both groups lost weight, but those on the "Eco-Atkins" plan had a greater reduction of both bad LDL cholesterol and blood pressure. Here's my take:

Overall, there are two things I like a lot about this study. One, it shows - again! - that weight loss is about calories, not macronutrient distribution. The myth that other factors drive weight loss just won't die, so I hope this drives another nail in its coffin. Two, this study shows that whatever the benefits may be of a relatively high-protein diet, one need not be carnivorous - and thus, highly detrimental to the fate of the planet and our planetary cohabitants - to achieve it.

There are, however, two things I very much dislike. Foremost of these is the name, "Eco-Atkins." To call a high-protein, plant-based diet '"Eco-Atkins" is like calling a lentil an "eco cow." Atkins proponents are devoted to the high-meat diet Atkins actually advocated, and if this comes over the transom as support for the Atkins diet, I am sure the details are apt to get lost in translation. This has nothing to do with the Atkins diet - and, in fact, was undertaken in part because of the glaring liabilities of Atkins' silly approach. Thus the name is a very unfortunate invitation for people to misinterpret what this study actually means.

My second objection, nearly as passionate, is that the high carbohydrate diet was the lower of the two in fiber! This is very contrived, and set the high-carb diet up to fail. I personally eat an optimized, high-carbohydrate, plant-based diet, and estimate that I get up to 50 grams of daily fiber (track how many you get here) a level many studies have shown to be beneficial.

Among the benefits: lowering and stabilizing blood insulin; blunting postprandial glycemia; lipid lowering; enhanced satiety and fullness on fewer calories; reduced GI transit time and better gastrointestinal health; blood pressure reduction; etc. While this study shows that a high protein diet can be derived from plants rather than cows, it does not show such a diet to be superior to an optimal plant-based, high-complex-carbohydrate diet rich in fiber, as that was not included in the test. I am not sure why, except that testing such a diet clearly wasn't the focus.

This study shows us that even if there are advantages to a higher protein diet (and as compared to an optimal high-carbohydrate diet, I am by no means sure there are), there is more than one way to get there from here. And some ways are better than others -- for our health, the health of the planet, and the treatment of our fellow species.

More Healthy Ways to Lose Weight:

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