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It's Atkins vs. South Beach

Source: Knight Ridder Tribune, Mon., Dec. 08, 2003
Author: Howard Cohen

Put an Atkins advocate and a South Beach Diet devotee in the same room and the two may lose weight.

Not necessarily from the diets, but from fighting.

It's not that the diets are totally dissimilar. Sugar and white flour are the enemy of both. The first phase of the South Beach Diet closely resembles the Atkins plan - no fruits, carbs, alcohol.

But some carbs - whole-grain bread, vegetables, fruits, wine - are reintroduced into the South Beach Diet over phases two and three.

The biggest point of contention is that Dr. Arthur Agatston steers people toward "good" fats in olive oil, nuts and lean meats while Atkins allows cheeseburgers (without the bun), bacon, butter and fried foods.

That's the perception, at least.

Colette Heimowitz, director of education and research at Atkins Health and Medical Information Services in New York, bristles that Atkins favors saturated fats.

"They have CLEARLY not read the book," she says. "It's an impression they have from the media and hearsay and not from fact. To falsely accuse the Atkins approach as one that is high in meat is inaccurate when, in fact, the approach is a balance of fats."

Atkins has some support from registered dietitian Molly Kimball of New Orleans' Ochsner Clinics. "If someone reads the diet, it doesn't push bacon and sausage; it emphasizes healthier fats. What I don't like is that they will eliminate some vegetables like tomatoes and onions whereas the South Beach Diet offers unlimited vegetables."

However, Dr. Patricia Byers, chief of nutrition at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital, prefers the South Beach Diet.

"It's really not so much different than The Zone Diet, which I think is a good diet. The Atkins Diet is the absolute worst diet."

Heimowitz, the Atkins advocate, says it's not a competition.

"In fact, any education tool to help people to control carbohydrate consumption to address obesity and diabetes we support. Carb awareness is very important for a sedentary population getting fatter and fatter. If you have adequate fat and protein, you are satisfied and wind up eating less food."

On that point, the two sides can agree.


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