'The Diet Fad of the 21st Century'

Allowing a good 20 years for dieters to forget Dr. Atkins past failure, the book was reissued as Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution (though there was not much new about it) in 1992.[39] Along with other retro 70’s fashions, and this time backed by an aggressive marketing campaign, it became the best-selling fad-diet book in history[40] achieving “fashion-cult status amongst society figures.”[520]

What may have truly made it “The Diet Fad of the 21st Century” (as an editor of the Journal of the American Dietetics Association coined it)[41] came a decade later with the publication of the infamous pro-Atkins New York Times Magazine article “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie.”[42] Atkins quickly wrote an editorial for his Web site claiming the article “validated” his work. Gushingly favorable follow-up stories appeared on NBC’s Dateline, CBS’ 48 Hours, and ABC’S 2020. The Atkins corporation claimed literally billions of media hits.[43] By the time the article’s many flaws were exposed weeks later, the book had already catapulted to #1 on a New York Times bestseller list and Atkins’ net worth zoomed to $100 million.[44]

The piece was written by freelance writer and Atkins advocate[45] Gary Taubes (who reportedly scored a book deal from it–and a $700,000 advance).[46] The Washington Post investigated his pro-Atkins article and found that Taubes simply ignored all the research that didn’t agree with his conclusions.

Taubes evidently interviewed a number of prominent obesity researchers and then twisted their words. “What frightens me,” said one, “is that he picks and chooses his facts…. If the facts don’t fit in with his yarn, he ignores them.”[47]

The article seemed to claim that experts recommended the diet. “I was greatly offended at how Gary Taubes tricked us all into coming across as supporters of the Atkins Diet,” said John Farquhar, a Professor Emeritus of Medicine at Stanford. When the Director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Washington University School of Medicine was asked to comment of one of Taubes’ claims, he replied, “It’s preposterous.”[48]

“He took this weird little idea and blew it up,” said Farquhar, “What a disaster.”[49]

“The article was written in bad faith,” said another quoted expert. “It was irresponsible.”[50] “I think he’s a dangerous man. I’m sorry I ever talked to him.” Referring to the book deal, “Taubes sold out.”[51]

What the researchers stressed was how dangerous saturated fat and meat consumption could be, but Taubes seemed to have conveniently left it all out. “The article was incredibly misleading,” said the pioneering Stanford University endocrinologist Gerald Reaven who actually coined the term Syndrome X. “I tried to be helpful and a good citizen,” Reaven said, agreeing to do the interview, “and I ended up being embarrassed as hell. He sort of set me up… I was horrified.”[52]