Accusation 1: Ignores “the overwhelming weight of the evidence”

As you are undoubtedly aware, your position that the ANA [Atkins Diet] presents serious health risks is at odds with the overwhelming weight of the evidence.

There is, in fact, an overwhelming weight of evidence, but it points to the opposite of what you’re claiming. is hardly alone in condemning the Atkins Diet out of fear for the public’s health. The American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Dietetic Association and the American Medical Association all have publicly come out against Atkins-like diets and warned of serious potential health risks. Literally dozens of medical and nutritional authorities have attempted to educate the public about the very real dangers associated with diets like yours. Their position statements are reprinted in full in our Expert Opinions section of the website.

Atkins Cherry-Picks an “Overwhelming Weight” of 34 Studies

In fact, as documented on the Atkins website, there are currently no fewer than thirty-four studies demonstrating the weight loss and other health benefits – and absence of adverse health effects – of a low-carbohydrate diet.

Thirty-four studies is your “overwhelming weight of evidence”? There are literally hundreds of published reports on low-carbohydrate diets,[545] and you can only find 34 that support your position?

There are also, for example, “no fewer than thirty-four studies demonstrating weight-loss and other health benefits” of cigarette smoking.[546-579] There are also 34 studies showing benefits from thalidomide.[580-613]

Just because the Philip Morris Corporation can wave around more than a hundred[614] studies showing health benefits from smoking, this doesn’t mean that smoking is good for you. What it means is that one can cherry-pick data to argue almost any position. This is a classic tobacco corporation tactic.[615]

On your website one can indeed find a list of 34 studies downplaying the risks of the Atkins Diet. But if you go to the website of the Asbestos Institute you can find 34 studies downplaying the risks of asbestos.[616] Or to a chemical manufacturer’s website and find 34 studies that downplay the risk[617] of arsenic treated wood for children’s playgrounds [618] (a practice now banned by the EPA).[619] On a website supported by pesticide makers[620] you can find no fewer than 34 studies downplaying the risks of DDT.[621]

Similarly, you have a billion-dollar financial stake in your product, the Atkins Diet. Like tobacco, asbestos and chemical companies, you seem to be willing to distort the scientific record by cherry-picking statistics to produce the illusion that the balance of evidence is on your side.

Atkins Ignores the Balance of Evidence

What counts is an objective review of all the available data to find out what the balance of evidence shows. Stanford researchers did just that last year, publishing “Efficacy and Safety of Low-Carbohydrate Diets: A Systematic Review” in the Journal of the American Medical Association.[622]

That review, the only comprehensive systematic review ever done of low-carb diets, found that the carbohydrate content of the diet seemed in no way correlated with weight loss. “Reduced carbohydrate content” the investigators wrote, “was not significantly associated with weight loss.”[623]

Another review of hundreds of studies in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association came to the same conclusion: “Weight loss is independent of diet composition.”[624] That’s what hundreds of studies show.

A 2003 review of Atkins “theories” in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition concluded: “When properly evaluated, the theories and arguments of popular low-carbohydrate diet books… rely on poorly controlled, non-peer-reviewed studies, anecdotes and non-science rhetoric. This review illustrates the complexity of nutrition misinformation perpetrated by some popular press diet books. A closer look at the science behind the claims made for [these books] reveals nothing more than a modern twist on an antique food fad.”[625]

Another 2003 review of the safety of low-carbohydrate diets reeled off an alarming list of potential problems: “Complications such as heart arrhythmias, cardiac contractile function impairment, sudden death, osteoporosis, kidney damage, increased cancer risk, impairment of physical activity and lipid [cholesterol] abnormalities can all be linked to long-term restriction of carbohydrates in the diet.”[626] A September 2004 review in The Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world,[627] concluded “low-carbohydrate diets cannot be recommended.”[628] That’s what the balance of evidence shows.