The Atkins Diet restricts foods that prevent disease and encourages foods that promote disease. No matter what Atkins or other diet books tell people, the balance of evidence clearly shows that the intake of saturated animal fat is associated with increased risk of cancer,[381-382] diabetes, and heart disease. For over 40 years, medical reviews have also shown the detrimental impact of dietary cholesterol consumption. Even independent of the effects on obesity, meat consumption itself has been related to an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
The best dietary strategy to reduce one’s risk of dying from the number 1 killer in the U.S. is to reduce one’s consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol. The evidence backing this, according to the American Heart Association, is “overwhelming.”
Decreasing America’s intake of saturated animal fat is the primary reason why Johns Hopkins, supported by 28 other public health schools, launched the Meatless Mondays campaign, trying to get Americans to cut meat out of their diet at least one day of the week. Dr. Jean Mayer, one of the most noted nutrition figures in history– author of over 750 scientific articles, President of Tufts University, recipient of 16 honorary degrees–warned those going on “this faddish high-saturated-fat high-cholesterol [Atkins] diet” that you may be “playing Russian roulette with your heart and with your blood vessels.” “The Council,” wrote the American Medical Association in their official critique of the Atkins Diet, “is deeply concerned about any diet that advocates an ‘unlimited’ intake of saturated fats and cholesterol-rich foods.”
In return, Atkins accused the American Medical Association of being in the pockets of carbohydrate manufacturers. “If you look at the financial records of the AMA and the Harvard School of Nutrition,” said Atkins in an interview, “and see the list of their benefactors, advertisers, and endowers you’ll see why they insist on our eating carbohydrates.”
Interestingly, the Atkins Corporation seems like it’s already backpedaling. A front page article in the New York Times revealed that the Atkins Corporation was quietly telling people to restrict their bacon and butter intake, urging people to keep saturated fat intake under 20% of calories. Though nearly every major health organization in the world recommends less than half that amount, Atkins’ change in policy does at least show that the Atkins Corporation may be recognizing some of the dangers of their diet.
The Atkins Corporation claimed that their saturated fat guideline was nothing new and that Atkins never said people could eat as much meat as they wanted. They blamed the media for just misconstruing the Atkins Diet as an eat-as-much-meat-as-you-want diet. Really? Atkins wrote, “There is no limit to the amount of… [any kind of meat in any quantity] you can eat… You eat as much as you want, as often as you want” (emphasis in original.) In fact he specifically boasts that his diet “Sets no limit on the amount of food you can eat.” Maybe the media got it right.
The Director of Research and Education at Atkins Nutritionals claims that “Saturated fat isn’t as much of an issue when carbohydrates are controlled; it’s only dangerous in excess when carbs are high.” Dr. Frank M. Sacks, a professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at the Harvard School of Public Health, scoffed at such a claim. “What they are saying is ridiculous,” he said. The revision down to 20% saturated fat, he added, “has nothing to do with science; it has to do with public relations and politics.”