Too Good to Be True

What kind of diet can cause birth defects? Or blindness? Or require 65 supplements? Or monthly medical checkups, where the monitoring of electrolytes is considered “absolutely essential?” Is it too much to ask that one’s diet facilitate instead of debilitate physical activity? (Here in Boston there has yet to be a night of pork-rind loading before the Marathon.) What kind of diet may require prescriptions to deal with the side effects? What kind of diet has side effects at all?

Rational people go on irrational diets because “they’re desperate,” says Kelly Brownell, Director of Yale University’s Center for Eating and Weight Disorders. “If you’re a person with an overweight body living in a thin-obsessed world… something that offers a miracle is highly attractive.”[445]

The Director of Nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest is dumbfounded that the high-fat regimes have caught on. “With all the evidence that saturated fat promotes heart disease, it’s almost unbelievable to me that people could successfully tell people to eat bacon, eggs, ground beef, cheese and cream,” she says. “It really shows that people care more about how they look than how healthy they are.”[446]

Obesity shouldn’t be a cosmetic or moral issue, but it does remain a health issue. Obesity, as defined by the Institute of Medicine, is “an important chronic degenerative disease that debilitates individuals and kills prematurely.”[447] Obesity continues to contribute to hundreds of thousands of deaths in the U.S. every year.[448-451] Losing weight is important, but the goal should be to lose weight in a way that enhances health rather than in ways that may harm it. People also use cocaine, amphetamines and tobacco to control their weight–not health promoting solutions to the problem.

The Consumer Guide concluded that the Atkins Diet “owes its appeal, like pornography, to the naughtiness of the approach, to the titillation we all feel in doing something which we think is not right.”[452] Diet gurus like Atkins–the “bad boy of diets”[453]–gave “his readers what they wanted to hear,” says James Hill, Director of the University of Colorado Center for Human Nutrition. Asks one Atkins disciple, “Who wouldn’t like a diet that allows fried eggs and bacon and all the steak you can eat?”[454] “But what people want to hear,” Dr. Hill adds, “is killing them.”[455]