Letters from the October 2, 2004, issue of Science News

On a diet

While heart disease victim Jody Gorran’s lawsuit against the Atkins empire will be decided in court (“Counting Carbs,” SN: 7/17/04, p. 40: Counting Carbs), the deadlier battle is being waged in the research laboratory. Several studies confirm that low-carbohydrate diets cause marked cholesterol elevations for many individuals. In contrast, a vegetarian diet high in soluble fiber and soy protein can lower serum cholesterol concentrations about as effectively as statin drugs do. The medical question, then, is, Why would anyone take the low-carb risk?

Neal D. Barnard
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Washington, D.C.

The Atkins diet worked fine until the food manufacturers hopped on the bandwagon. Low-carb pancakes and potatoes, indeed! Atkins’ book actually says follow the strict diet for 2 weeks, then add vegetables and cut meat and fat portions.

Linda Johnson
Longmont, Colo

The doctors doing the studies supporting low-carb diets apparently didn’t understand the science of nutrition, nor did the doctors on the peer review boards of the medical journals that published their work. This is not surprising because most doctors learned next to nothing in medical school about the science of nutrition and have not done the necessary homework since leaving school. Most authors and journalists are just as lost.

Mark Lovendale
Monarch Beach, Calif

Your article failed to address an issue I see as critical. Animal fat and protein consumed by low-carb dieters expose them to relatively high concentrations of biomagnified pollutants, including PCBs and heavy metals. Pregnant and breast-feeding women should know that hormones, chemicals, and pollutants in a low-carb, high-animal diet are biomagnified in their children.

Britt Constantine
Juneau, Alaska

There is a misconception that low-carb diets must translate to very high-protein, high-fat, and low-veggie diets. But it’s easy to eat a balanced diet of lean meats with large amounts of nonstarchy vegetables and fruits. The problem is with refined carbs.

Jack Challem
Tucson, Ariz

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