Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Review: The New Atkins For A New You

The New Atkins For A New You by Dr. Stephen Phinney, Dr. Jeff Volek and Dr. Eric Westman is next up for review.  This is an updated version of Dr Atkins program by three nutrition researchers.  Dr. Phinney taught at the University of Vermont, the University of Minnesota and the University of California at Davis.  Dr. Volek is a professor at the University of Connecticut and Dr. Westman is a professor at Duke.

            This book takes a more research based approach to Atkins’ decade’s old theory of the low carbohydrate diet.  I’m quite familiar with the research of Dr Westman and Dr. Volek.  I read a lot of their work while publishing my research on low carb diets at Harvard.  The book is well written and is based on the premise that carbohydrates are to be strictly limited to lose weight and improve health.  The program itself is very similar to the old Atkins as far as going through different phases of decreasing carbohydrate restriction as you approach your goal weight.  What is different about this book is that the authors have used current research to back up a lot of their claims and even to improve the diet from a nutritional standpoint, all while maintaining severe carb restriction.

5 Things I really like about The New Atkins For The New You
1) The latest research on carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism are presented.  Many of their claims are indeed backed by science.
2) The diet is definitely more focused on vegetables than the previous edition.
3) The consequences of refined carbohydrate metabolism are very well explained.  This is hugely important whether you want to lose weight or improve your health.
4) Research concerning saturated fat and LDL particle size is very well presented.
5) They have a really great section about how body weight will vary from day to day and you should never get too wrapped up in one or 2 bad scale readings.  This is very important and I’m always saying this to my clients.

5 Things I disagreed with in The New Atkins For The New You
1) Severe restrictions on fruits and whole grains.  Although these can be added in a bit in later phases, they are underemphasized in my opinion.  Current research is quite definitive in detailing the health benefits of these of foods.
2) The recipes were a bit heavy on the full fat dairy (like cheese and cream), red meat and saturated fat.  It is a good idea to limit consumption of these foods.
3) I don’t think this book gives exercise its fair due.  It almost seems as if exercise is optional.  You can do it if you feel like it.  Current research shows you need to do a lot if you want to maintain weight loss.
4) The fat/protein/carb percentages seem a bit unrealistic to me.  For example, if you are a tall man you are instructed to eat 8 oz of protein at each meal.  Not including snacks that is 168 grams of protein a day.  When you are restricting your carbs to 30 grams a day on a 1500 calorie diet here are the percentages:
Protein 45% of calories, Carb 8% of calories and Fat 53%.  This seems unsustainable to me.
5) Non nutritive sweeteners are allowed on a consistent basis, up to 3 packets per day.  I have found that they definitely stimulate carb cravings and tend to undermine weight loss efforts when used on a daily basis.

Is The New Atkins For A New You worth reading?
            Absolutely!  This book is a big step forward when it comes to the low carb lifestyle.  While I don’t agree with a large percentage of the dietary recommendations, the book takes a nice look at how we metabolize fats, proteins and carbs and brings the latest research into the forum.  I wish more weight loss books did this!  I remember reading Atkins when I was a young nutrition student.  While I never fully bought into the program hook, line and sinker, Atkins was one of the first to note the dangers of sugars and refined carbs both for weight gain and health.  My current nutritional recommendations are indeed shaped by this knowledge.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for an excellent review of this information. I have to admit, I am a bit biased against Adkins. In some ways, I wish they would just change the name and start fresh with a new one :-)

That said, there is no reason to throw out the whole thing because of my bias. As with my martial arts training, I learned to take the best ideas that would work for me from several styles. Same here as you did with the things you liked about this material.

It seems when looking for a "diet" plan, finding one that you can stay with is more important than the actual specifics of the plan.

Of course I agree that exercise is paramount!

Dr. Thomas Halton said...

Good point Dr J,
While I have my own nutrition philosophy developed over the years, I strongly believe that you can learn a lot from other viewpoints.
What I like about the authors of this book is they are really using the research to give teeth to some of their claims. As a whole, I'm quite convinced that carbs are our friends if you pick the right ones!

fatfighter said...

I like being friends with the right carbs. :)

Sounds like an interesting book - thanks for the review.