We are thrilled to have the privilege of speaking with Colette Heimowitz, the Vice President of Nutrition & Education for Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. Colette has over 2 decades of experience as a nutritionist. She helped establish the Atkins Nutritionals Science Advisory Board, and she worked closely with Dr. Robert Atkins himself while directing The Atkins Center for Complimentary Medicine. Her accolades and achievements as a low carb researcher are too numerous to mention. Suffice it to say, she is a big deal, and she really knows what she’s talking about!
#1. What sparked your personal passion for low carb nutrition?
Results! I witnessed the results of patients in private practice and in my personal life. With its ability to help an individual lose weight, improve lipid profiles and blood pressure, increase energy and reduce risk factors of heart disease, diabetes and many other life-threatening conditions, the Atkins Nutritional Approach™ is indeed a healthier, more balanced way of eating and living.
#2. You have collected over 1,500 scientific studies that show the profound impact nutrition has on weight and disease. Given all these data, why do so many mainstream health experts still turn a blind eye to the sugar-obesity-disease connection?
Unfortunately there are many myths about Atkins than are unsubstantiated. There is a certain learning curve to this lifestyle and if a person is only going by media impressions of steak frying in butter, you can understand their concern. An educated individual would know better.
There has been more than 30 years of independent research on ketogenic diets, 30 years of clinical experience at the Atkins Center, and now 6 years of independent research looking specifically at the Atkins protocol which have demonstrated safety.
The counter intuitive factor is still enormous. We have made significant progress in the battle of controlling carb consumption vs. eating the low-fat way. There is growing acceptance that Americans are eating far too many refined carbohydrates in the form of white flour, sugar and many snack foods. There is also more awareness of the lack of evidence for the low-fat approach. However, most people in their heart of hearts are still unwilling to believe that the Atkins approach is not ALL about only Induction, and that it is perfectly okay to eat protein, natural healthy fats, vegetables, low glycemic fruits, and seeds/nuts until weight goals are achieved even after all that research.
A researcher once told me that there is a 20 year rule for the mainstream to catch up with scientific knowledge. Unfortunately most of us can't wait that long and need to be ambassadors.
#3. If there is one myth about the low carb diet that you’d most like to eradicate, what would it be?
My favorite Misconception: The relatively high intake of dietary fat, especially saturated fat, is dangerous.
Reality: Fat, including saturated fat, is processed very efficiently when carbohydrates are restricted. Simply put, when the metabolic roadblock of carbohydrate-induced hyperinsulinemia is removed, saturated fats are preferentially and rapidly oxidized to CO2 and water. The preferred form of fat to consume when following the Atkins Diet is monounsaturated. However, even when saturated fat intake is not restricted, tests on both animals and humans demonstrate that blood triglyceride levels of saturated fats actually decline more during the Atkins Diet than during a low-fat/high-carbohydrate weight loss diet. And as a final note, a recent comprehensive meta-analysis of long-term studies of diet and heart disease finds no correlation between saturated fat intake and actual coronary disease risk.
#4. How do you think the current debate about healthcare will affect legislation and research on obesity?
If the health care bill passes, and there is emphasis is on preventive care, and the research in low carbohydrate continues, we may begin to see a paradigm shift within our lifetime.
#5. Many non-dietary factors seem to be able to influence insulin levels - including the amount of sleep we get, the amount of stress we’re under, and the medications we take. Could these non-dietary X factors explain why some people have trouble losing weight, even while in Atkins Induction? If so, what can be done?
Yes, those non-dietary X factors could explain why some people have trouble losing weight. However, sooner or later almost everyone finds his/her weight loss temporarily halts. As you become increasingly accustomed to eating the low-carb way, it’s all too easy to get sloppy about tracking carbs. Instead of the 35 grams of Net Carbs you think you’re consuming, for example, you might actually be closer to 55 (or even 75). Whether as a result of sloppiness, cockiness, over-confidence, or testing the limits, “carb creep” can stop weight loss in its tracks. Worse, you may lose your body’s adaptation to primarily burning fat—the Atkins Edge. Here is what should be done; First Eliminate any questionable foods you may think are food intolerances. Second, do a reality check on carb and calorie consumption. Calories do matter, too few or too many can interfere with weight loss. Third, try to increase activity level which can also be a stress valve.
#6. You knew Dr. Atkins personally. Can you tell us what about his character allowed him to fight on in the face of relentless (and often misinformed) attacks from his critics?
Because he saw so many people in his practice, his clinical experience made him very passionate about this way of eating and helping his patients was his primary concern. He was willing to take the punches because he too saw the profound impact this way of life had on his patient population. Research has now shown his was right all along.
#7. How can low carb believers help to spread the message to those who are dubious -- such as doctors, friends, and family members?
You can’t argue with results. Even the most doubtful doctor will be curious when they see an individual reverse metabolic syndrome, correct high blood sugar, improve lipid profiles, and reach weight loss goals. The best we can do is succeed and be vocal about how we got there.
#8. You are launching a new Atkins book. What new and exciting info can fans of the low carb approach expect from it?
In its almost 40-year evolution, the Atkins Diet has undergone a number of modifications reflecting emerging nutritional science. The New Atkins for a New You reflects the latest thinking on diet and nutrition and introduces several significant changes that make Atkins simpler to follow, more versatile and sustainable for a lifetime of healthy eating. Simplicity, versatility and sustainability are all essential for any diet to deliver long term results.
Here are some of the major changes:
• A daily requirement for at least five servings of high-fiber “foundation vegetables.” These are the leafy greens and other salad vegetables and additional low-carb vegetables that are usually cooked. The list of foundation vegetables includes more than 50 vegetables. Most of the carbohydrates people eat in Phase 1, Induction, come from foundation vegetables.
• The introduction of easy ways to reduce or eliminate symptoms that may accompany the initial conversion to a low-carb eating approach, which include eating enough vegetables, drinking plenty of fluids and not stinting on salt.
• Advice on how to smooth the transition from one phase to the next, ensuring the gradual and natural adoption of healthy, permanent eating habits.
• A choice of two paths to take in Phase 4, Lifetime Maintenance, one for people with a lower carb tolerance and one for people with greater tolerance.
• Detailed advice and meal plans for vegetarians and vegans who want to follow a low-carb lifestyle.
• More attention to contemporary, on-the-run lifestyles, with specific suggestions on how and what to eat on the road, in fast-food places and in all kinds of restaurants.
• Introduction of concepts such as the “the metabolic bully” and the “Atkins Edge,” which simplify the complexities of human metabolism.
This book also offers the reader four benefits that were not adequately addressed in previous Atkins books:
1. In the past, one size often didn't fit all. This book offers flexibility and personalization.
2. People were often afraid to leave the security of Induction, the most restrictive phase of a four-phase program. This book offers a clear roadmap of how to transition from one phase to another.
3. Although Atkins has always been effective for weight loss, people were often concerned that it might not be healthy long term. The new research results presented in this book ensure both the safety and efficacy of a low-carbohydrate diet.
4. Why lose weight if you can't keep it off? This book provides the tools for sustainability so people learn how to keep weight off and improve their health indicators long term.
Thank you so much, Colette, and happy low carbing to you.
To read more about Atkins diet results, please check out The New Atkins for a New You today. It is available through Amazon.com and other booksellers.
Click here for a special $3 mail-in rebate on the book!
You can also talk to real people about their Atkins diet results at the official ANA forum.
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