The 'Eco Atkins' Diet
The Eco-Atkins Diet: How it Works
Although the Eco Atkins diet improved some health measures, these improvements were not significantly more than those seen other diet plans, experts say.
In the Eco Atkins study, "participants lowered calorie intake by 40%, which is most likely the reason for the weight loss, more than the type of diet," says Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, PhD, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. She adds that the satisfying nature of a diet rich in high-fiber plant proteins probably made it easier for participants to stick to the low-calorie plan for four weeks.
A strict vegan diet like the Eco Atkins diet is one of many strategies to lower cholesterol, although the high fiber level of the diet may have enhanced its cholesterol-lowering effect, experts say.
"Substituting healthy fats for saturated or trans fats, eating fewer fried and high-fat foods, increasing soluble fiber, and getting regular physical activity are all effective means to lowering cholesterol," Mooloo says.
The Eco-Atkins Diet: What the Experts Say
Robert Eckel, MD, a University of Denver professor who is past president of the American Heart Association, says the Eco-Atkins diet is definitely better than the original Atkins Diet -- but both are too restrictive for most people to stick with in the long run. He adds that the Eco Atkins Diet study was too short to provide any data on long-term compliance.
Because both study groups lost the same amount of weight, regardless of whether they were on the lower- or higher-carb diet, Eckel suggests eating more healthy carbs. The U.S. Institute of Medicine recommends that people get 45% to 65% of daily calories from carbohydrates to provide enough energy and fuel for physical activity and good health.
Simply substituting plant proteins for some of the animal proteins in your diet can be just as effective as the Eco-Atkins diet to help lower blood cholesterol levels, Eckel says.
Mooloo notes that you can lower your cholesterol levels just by losing weight, exercising more, and choosing healthier fats. She believes that a less restrictive approach would work better for most people.
"It concerns me when whole food groups like dairy are eliminated because essential nutrients could be missing from the diet, like calcium and vitamin D, says Mooloo.
Eckel says he recommends the No Fad Diet by the American Heart Association for his patients who are overweight and need to lower cholesterol levels. Mooloo suggests the South Beach Diet or South Beach Supercharged as healthy, sustainable diets for losing weight and lowering cholesterol.
Eco-Atkins Diet: Food for Thought
A strict low-carb, plant-based diet can help you lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease -- but can you adopt it as a lifestyle?
The challenge for most people will be giving up all animal products, limiting carbs, and eating a totally plant-based diet.
If you're interested in following the Eco Atkins diet plan, consult a registered dietitian first, to ensure the plan meets all of your nutritional needs.
If the Eco-Atkins diet is too strict for you, try a modified version by increasing the plant proteins, good carbs, and healthy fats in your diet. Stick to lean or low-fat animal foods, and limit high-fat animal products. Add a dose of regular physical activity for heart health and weight control.