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Clash of the Weight Loss Titans

Weight Loss Study Pits Atkins vs. Ornish vs. Zone vs. LEARN Diets
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Did the Atkins Diet Win? Some Say No continued...

Those assigned to the Atkins Diet, he says, actually ate foods much more like those recommended in the Zone Diet.

"These patients were getting three times the amount of carbs recommended by the Atkins Diet," Sears says. "By the end of the study, they were eating 140 grams of carbohydrate a day. Bob [Atkins] never recommended more than 50 grams a day. I recommend 100-110 grams of carbs a day. So essentially the Atkins Diet was the Zone Diet in this study."

As Sears predicted, Dean Ornish, MD, agrees that the "Ornish Diet" that Gardner's study participants  followed is not the Ornish Diet he created.

"What is frustrating to me is they were not following a diet I recommend," Ornish tells WebMD. "Dr. Gardner did not test what these diets do; he only tested how easy they are to follow. It is easier to eat bacon and brie than to eat healthy foods. But that doesn't mean it is good for you."

Healthy Weight Loss

Gardner and colleagues didn't just weigh the women trying to follow the four very different diet plans. They also did blood studies to look for heart disease risk factors.

"All four groups benefited for blood pressure and cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity -- all the things you would expect from weight loss," Gardner says. "It is nice to know you get those things with modest weight loss. You don't have to lose 100 pounds. If you lose 5% to 10% of your body weight, you get a benefit."

Ornish says it's just plain wrong to assume from the Gardner study that the diet plans are equally healthy.

"To say the Atkins Diet is no more harmful than the Ornish Diet is dangerously misleading," he says. Dr. Gardner and colleagues say the heart-disease risk factors were comparable on all four diets and then they said that Atkins doesn't harm you. But risk factors are just risk factors. In our studies, we actually measured heart disease itself, not just risk factors. And we found that on the Ornish diet, people with heart disease showed clear reversal after a month, more after a year, and even more after five years.”

Volek has a very different view.

"Reducing carbohydrate intake is a very effective option for losing weight, improving health, and reducing the symptoms of the metabolic syndrome -- high blood pressure, high blood-fat levels, low HDL cholesterol levels, and insulin resistance," he says. "Reducing carbs is not only an option, but probably the preferred option for people to correct these abnormalities."

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