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MUDDLE OF MIRACLE DIETS.

Byline: Vivian Taylor Fresno Bee

The pendulum hasn't just swung. It's out of control.

Protein diets are back.

Remember Dr. Robert Atkins? His popular 1972 weight-loss book, ``Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution,'' led the troops against the enemy carbohydrates.

Gordon Goede remembers, and recently he decided to switch from the reigning low-fat, high-carb regime to the one recommended in ``Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution,'' which arrived in bookstores in 1994 and has sold 450,000 copies, according to publisher Bantam Books.

``I've lost 30 pounds, feel better than I have in years, and I'm biking again,'' he said. ``On a weekend recently, I biked a total of 18 miles. In that three days, I lost 4 1/2 pounds.''

Goede, an anesthesiologist at Valley Medical Center, has diabetes and has had knee surgery.

``I checked with my doctor before I started on the diet, and I see him regularly,'' Goede said. ``He's delighted with the results. Both of us were concerned because I was using a lot of insulin. Now, I'm using quite a bit less, and I expect to be completely off insulin when I lose 75 more pounds.''

Goede hasn't suffered any ill effects since starting the diet, he said. He's careful to take the vitamin and mineral supplements recommended in the book. And he added that it's necessary to make sure you get enough fiber, like Metamucil.

``I eat a lot of shrimp, which I love, and skinless chicken breasts,'' he said. ``And I've gone back to an old favorite: cottage cheese and avocados.''

Goede joined other carbo dropouts in his circle of friends who had rediscovered Dr. Atkins, he said. Lou Longmire, a member of the Theatre 3 ensemble of actors of which Goede is director, was dropping pounds with the diet. And there were others.

Atkins wasn't alone back in the late '60s-early '70s with his high-protein, low-carb philosophy. Dr. Irwin Stillman's ``The Doctor's Quick Weight Loss Diet'' (1967) was another best seller. In 1972, ``The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet,'' by Dr. Herman Tarnower, was another popular low-carb diet.

It's hard to say whether all those millions who went on the high-protein, high-fat, low-carb diets sent heart-disease stats soaring, but in the early '80s, there was a dramatic shift in popular diets away from that philosophy.

Nathan Pritikin wrote his best seller, ``The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise,'' in 1979. Aimed at preventing heart attacks, it is plant-based and very low in fat. In 1984, ``The Living Heart Diet,'' by Dr. Michael E. DeBakey and three other doctors, championed a low-fat diet as essential to a healthy heart. It's sold more than a million copies. (An updated version of that book just hit bookshelves.) We learned a new word: cholesterol.

In the past decade, the low-fat folks have prevailed. Talk about fads. Popular culture totally embraced the idea. The food industry completely retooled to satisfy the demand for low-fat foods. Books by doctors and nutritionists promoting less protein (especially red meat) and less fat along with high carbohydrate diets are legion.

Vegetarians came out of their tiny home gardens and into mainstream supermarkets. Consumers began exploring the mysteries of tofu and macrobiotics.

The ostrich industry has boomed worldwide and is promoted as ``the other red meat,'' thanks to its low-fat content compared with beef and even other poultry.

The beef industry trembled briefly in the wake of consumer boycotts and media-driven censure. Bruce Berven, executive director of the California Beef Council in San Francisco, said that in the late '70s, beef consumption reached its highest point: 79 pounds per person per capita.

It hit bottom in 1993 at 65.1 pounds.

But something wasn't right. While we all clamored for fatless food, more of us got fatter and sicker. We also became obsessed with nutritional cures, herbs and wonder foods for everything from arthritis and cancer to constipation and impotence.

Then the pendulum's swing began. Take the beef industry: In 1994, the numbers started rising again to 67.5. In 1995, consumption was 68 pounds, and so far this year, it's up to 69 pounds.

``Consumers have thrown up their hands,'' Berven said. ``They're confused by nutritional studies apparently in conflict with each other. I think consumers have turned to moderation. They're limiting certain items and going back to beef, but modestly. The trend is there, though.''

Let's hope he's right about the moderation. But there are signs, ominous to many nutritionists and physicians, that many people are so discouraged and cynical that they're turning their backs on the experts and embracing the old familiar, easy fad diets of the past - diets that promised miracles but were in many cases dangerous.

A new generation of writers has joined forces with the new Dr. Atkins.

``Protein Power,'' by Dr. Michael R. Eades and Dr. Mary Dan Eades, husband and wife, has just been in readers' hands since February. More than 40,000 copies are in print. Their book stresses the need to bring the body's hormones, especially insulin, into balance. It improves blood-sugar levels, high blood pressure and cholesterol along with promoting weight loss, they say, within three weeks, and the diet can free those who are on medications to control these conditions.

The Eadeses, who based their book on case studies from their weight-loss clinical practice in Little Rock, Ark., don't recommend a protein diet for everyone. But they do believe the diet can help many people, not just diabetics.

Their book is careful to address problems such as potassium loss due to rapid loss of water on the diet, and the need for vitamin and mineral supplements.

Cathy Moynihan, clinical nutrition manager at the Fresno Veterans Administration Center and president of the California Dietetic Association-Central Valley District, is uneasy about the shift back toward high-protein diets.

``When diets are high in protein, you burn muscle,'' she said. ``This produces ketones, which can damage the brain, liver and kidneys when taken to extreme.

``Nutritionists generally recommend that 20 percent of total daily calories should be protein. But it's letting the carbohydrates go too low that is most dangerous. It depends on the person.''

Moynihan said she sympathizes with people who are confused and don't know what to believe.

``I can understand why they turn to the quick fix, the fads,'' she said. ``Dietitians are in accord, though, on proper basic nutrition. We recommend following the USDA food pyramid and exercise.

``Balance is the key word.''

Dr. Dean Ornish is the author of a popular book that recommends exercise and lifestyle changes, plus a very low-fat and low-cholesterol, high-fiber and high-carbohydrate diet aimed at reducing heart disease. He threw down the gauntlet recently with a letter to the editor of The New York Times after a Times story on the Eades diet.

``High-protein diets are a Faustian bargain,'' he wrote. ``People mortgage their health to lose weight when better alternatives are available that provide long-term weight loss and improved health and well-being.''

The Eadeses say they disagree entirely and would like to debate Dr. Ornish.

Eades said he believes low-fat diets do work for some people. But for many they haven't.

He arrived at his present convictions after exploring all of the other options, he said.

``I had a weight problem a few years ago and tried the fad diets,'' he said. ``The liquid diet worked for me. I wrote a book, `Thin So Fast,' a few years ago, which was ignored by hundreds of thousands. There was a complete vacuum of interest. This one has caught the wave of current change.''

If all this threatens to make you crazy, you're not alone.

Cathy, the diet-obsessed comic-strip character, expressed the counterrevolutionary spirit perfectly one Sunday: ``More people are dieting and fewer people are losing weight for one reason and one reason alone: stability,'' she tells her friend as they enjoy a chocolate mousse.

She explains that the world is shaky, life is fragile and that for most people, the cycle of weight gain and loss has become the one consistent element in their lives. She concludes her oration, ``The blown diet is a testament to the innocent, honest, virtuous human quest for some shred of stability in life!''

Her friend says, ``You're brilliant when you're on a mousse rush.''

Cathy, at her wisest, replies, ``If the country's a mess, it's because our leaders don't eat enough chocolate.''

Maybe she's right.
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 26, 1996
Words:1394
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