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Atkins: Lost Souls

I'm mad as hell, so here goes a shot

Picture 2 The Atkins organization ("Nutritionals," et al) is, I believe, doing a tremendous disservice to the great work done by its pioneer, Dr. Robert Atkins.

Frankly: that company sells virtually nothing but processed crap. Bars & shakes loaded with soy, artificial sweeteners, unpronounceable, mystery ingredients, and other Bad Stuff®. And now, it's All-Purpose Baking Mix and Penne Pasta, both absolutely chock full of gluten. Here's the press release.

The ingredients for one of the bars are what you see to the left. Amazing, eh? So, their only distinction from your run of the mill boxed crap is that it's lower in carbs? I guess so.

Here's the ingredients for the baking mix: "Wheat Gluten, Whole Grain Soy Flour, Modified Wheat Starch, Unprocessed Wheat Bran. CONTAINS WHEAT AND SOY." And the penne pasta: "Enriched Semolina (Semolina, Niacin, Iron (Ferrous Sulfate), Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2, Folic Acid), Modified Wheat Starch, Wheat Gluten, Wheat Protein Isloate. CONTAINS WHEAT."

Soy has no place whatsoever in the human diet (please see here and here). And, neither does wheat, or grains in general.

What I'm wondering is how may people with undiagnosed celiac disease (not a simple diagnosis) or gluten sensitivity — that doesn't rise to the level of full-blown celiac disease — are unwittingly going to use these and other Atkins products — often touted as "high protein" (i.e., gluten & soy) — to the general detriment of their health? From the press release.

The Atkins All Purpose Baking Mix is nutritionally sound, providing high levels of protein and fiber in each serving with only 1 gram of sugar. Each serving contains 20 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, 150 calories and only 5 net carbs.

[…]

Atkins Penne Pasta, made with enriched semolina wheat, packs a powerful protein punch, offering 11 grams of protein and 18 grams of fiber per serving. At only 140 calories per serving, Atkins Penne Pasta has only 1 gram of sugar and 19 grams of net carbs – half the carbs of regular pasta!

See what I mean? They are actually touting the gluten & soy!

There's more. What's with this obsession with having to not miss out? We did fine without grains, bread, pasta, pancakes, muffins and so on for over 2 million years (hint: we ate meat, vegetables, animal fats, fruits, and nuts), and now we can't? Again, from the press release.

"With the Atkins All Purpose Baking Mix and Penne Pasta, we're providing consumers with a wider range of healthy and delicious foods to enjoy as they embrace a low-carb lifestyle," said Jennifer McGhee, VP of Marketing for Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. "For years, people mistakenly thought that on Atkins, they'd never be able to eat bread or pasta again. Now with our new products, it's possible to enjoy lower carb versions of these foods without relinquishing taste."

"From a health standpoint, Atkins All Purpose Baking Mix and lower-carb Penne Pasta is great for people who need to better control their blood sugar, such as those following low-glycemic diets," added Colette Heimowitz, Vice President, Nutrition and Education at Atkins Nutritionals, Inc.

You know what? I knew Atkins' basic approach worked as far back as 1990, 19 years ago. how many times did I try it and fail? Oh, at least a half dozen, and the most I ever went was maybe three months. The focus was all wrong: low carb. In other words, the focus is on a method and not a principle — such principle being that we evolved to eat Real Food, and not wheat, soy, and a laundry list of artificial flavors, preservatives and who knows what all else. By focussing on method and not principle, you'll never fix the one thing that will keep most of you failing or miserable: hunger. There is no more sure, effective way to reset your hunger drive than with a natural diet. Atkins is doing its best to keep you on a modern diet, just one a bit lower in carbohydrate.

So what set this off? It was an email from Andea Davidoff of Atkins this morning, touting these new products.

I hope you are doing well. I wanted to let you know Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. announced that their new low-carb All Purpose Baking Mix and lower-carb Penne Pasta can now be pre-ordered by consumers at Atkins.com. You can view a full press release here.

Starting August 1st, both products will be available exclusively online at Atkins.com for a suggested retail price of $12.99 for a 2 pound pouch of baking mix and $3.99 for 12 oz. of penne pasta. The new Atkins All Purpose Baking Mix can be used to create a host of delicious baked goods such as pancakes, waffles, muffins and breads, while the Penne Pasta is made with enriched semolina wheat and has half the carbs of regular pasta!

These are two breakthrough products, and I’m happy to send you any further information, photos or recipes to utilize these products.

My reply:

I think, given the gluten content of those products, they are actually worse for health than the higher-carb versions.

I'm a paleo advocate. Grains, particularly wheat, have no place in the human diet. Sorry to say that I believe that Atkins, et al, has lost its soul in the pursuit of popularity and financial gain.

She thanked me for my feedback. That being the case, I thought I'd be even more helpful.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

23 Comments

  1. Grok on July 15, 2009 at 11:32

    Total madness we live in. I'm actually starting to come around in my thinking that it's really not people's fault that they're fat.

    Even if they do try to make healthy lifestyle changes, it's pretty damn hard to cut though all the bullshit and get good information with all the money floating around out there. As you know, it's practically a full time job in itself.

  2. Rocco Ernest on July 15, 2009 at 11:51

    This is similar to what I watch my family doing on weight watchers.

    My sister talks to me about losing weight on WW – and shows me what they 'can eat', including cakes, cookies and ice cream, and all the stuff chock full of chemicals and Bad Stuff. She 'saves up' points so its ok to eat a bunch of snackwells? Ugh. In the next breath, all she does is complain about how she can't lose weight, is hungry all the time, etc. Then I tell her about the Paleo thing I've been on, and all the benefits (including weight loss, fat loss, ease of following, and health improvements on ALL FRONTS), and *I* get the crazy looks. I'd love to talk to someone at the WW organization and have them defend why its 'good' to eat preprocessed cookie-like blobs of psuedo food, but 'bad' to eat a steak.

    • Aaron Blaisdell on July 16, 2009 at 19:31

      Sounds like the Christian approach to sin and salvation.

  3. JT on July 15, 2009 at 17:51

    I've felt this way for quite a while. In discussions about Atkins I began to talk in terms of Old School Atkins vs. New Atkins.

    Old School Atkins being you ate low carb and what carbs you ate came from real foods; vegetables, berries, fruit. …and you don't count NET carbs…you count ALL carbs. This keeps the overall count lower.

    New Atkins is over reliant upon highly processed products when in reality they don't need them at all.

    I'm so glad that I found Neanderthin and other info on paleo diets – it's been a great ride ever since.

    JT

  4. AJP on July 15, 2009 at 11:31

    Atkins products are junk.

    I agree and think if Dr. Atkins were here today he would advocate a diet that is more primal.
    He was already right on many primal points in one of his last books called Dr Atkins Age-Defying Diet Revolution (1999).
    http://www.amazon.com/Dr-Atkins-Age-Defying-Diet-Revolution/dp/0312251890/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1247682325&sr=1-1
    I think he was going in that direction.

    As a side Richard, your comments are needed over at the Daily Apple forum on this post.

    Thanks!!!

  5. Richard Nikoley on July 15, 2009 at 11:48

    I just slapped a ton of links on the guy.

  6. Richard Nikoley on July 15, 2009 at 11:53

    Modern Ignorance, Rocco. Dumbfounding.

  7. anand srivastava on July 16, 2009 at 03:17

    This fat phobia is nuts.

    I have seen that almost all of our (indian) traditional foods are very high in fat. I will just give one example.

    Daal Baati Choorma (from Rajasthan) – This dish is made from balls of wheat with filling of soaked and roasted lentils. The balls are boiled and then cooked submerged in ambers. These balls are then soaked in Ghee (butter oil). Later it is broken down and made it into a powder adding more ghee in the process. Then it is eaten with Lentil soup.

    I went to Kerala this month. I used to think they eat a lot of coconut. But they actually don't eat it as much anymore. They used to cook in it, but now use mostly the palmolein oil (the cheapest oil available). But they still eat a lot of ghee. Every restaurant will have dishes made with ghee. I don't know how genuine the ghee will be, but I used it a lot to get a reduced Omega 6 food there.

    I think the whole of India has used a lot of ghee to preserve their vegetarian lifestyle. I used to think mustard oil was important, but now I think that ghee is really the main thing.

    I have increased my ghee consumption a lot, helping me to reduce my carb intake. Getting rid of Refined oil and Fructose are required anyway. With occasional carb less grilled chicken and IF, the diet has helped me a lot to reduce my fat by about 8Kgs over the last 4 months. I am now less than 80Kg from my peak of 95Kg. I am looking forward to being less than 75Kg. That will be something I haven't been outside of my college life.

    After reading here and at Whole Health source blog, I have realized that Saturated fat is the best fuel source we have for our bodies. Rest of the fuel sources are not optimal including proteins.

    I don't think it is good at all to get more proteins than required for muscle building. In Protein debate at , Dr Phillips argues that there is very little requirement for proteins. He says that the .8gm/Kg/day RDA is actually quite high for people who exercise. And building muscle doesn't increase the requirement much.

    That rabbit starvation thing is a very good indicator of the protein problem.

    • Aaron Blaisdell on July 16, 2009 at 19:36

      I’ve been using ghee, coconut oil, and bacon drippings for all my cooking needs for the past 4 months. My scrambled eggs have never been fluffier and tastier than when cooked in ghee! I’m definitely a convert!

  8. Arlo @phareon on July 15, 2009 at 13:51

    Great post. This makes me think about the greatest over-riding factor with changing a diet, and that's consciousness-raising yourself out of that natural brainwashing that comes from family, culture, media, etc.

    It's like growing up in a religious family and then becoming an atheist. After enough reflection, evidence, experience, one day the scale tips and you have to go with what makes more sense.

    The other big take-away I would say is that, as you say, when you focus on specifically demonizing a specific nutrient, all sorts of strange things are possible.

    So first I started out with the idea that fat is bad, about 10 years ago when I as 20. So I went vegetarian for 2 years, because that seemed to be the more healthy thing to do. In trying selfishly to keep my original lifestyle I ate all sorts of crazy "meat-like" products packed with the kind of garbage (but to even more of an extent) as the Atkins stuff.

    About 5 years ago I flirted with low-carb, and again, in trying to maintain my original style of diet I ate heaps of garbage, including a lot of Atkins or Atkins style stuff. I have some low-carb cookbooks and I'm amazed at how much of it contains absolutely strange ingredients and heaps of artificial sweeteners. Instead of fat-phobia, it becomes carb-phobia… an irrational fear of all things carbohydrate.

    Of course now I've come around full circle and am trying to embrace the *lifestyle* of REALITY! We are sentient animals with specific mental and physical needs based on our evolutionary heritage. It all flows so cleanly from there.

  9. Richard Nikoley on July 15, 2009 at 13:54

    Very nice, Arlo.

  10. ThisPrimalLife on July 16, 2009 at 16:03

    I like what you had to say on the whole idea of not ‘missing out’. If one feels they are entitled to a bowl of pasta then, in my opinion, they should just eat a bowl of regular penne and have it over with.

  11. Julie on July 16, 2009 at 18:15

    This is a great observation: “Atkins is doing its best to keep you on a modern diet, just one a bit lower in carbohydrate.” Very eye-opening! This pretty much sums up all of the crappy diets like WW, and especially Nutrisystem ( they have a new “Advanced” system for diabetics. Don’t even get me started on THAT…)

    Arlo- wonderful comments!

  12. Andrew S on July 16, 2009 at 13:51

    I don’t understand the desire to continue eating bad food. Whether it’s Weight Watchers, or diabetics eating low-sugar cookies &c, the viewpoint seems to be “I *liked* cookies, and I resent not being able to eat them.”

    I liked cookies. And bagels, especially the asiago cheese bagels that Einstein’s has, with onion & chive cream cheese… yum. Ice cream, cake, candy bars, the works. I didn’t eat that many sweets, but I still really enjoyed the flavor. I craved them, but managed those cravings by eating something ‘healthy’ instead, like bagels or pasta.

    But now I have no desire to eat that stuff. It tastes different now — I don’t get cravings for it. I had some Ben & Jerry’s a couple weeks ago, and it was just bland. I ate maybe a third of the pint; I couldn’t finish it.

    I think the difference is that I’m off the carb train, whereas people eating Atkins & WW and especially diabetics are often *still* addicted to carbs. Obviously they never looked for the benefits of a paleo diet, or don’t want to believe it — or else they’d switch. Like Richard’s mom, once you start seeing results, it’s difficult to go back.

    • Aaron Blaisdell on July 16, 2009 at 19:40

      Man, I still love my Ben & Jerry’s! I don’t think I’ll ever loose that enjoyment. Fortunately, it’s a once every 2-3 months kind of splurge, so no biggie. I’m not religious about being paleo. Just realistic.

      • Richard Nikoley on July 16, 2009 at 19:47

        Me either.

        A 1 scoop in a cup is a perfectly reasonable ocassional indulgence.



  13. George on July 16, 2009 at 16:01

    “……… the focus is on a method and not a principle ……. By focussing on method and not principle, you’ll never fix the one thing that will keep most of you failing or miserable: hunger….”
    That reminds me on another interesting line of Kurt Harris (www.paleonu.com):
    “CR is a phenomenon that represents one of several ways that the damaging effects of our Neolithic diets can be mitigated, and is likely mediated through lowering basal insulin levels. The CR effect is one among many changes to the Neolithic diet that could be made, and which, if they work, are not enhancing our natural aging phenotype, but rather restoring it. Any such manoeuvres will work only to the degree we were deviating from the EM2 for our species in the first place”. ……and: “CR is therefore partial restoration of phenotypic expression, not enhancement”…and: “CR as practiced by Humans on plant-based diets is probably lowering basal insulin levels in the unhealthiest of several possible ways”…So I see the principle as keeping your insulin low, that’s all! That’s VERY simple and it avoids discussions about what kinds of foods and exercise are good for us…in concreto that can be very different, and that’s what you see or could have seen around the world and to give you one example: The Tarahumara Indians: they run every day 20-40 Miles on beans, corn, corn beer and some mice…they are never sick and grow very old and still those distances when they are 90…probably they apply a/the principle…

  14. George on July 16, 2009 at 18:33

    One of the promisses to eat what our genes expect us to eat (paraphrase of Marc Sisson) is to age well; that´s why the following research is interesting, they found a substantial link between increased levels of nitrates in our environment and food with increased deaths from diseases, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes mellitus and Parkinson’s…due to the progressive increases in human exposure to nitrates, nitrites and nitrosamines through processed and preserved foods as well as fertilizers…..”Not only do we consume them in processed foods, but they get into our food supply by leeching from the soil and contaminating water supplies used for crop irrigation, food processing and drinking.” ….Sodium nitrite is deliberately added to meat and fish to prevent toxin production; it is also used to preserve, color and flavor meats. Ground beef, cured meats and bacon in particular contain abundant amounts of amines due to their high protein content. Because of the significant levels of added nitrates and nitrites, nitrosamines are nearly always detectable in these foods. Nitrosamines are also easily generated under strong acid conditions, such as in the stomach, or at high temperatures associated with frying or flame broiling. Reducing sodium nitrite content reduces nitrosamine formation in foods…..Nitrosamines basically become highly reactive at the cellular level, which then alters gene expression and causes DNA damage…..Well read it for yourself: http://www.lef.org/news/LefDailyNews.htm?NewsID=8518&Section=Disease

  15. Valda Redfern on July 18, 2009 at 07:28

    I tried Atkins in 2000 and although I did lose about 20lb, I fell off the wagon and regained most of it. I think my problems were a) obsessing about the number of grams of carbohydrate I could get away with (how many slices of toast, how much pasta, how much pie, etc.) instead of concentrating on getting enough good quality nutrients; and b) not fully believing Atkins’s argument. About three years ago I started another attempt to lose weight, initially aiming simply to eat less. Because I wasn’t willing to cut out fats, though, I drifted into to a low-carb regime. All the reading I’ve done since then, on blogs like this one (thanks, Richard), has helped me adopt an enjoyable and convenient diet that has improved my health and enabled me to lose 35lb. I eliminated gluten-rich grains from my diet six months ago and don’t miss them at all, but I will occasionally snarf down favourite desserts when eating out (I never waste creme caramel opportunities).

  16. StephenB on July 22, 2009 at 08:08

    I noticed Atkins gave a nice quote on the Nourishing Traditions book. Too bad his organization didn’t lean more in that direction.

  17. Willis Morse on July 31, 2009 at 10:33

    I’d like to put in a conditional thumbs up for Atkins. I read the 2004 edition of his book a year and a half ago when I started low carbing, right after reading GCBC. I dropped 50 pounds easily, saw decent body recomp and fixed a lifetime of chronic pain and lowgrade health problems. I’m more on the Paleo side now, but the Atkins induction as laid out in the 2004 edition is pretty close to Paleo. It ends up telling you to eat lots of animal products, some green veggies, a few nuts, very little cheese and no wheat or milk. At 20 grams of carbs, you basically can’t eat any amount of normal wheat products, and the franken food low carb breads taste so awful that I just gave up on grains long before I found out about all the historical problems with grains. Nowhere in the book do I remember him advocating this Atkins Nutritionals soy crap.

    I’m a lot more pissed off about South Beach. By telling you to avoid white flour, sugar and animal fat while keeping the healthy whole grains and healthy fructose, it does nothing to improve your appetite control or remove the vast catalog of wheat-induced problems. I know people who tried it and lost some weight, but never got past the hunger and wheat/sugar cravings. And now they’re totally discouraged about carb restriction, thinking they’re in for a lifetime of hunger and missing their favorite foods.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 31, 2009 at 10:37

      Excellent assessment, Willis. I agree across the board.

  18. dancinpete on September 29, 2009 at 14:55

    I see a great deal of similarity between diet corporations who have a financial incentive to get you to buy their own brand of food, be it low carb, low fat, low sugar.. etc. and the medical establishment who has a financial incentive to diagnose you with something that requires surgery or ongoing drug therapy.
    There is significantly less money to be made in promoting/selling prevention, or promoting cheap over the counter supplements, or whole foods, especially locally grown foods.
    Unfortunately, I can't think of a better way of combating this greed based system, other than by spreading the word one by one with sites such as this… I'm just afraid that we're seriously outnumbered…. good thing we'll live longer than them. -dancinpete

    A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. ~Max Planck, A Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, 1949

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