The other response to the Atkins diet has been to say it was unhealthy.
Yeah, there're two factors. The Atkins diet, because it's very low in carbohydrates, it can be ketogenic. That's why your body, in effect, stops running on glucose, on blood sugar, and starts running on fat, and the fat's broken down into these ketone bodies. Ketosis is a mild version of diabetic ketoacidosis, which is the state that occurs in uncontrolled diabetes, and it's fatal.
This whole medical society grew up basically thinking ketosis is bad, ketoacidosis is bad, and therefore ketosis in these diets is bad and you should do anything you can to avoid these ketogenic diets. In fact, many of the compromise diets from the 1930s through the 1990s were diets that cut back carbohydrates to just the level above which you won't have ketosis.
So on one level, ketosis is bad. That was always the message, and the other level was, these diets are high in fat, and if they're high in fat, they're going to cause heart disease. One study was done by this fellow John La Rosa, who went on to be a big administrator in the American Heart Association. He did a study in 1981 where he said he put these people on a Atkins diet and their cholesterol levels skyrocketed. Their weight plummeted, and if you actually look at the study, it's almost impossible [that] what he says happened. It's really fascinating that you take somebody from the American Heart Association, you have him do a study on the Atkins diet in 1981, and the cholesterol levels skyrocket, even though the people lose like 20-30 pounds. What he said happened should not happen, even if the diet was atherogenic, as they say.
Read more: Interview - Gary Taubes | Diet Wars | FRONTLINE | PBS