Falafel sandwich. Image credit:Vicarious Foodie.
Journalists traditionally like to show "two sides" of the story, even if, as is the case with climate science, one side is fringe, and the result is a confused, angry public. This need for journalistic "balance" has helped develop the equally absurd dichotomy of vegetarian versus meat eater. From which, comes the pale, thin vegetarian, versus the fat meat-eater. Then came the Atkins low carb diet, offering nothing for the overweight vegetarian (yes, they exist), and requiring the awful trade-off of waste-line versus carbon footprint. For me, that left Ben Franklin's dictum, 'everything in moderation,' sounding like the most sensible way forward. TreeHugger does like to stir the pot, however. Adding "Eco-Atkins" to the lifestyle sandwich sounds like more fun than a TV cable talk show. Falafel on, then.The Archives of Internal Medicine has published The Effect of a Plant-Based Low-Carbohydrate ("Eco-Atkins") Diet on Body Weight and Blood Lipid Concentrations in Hyperlipidemic Subjects, by Jenkins, et.al., which is the source of the "Eco-Atkins" tag line. The authors' intentions were straightforward:
The effect of exchanging the animal proteins and fats for those of vegetable origin has not been tested. Our objective was to determine the effect on weight loss and LDL-C concentration of a low-carbohydrate diet high in vegetable proteins from gluten, soy, nuts, fruits, vegetables, cereals, and vegetable oils compared with a high-carbohydrate diet based on low-fat dairy and whole grain products.As was their conclusion:
A low-carbohydrate plant-based diet has lipid-lowering advantages over a high-carbohydrate, low-fat weight-loss diet in improving heart disease risk factors not seen with conventional low-fat diets with animal products.
Restating somewhat:- The investigators tested what would happen if half the test subjects maintained the basic high-protein, low-carbohydrate ratio of the Atkins diet, but through vegetarian foods, and the other half had a high-carbohydrate vegetarian diet, including dairy and eggs. Although both groups lost weight, the first ("eco-Atkins") group had better cholesterol and blood pressure outcomes.
The "carbon footprint" reduction is something I threw in to the headline to draw attention to what is generally accepted as fact (meat production and preparation has a high environmental burden). The authors of the paper did not state that in their paper.
I'm still going to have the occasional steak and eggs for breakfast. Just because I like Ben Franklin so much....