A Timeline of Low-Carbohydrate Diets
The company behind the Atkins phenomenon, Atkins Nutritionals, files for bankruptcy protection in the United States, as consumers begin to lose their resolve for low-carb replacements for bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. Demand has slowed after a wave of scares about long-term health damage caused by the Atkins diet and the death of its founder, Robert Atkins, who has a history of heart trouble and high blood pressure.
Although medical and nutrition experts have published many studies on low-carb diets' long-term adverse health effects, it's more likely that the routine of the diet itself is its own undoing. As one ex-low-carber tells the Associated Press: "It just got kind of tiresome, eating the same thing over and over. It was monotonous."
In 2004, AC Nielsen estimates $1.3 billion in spending on low-carb products in the United States. At the height of the low-carb fad, said to hit its peak in February 2004, around 1 in every 6 Americans is on some form of a reduced-carbohydrate diet.
Morgan Stanley analyst William Pecoriello commissions surveys on the eating habits of 2,500 American adults in each of the past three quarters, and in the latest poll, completed at the end of June 2004, the low-carb craze posts its first decline. The survey shows that about 10 percent of Americans are on a low-carb diet, down from an average of 12 percent in the first three months of the year. Pecoriello forecasts that by year-end, the number will be closer to 5 percent.
The Hamptons diet emerges as a post-Atkins, post-South Beach diet for trendy Manhattanites based on the produce found in New York's exclusive weekend retreats on Long Island. It blends low-carbohydrate living, whole foods, and the flavors of Mediterranean cooking. It is invented by Dr. Fred Pescatore, former colleague of Robert Atkins, the inventor of the Atkins diet. The Hamptons' famous residents include Barbra Streisand and Steven Spielberg.
"This promotes a healthy Mediterranean-style diet including both monounsaturated fats and fresh salmon," says Sue Baic of the British Dietitic Association. "However, there is an unnecessary emphasis on cutting out carbohydrates and using very expensive foods, which limits the application to most people. Making use of olive and rapeseed oils and tinned oily fish would make it more realistic. Being beautiful and famous doesn't qualify someone to give sound scientifically based dietary advice."
More than 300 new low-carb products are introduced in the United States. In 2003, the figure almost doubles to 633. By the first six months of 2004, the category has exploded, with 1,863 products launched.
The Zone, written by Barry Sears with Bill Lawren, advocates that a high-protein diet induces the body to reach a metabolic state in which the body works at peak efficiency. The Zone revolves around the application of a 40-30-30 rule. This means 40 percent of calories come from carbohydrates, 30 percent from protein, and another 30 percent from fat.
This prescription goes against the traditional diet suggested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food pyramid, in which protein plays the smallest role and the largest area of intake (the base of the pyramid) is carbohydrates. Traditional diets tend to be 55-15-30i.e., 55 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 15 from protein, and 30 from fat.