What if It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?

The moment the government started telling Americans to eat less fat, we got fatter. The truths about why we gain weight and why it is so hard to lose it might turn out to be much different than we think.

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  1. If the members of the American medical establishment were to have a collective find-yourself-standing-naked-in-Times-Square-type nightmare, this might be it. They spend 30 years ridiculing Robert Atkins, author of the phenomenally-best-selling “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution” and “Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution,” accusing the Manhattan doctor of quackery and fraud, only to discover that the unrepentant Atkins was right all along. Or maybe it’s this: they find that their very own dietary recommendations—eat less fat and more carbohydrates—are the cause of the rampaging epidemic of obesity in America. Or, just possibly this: they find out both of the above are true.

    When Atkins first published his “Diet Revolution” in 1972, Americans were just coming to terms with the proposition that fat—particularly the saturated fat of meat and dairy products—was the primary nutritional evil in the American diet. Atkins managed to sell millions of copies of a book promising that we would lose weight eating steak, eggs and butter to our heart’s desire, because it was the carbohydrates, the pasta, rice, bagels and sugar, that caused obesity and even heart disease. Fat, he said, was harmless.

    Atkins allowed his readers to eat “truly luxurious foods without limit,” as he put it, “lobster with butter sauce, steak with béarnaise sauce … bacon cheeseburgers,” but allowed no starches or refined carbohydrates, which means no sugars or anything made from flour. Atkins banned even fruit juices, and p...