Diet, insulin resistance, and obesity: Zoning in on data for Atkins dieters living in South Beach

Academic Article


  • Insulin resistance is a central pathogenic factor for the metabolic syndrome and is associated with both generalized obesity and the accumulation of fat in the omental and intramyocellular compartments. In the context of the current obesity epidemic, it is imperative to consider diets in terms of their ability to both promote weight loss and ameliorate insulin resistance. Weight loss under any dietary formulation depends on hypocaloric intake, and only moderate weight loss (5-10%) is sufficient to augment insulin sensitivity. However, increments in insulin sensitivity may be more directly related to loss of intramyocellular or omental fat rather than loss of total body weight per se. The widespread acceptance of popular low-carbohydrate high-fat diets (e.g. Atkins Diet, Zone Diet, South Beach diet) further underscores the need to evaluate dietary interventions regarding their safety and metabolic effects. These high-fat diets have been shown to be safe in the short term; however, their long-term safety has not been established. With respect to insulin sensitivity, diets enriched in saturated fats can induce insulin resistance, whereas fat substitution with monounsaturated fats can enhance insulin sensitivity. On the other hand, high-fiber, high-carbohydrate diets comprised of foods with low caloric density can similarly be used for effective weight reduction and to ameliorate insulin resistance. Although some data suggest that low-glycemic index diets are most advantageous in this regard, these effects may have more to do with increments in dietary fiber than differences in available carbohydrates. Popular low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets are being fervently embraced as an alternative to challenging modifications in lifestyle and intentional calorie reduction. Current data do not support such unbridled enthusiasm for these diets, particularly in relationship to high-fiber, high-carbohydrate diets emphasizing intake of fresh vegetables and fruits. Long-term studies to determine the efficacy and safety of both popular and experimental diets are warranted.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Lara-Castro C; Garvey WT
  • Start Page

  • 4197
  • End Page

  • 4205
  • Volume

  • 89
  • Issue

  • 9