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Yesterday, we reported that the Atkins Diet is proving to be bad for business for many packaged goods manufacturers, and that the deans of 28 public health schools have backed a “meatless Mondays” concept designed to reduce Americans’ consumption of saturated fat. In our commentaries, we expressed a certain skepticism about any diet in which bacon is considered to be healthier than bananas, and noted that Mrs. Content Guy is shedding pounds on the Atkins Diet while making the rest of us at home nuts.

These reports generated a fair amount of email…

MNB user Marc B. Lynn wrote:

“I must tell you that Atkins really works for weight loss and it lowers triglycerides and total cholesterol. I started on Atkins and had a blood test on 1/23/2003 (my birthday). My total Cholesterol was 173 (well within normal range), and my Triglycerides were 282. Triglycerides should be under 150 to be considered at normal levels. When I had a new blood test on 3/5/2003 my total Cholesterol dropped to 142 and my Triglycerides dropped to 126. So far there has been no significant change in HDL or LDL. During this timeframe I lost 23 pounds and I feel the best I have in years.

“The Food Companies have a great opportunity to increase the number of products that are supportive of the Atkins lifestyle. The reason this is so important is that Atkins followers will continue to eat reduced carbohydrate foods well beyond the period of weight loss to maintain their weight at desired levels. The shift to lower carbohydrates is not a temporary thing for those who become believers. This is a great opportunity for the Food Companies.”

This perspective was echoed by another member of the MNB community:

“As the low carb lifestyle gains momentum, I hope that more food manufacturers will look for solutions that will meet low carb dietary needs and still give us the satisfaction of great taste.”

MNB user Annette Chilson concurred:

“Over the past weekend, my parents and I discussed the merits of the Atkins diet - that they are currently on. My mom has already lost over 10 pounds on this diet. I've known other people who have lost around 30. I told my parents that I had attempted the diet twice, but found it too difficult to stay on it since I find the low carb diet limiting. Meat, cheese and nuts - I go crazy wanting some variety. I'm not that imaginative a cook - hence going for the high carb prepared meals. If my local grocery stores had an extensive low carb section, they'd certainly find a new customer in me - and I would gather, many more. This is a trend that has got to pick up some steam because we've all got to stop eating so many products that process down into sugar.”

And MNB user Ed Nalley added:

“My wife and i have been on the "new eating program-"-not a diet-- for 2 months. We are buying much larger amounts of Fish--Pork products- Chicken--Turkey--Fresh Veggies--Fresh Fruit--some wine—a lot of high protein power bars--with only 2 or 3 Carbs--Result: More energy--4" less on the waist--30lbs less--New Clothes--plus doing more exercise daily—Extra Natural Nutritional supplements are also being purchased.
“Perhaps mainstream Food Stores should do a little extra marketing on the Foods we are now buying and offer the variety we are looking for--so we don't spend 2/3 of our higher food budget in Whole Foods.-- and when we eat out--we have no problem ordering less carbs and getting extra Protein Veggies and Fresh berries.”

Sounds like a trend here…

However, another MNB user had a different opinion:

“Is there anybody in the world who really believes that replacing a healthy rounded diet with a protein and fat laden substitute is something that will not have long-term detrimental effects on their health? Think about it people! The net secret to Adkins is that although you eat a diet that is full of all the bad things, you ultimately consume fewer calories.

“Pretty simple math here. Consume fewer calories than your body needs to maintain its base weight and you lose. Consume more and you gain.

“However, adherents of Atkins are very likely to see their cholesterol go up as the scale goes down. Additionally, when they revert to a more normal diet (and they will), they will have developed no eating maintenance skills for managing their caloric intake. Adkins is bad news and bad for you! I personally have lost over 15 pounds in the last month by doing a little more aerobic exercise and eating more fruits and vegetables, cutting down on processed foods and only eating bread products made with whole grains. I can maintain these health habits. Can Mrs. Content Guy live on proteins forever?”

The answer to that last question is “no.” As soon as she reaches her goal, our prediction is that she’s going to reward herself with a Milky Way. A big one.

We reported yesterday how the state of Maine’s Education Committee voted unanimously to reject a bill that would have banned candy and soft drink sales in public schools, a move that virtually guarantees that it will be rejected by the full state legislature. We noted that there’s a basic public policy question here, asking whether government be in the business of regulating food consumption, at least in places where taxpayer dollars help underwrite the foods that are served? But we also asked if anyone in Maine teaching public school kids about nutrition and healthy eating (as opposed to just trying to regulate food choices)?

One MNB user responded:

“No matter if the kids are taught about proper nutrition or not, if there's a vending machine there, they'll use it. How many school age kids do you know, given a choice between an apple & a candy bar will choose the apple if not pushed by a parent? Most kids don't make wise eating decisions. After all, they're going to live forever so why worry about what they eat now. That can wait until they're old. Probably about 30, in their opinion!”

A final note, if we may, about the ongoing discussion we’ve had this week about the growing boycott of French foods, and the associated socio-political issues that it has brought up, ranging from what we call our French fries to whether or not we listen to the Dixie Chicks (who made some politically incorrect remarks about President Bush and are paying the price in terms of their immediate popularity).

We love discussions like these, and this one clearly took on a life of its own. One the one hand, the discussion got a little political, even for us, but we felt a responsibility to guide it and fairly represent the varying opinions without stifling it or telling you all what you are and are not allowed to talk about. We hope that one of the things that makes MNB unique is the fact that together we’ve created an online community; the evidence would suggest that many of you view MNB as your site, not just ours.

(In the time since MNB was launched, we’ve had great discussions about industry issues, major league baseball, movies, books and even shared recommendations about restaurants, beer and wine. That’s called diversity…and we love it.)

This past week has generated strong usership numbers, site traffic, new subscriptions and a record amount of email...all of which is good, we think, and nothing to be afraid of.

We just wanted to say thank you for your involvement and your passion, especially to those of you who wrote yesterday saying that you agreed with our comment that the ultimate and most radical form of expression is to vote.

Your emails, however, did make us think. And we got curious about something, and checked it out…

Just FYI…

Did you know that, according to the French National Institute of Statistics, in the first round of voting in the last presidential election in France almost 73 percent of eligible voters cast ballots? And that in the second and final round, 81 percent of those eligible voted?

In the last US presidential election, of course, 51 percent of voters cast ballots, which actually was up from 49 percent in 1996.

Just something to think about…

See you tomorrow.
KC's View: