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Duke Diet & Fitness Center to Offer Low-Carb Diet

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N.C. -- In the wake of research findings that show successful weight-loss outcomes for low-carbohydrate diets like Atkins, the Duke Diet & Fitness Center (DFC) will begin offering a new low-carbohydrate diet option to program participants beginning next week.

The new dietary option is similar to the Atkins approach, but differs in several important ways. The DFC Low-Carb Diet option does not start at quite as low a carbohydrate level as the Atkins diet, and will progress participants more quickly than Atkins toward a moderately restricted, but still low, level of carbohydrates. The DFC diet places a greater emphasis on selecting healthier sources of fat and encourages clients to monitor not only their carbohydrate intake, but also their total calories and their exercise.

"For more than 30 years, the DFC has advocated a balanced, reduced-calorie diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains and low in fat," said Howard Eisenson, M.D., director of the Duke program. "Combined with regular exercise and behavioral strategies, this traditional dietary approach has helped our participants maintain healthy habits. While we stand firmly behind our philosophy, we recognize that no one approach will work for everyone, and we remain alert to promising new developments in this research area. Our primary goal is to help people achieve a healthier, sustainable weight in a medically safe manner."

As of Sept. 29, participants will be able to select the traditional DFC diet or the "DFC Low-Carb Diet." The Low-Carb option provides adequate vegetables and some fruits. Participants will also select proteins such as eggs, low-fat cheese, fish and poultry, and heart-healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil and nuts.

"Until recently, there were few proponents of low-carb diets among weight-loss experts," Eisenson said. "However, several studies have suggested that low-carb diets may be a safe and effective weight-control option for up to one year. Additional studies are underway to assess longer-term safety and efficacy and we will be monitoring these results closely."

Eisenson contends that the low-carbohydrate option is not for everyone, but that some people may find it beneficial to try a different route to weight loss, especially if they have been unsuccessful with a low-fat approach. For people whose abnormal lipid profiles or insulin resistance have not responded well to a standard diet, this alternative approach might prove especially helpful.

The Atkins diet was popularized by the late Robert Atkins, M.D. His controversial approach to weight loss has been the subject of heated debate in medical circles for three decades. Preliminary research findings at several academic medical centers, including Duke University Medical Center, show that a low-carbohydrate diet can lead to significant and sustained weight loss.

Participants will work with DFC nutritionists to select the correct diet for them based on patient preference and medical recommendations. For example, Eisenson notes that certain conditions, such as kidney disease or pregnancy, would not be appropriate for the low-carb option. However, for participants whose blood tests show moderately high triglycerides, and especially if they have not responded in the past to a low-fat, reduced-calorie diet, the staff may recommend the DFC Low-Carb Diet.

The DFC, in conjunction with the Stedman Center for Nutrition and Metabolic Studies (also at Duke), will be conducting research to compare the results of high- and low-carbohydrate dietary options.

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The Duke Diet & Fitness Center, established in 1969, is an intensive, medically supervised residential weight-management center.

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