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Doctors Gather At Duke To Discuss Effects Of No-Carb Diets

Posted February 13, 2004 6:58 a.m. EST

— The low-carb diet craze is taking over. Everywhere you look, low- to no-carbohydrate meals are on the menu.

But what are the long-term risks? Dozens of doctors have gathered at Duke Medical Center to talk about the diets.

By now, chances are you have heard of low-carb diets. Fast-food restaurants tout low-carb items. Higher-end restaurants like George's Garage are taking notice. During the lunch rush, many people pass over pasta and reach for meat instead.

Even the Duke Diet and Fitness Center is weighing in. Last fall, it became one of the first major weight-loss centers in the country to offer a low carb plan.

"The studies we've done on low-carb diets show the diet works for weight loss," said Dr. Eric Westman, M.D., of the Duke Medical Center.

Westman shared the results of his studies on low-carb diets with other doctors at the medical conference. He said the low-carb diet is effective in reducing cholesterol -- and even seems to have a drug-like effect on some people.

"If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, and you're taking medication, when you try one of these diets, you might not need as much medication," Westman said.

Westman was quick to point out that no studies have been done on the long-term effects of these diets.

Anne Ringer tried the Atkins Diet. She said it worked, but only for a while.

"My problem was I couldn't stay on it," Ringer said. "I liked my bread and pasta too much."

Ringer's friend, Neloa Battle, said she does not think much of the low-carb craze.

"I just think if people do things in moderation, some of this, some of that, everything will balance out," Battle said.

For now, doctors admit there still are a lot of questions about the latest fad in dieting.

Doctors caution anyone thinking about a low-carb diet to check with their doctor first.