diet wars [home]


Arthur Agatston, M.D.

Agatston is a cardiologist and author of The South Beach Diet. He says that the fallout from the low-fat diets of the past few decades was an "unintended experiment," in which Americans substituted highly processed carbohydrates for fat, which resulted in the current obesity epidemic. In this interview he discusses how he developed the South Beach Diet, and why he considers it the successor to Atkins and other low-carb diets. Agatston also explains the concept of the glycemic index, which measures how foods affect blood sugar, and its importance in cardiac health.

Dan Glickman

Glickman served as secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration from 1995 to 2001. He is currently the director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. In this interview, he describes how the USDA's mission was targeted towards both food producers and food consumers -- sometimes conflicting constituencies. Glickman argues that diet, nutrition and obesity need to be treated as public health issues. "Cigarette smoking was. AIDS has been. But overall, what people eat has been viewed to be surplus or extraneous to what the health problems are in this country," he tells FRONTLINE. "And so USDA was part of that. The food producers were part of it. But so was everybody. Nobody challenged the system."

Jeanne Goldberg

Goldberg is a professor of nutrition at Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutrition. In this interview, she discusses how public interest in nutrition has changed over time in the U.S. She also addresses the public confusion over nutritional advice. "I think that confusion about how they hear sound bites of information from science is real," Goldberg tells FRONTLINE, but she says that the common sense Americans should use in approaching their diet is already ingrained from years of nutritional advice. "What I think is probably not true is if they look themselves in the mirror and say, 'What do I really know about nutrition,' they know quite a bit."

James Hill

Hill is a pediatrician and director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. The Center is a leader in obesity research and a sponsor for the "America on the Move" program, which encourages people to become more physically active. In this interview, Hill explains why diets are not necessarily a long-term solution to healthy living. "We can rarely find anyone who's lost weight and kept it off without increasing physical activity," he tells FRONTLINE. "Less than 9 percent. So yeah, it can be done, but what's your odds?"

Joseph Hotchkiss

Hotchkiss is chairman of the Department of Food Science at Cornell University. He has also served as a public health fellow at the Food and Drug Administration, and is on the FDA's Food Advisory Committee. In this interview, Hotchkiss discusses basic food chemistry and details the four basic macro components of food: water, carbohydrates, protein and fats. "Whenever you take out something in a food product, you have to replace it with something else," he explains. He also describes the challenges of trying to replicate the sensory attributes of certain food products, as well as potential unintended health consequences when creating low-fat or low-carb foods.

James Kenney

Kenney is the chief nutritionist at the Pritikin Longevity Center, which espouses a low-fat diet in combination with exercise to reverse chronic disease, including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. In this interview, he explains the basics of the Pritikin program and how low-fat diets allow people to achieve satiety on fewer calories. Kenney tells FRONTLINE that Pritikin considers weight loss to be a side effect of a healthy diet and exercise program. "But it's still a matter of discipline," he says. "You have to take responsibility for your health."

Aviva Must

Must is a professor of community health at the Tufts University School of Medicine and a scientist for the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. In this interview, she explains the health risks of obesity for both adults and children, and the confusion that results when the media gives the public seemingly conflicting nutrition messages. "People have to eat every day, and they're not sure if they should be eating to lower their cancer risk, or to lower their heart disease risk, or to maintain their weight," she tells FRONTLINE. "If we could only know what thing we should optimize, we could try to do a better job."

Marion Nestle

Nestle is chair of New York University's Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and the author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. She also edited the 1988 Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health. In this interview, she maintains that counting calories is the key to weight loss, but argues that it's difficult for the government and nutritionists alike to advocate eating less because of pressure from the food industry. However, she tells FRONTLINE that the food market is already becoming saturated and that she believes consumer awareness will drive the food industry to produce healthier alternatives.

Dean Ornish, M.D.

Ornish is a cardiologist and the author of Eat More, Weigh Less. He is a strong advocate of a low-fat diet and suggests that high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets, such as Atkins, are based on "half-truths." "If you're eating a typical American diet, which is high in simple carbs, and you go on an Atkins-type diet, you may lose weight because you're eating fewer simple carbs," he says. "But you could lose even more weight by eating fewer simple carbs and less fat, because both are the reasons why people get too many calories." Ornish says his diet has been proven to stop or reduce heart disease and has been backed up by scientific studies. "The burden of proof is on people who promote-high protein diets," he tells FRONTLINE.

Gary Taubes

Science journalist Gary Taubes wrote the controversial July 7, 2002 New York Times Magazine article, "What If It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?" which turned the spotlight onto high-fat, low carbohydrate diets. In this interview, Taubes explains his motivation for writing his piece, the science behind the low-carbohydrate diet, and the contention he faced when he published his findings. " I got crucified in a variety of publications," he says. "...It was fascinating. They go after the messenger as much as the message." He is currently writing a book that is a historical and scientific exploration of the hypothesis that weight gain and chronic disease are caused by excess consumption of easily digestible and refined carbohydrates.

Walter Willett, M.D.

Willett is professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, a professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, and the author of Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating. He is also one of the principal investigators on the Nurses Health Study, one of the largest, long-term studies to look at the effect of diet on health. Willett explains how his research on the Nurses Health Study led him to become one of the USDA food pyramid's greatest critics. "The food guide pyramid that was developed in 1991 really is based on the idea that all fat is bad," he says. "This pyramid is really not compatible with good scientific evidence." In this interview, he explains the reasoning behind his revision of the food pyramid to include exercise at the base and to separate out "good" and "bad" fats and carbohydrates.

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posted april 8, 2004

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