South Beach Diet - article

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04-14-2004, 08:59 AM
from the ny times on Dr.A

04-14-2004, 10:23 AM
Geez, ellis, could you just copy and paste? Pretty please? I really don't want to register for more stuff. I AM ILLITERATE after all.

04-14-2004, 10:28 AM
Sorry, darling. Didn't know you had to register.
If I get arrested for copying this, you'd better bail me out.

April 14, 2004
Doctor Wants 'South Beach' to Mean Hearts, Not Bikinis

At the end of our two-hour lunch, Dr. Arthur Agatston shook hands, relieved. "Thank you for not making me talk too much about food," he said.

Not quite what you would expect from the man who created the South Beach diet, but as he says repeatedly, he is not a diet doctor. He is a cardiologist who conceived the diet (along with Marie Almon, the former chief clinical dietician at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach) to lower his patients' risk of heart attack and stroke not to help them look better in their bikinis.

Which is clearly a distinction without a difference to the general public. Since it was published last April, "The South Beach Diet" (Rodale) has gone back to press 23 times with more than 7.7 million copies in print. The trade paperback "South Beach Diet Good Fats/Good Carbs Guide" (Rodale) has 3 million copies in print. And yesterday 1.75 million copies of "The South Beach Diet Cookbook" (Rodale) went on sale. But if Rodale is suddenly fat and happy, Dr. Agatston is less so.

"I'm not Mr. Food, I've got to tell you," he stated uncomfortably. "I love to eat. But I'm worried about people asking me details about different cuts of meat."

That didn't concern me. His forbidden meats include brisket, liver, rib steak and prime rib, all of which I can live without now that I don't live with my mother if only a baked potato were allowed. It's not. Neither are white rice, bread, pasta and almost any dessert known to man beside ricotta cheese mixed with artificial sweetener, which to my mouth, if not my hips, is somehow not in the same league with Entenmann's Fudge Iced Golden Cake.

Leaving all fantasies of cake in the dust, I met Dr. Agatston at Bolo, 23 East 22nd Street, between Park Avenue South and Broadway, because its chef, Bobby Flay along with other restaurateurs in New York and Miami has provided a recipe for the new cookbook. His is called "Spanish Spiced Rubbed Chicken With Mustard-Green Onion Sauce," which tastes better than it reads. Dr. Agatston, apparently uninterested in exploring the menu, ordered brick-roasted chicken with tarragon black pepper sauce and eggplant couscous with romesco sauce. The couscous remained untouched.

"I went back on Phase 1 of the diet in January," he said, referring to the strict two-week induction period. This phase excludes all starches and sugars, which Dr. Agatston said cause the large swings in blood sugars that trigger food cravings. (One tablespoon of ketchup, for instance, has four grams of sugar while one Hershey's Kiss has three.)

For those who consider diets as mind-numbing as accountants on awards shows, here's South Beach as fast as I can: The low-fat movement of the last 20 years was a failure. We're eating too much processed food stripped of fiber and nutrients, and not enough omega-3 oils, which keep the heart healthy. The way to beat this system is to undergo the first two weeks of relative boot camp, essentially a high lean-protein diet (forget the butter and bacon of Atkins glory) with an assortment of vegetables and low-fat cheeses. But no alcohol, fruit or any of the aforementioned roads to nirvana. In Phase 2, you can add them in a measured way, while substituting whole grains for processed white flour, rice and pastas. Phase 3 is maintenance, a more lenient version of the same idea.

What really describes the plan best is Dr. Agatston's original name for it: the Modified Carbohydrate Diet. Not as glamorous as South Beach, but to the point.

"Even in the first two weeks you eat enough vegetables and salads that you don't go into ketosis," Dr. Agatston said, referring to the preferred state of ecstasy espoused in the Atkins diet where the body runs out of recently eaten carbohydrates and burns stored fat instead. Whether that harms you or helps you physically has been a subject of heated debate. But because the South Beach diet does not advocate it, Dr. Agatston seems to have escaped extreme criticism from the medical and nutritional establishments.

Dr. Marion Nestle, a professor and former chairwoman of the department of nutrition at New York University, said: "I don't understand why it's gotten the attention it has. For the first two weeks it's a standard low-carbohydrate diet. It's very hard to argue with restricting bread, white rice, pasta, soft drinks, all great ideas when trying to lose weight. But the hype is he never talks about quantity. It's calories that make a difference in losing weight or not."

Dr. Agatston responded: "When choosing the right fats and the right carbohydrates, in general, the quantity takes care of itself. Weighing foods is not a lifestyle. Also, I'm not claiming any unique vision; I've learned a lot from other people. The diet is a consensus of current opinion. Whether you need to lose weight or not, this is the healthiest way to eat."

At 57, he looks trim and healthy himself, taking an aspirin, fish oil capsules and a statin drug daily. Not that he has heart problems, he just spends every day with people who do. "South Beach starts way after my bedtime," he said. "The models are not my patients."

Clearly, Dr. Agatston runs with a different crowd. Dressed in a crisp navy suit, blue shirt and tie, sporting a gold wedding band like a banner, he is the ultimate incarnation of "my son the doctor." This is a man used to asking other people about themselves and their most intimate health concerns, and despite his year of fast fame, he still does not seem comfortable being the subject of others' scrutiny. His wife, Sari, a former lawyer who manages his South Beach industry, has prepared him to answer cookbook questions, though he much prefers talking lipids to lunch.

"The recipe in the cookbook for asparagus with sesame and ginger is fabulous," he said, scanning the envelope where he had scribbled his notes. "And also, the orange ginger green beans. My wife said that's one that I love." He put the envelope back in his jacket.

So much for food.

His blockbuster books aside the publishing equivalent of winning Powerball Dr. Agatston remains very much who he has been these past 20 years, an associate professor of cardiology at the University of Miami School of Medicine. A native of Roslyn, on Long Island, whose father and grandfather were both eye doctors, he graduated from medical school at New York University and completed his residency and internship at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. He did a fellowship at N.Y.U. before relocating to Miami, where he developed a heart scan using an ultrafast CT scanner. He likens it to "a mammography of the heart."

"I knew right away that the calcium in the arteries reflected the amount of plaque," he went on.

"The measure of coronary calcium is called the Agatston Score and the protocol for calcium screening is called the Agatston Method. That was all the celebrity I needed or deserved. My background is academic, and advertising and glitz was not what I was thinking of."

He smiled ruefully. "My wife says people in South Beach don't care when they die just so they're thin when they do."

Indeed, it is the women on his diet, he said, who make him crazy. "They lose weight and look absolutely fine to me, but they say, `No, I need to lose an inch more here,' " he said, shrugging.

"We claim to take off bellies but we don't body sculpt," he went on. "If the blood chemistry is good, the rest is a cultural problem, not a health problem." His tone was firm. "And it's not my problem."

It was Dr. Agatston's own belly that got him started on the diet track. He was always thin, he said, but despite his avid golfing, middle age and Wheat Thins by the box caught up with him.

"What you want is nutrient density, fiber and some good oils," he said. "My basic message is, everything in moderation. It does come down to calories in, calories out."

Which was the perfect moment for the dessert menu to arrive. He perused it and offered to share one Human Weakness, Up Close and Personal! but, you should excuse the expression, his heart just didn't seem in it. We settled for decaf cappuccinos, instead.

He talked about some of the benefits of his newfound celebrity and wealth: the creation of the Agatston Research Institute, dedicated to research in nutrition and education in heart attack and stroke prevention, and which includes a new imaging center.

He has turned down business offers like endorsing outdoor grills, but he is talking to food companies about starting a line of South Beach meals with lean meats, vegetables and added omega oils. "A food line is an opportunity to educate the public," he said. "And whatever profits we make can help support the research."

It is in ventures like these, he said, that his wife's help will come in handy, as it did with "The South Beach Cookbook."

"I meet the chefs," he said, "and forget their names."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company |

04-14-2004, 10:45 AM
Thanks, Sweet Ellis. Good article. If you go to jail. I'll bake you a bean cake with a file hidden in it!

04-14-2004, 12:49 PM
Ellis, that was wonderful.

I love this guy: we claim to take off bellies but we don't body sculpt. if blood chemistries are good, the rest is a cultural problem, not a health problem.

That is wonderful. I think that is the essence of all of this in a nutshell. All this craziness about body and beauty perfection and ignoring health, vitality, intelligence, creativity...who are we as humans anyway, what we are and what we do? Or what we look like in the mirror?

04-14-2004, 01:02 PM
I loved the article. He seems so no-nonsense!

04-14-2004, 01:09 PM
Isn't it great? He brings it all right back to the nitty gritty for us. It's not about losing that final five pounds and looking like Brittany. It's about being healthy and about being real.

Ruth, screw the bean cake. If I'm prison, I'll be needing some chocolate.

little chick
04-14-2004, 01:32 PM
Ellis great article..... if you go to jail I will bake you a huge chocolate cake ( with a file ) and send you some magazines and some cigs incase you need to bribe some people. Maybe you will be cell mates with Martha and then you will have the best looking cell in the joint. :lol:

04-14-2004, 02:20 PM
Thanks Ellis! I'm hoping he goes ahead with the food line. That would be wonderful!

04-14-2004, 03:50 PM
Now that's more like it, Little Chick. :yes:
Ruth can send me flowers.

Yeah, Bamie. I'm all for a frozen food line where I don't have to do any cooking. My DH is quite supportive of the idea, too. :lol3:

04-14-2004, 04:25 PM
Thanks Ellis, for the article. He sounds like my kind of guy. It is all about keeping healthy. so I'll give you a large container of ricotta pudding, with the file stuck in the center. Unless you want a chocolate cake made with whole wheet flour?:D: :D: :rofl:

04-14-2004, 08:01 PM
Darling, nix on the health food, PLEASE!! :lol:

04-15-2004, 03:51 PM
Thanks ellis!

I will bring you Bridge mix and mystery novels when I visit you and I can sew you up a very funky set of prison stripes! ;)


04-15-2004, 04:38 PM
You know, this is starting to sound so damned good that I may send the NY Times a link to my illegal copying of their article. I don't know how much time I'd get, but it might be a good holiday.

04-15-2004, 07:24 PM
Ellis, thanks for posting the article. I wish that I could meet him. I really feel like I owe the man my life!

04-15-2004, 09:08 PM
He sounds such a nice man, doesn't he, sb4life? :)

04-19-2004, 10:44 AM
Don't you worry, ellis, copyright infringement is not a criminal offense - they could only go after you for moola. I'm guessing the NY Times doesn't want your dough! :dizzy: Isn't it nice to have a copyright attorney on SBD?

04-19-2004, 01:00 PM
Oh, bless you, Daisy. :lol: