LESSONS FROM CHINA 95
scale in the marketplace. And I have watched in dismay how the indus-
try and the media convinced so many Americans that these products
represent the same good nutrition as do whole, plant-based foods. As
we shall see in the later chapters, the promised health benefits of tak-
ing Single-nutrient supplements are proving to be highly questionable.
The "take-home message": if you want vitamin C or beta-carotene, don't
reach for the pill bottle-reach for the fruit or leafy green vegetables.
THE ATKINS CRISIS
In case you haven't noticed, there is an elephant in the room. It goes by
the name "low-carb diet," and it has become very popular. Almost all
diet books on store shelves are variations of this one theme: eat as much
protein, meat and fat as you want, but stay away from those "fatty"
carbs. As you have seen already in this book, my research findings and
my point of view show that eating this way is perhaps the single great-
est threat to American health we currently face. So what is the story,
One of the fundamental arguments at the beginning of most low-
carbohydrate, high-protein diet books is that America has been wallow-
ing in low-fat mania at the advice of experts for the past twenty years,
yet people are fatter than ever. This argument has an intuitive appeal,
but there is one inconvenient fact that is consistently ignored: accord-
ing to a report^46 summarizing government food statistics, "Americans
consumed thirteen pounds [my emphasis] more [added] fats and oils
per person in 1997 than in 1970, up from 52.6 to 65.6 pounds." It is
true that we have had a trend to consuming fewer of our total calories
as fat, when considered as a percentage, but that's only because we have
outpaced our gorging on fat by gorging on sugary junk food. Simply by
looking at the numbers, anybody can see that America has not adopted
the "low-fat" experiment-not by any stretch of the imagination.
In fact, the claim that the low-fat "brainwashing" experiment has
been tried and failed is often the first of many statements of fact in
current diet books that can be described either as severe ignorance or
opportunistic deceit. It is difficult to know where to begin to refute the
maze of misinformation and false promises commonly made by authors
completely untrained in nutrition, authors who have never conducted
any peer-reviewed, professionally based experimental research. And
yet these books are immensely popular. Why? Because people do lose
weight, at least in the short term.