CNN LIVE TODAY
Interview With Cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston
Aired May 1, 2003 - 11:51 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Now to the topic that's generating the most talk here in this newsroom. Some people are calling this the next Atkins diet. It's the focus our "Daily Dose" in health news this morning. The book is "The South Beach Diet." The author is a cardiologist, Dr. Arthur Agatston, and he joins us now live this morning from Miami.
Doctor, good to have you with us this morning, and I'm glad to see you because I'm reading through this book this morning and this diet does not look like a diet. How did you pull this off?
DR. ARTHUR AGATSTON, CARDIOLOGIST: Well, really, we call it the accidental diet. I was trying to help my patients lose weight, the old conventional low-fat, high-carb wasn't working, and we basically developed our own, did some research, and it was picked up by the local media, and somehow became the South Beach Diet.
HARRIS: So, your patients can eat fats, can eat carbs, and still lose weight? How do you figure that?
AGATSTON: If it's the right carbs and the right fats. The diet is very simple and flexible. You can be high carb or high fat, as long as it's the right ones. The right carbs are the Mediterranean oils, the olive oils, the canola oils, the fish oils, all the oils found in nuts, and they are not only neutral, they are actually good for us. They help prevent heart attacks and strokes, and help us lose weight, unlike the saturated fats.
And you don't even cut out snacking. As I understand it, you think it's OK for people to snack as long as they snack before they crave a snack. Why is that?
AGATSTON: Well, especially at the beginning, what really has made the country fat was rapidly digested carbohydrates. The white breads, white flour-based foods that raise our blood sugars fast. Our blood sugars fall fast, and we are starving. The idea is to snack strategically, to eat something before you develop the cravings. Once you develop the cravings, you overeat, and you overeat the wrong type of carbs to raise the blood sugar.
HARRIS: See, I am looking at a couple of my favorite pages here -- marinated London broil, grilled steak with tomato relish. You are allowing people to eat meat and everything as well, and meat is not a bad thing in your diet?
AGATSTON: Well, the lean meats. And we certainly -- lean meats, chicken, fish, we do limit saturated fats. We know that contributes to heart attacks and strokes, and to long-term weight gain. But lean meats in moderation are absolutely fine. They are good for your blood chemistry.
HARRIS: All right. So if we were to switch our diets over to the South Beach Diet -- love the name, too, by the way -- and not exercise, do we still lose weight?
AGATSTON: You'll still lose weight -- we did our studies controlling for exercise, so we didn't ask people to exercise, but I'm a cardiologist. Exercise is very important, and I think everybody should exercise.
HARRIS: All right. So how easy is it to follow this diet? Do you have to go around reading labels all day long, or ask the waiter 15 questions before you can decide what to order or what?
AGATSTON: No. You have to know the basic pecking order, what we call the glycemic index, how fast a food will increase your blood sugar. You have to know -- you choose brown rice instead of white rice, a whole orange instead processed orange juice, Greek (ph) potato instead of white (ph) potato. And you just learn the pecking order. There is no counting calories, carbs or fat.
HARRIS: So there is no gimmick here like saying OK, you can eat all you want to, as long as all you want is a piece the size of a playing card or a peach pit. You can actually eat, like, full servings, full size servings an adult would eat?
AGATSTON: Yes. Yes, you can eat full servings. The idea is that controls hunger. When you are eating the food, both carbs, fats that are digested slowly, you don't get those drops in blood sugar that make us overeat. The reason why we have the epidemic of obesity in this country and overweight is because of all the foods that have been digested in the factory first, instead of starting the digestion in our stomach.
HARRIS: All right. Last one, real quick. The sticker on the front says lose belly fat first. Is that true?
AGATSTON: Absolutely. That's because what's happened in the country is the wrong carbs that increase our insulin levels which cause the storage of fat in the middle. That was great for early man, but not for us.
And that's -- and when you control sugar and insulin levels, the belly fat comes off first.
HARRIS: Dr. Arthur Agatston, I think you may have done the one thing this morning no one else has been able to do. You have got everybody in here taking notes. We'll check and see how this all shakes out.
Good luck to you with the book. It's called "The South Beach Diet," and I will tell you, it sure looks good.
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