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Debunking The Protein Diet

Dieticians are warning a popular high-protein weight loss plan isn't worth jumping on the band wagon for, reports CBS News Correspondent Dan Raviv.

Pork rinds, beef jerky and hot dogs sound more like the diet of a junk-food junkie than that of someone determined to lose weight.

But this latest fad diet promises you can shed the pounds fast while eating all the meat, cheese, eggs and fat you want. The trick is to lay off the carbohydrates and sugars.

Many dieticians and health experts, 10,000 of whom will be in Atlanta this week for the American Dietetic Association's annual meeting, insist the diet is unhealthy and the weight loss is temporary.

The increasing number of unhealthy and overweight adults and children is one issue of particular concern for the ADA at its four-day meeting that starts Monday. Like other health organizations, the ADA maintains the only way to lose weight is through a healthy, well-balanced diet and exercise.

Including a chocolate brownie in your diet isn't as bad as eating mostly high-protein foods, says dietician Leslie Bonci.

"It tastes good, it gives the body energy, and when you cut anything out the body is sending these signals saying, 'I'm missing something'" she says. "Our body really knows what to do with the food we put in."

Ron Glasgow, a 39-year-old computer support technician from Cumming, said he has gone from 425 to 330 pounds in 11 months, while continuing his lifestyle as a "big-eater." A typical breakfast for him while on the diet consisted of a three-egg omelet and a 12-ounce package of bacon or a half-pound of ham.

The high-protein, no-carb plan is "a nightmare of a diet," said Kathleen Zelman, a registered dietitian and ADA spokesperson. "At first, it sounds so alluring. You get the green light to eat these foods."

But she said the monotony soon gets old. Sure, you get the hamburger, but no bun or fries. You can eat a big steak, but forget the baked potato and tossed salad.

Plus, it's just unhealthy, nutritionists say. Along with the risk of increasing cholesterol levels, the diet could cause kidney problems or possibly a loss of calcium in the bones, Zelman said. Limiting the intake of carbohydrates to such a dramatically low level starves the body of needed nutrients and causes an artificial metabolic state.

"Think of it on a global perspective the world at large survives on grains," Zelman said. "If we didn't have carbohydrates, we would not be able to survive. Bread is the staff of life."

But Glasgow said the diet allows him to lose weight and continue to be a "big eater."

"I'm aware of some of the opponents, but for me right now, it seems to be working," he said.

Glasgow said he lost 100 pounds once before on a low-fat, high exercise diet, but he couldn't stay on it. While on that diet, he said he took a two-month leave of absence from his job and exercised between 6 and hours a day. When he returned to a more reasonable exercise schedule, the weight stopped coming off and he went back to his old ways.

With studies showing that more than half of all adults are overweight and that exercise is at an all-time low, Americans are constantly searching for a way to slim down without drastically changing their lifestyles.

The low-carb diet was first touted by Dr. Robert Atkins more than 20 years ago. Its popularity in the '90s has been attributed to his latest book Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution, currently the best-selling mass market paperback in the country.

In addition to weight loss, the ADA will hold discussions this week on issues such as food safety, children's health and reducing the risks of heart disease and colon cancer through diet.