Atkins versus the vegans

Dr Fung also noted that the Atkins approach often doesn’t work over the long term because things other than carbohydrates require insulin.

The food insulin index data demonstrates that a number of high protein foods such as steak, cheddar cheese, white fish and tuna cause a significant insulin response even though they contain minimal carbohydrate.


The irony of low carbers eating protein to avoid carbs to minimise insulin secretion although the insulin index data shows that protein foods cause a significant insulin effect has not been lost on the vegan community as shown in this thought provoking video below.

In response to this, Gary Taubes has acknowledged that protein does stimulate insulin, however has stated that

“the assumption has always been that this effect is small compared to that of carbohydrates, and that it is muted because protein takes considerably longer to digest.”

Is protein a significant issue an issue for people trying to control blood sugar and reduce the insulinogenic load of their food?

Does the fact that protein takes longer to digest mean that the insulin secreted in response to protein doesn’t matter?

Perhaps the food insulin index data can help us find the answer.

[next article…  how much insulin is required to cover protein?]

[this post is part of the insulin index series]

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5 thoughts on “Atkins versus the vegans”

  1. Hiya, I hate that site!! Just makes me frustrated and sad when I take a look, but in the comments amongst the discussion you link to above I saw this:

    I am a long time supporter, thanks Dr. Greger but I might disagree on part of your video. It is my impression from reading the original paper ( which is also the graph that Dr. Greger showed in the video) that meat/fish increased “insulin to glucose ratio” higher than fruits and other carbs, not the actual insulin level (which was the other way around). Is that right? thanks.

    Michael Greger M.D. NF Staff Adonis Maiquez, MD • 4 months ago

    No I do cite the actual insulin level not the ratio–sorry if you were confused! The numbers in the graph come from column 6 in table 4 on page 1269 (available free full-text here), the insulin per gram of serving weight. So for example a large apple weighs about 200 grams, so 20 (pmol)(min)/(L)(g) times 200g = 4000 (pmol)(min)/(L) = 40 (micromol)(min)/daL, which is what I have in the graph. So servings of apples, and oatmeal, and even white flour pasta cause less of an insulin spike than servings of beef and fish (and chicken and pork accordingly).

    What on earth does this mean? Is he in fact correct or just skewing the numbers to suit his argument? White pasta causes less of a spike than beef????? Can you help please? xx

    1. I have a new post coming out in a week or so at that addresses this.

      In the mean time you can read it in section 2.9 of the mainifesto at

      Looking at the latest insulin index data it seems that insulin requirement can be explained by carbs, fibre AND protein content, regardless of the food classification.

      The majority of amino acids in protein are glucogenic, meaning that, if not used by the body for growth and repair, can be turned into glucose and require insulin, just like carbs. See

      I do think he has a point. Minimising carbs while at the same time maxing out protein won’t get your the low insulin outcome you’re after.

      Perhaps the reason that so many vegetarians are so skinny is that they’re minimising protein, maximising fibre, maximising nutrient density and minimising calorie density.

      I don’t think the vegan or vegetarian way is necessarily optimal, but I think the LCHF community might have some things to learn from them. See

  2. You may have some things correct about not over indulging in protein but please educate yourself on cholesterol. When you talk about an LCHF diet ‘raising dangerous LDL’ I’m afraid i cannot take you seriously….

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