Michel Montignac, a French businessman turned diet guru who believed people could lose weight without counting calories, has died. He was 66.
"You know French people don't exercise and also we don't count calories … at least to the extent Americans do," Montignac told "CBS This Morning" in 1993 after he opened a restaurant in Paris. "And what is the result? We have in France the slimmest people in the world, and we have the smallest cardiovascular rate in the Western world."
Montignac, who struggled with his weight from childhood, was working in the pharmaceutical industry in the late 1970s when he started researching nutrition in search of a way to improve his diet.
The result was a method that rated foods based on their glycemic index, a measure of how much glucose is released into the blood. He reportedly lost more than 30 pounds in less than three months and by the 1980s his theory had transformed him into a bestselling author.
"Counting calories does not interest me," he told the New York Times in 1993. "All traditional methods of dieting have amounted to a myth as big as Communism, and like Communism they are destined to collapse."
In 1986, he wrote and published "Dine Out and Lose Weight," selling 550,000 copies in France. Montignac aimed the book at people like himself, business executives who had to eat frequently at restaurants.
His 1987 book "Eat Yourself Slim" sold 17 million copies in several countries, according to his website. Diet stores and restaurants followed.
In Montignac's plan, sugar, potatoes, carrots and white bread and pasta were among "bad" carbohydrates to be eliminated. Whole wheat bread and pastas, lentils and green vegetables were among "good" carbohydrates.
And in the second phase of the diet (after a person's initial weight loss), such delicacies as foie gras, dark chocolate made from more than 70% cocoa, raw mild cheeses and red wine were not only allowed but encouraged.
"One does not gain weight from eating too much but from eating badly," he told The Times in 1993.
Montignac believed a key factor in weight loss was how the body processed food.
The bad foods contained starch that was converted into glucose. That led the pancreas to produce large amounts of insulin, driving blood sugar into cells. The body stored fat when there was too much glucose.
The better choices had a high fiber content that slowed the conversion of starch into glucose, he maintained.
Dieters also were cautioned against combining certain foods in the same meal. For example, the acidity of fruit negatively affected how starches were digested, Montignac said.
As with most diets, not everyone was convinced.
Evelyn Tribole, a registered dietician and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Assn., told The Times in 1993 that Montignac's method was "just another food-combining gimmick."
A complete list of his survivors was not available.
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